Boîte aux lettres

Boîte aux lettres

Les Hay Babies—the New Brunswick singer-songwriter trio of Vivianne Roy, Katrine Noël, and Julie Aubé—had only just begun writing their third album when an unexpected discovery took the creative process in a whole new direction. Hidden among some vintage clothing they had been given, the Acadian group found a stack of letters dated from 1965 to 1969. They were all signed by a young woman called Jacqueline, who was writing to her mother about her adventures in Montreal after leaving her native Moncton. “Jackie’s story became the common thread for the album,” Noël tells Apple Music. Not surprisingly, Boîte aux lettres’ lyrics soon were guided by this enigmatic figure—but so was the music. “We had fun trying to piece together Jackie’s story based on the clues we found in the letters, but it also led us to turn toward the '60s and '70s and explore a fresh palette of sounds,” Roy explains of the band’s shift away from indie folk to apply their vocal harmonies to easy listening, psychedelic, disco, and garage rock. Here, Les Hay Babies take us on an immersive journey through the chapters of Jackie’s story, one track at a time. Fontaine à vœux Julie Aubé: “I’d been mulling over this idea of an independent woman, who refuses to be responsible for anyone else’s happiness, for a long time. I knew I’d never be able to express it in song because it was too personal. But by putting myself in Jackie’s shoes, I was able to do so. Musically, it’s the tune that was inspired the most by the super-cheesy opening theme song of Taxi, an old series we’d watch every night after spending the day composing at a cottage.” Roses rouges Katrine Noël: “While writing the album, I suddenly flashed back to an old song that talks about ‘words on a blank page,’ one I’d improvised just for a laugh and to pass the time on a road trip with my boyfriend Mico, who’s also our guitarist. We decided to adapt it and try to create the world’s ultimate power ballad! So once again, it’s utterly but shamelessly cheesy.” Almost minuit JA: “It’s probably our most distinctively rock song ever. For us, it was an opportunity to give credit to this new gold-coloured guitar I’d just bought! It talks about the moment Jackie left Moncton, the arguments she had with her dad, her going-away party, and a guy she broke up with who could have been the love of her life.” Entre deux montagnes Vivianne Roy: “In 2018, I listened a lot to Frank Zappa’s We’re Only in It for the Money. It’s an album where he pokes fun at the folk movement, but ironically he does it better than anyone else ever has. That’s what inspired me to give a slightly medieval feel to this track, where it’s Jackie’s little sister who’s talking. We are all younger sisters like her. We all remember the day one of our brothers or sisters left home and the mixed emotions of anger, sadness, and envy we felt.” Jacqueline VR: “Most of the songs are a combination of several letters Jackie wrote, but this one is based on one in particular in which she describes an evening when she had dinner with her boss and how she’d been disappointed because she would have liked things to have gone further. She ends up alone in a bar, where she meets an American, who she shows around Montreal. We don’t know what ends up happening between the two, but it’s quite easy to guess, because she liked men to fall under her charm.” Joue avec le feu VR: “While listening to the Stones’ 'Play With Fire' one day in the car, we came up with the idea of performing a cover onstage. It was only later on that we realized that the lyrics could apply to Jackie’s story. We did a super accurate translation, but we weren’t sure until the very last minute if we’d be able to include it on the album because we didn’t have the rights. But we finally got them!” Same Old, Same Old VR: “This is one of the first songs we wrote after we’d finished reading all the letters. And more importantly, it’s the first time we took the standpoint of Jackie’s mother, imagining what she would have written. At times, she admires her daughter, and at others, she worries about her.” Look at Me Now VR: “It’s a reply to the song just before. Jackie tells her mother that she’s doing really well living alone in the city, so there’s no reason for her to worry. For the music, we used a melody we’d composed a few years earlier, which is a sort of cross between The Beatles’ ‘Glass Onion’ and The Chemical Brothers’ ‘Let Forever Be.’” Limonade KN: “This one was recorded on our last day in the studio, when we’d run out of energy. It’s all about Jackie’s disproportionate ambition and taste for luxury, and it says how loads of women her age would be perfectly happy if a man just bought them a burger and lemonade, but she prefers eating fancy meals and drinking fine wine.” En Californie KN: “In the last letters dated 1969, Jackie talks about moving to California, but we don’t know if she ever fulfilled that dream. She always had all kinds of plans, but they rarely seemed to come to anything. That’s why the lyrics for this song span a single year in her life, through all four seasons, as a means of emphasizing how her aspirations were always quickly replaced by others.” Les vieilles filles JA: “I’d been wanting to do a song about old maids for ages. It was hard to go into any detail on the subject, but once again Jackie helped crystallize the idea. It’s easy to imagine that with her stubbornness, her independent spirit, and that side of her that always wanted more, she’d never married. For the music, which is a bit reminiscent of the Jackson 5, we started off with a pre-recorded rhythm on a small instrument we had, this kind of electric harp.” Boîte aux lettres VR: “Because we’d almost run out of time, we came close to dropping this one. Especially as it’s a lot more demanding and complex than what we usually do. But we were bent on having our own disco song! This track opens the door to the '70s, so we’re following the chronological order of Jackie’s story. Would she have liked disco music? That’s something we’ll never know!”

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