Montreal experimental duo Essaie Pas work in an office building. Not during business hours mind you, only after the whistle blows, and the 9-to-5 workers at the warehouse in the city's Mile End neighbourhood file out for the day. The husband-and-wife duo, Marie Davidson and Pierre Guerineau, usually bump into them on their way in for a night of uninterrupted music making. For some it would feel like an awkward handoff, but for the two night owls, the daily ritual is most appreciated.
"We share the room with [avant-garde] Phénomena Festival people," explains Davidson. "We cross each other every day around 5-6 PM. We even shared a Christmas party. We talk to them and other people in the building, like security, just enough to feel like we're still a part of this world. Then we're there on our own."
At night, the office building is pretty much empty besides the security guards. It's deserted enough that Davidson, the more analog-minded half of the pair, can do her jogging through the hallways and staircases without seeing another soul. Guerineau, the more computer-savvy of the two (he's engineered for Montreal artists including Dirty Beaches and Pelada), is intrigued by the natural reverb in the stairwell and they've even discussed recording in there.
The album that came out of this quiet paradise is the sonically dark but beat-driven Demain Est Une Autre Nuit—which translates to "tomorrow is another night" in French. It's their first full-length release, at least intentionally so; their Bandcamp page is a trove of EPs, splits, and an LP, Nuit de Noce, a compilation on French label Teenage Menopause.
Essaie Pas' old home was a defunct loft space La Brique, a DIY recording pad that in its later years became more associated for parties as the rent increased. It closed in late 2013, but it's where Essaie Pas' previous works were completed.
"At La Brique there were a lot of people sharing the room, but there was also a lot of dust, gear, and random stuff all over the place," says Guerineau. "It was a mess but we loved it, and the sound on those records we made there had more grit."
After La Brique closed, Essaie Pas stuffed their gear in lockers and headed out on tour. By the time they returned in early 2014, it was the dead of a bitterly cold winter. They had lost their apartment and had to move in with Davidson's father.
"Travelling and touring had put us in a strange place," recalls Guerineau. "And when we got back here, we were feeling like strangers in our own city."
Adds Davidson: "We lost our bearings."
The pair say Demain Est Une Autre Nuit is a snapshot of the disorientation they were going through at the time. It's also about running on a nocturnal clubbing schedule, according to Davidson.
"Even though we stopped touring. We would wake up at noon," she says. "And in the winter we saw very little sunlight."
Their European tours directed their evolved sound in another way: when people go out to see shows at night, they usually want to dance. They discovered through performing in clubs, and not the DIY spaces they were used to, the pleasure of faster, more beat-oriented music.
Davidson says while it's fun to get people dancing, the music still has to have soul.
"It's more about music that has an impact on the mind and the body. I like to think I can make groovy stuff that's intellectual and sensual at the same time," she says, "music that touches your heart and gut, but also makes you groove."
While the album took around nine months to make and was completed last year, the duo took a break in-between to work on something completely different—the soundtrack to a web documentary called Frequencies - The Music of League of Legends. A short film about the musicians who compose music for the wildly popular multiplayer online video game League Of Legends, it was an experience that ultimately benefitted Demain Est Une Autre Nuit.
"It's a game that's always evolving, so they have to make music for new characters. They're in a constant creation process and they have a big budget. They worked with Nine Inch Nails' people and big orchestras," says Guerineau.
"We had to work fast, which we weren't used to at all," says Davidson. "After that contract, it changed our way of working. We jammed less. We were coming from a background in rock, and the tracks we did before—even if they weren't rock and experimental stuff —were done by jamming with electronics. After doing a lot of studio work we integrated that into our own process of composing. Let's plug all our machines in instead of jamming, let's program a beat first."
Early in the album process, the wheels were put in motion for them to sign with their new label, New York's venerable DFA Records. They're the first Montreal band to join the DFA family, and how it happened is a lesson is a lesson in taking all bad situations in stride.
"They were looking for supporting acts for a Factory Floor show in Montreal, and apparently they searched Bandcamp for Montreal bands and found us," explains Guerineau.
The only thing is, Factory Floor arrived late due to traveling issues and the promoter wanted to cut Essaie Pas' soundcheck as a result. The band stood their ground and things got tense. Ultimately, they played a strong set and Factory Floor's tour manager and DFA label manager Kris Petersen, told them to stay in touch. They assumed nothing would come of it, but sure enough, a few months later they spoke again.
"When Pierre told me we got an email from DFA, saying we had some big fans in the office, I thought 'that's cool' but really I didn't think anything would happen," recalls Davidson.
"They were tripping on some of our earlier sounds, too," adds Guerineau. "The label has a lot of techno, noise, and all sorts of things—they just love music and I feel we're like that too. We don't go for one style, and it's important for us to work with people with open minds."
Demain Est Une Autre Nuit is out Feb. 19 via DFA Records, preorder here.
Erik Leijon is on Twitter.