The author, not making out with Mac DeMarco. Photo courtesy of Mo.
This is the story about how I french kissed a bunch of Canadian musicians in the name of journalism. Standing at the bar with Daniel Gélinas of Youyourself&i, I told him my column was called “Musiciens que je veux frencher” (translated: musicians I want to french). He turned, wide-eyed, “Do you know what that means?”
Over the course of my adventure, I propositioned over 20 different musicians to make out with me. It was partly a social experiment, an exploration of how sexual energy on stage translates to real life encounters. Most of the time I wouldn't brief them. but just spring it on them at the conclusion of the interview: “Ok, great. Thanks for your time. Now can I french you?”
The inspiration for this project came from the campfire singalongs I experienced when I was younger. One guy pulls a guitar out and over his knee and starts strumming “American Pie.” He doesn't even have to be cute, but suddenly you're reconsidering his hands and his lips as you're caught in an unexpected wave of guitar guy aphrodisia. Seriously, what's that about? I wanted to find out. Maybe it was a genuine crusade for truth. Maybe it was teenage reconciliation for never having had a proper guitar guy make out session. Either way, I took it upon myself to go gonzo for the necessary research. Plus, a french kiss is pretty innocent. I wasn't going to explore sexual chemistry by actually sealing the deal each time.
For every interview, I put my ego on the line, risking rejection, humiliation, and mononucleosis. Thankfully I never caught anything. Although there was that one make out in the bathroom with Karl Gagnon of Violett Pi. Lots of smeared lipstick was involved, but no disease. The only consequence was quiet horror from my parents, who read about it later.
There was that time I sat on the curb and smoked with Mac DeMarco. Tell me, who doesn't want to make out with Mac fucking DeMarco? His gap-toothed don't give shit attitude is so provocative. I'd heard he had a penchant for shaking his naked balls around on stage. Surely a guy like that would be up for a simple french kiss. However, at the performance I attended he was subdued, pensive even. During the interview we sat on the curb of Avenue St. Laurent as he smoked through five Viceroys.
The author, kissing Koriass. Photo courtesy of Mo.
“Some people get disappointed. It's true that sometimes some super weird shit goes down,” he said. Like the time he got naked and stuck drum sticks up his ass. That stunt in particular, he told me, regrettably found its way onto the internet. “My whole family saw it. Even my grandma. They all sat down and watched it together.” He took a long drag, “But it doesn’t happen every time.”
As I listened to his hilarious stories about losing his virginity and medical testing, I became aware of how young this kid was. His girlfriend was standing on the peripheries talking with the other barely legal band mates. I started to feel guilty. She seemed nice, and I'm not a home-wrecker. So I didn't ask DeMarco to kiss me. Instead, I asked if he was aware that so many women found him irresistible. “You must have women throwing themselves at you?” He shook his head, “Maybe if we played cute indie rock we’d get laid, but not with the shit I pull. No one wants to get with me after they see drum sticks up my ass.”
Things were a little more successful in the green room with Rich Aucoin. If you've ever attended an Aucoin concert you know it's wild and colourful and sweaty as hell. Before the performance, I followed him as he paced around stuffing confetti tubes, folding parachutes, and unpacking costume changes. I was trying to be flirty, asking provoking questions, but I couldn't catch his eye.
I mean, have you seen Rich Aucoin? The guy is hot. Like, crazy hot. At one point in the conversation he took off his pants and slathered lotion all over his abs—seriously, this happened. “I hope you don’t feel like I’m neglecting you. I’m really paying attention, I promise.” He plunged his hands into a duffel bag, surfacing with a rainbow guitar peddle. When I told him my intentions for the article, he cracked a smile, only slightly surprised. “That reminds me of a show I did where I started a giant game of spin the bottle.” “On stage?” I asked. “No, like down in the crowd, in the middle of everyone.” “I never played it as a teenager,” I said. “Me neither,” he smiled, looking up at me. He pointed to my faithful photographer: “Is he going to take a photo of this?” “Yep,” I said. “Ok,” he shrugged, “sure.” Not exactly poetic seduction. But hell, it made for a great photo.
The author, kissing Rich Aucoin. Photo courtesy of Mo.
But they didn't all play out with such grace. I got rejected. A lot. Most notably, and heartbreakingly, by québécois rapper Koriass. Clearly, I don't have strong investigative skills. I was a half hour into the interview, and doing well, getting lots of deep confessional narratives on his adolescence in St. Eustache and his fear of failure—when he mentioned his daughter. “You've got a kid?” I coughed into my beer. “Oh oui,” he lit up. And a beautiful, devoted lady partner too, I learned. “So, I guess a french kiss is out of the question?” I attempted. He eyed me. “Nah, I can't have a photo of that on the internet.” He obliged to a cheek bisou. I went home crushed.
Unsurprisingly, the photo was often the point of contention. In an effort to diversify, I propositioned pop-rock vixen Jacquie Neville of Toronto's The Balconies. Too much heterocentricism gets boring, right? Plus, Jacquie is a leather-clad manic pixie dream girl. In this unpublished encounter, I remember having a femme heart-to-heart, slumped on the saggy couch at Montreal's nightclub, Le Divan Orange. Sitting so close to her, I wondered what brand her mascara was, and how she shredded the guitar without chipping her manicure. But I kept the questions serious. “Is it upsetting when people objectify you as a female artist?” I nodded sympathetically as she answered. “Ok great. Now then, can we french kiss on camera?” At least she she let me down gently. “My mother reads everything on the internet about me. I have to think about her. She'd be so shocked.”
All the rejection made me stronger. It made the articles funnier. Self deprecation sells. So when I finally landed an interview with Canadian man of mystery Devon Welsh (Majical Cloudz) I wasn't holding my breath. Everything I'd read about him was broody and guarded. But hell if I wasn't gonna try. We held the interview in the back bar of Le Belmont as the opening DJ shook the walls. The bar noise made us lean in close. I asked him about stage fright: “All that soul-baring…you just have to be so vulnerable. Isn't it scary?” “There’s a lot of power in vulnerability. You can’t be afraid of it,” he said. He was so soft spoken. So earnest. Was it my second cuba libre, or were we really hitting it off? “But don’t you need some kind of trust first – in order to offer that up to an audience?” Trust me, I pleaded with a concerned eyebrow furrow. “Yeah, trust. But more trust in yourself. All that matters is that you’re being honest with yourself, and you’re not holding back. You just have to commit, that’s crucial.” Suddenly, he got called back stage, and I was left alone with my drink. I never even got to proposition him.
After the show, in an string of events I never recounted in the article, I sucked the last of the rum from my ice cubes and charged down the stairs to the green room. “I didn't tell you before, but this article…it's about the sexual chemistry between the musician and audience. I can't leave without asking…” I swallowed, “…to french me.” You just have to commit, right? I didn't have my photographer with me, so I asked his band mate Matt to take the photo with his phone. Devon's eyes glinted with whiskey boldness. He agreed with a smirk. I slipped my arms up around his neck and leaned in. When we stepped away from the kiss, kind of dazed, Matt turned the iPhone screen towards us. “Whoa,” he said. “That was hot.” But I never got those photos. Instead, I got an angry email a few weeks later from his publicist. Next time I should give her full disclosure about the “interview concept.” And the photos I kept asking Matt for? “Unfortunately his phone has been acting up, and all of the files were accidentally deleted.” Sigh. What happened? Did Devon chicken out? Did his media agent veto? Were they really deleted? I was left wondering dumbly: But Devon, didn't you feel what I was feeling?
The author, making a kissing face with Violette Pi. Photo courtesy of Mo.
That was the last article I published. Because in those moments when attraction passed from journalistic interest to sincere compatibility, I felt stuck. It turned into a twisted rom-com plot. If I was really into the artist, how could I kiss them with a clear conscious? No matter how genuine the connection was, once the article was published my identity would be revealed.
But then again, I could never be sure where the attraction really came from. There was no control in this experiment. No way to parse the person from the persona. And ultimately, as audience members, the artist and the music are indivisible. No matter how hard I tried, my admiration for the art would colour (and strengthen) my attraction. So when I'm frenching Devon Welsh, I'm frenching Majical Cloudz. We fall for these artists for their vulnerability: the way they trust us to listen, relate, and validate them. We delight in the voyeuristic pleasure of watching our guitar-guy strip down on stage. Experimenting with whether that exists offstage may sound like a fantasy, but it was just bad science. Ultimately, I can't separate the music from the man. And perhaps it's better that way.
Emily HIll is the Chief Music Editor for Vesper Magazine in Montreal - @EmilyByNight