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Band blends history and humour

Le Vent du Nord bring modern energy to traditional francophone sounds

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Saturday, Mar 08, 2014 06:00 am

THEY'LL HUFF – Le Vent du Nord is ready to blow through the Arden Theatre.
THEY'LL HUFF – Le Vent du Nord is ready to blow through the Arden Theatre.
STEPHANE NAJMAN/Supplied photo

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Le Vent du Nord
Wednesday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Arden Theatre
5 St. Anne St.
Tickets: $30 Call 780-459-1542

Toward the tail end of an interview, Le Vent du Nord frontman Nicolas Boulerice looks out the window of his Quebec acreage in the Richelieu Valley and spots a lynx roaming toward the woods.

“It’s so far away,” Boulerice remarks, adding that this quaint oasis is chock-full of deer, coyotes, rabbits and squirrels. It’s the place where he rejuvenates and re-energizes from the grind of touring 120 days each year.

He’s enjoying the respite before hitting the road once more for a nine-stop tour of British Columbia and one Alberta stop – the Arden Theatre on Wednesday, March 12.

Le Vent du Nord, French for The North Wind, is one of the country’s most beloved and rollicking francophone ensembles. Since it was founded in 2002, the band has released seven albums and earned several Juno Awards for a sound that radiates joie de vivre.

Blending traditional Quebecois roots with a revitalized contemporary vibe, the foursome combines the talents of Boulerice, Olivier Demers, Simon Beaudry and Réjean Brunet.

“We use the past to make us grow. For us tradition has to grow. We love the old ways of playing and singing, but now we are more comfortable using our own sound and style. We twist it for a more personal way,” Boulerice stated.

One of the standout features that has become a signature of the group is its command of multiple instruments.

In addition to violin and guitar, they often set the mood of their vocal harmonies using bouzouki, accordion, jaw harp and hurdy gurdy, a stringed instrument that produces a sound by a crank-turned, rosined wheel rubbing against the strings.

While much of the music has an engaging, toe-tapping flavour, the lyrics hit a variety of topics ranging from the social and political to romantic and just outright funny.

In their 2012 album release Tromper le temps, each of the 13 tracks differ from each other. For instance, Le diable et le fermier comments on oilsands fracking.

“It’s from an old traditional story where a devil tries to fool and cheat a farmer, but the farmer wins. In our song, the devil takes the farmer’s water, gold and oil and nothing can grow for the farmer.”

But in the revamped traditional tale, the quartet has no wish to judge.

“We prefer to ask questions. We don’t want to judge. We want to make people think about what is important.”

La coeur de ma mere takes on a surreal quality as it involves a son ripping out his mother’s heart and the heart coming back to haunt him. To most of us, this wouldn’t be funny, yet somehow the boisterous humour turns it into a chuckler.

Le Winnebago is dedicated to the honking Winnebago the band were forced to take on trip to Rimouski after the rental agency misplaced its original reservation for a small van.

“Our sound engineer was driving in the front and we were in the salon and we wrote it during the trip,” Boulerice says.

And Manteau d’hiver received its official name when the band toured a windy and cold Denmark. They stopped to hold a concert at a local brewery that served Wintercoat Beer. When they performed their untitled song, patrons suggested they name it after the beer.

Although the songs are sung in French, Boulerice is confident a language barrier for some will not diminish the show.

“Music is a language by itself. I listened to many bands, to the Beatles and I didn’t have a clue what they were saying, but the music touched me.”

As for the Arden concert, Le Vent du Nord is planning a show from across the spectrum of their CDs.

“In our music we like to bring people on a big trip. We play dancing music, but we talk about history and we have humour and we play different instruments. We have a lot of movement and lot of different emotion. We try to make a concert very complete.”


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