Jean-Michel Pigeon swims upstream with Monogrenade
by Allan Wigney
“I’m French,” Jean-Michel Pigeon says over the phone, stating the obvious. “I’m born of a French family and all my education was in French. I express myself in French.”
Pigeon is explaining the ease with which he made the transition from Winter Gloves, a band for whose music his glockenspiel embellishments worked wonders, to his current project, Monogrenade. The former band sings in English; the latter, with music, lyrics and vocals by Pigeon, is needless to say French.
So there’s that. But Pigeon says he had other reasons for following the 2008 release of an enchanting Monogrenade EP by turning a side-project into a full-time one.
"I was a guitar player in Winter Gloves,” he explains. “It was my first band, I was really happy with the guys — they are still my friends — but, musically, I’m more of a piano-violin-orchestra thing.” And the glockenspiel? “It was really simple parts, you know.”
Monogrenade’s lovingly layered constructions are anything but simple, yet eminently infectious.
The band’s approach to recording has, however, offered a glimpse of the simple life.
“We stayed two months, but it wasn’t really a studio,” Pigeon says of sessions for the band’s full-length debut, Tantale. “It was a chalet — I don’t know the word in English. A chalet? OK. Yeah, we rented a chalet in north Quebec and we rented all the music equipment. It was a really big chalet with a lot of rooms and it had an indoor pool, so the acoustic reverb was really, really beautiful. It helps a lot with a lot of the album. That’s why we choose the chalet: because of the indoor pool.”
It was too cold to swim in the pool, he is quick to add: “It really was for the sound.”
Swimming pools for swimming purposes tend to be the stuff of rock and roll dreams. But for all Monogrenade’s wondrous sounds, Pigeon admits leaving indie darlings Winter Gloves in order to perform exclusively in French, may have put those dreams on hold.
“For sure I had this kind of thought,” he says. “But I’m doing music since I’m 15. I wrote songs at 15 and 16. That’s the only thing I want to do. And at the end, Winter Gloves it was really busy — like, we were always on tour, always playing — so I didn’t have the time to write music and I was really depressed about it. So the choice was really natural. Monogrenade was my band; I wrote songs.”
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