Manitoba Music has teamed up with Fresh Radio for a new monthly spotlight on local music, dubbed Manitoba Fresh to introduce audiences to a stellar slate of buzzworthy local artists emerging on the Canadian music scene. Featuring on-air segments and online performances via Fresh Radio, and in-depth band profiles right here on manitobamusic.com, Manitoba Fresh continues this month with acclaimed outfit, Chic Gamine. Tune in to 99.1 Fresh Radio and stay tuned for so much more...
By Jillian Groening
Time is on the side of Chic Gamine.
After soaring through two full-length albums, a Christmas collection, and a special Rick Rubin-engineered American re-release, the women behind the JUNO Award-winning soul/pop revival group took a well-deserved breather and it couldn’t have been at a better moment.
Four years, a band member swap, and various hair colours later, Chic Gamine will be releasing its highly-anticipated new record, Light A Match, which gets its hometown party on November 21 at The Good Will.
“A lot has happened,” Alexa Dirks explains of the time in between. “We’ve naturally evolved so much and the record has grown in so many different ways. We needed it to feel ready.”
Known for powerhouse vocals and dizzying harmonies, Chic Gamine has transformed from a folk-influenced quartet to a full band with a moving wall-of-sound effect acutely captured in the newest release.
Original members Andrina Turenne, Annick Bremault and Dirks are joined by drummer Sacha Daoud and bass/guitar player Benoit Moirier and the collaboration is electrifying.
“We got Benoit in the band and he changed the evolution of how things were going,” Dirks says of Moirier’s talents. “He’s like an instrumental mad scientist. He makes his own wacky instruments and he plays all sorts of things so he came in and brought with him this totally different element of song writing. It changed the way we were writing in a really positive way.”
Shiny new instrumentation plus partnering up with Montréal-based producer/engineer Sébastien Blais-Montpetit (Groenland, Secret Sun, Patrick Watson) helped breathe new life into the project and kept spirits high.
Despite being mixed out east, the city of Winnipeg has a loud and proud artistic presence on the record. Chic Gamine teamed up with Winnipeg-based visual artist Kenneth Lavallee to design the striking album artwork and merchandise and hired on Mike Maryniuk to direct the music video for the single “Light A Match”.
A self-taught film virtuoso, Maryniuk’s visuals are charming, inventive and contain a home-cooked aesthetic perfectly suited to Chic Gamine’s sound.
“It was a different process and it was a lot of fun,” Dirks says with a chuckle, recalling the day of filming with Maryniuk. “We were all in one room and Mike had this old recording equipment and he got us all to stare at this giant lamp. So there we were mouthing the lyrics with our eyes watering staring into this giant lightbulb. But it was exciting to know we could trust him because he’s so talented and whatever vision he had it would turn out.”
This faith in artistic vision and relaxed joie de vivre is precisely what brought Dirks into the group in the first place as an unemployed 19-year-old singing in bars. It is also partly what has kept the band strong through the emotional struggles involved with an arduous tour schedule.
Currently playing across Canada and the southern states alongside Nashville-based singer/songwriter Lindi Ortega (catch them live at the West End Cultural Centre on October 4), Chic Gamine plans to tour heavily until they create and accumulate the songs that will feel right for the next album.
“The day to day struggles of putting your heart into something and sharing that can be challenging,” Dirks says of life creating music on the road. “But that’s also the benefit. We’re good at building each other up and keeping each other in the positive zone as much as we can. I love being in bands for that reason.”