The Montreal-based band pulls from its Acadian French roots with raw, playful lyrics
by Maria Feldman
"The first album is like a sports car, the last one is a sail boat," reflects Gabriel Louis Bernard Malenfant — one of the three band members of Radio Radio — on the phone from Quebec, his original Acadian French roots slightly traceable in the pronunciation of each consonant phonic.
"The next one is levitation."
The poetic metaphors quickly take a turn for the worse.
"Think footwear," he says. "Like the first album is basketball shoes, Belmundo is dress shoes and the next one is bare feet."
If you listen to the band’s debut full-length, Cliché Hot, it comes as no surprise that bandmates Malenfant, Alexandre Arthur Bilodeau and Jacques Alphonse Doucet aren't very concerned with eloquence, but rather with raw and playful lyrics. Think Jacuzzi — a hit single that mapped them on the Canadian music landscape.
But that was circa 2008 and this is now. The Francophone electro/rap/hip-hop band has certainly come a long way since. Their Juno- and Polaris-nominated album, Belmundo Regal, released last March, is a rich palette of softer cooing sounds, like Malenfant's favourite song of the album, Sur La Galavante.
"The whole vibe is kind of like a love song; it's more of a lovey-dovey song, it's more fluid," he says.
Malenfant welcomes this latest variant in Radio Radio’s traditionally impish vibe; a major shift reflected in Belmundo Regal’s overriding theme of individual growth and development.
The inspiration behind Belmundo Regal stemmed from the boys’ mysterious encounter with a vagabond during a trip to Oak Island, Nova Scotia. The enigmatic wanderer and sailor — named Belmundo — recited tale after tale of his eclectic adventures. They ranged from partying with Spanish ambassadors to wandering through dense African forests alongside indigenous people. Belmundo’s travelogue inspired Radio Radio to loosely base their album on his mythical archetype; a man gallivanting around the globe, ultimately arriving at his final destination of self-discovery.
“We haven’t talked to him since,” says Malenfant. “He is not a guy that has a cell phone, he is not a computer guy, he is like before that time. And that whole concept… travelling by train, by boat, back in the beginning of the 20th Century where you can take your time, bring what you need, and you won’t get charged for every extra luggage that you have.”
Aside from being on a metaphorical journey, Radio Radio has literally traversed the world. The bandmates’ concert tours have taken them from Canada to the United States, and across the Atlantic Ocean to France. A large part of the band’s international appeal can be attributed to a beckoning chiac dialect (a mixture of Acadian French and English) inherited from their respective hometowns in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
“Cultures and language are supposed to be a bridge,” says Malenfant. “So the more open you are in your heart, and the more flexible you are in your language, the more it helps to bring people together.”
Their next destination? Ottawa.
“It’s a bit like my hometown, Moncton, where it’s like English and French — pretty bilingual,” says Malenfant. “And there is a restaurant called Fraser Café. That’s a good restaurant.”
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