L'hiver se meurt
Yé passé où l'soleil ?
Tu m'connais trop bien
Une valse pour toi
La vie c't'une peine d'amour
For Montreal's Gab Bouchard, music is like a second skin. Growing up in Saint-Prime, Quebec, on the edge of Lac Saint-Jean, Bouchard was already playing guitar by elementary school and hadn’t even reached puberty when he wrote his first songs. It also didn’t hurt that his dad, Pierre, is the drummer in the hard rock band Gros Mené. “I’ve always made music,” he tells Apple Music. “My dad used to take me to gigs, I’d rummage around in the CDs, it’s what’s always made me tick.” Bouchard also found inspiration in the comforting words of Fred Fortin and fuzzy riffs of Olivier Langevin, fellow Lac-Saint-Jean artists (and members of the band Galaxie) who helped define the region’s crunchy, country-infused rock sound over the last two decades. Triste pareil, Bouchard’s full-length debut, whose title translates roughly to “unparalleled sadness,” is a slightly more pop-oriented project than his 2017 EP Cerveau-Lent, with Langevin providing arrangements and production, and Fortin playing bass on two tracks (as well as playing host during a few recording sessions at his cottage). Lyrically, just about the entire album is about a long-drawn-out heartache. “My ex would be entitled to at least 20 percent of the royalties,” Bouchard says. “It’s like phases, or stages in a breakup. The grief, the sadness, the anger, waking up in the morning and the first thing you think about is your ex.” Bouchard tells the story of this painful period in his life, one cathartic song after another.
L’hiver se meurt
“It’s an old song I’d started, and at the beginning it talks about a dog. I was living with friends in Roberval and we didn’t have any cash left to buy firewood to heat the place. Our only source of heat was Terra, my pal’s dog that’s now passed away. ‘R’viens donc m’coller qu’on s’complète’ ['Come back and snuggle next to me, so we can be as one'], that was truly it, but it ended up as a sad love song about being scared that winter will finally get the better of you because there’s no end in sight and you’re totally fed up. It’s full of imagery.”
“This one’s a bit more introspective. The guy’s maybe not in the best of places and he’s trying to blame it on others. ‘Devant moi un tableau/Un homme triste pleure’ ['In front of me a picture/A sad man weeps’]—what I mean is you realize that ultimately that person is you, it’s like a mirror-image song. The music’s a bit more off the wall, more spacey, with quite a lot of echo and prolonged guitar riffs. It’s pretty repetitive, but it’s got a really good vibe. It’s a song about being fair and wanting to be honest, because you realize you’ve not always been like that in life.”
“I just wasn’t feeling good, so I went to spend a week at my cottage, to see my parents and family. I was playing guitar, like I do every day–I’m always hitting on new riffs, they come to me pretty quickly. When I say ‘Tu sais ben que j’t’aime/Mais j’ai besoin d’être seul’ ['You know I love you, but I need to be alone'], it’s like, is it worth carrying on going against the flow for let’s say the next 12 years, or should we split up and, worst-case scenario, we’ll meet again somewhere down the road? It’s about accepting, but also about letting go, being able to say, ‘I love you, but it’s not going to work. We’re different; you’re just too pure and I’m plain stupid.’ It really is one of my favorite tracks on the album.”
Yé passé où l’soleil?
“It’s the only old song on the album. I think I must have written it when I was 16 [the first version features on Cerveau-Lent]. Lili’s this girl I had a massive crush on in high school. I’ve realized I was pretty troubled back then, always calling everything into question. I remember playing guitar in the living room downstairs at my parents' place, and I didn’t feel good about myself. And then I noticed all the doors in the house were open. I’m not kidding, I mean literally, and it was like: ‘All the doors are open, I can escape if I want.’ But then you realize that even if you end up 800,000 kilometers from home, you’ll still be stuck with yourself. There’s not much point. So it basically says, what’s the use of running away, and what can you do to stop yourself from wanting to run away? I haven’t figured it out yet, but I probably will one of these days!”
Tu m’connais trop bien
“We figured it’d be a good idea to release this track first, even though it came about at the end of the process. I was alone in the studio; I’d recorded the entire demo, the drums, the piano. I’m not really a drummer, so we decided to put Victor [Tremblay-Desrosiers] on drums to give it some kick. The song talks about acceptance, like the dude who wants to move forward but who’s scared to turn around and see his ex with someone else. It’s hypocritical at the same time, but it still leans more toward acceptance, surrender: What are you supposed to do about it? It isn’t going to change anything. Are you willing to change things? I don’t know.”
Une valse pour toi
“I think these are some of the most beautiful lyrics on the album, but I’m not quite sure how to explain them! It came to me off the top of my head. The kind of song about a guy who’s scared, who lacks confidence, and ends up going all kinds of roundabout ways to avoid the question ‘Do you still love me?’ and stuff like that. It’s like, you’ve done things, but sort of backwards; you’ve worked at least, but all for nothing. You didn’t work on the things you needed to work on.”
La vie c’t’une peine d’amour
“It’s the only track I recorded that’s just me and my guitar. There was supposed to be a different track on the album, a slightly more ‘poppy’ rock tune. I wasn’t happy with it at all, and I had this song kicking around. I remember when I wrote it. I’d woken up one morning, I hadn’t slept much, I was a mess, and I came across this Polaroid of me and my ex, and I suddenly started crying! I thought to myself, ‘For heaven’s sake, I’ll never get over it!’ I’d been trying to pull through for some time and I wasn’t succeeding. It’s truly a song about frustration, like, ‘Okay, today my life is just one big heartache and I don’t give a damn, I’m going to be grumpy with everyone I bump into. I’ve had enough, I’m fed up of lying.’”
“It’s one of the first songs I wrote when I arrived in Montreal. My parents had driven me there. It wasn’t the best time in my life, and they left in a hurry, like they’re there one minute and gone the next… I knew we’d see each other again, but if that had been the last day of my life, I would have missed the opportunity to say what I needed to say. I felt like a real idiot. It also talks about my dad, but it’s above all a song I wrote to myself. Like, you dreamed of leaving with a clear mind and pockets full of cash, and finally you’ve wasted all your money drinking and when you arrive in Montreal your heart’s not really in it.”
“This one’s nice. When we first met, my ex was supposed to go to Belgium for three months. It was no biggie, really, but I’d started writing this song and never finished it because I found it a bit corny and I couldn’t really relate to it. She ended up canceling her trip and came to live with me in Montreal. It all went to shit; it was too much. It’s basically two stories rolled into one: the guy who’s scared the girl will leave for good, and the girl who decides to stay and ends up doing more harm than good. But hey, if she’d left, we wouldn’t have this album!”
“It’s pretty lo-fi. It was recorded using this old plug-in we had, a kind of tape deck that’s all wonky. I found it cool that it sounded like I’d recorded it with my cell phone. It’s the title track, and once again, it’s about not really wanting to deal with your grief, and instead trying to move on, and then when you meet someone else, all you can do is talk about your ex and cry. Initially, the band played it together, but it didn’t feel intimate enough for the lyrics. Langevin didn’t want to include it, but I made him. I couldn’t see it anywhere else but at the end.”