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Call & Response: Meta Gruau

Posted by Andrés / March 6, 2011

20110306_metagruau.jpgCall & Response is a series of Q&As with bands, artists, and random people we dig that live in Montreal, visit here, or have some dubious connection to the city. Last week, I sauntered over to a commercial block in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve where members of Meta Gruau have a graphic design production shop set up. I sat down with Julien B. and Melissa, two-thirds of the local synth sludge band (Julien M. completes the trifecta). Back in April 2010, I covered their album launch, a twelve-track mix of heavy bass beats and distortion. Since then, they have been nominated by GAMIQ 2010 as "Breakthrough Artist of the Year" alongside Bernard Adamus, and are scheduled to open for Malajube -- not once, but thrice in the coming months. Though they have been performing since 2006, the last year has been a flash forward in terms of popularity. Their next gig is at SXSW in Texas, playing with both Malajube and Karkwa with a live broadcast on CBC Radio 3 and Bande à part.

Keeping in the recent tradition of MP technological faux-pas, my audio recorder failed to work, and I found that AAA batteries are very difficult to find. The following is thus an approximation (and possibly subjectivist rendition) of the words that came out of Melissa and Julien B.'s mouths based on my notes.

How did you come up with the name Meta Gruau?
JB: The story isn't that exciting. I was working on some tunes and all the titles began with "meta," so I turned to Melissa and asked her what we should call the band, and the first word that came out of her mouth was "gruau." We wanted something that sounded like mud, a melting pot. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision that stuck. [Ed. note: For anglophone readers, "gruau" is oatmeal, and meta is the same... so, technically they are "beyond oatmeal"]

You were nominated "Breathrough Artist of the Year" by GAMIQ 2010. From the band's inception to its album launch to now, how do you feel Meta Gruau's public reception has evolved?
M: When we started in 2006, we didn't get any. It wasn't until 2009 and then our album launch that people started talking about us. It's as if we weren't on record beforehand. We had been playing shows for years, but we had to immortalize the music for people to take notice. I don't think people took us seriously at first. We have a funny band name. But we're going to be opening for Malajube's next album launch in Québec City, so our album really seems to have helped.

Do you have a new album coming out?
JB: Yes, we have about... two songs so far, and have been working on some catchy tunes. We did a lot of electronic drum beats, but it's all a work in progress. I'd say we're working on the même lignée [Ed. note: along the same lines], but using a different process.
M: We're looking on a launch sometime at the end of May, probably at Casa [del Popolo].

How did you manage to get onto the SXSW roster?
M: Any band can apply to play at SXSW by submitting a short bio. We had played at Nuits sonores in Lyon, which is like the European equivalent of SXSW, so I guess they figured we were big enough to make it. We didn't know what to expect, and it wasn't until much later that we heard we were playing with Karkwa and Malajube as part of an M for Montréal lineup. So we're looking forward to that.

You SXSW show is going to be recorded live for broadcast. How do you feel about that?
M: We did a live stream once for CISM. While we were doing I thought, "This is going to be the worst show ever!" But then we listened to it afterward, and it sounded fine. I think the big difference is that we're going to be playing in front of a live audience, so we probably won't even be thinking about the live stream.

Who is your favorite Canadian artist?
JB: In visual art, I like Valium.
M: I really liked the Georges Leningrad, when they were still playing.

Besides family, friends, other music, and long walks on the beach, what influences your music the most?
M: I approach both graphic art and music the same way: working with intuition, and lots of layers. I usually try something, and if it doesn't work, I throw it out and try something different.

Where is the best place to listen to your music?
JB: In your bath.

What do you love most about poutine?
JB/M: The cheese!

What do you hate most about poutine?
M: Soggy fries.
JB: Bad, thick gravy.
M: When they use cheap cheese.

What was the first live concert you attended? Was it everything you had ever imagined?
M: I went to see the Beastie Boys at an auditorium in Verdun when I was fourteen or fifteen. I remember being scared at first. I had only seen such craziness on Nirvana videos, and I never realized concerts could really be like that.
[Ed. note: Julien wracked his mind for a few minutes but was unable to remember any early concerts he had been to]

What's the best way to spend one million dollars in 10 minutes?
M: "Add to cart"
JB: Buy a building, build a studio and furnish it.
M: You can't do that in ten minutes.
JB: Yeah, you can.

What venue holds a special place in your mind and why?
M: L'Escogriffe, because we've played so many shows there.

How did you spend your 16th birthday?
JB: [Ed. note: Neither could remember, but they gave a shot at what Julien M., the band's third member, was likely up to] He was probably listening to some Sonic Youth.

Image courtesy Meta Gruau.

Check out previous iterations of the Call & Response series:
Winslow | CKUT | The Mark Inside | Kites Overhead



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