Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brad Kopplin, Recorded at Breakglass Studio in Montreal, Canada in October 2010 during the Pop Montreal festival
Attempting to engage in a conversation with the men of Karkwa was and is futile, for us improperly educated Americans. It was impossible to connect with them, even in very rudimentary ways like, "It sure is nice out today," or, "That song sounded good." They didn't speak a lick of English and we didn't speak a lick of French, and that right there is a recipe for awkward smiles, words spoken, hands shaken and heads nodded in an act of mock comprehension, or friendliness. We couldn't speak to one another, but it was rather easy to get by and not have that brick wall be a barrier, for the Montreal band does very well for itself in contextualizing through its music. It's all there and the five members make it so you don't need them to say anything other than what is being sung. Right here, we could insert a crude comment about how the same thing happens when the animalistic lustings and yearnings of two people take over, they take off all of their clothes and find the closest available spot to entangle and moan, not needing or wanting to say a single word. They believe that the conversation's already half over at that point anyway, and for all parties involved, it's been a worthwhile "conversation." We traveled north to the band's hometown for the taping of this session - as the Pop Montreal festival played out behind us, just on the other side of Breakglass Studio and the most amazing farmer's marketplace you're ever likely to come across. The taping happened just a week after the band was named as the recipient of the Polaris Award for 2010, the equivalent of the Canadian Grammy award for album of the year. It's given out annually by a group of organizations - including the Canada Council For The Arts, the Government of Canada and Sirius Satellite Radio - to "the best full-length Canadian album, based on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales, or record label." Since the award was established in 2006, previous winners include Caribou, Fucked Up, Patrick Watson and Final Fantasy. So, as it were, the band has $20,000 new dollars in their pockets and had a lot of people saying some really flattering things about their latest creation, a brilliantly beautiful record entitled, "Les Chemins de Verre." We had a short amount of time with the guys, but even with limited minutes, they were able to fuse together these four gorgeous songs - through stripped down instrumentation - and still get them sounding as if we were sightseeing, big and hard to believe. Lead singer Louis-Jean Cormier writes and sings with the expansive qualities of Thom Yorke and Chris Martin of Coldplay, treating every syllable as a chance to explore mighty dramatics and what it must feel like to be a small passenger plane getting lost in the Bermuda Triangle only to find that wherever you've disappeared to has the bluest skies, some radiant waters and magnificent scenery. You decide that you'll stay lost with this man you - only through your own deficiencies - cannot understand a word of.
Karkwa Official Site
Pop Montreal official site