As their final tour approaches, I got to sit down with Hugo Mudie, Fred Jacques and Marc-André Beaudet of Montreal punk band The Sainte-Catherines. Meeting at Hotel Montreal in the old port, Mudie seemed very relaxed, smoking an e-cigarette. The band had some champagne for the occasion and everyone was in good spirits. What a strange setting for a Montreal punk band that played venues in basements that smelled like cheap beer. It seemed that the times really were changing.
Whatever the case is, their final tour is set to begin next week (tour dates below), and as a fan of the band just knowing that this was to be one of their final interviews…. I declined a glass of champagne to instead focus on the conversation at hand.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a big part of our music scene is going to be lost in vague memories and bathroom graffiti after April 27, when the band plays its final show at Club Soda. I’m gonna miss them. It’s going to be a strange feeling knowing they’re not around anymore, knowing that this band more than any other represented to us what made the Montreal music scene so interesting in the last few years, and not The Arcade Fire….
Also worth noting, the band has recently released a limited edition Photobook, which also contains their final album Fire Works, expanded with 2 brand new songs and 3 acoustic re-works of previous material. Check it out here.
Them Blue Midnights : Let’s start at the beginning. How did you guys end up learning your respective instruments?
Marc-André Beaudet: I guess it was in high school, this buddy of mine picked up a guitar. At first I thought I was gonna play bass, just because it looked cool, and then I got talked about the guitar by my friends. I also realized that I didn’t even know what the bass sounded like! I think I wanted to play bass at first because it looked easier and I was lazy
Fred Jacques: I started to play at around 7, but it was the organ not the guitar. My mom was really pushing me to play the organ, like every Sunday in church. But then when I was 11 I told my mom ‘’I hate music, I don’t want to play music!’’, so I stopped and a bit later my mother bought me an acoustic guitar and I’ve been playing ever since.
Hugo Mudie: I don’t play an instrument! (laughs) I guess when I was super young, listening to Bon Jovi and Poison I’d sing in front of the mirror. But then I was also into hockey, so when the hockey thing didn’t work, the second option was to sing. I thought I sang pretty well when I was singing over other bands, but it’s hard to know unless you actually try it. When I was young, I used to tape myself singing over other bands on the radio and make pretend like it was my band! (Skid Row’s) 18 and Life was my hit!!
The band starts singing 18 and Life with all the wrong words.
TBM: Let’s go over the songwriting process. Typically, how did a song end up being written in the band – especially after so many lineup changes?
MAB: All the songs in the band were never really written by a collective. Fred, me or Louis (Valiquette, guitar) would come up with a song pretty much done, and then we put it together. Hugo has this book of lyrics he keeps with him and writes constantly in. He’s probably the fastest lyricist I’ve even known, ‘cause we write a song, and he looks at his book, re-arranges a few sentences here and there and the song’s already done.
HM: Usually the first melody I find is the one we’ll keep.
TBM: And where do you get the inspiration from? What keeps you writing so much?
HM: I think it’s just natural, listening to music and reading the lyrics. Hard things that happen to you are easier to write about. Any breakup I’ve had with a girl, or arguments with friends, or just being pissed off seem to make for better lyrics with me.
MAB: (to Mudie) When you start writing, do you have an idea of what you’re going to be writing about?
HM: Now a bit more, with my singer-songwriter stuff I have a better idea of which direction I’m going into, but for Ste-Catherines it was just free-writing.
MAB: You never start with just one sentence you know you wanna write down?
HM: Oh yeah, often, or even one sentence with a melody and then write the rest of the words with that melody even though that won’t necessarily be the melody that will stick to the finished song. I think when I look back, every album has a theme, and that’s just what I was feeling at the time it happened.
TBM: Cheesy question but I have to ask it. Given the fact you’ve mentioned a lot of different bands and genres you listened to as a kid, why punk music?
HM: Even when I was 5, seeing punk on TV, I knew it existed. I didn’t know what it was but it looked cool. For a 5 year old, Skid Row and Bon Jovi was the extreme. Around12 or 13, I discovered the real punk bans and I knew that’s what I wanted to do, because that’s music you can really identify with when you’re young. I thought regular music was too cheesy, I guess and I wanted something more selective.
MAB: I’d been looking into punk for a while, because I was also into those hard rock bands, I think most people were, and then I went more towards heavy metal at the beginning of high school. But then I didn’t like the solos, I didn’t like that it wasn’t catchy.
HM: I didn’t like the melodies in metal, too much angriness.
MAB: The only reason I listened to metal was the riffs and it helped to learn guitar. But I always hated solos and I’ve always preferred songwriting over musicianship.
FJ: And that’s what punk is all about.
MAB: Yeah exactly, so when I found punk it was like ‘ah, finally’!
HM: With punk it’s about the songwriting, the way it’s so straightforward – less is more. When I heard the Ramones the first time I thought it was so effective. Simple riffs, super catchy.
MAB: Without being cheesy.
HM: But still keeps that bubblegum vibe. I mean, being older I realize that style of music doesn’t have any importance to me. It’s all either good or bad.
FJ: And then the rest is just aesthetics that you staple on top of it.
HM: Yeah, and I think that’s what we wanted to with the Ste-Catherines – not be part of a specific style.
MAB: Well I think, we still wanted to be part of the punk ‘scene’, but never a specific style of punk. No whatever ‘’-core’’ label.
TBM: Where did the idea of having 3 guitarists in the band come from?
HM: It wasn’t an idea, it just happened!
MAB: Simon, who was the original guitarist, ended up quitting the band. Meanwhile, these guys (Mudie and Jacques) were playing in Rollerstarter. Their band stopped and we ended up kind of putting the two bands together. At first we didn’t know what to do (with 3 guitars), I remember asking myself how we were going to make this work. But now it’s natural. If it was only 2 I’d think there’d be something missing. The approach we take live is the same approach as on most albums. We keep one guitar on the left, one on the right, and one in the middle.
TBM: When you look back at your records, do you still relate to songs you’ve recorded 10 years ago?
HM: For sure, I mean for better or worse it’s the story of my life. There’s some stuff that might sound funny to me now but if I think about it, it means what I was trying to say when I was 18, and I’m proud of everything we’ve done. There’s some stuff we’ve done that might not be as good, but we tried our best.
MAB: Like any band, there’s gonna be songs on certain albums that you won’t like as much, but everytime I go back now to the old stuff, and there are songs I didn’t even remember – and I still like them now!
FJ: But sometimes it can be weird too. Cause it’s been so long, when I listen to those songs it’s good, but weird in the sense that I would never play it that way now.
TBM: Do you sometimes listen back to those songs and realized you’ve totally forgotten how to play in that style?
FJ: Oh yeah! We’ve had to re-learn some of those for the last shows.
HM: Even me with the lyrics sometimes, I have to Google them! And sometimes Rich (Bouthilier, drums) is looking at us like, ‘what song is this!!!’
MAB: At the same time, it’s the kind of thing that when you know the song in your head it comes back.
FJ: Definitely, when it comes back, it fully comes back.
HM: With the lyrics, if I remember the beginning I know the rest. But if I don’t know the beginning, I don’t have a clue how to start it.
TBM: With this final tour, are you going to play a bit of everything through the years or focus more on the 2 last albums?
FJ: It’s gonna be a bit of everything, we’ll play at least 2 songs of each record. 25-26 total.
HM: A bit more from Dancing For Decadence and Fire Works but there’ll be a bit of everything.
TBM: Now that you know it’s going to be over soon, how do you think you’d react if you got to tell the 18 year-old you about everything that’s happened? Have you achieved what you originally wanted to achieve?
MAB: Even more!
FJ: 10 years ago I couldn’t have imagined the things we’d achieve!
MAB: You would have told the 15 year-old me like you’re gonna tour with all the bands we’ve played with, getting to know them personally…I wouldn’t have believed it. (laughs)
HM: Even musically, when we were kids I just wanted to sing and we wanted to be in a punk band. But I think we’ve been writing some great songs.
MAB: We’ve written some stuff that we’re proud of.
HM: If I look at the bands I listened to when I was 15, I think we’ve managed to write some songs that were as good (as those bands), which is pretty cool.
MAB: I remember when I was younger, I always thought I’d rather be in a cool band like Sonic Youth than a popular band like Pearl Jam. I always wanted something that was cool to do rather than popular.
FJ: Stuff that’s more respected.
MAB: Exactly. That was more what I wanted to do.
HM: And that’s what we did!
MAB: We’re not popular, but we have some respect!!!
TBM: How does it feel knowing that for better or worse, in less than one month it’s over?
MAB: As much as it’s exciting, it can’t be far enough because in a way I don’t want it to end. But it’s been going on for so long that there has to be an end. But I know it’s going to be hard. Personally, I want to stop being in a band and playing music for a while. All my life I’ve been associated as the guy in that band, so it’s a bit scary to think about what happens when I stop…like what am I? A has been?! It’s weird to think about.
HM: Fred and I had the same questioning, but that’s why we’re going to keep playing. We thought about stopping and we realized we can’t, so that brings our acoustic project. For Ste-Catherines, I can’t predict how I’m going to feel after the last show, but I’m trying to see it as a celebration of everything we’ve done…instead of sulking about it – though I’m sure we’ll do that too!
MAB: We wanted to end this on our own, and not just keep dragging it until no one cares and it just dies on its own. We can end this now, while we’re still semi-good!
FJ: It’s also the feeling that as a project, we felt that we did everything we wanted to do with it. And just doing more for the sake of it is pointless. We felt we were pushing more and more for things to happen, even for our band practices and that it was time. I mean, we could go on like this for another few albums, but what would the point be?
MAB: So many bands just die on their own, without an actual ending. You talk to those guys, and realize they still wish they were doing it. The way we decided to go out is on our own terms, for our own reasons.
HM: We can’t be pissed at the way it ends that way.
MAB: We just didn’t want to be a band that stopped because no one cared!
13 years, over 700 shows and 5 albums later, there’s no way they will be forgotten.
I’ll be covering their final show, so please make sure to check back in early may for some cool merch item giveaways.
The Sainte-Catherines farewell tour dates:
|Apr 13||Bovine Sex Club||Toronto, Canada||Tickets|
|Apr 14||Le Petit Théâtre||Rouyn-Noranda, Canada||Tickets|
|Apr 20||Théâtre Petit Champlain||Quebec City, Canada||Tickets|
|Apr 27||Club Soda||Montreal, Canada||Tickets|