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Interview with Mains de Givre

img  Tobias

The press release mentions you followed each other's careers for six years before starting to work together. Regarding the different paths you were pursuing, what was it that interested you about your respective work?
Eric: I’ve always been impressed by Émilie’s versatility as she’s very open-minded when it comes to music. For my part, I’m self-taught, I play intuitively by ear and instincts. I’m always opened to playing with people, especially those that I admire and it’s always a good challenge to play with more experienced classically-trained players than myself. I always learn a lot from the experience and it allows me to push my creative and technical boundaries further.
Émilie: I met Eric when I was playing with the post-rock band Sugarshack. I always loved ambient, noise and experimental music. I followed Eric’s projects for years because I really like what he does. I like his ideas and his sense of emotions. For me, Eric is not just a guitar player: he is an emotion's player with “something called a guitar and many many effect pedals”. When we decide to meet and play together, I had no expectations but I knew that the collaboration would produce something freaky, emotional and unique. 

Your collaboration was originally intended for a thisquietarmy release. Does that mean, Eric, that you were and are still looking for a broader perspective for the project than a pure Guitar-and-effects-pedal approach?

Eric: At times, the material that I would come up with is clearly trying to break away from the ambient mould, and I can’t help but start to think about incorporating different arrangements and instrumentations. I actually have a lot of material that are left aside because they sound incomplete as they would require a lot more time and effort to finish them on my own, or I’d have to bring in a band or some musicians to complete them as they are meant to be heard - perhaps they could be potential material for a new Destroyalldreamers album? There are already some attempts at adding more than guitar/effects to thisquietarmy in past and future releases, such as analog synthesizers, drum programming and even vocals on a couple of tracks. Because the Mains de Givre sessions went so well, we decided to make it a long-term project rather than just a simple collaboration for thisquietarmy. 

Did you use some kind of descriptive angle for what you wanted to achieve with Mains de Grivre?
Eric: No, we just decided to jam together and see what would happen. Then we’ve jammed several times afterwards and we still didn’t really talk about directions. The project is still very young and I think it’s good to let the music do the talking in the beginning and not over-analyze right away - that’s how the good accidents usually happen.

Were there conflicts resulting from your different musical backgrounds?
Eric: The album is actually made up from recordings of the very first time we played together, and the first track opens with the first notes we ever played together. I guess we can say we had instant chemistry, so we’ll have to wait a bit more to see where this all leads. No conflicts so far!

Compared to collaborations with a fellow-Guitarist like Aidan Baker, how different did this one turn out for you? 
Eric: Not so much more different actually. Most collaborations I’ve been involved in turned out to be pretty smooth experiences. Like with Aidan or other artists I collaborated with, such as Yellow6 and Scott Cortez of lovesliescrushing, I learned a lot by playing with Émilie. Each collaboration has its own special identity and I’m looking forward to more.

Émilie, In which way did working with Eric present even more of a challenge than your previous projects in the realms of Metal and Folk?
Émilie: I love music in general. I love meeting new people with different tastes than mine and learn from them. I love to discover new bands and new things. Playing with Eric is simple and I enjoy playing with him. It is a different way to compose as well. Metal or folk music are more structured, so I like to break the rules sometime and play with my soul.
Eric: It’s probably very liberating for her in ways that it can’t possibly be with other types of music. But I’m also quite surprised of her ability to follow my soundscapes because there are so many layers and effects that alter any clear notes.

What's the balance between spontaneous jam sessions and post-editing on the album? 
Eric: It’s actually about 90-10 in favor of jam sessions. Initially we wanted to combine the best of all our recordings together on the same album, but in the end, we felt it made more sense to focus on the first one and release it as a document of our first jam session. That way, we could officially track the evolution of our project and see where it takes us. We also felt strongly about  capturing the spontaneity of the moment and create some kind of unspoken dialogue between our instruments. Surprisingly, most of the material was already really good straight out of the recording, so we didn’t feel like we needed to add anything else. No overdubs, just a lot of attentive post-production playback, precise editing and mixing: Hours and hours of playback, taking notes, balance out both instruments, duplicating tracks and equalizing them, adding some reverb, editing or looping some parts for better structures, separating the movements according to their moods, etc.

I was under the impression that you were creating a coherent sound throughout the album, rather than trying to try out many different timbres. Was this partly to draw the focus on the process of musical development? 

Eric: Yes, you can put it that way. Because the material was from the same session, it’s like we tried different variations and different styles of the same mood, and captured all of them in succession. Our next releases will probably explore different timbres however, it may be a good way to document our evolution.

In the live situation, are people sometimes surprised what a powerful and intense instrument the Violin can be?  
Émilie: Yes! this is my goal: to show that violin can do everything. It's not just a classical instrument! Violin IS intense, weird, emotional, fun, surprising. I love that instrument. 

I noticed that the Guitar sound on „Esther Marie“ is remarkably less traceable to the original instrument than on, say, your upcoming album as thisquietarmy, „Aftermath“. How come?
Eric: I think it’s because in the case of Mains de Givre, the violin leads, which makes the interactive dynamics and my guitar playing style different. You always have to be aware of each other and listen carefully, so maybe there’s a bit more restraint on my part. As a result I focused more on creating an ambient background by blending several guitar-based ambient loops cascading into each together rather than playing pronounced guitar notes and chords.

How does the Guitar-setup on „Esther Marie“ compare to your work with thisquietarmy?
Eric: I have almost the same setup, but the routing is a little bit different. With thisquietarmy, I use 3 different loop samplers, and some patterns and sequences are precisely rehearsed for live shows --- I mostly know where I’m heading since it’s like I’m playing against myself and I already know in advance where I want the journey to go.

Can you see the insight you've gained from Mains de Givre making an impact on future thisquietarmy material?
Eric: I really don’t want to repeat the things I’m doing in Mains de Givre with thisquietarmy, although I can definitely see the potential for violin and classical instruments to be added to thisquietarmy’s sound. There will certainly be some violin in future recordings, but I will have to make sure that both projects sound stylistically different. However, it’s also fairly easy to do that since Mains de Givre is for now 100% improvised whereas thisquietarmy’s compositions and arrangements are worked out a lot more in the studio.

From „Esther Marie“, there are many different roads to explore for Mains de Givre. Are you already contemplating your next move?
Eric: We already have a couple of other sessions recorded, and they already sound different than „Esther Marie“: brighter-sounding maybe, more driven and more dynamic. We’ll probably work on these sessions as our next possible releases, but we’ll also keep recording new things as well. We’re also looking into doing some film soundtracks as Émilie is also an actress, her contacts might help us to find some work in that area.

By Tobias Fischer

"Esther Marie" is will be published on Textura Records on May 10th and is already available for pre-order. Eric Quach's new album as thisquietarmy, "Aftermath", is available from Basses Frequences.


Insomnie à l'ail (thisquietarmy) 2010
Esther Marie (Textura) 2010

Mains de Givre
Émilie Livernois-DesRoches

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