Laura Sauvage enjoys daydreaming and the kind things that bend reality, or as she describes, "something so serious but at the same time it's just art or like going to a magic show." She continues: "There was [once] a famous magician that said people are crazy if they go to a magic show and they walk out thinking they've just seen real magic. It's all an illusion. You're crazy if you think all that was magic." This past summer when I traveled to Northern Quebec for FME, the festival was buzzing with excited whispers for Sauvage's (pronounced sau-vah-jeuh) new illusory trick. I was already sold from the various "just go" "you can't miss it" "you'll love it" recommendations of enthusiasm, but it wasn't until I actually saw Laura Sauvage play live at an old church in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec that it all cut though to my core.
I found my way into the packed, sold-out show that was closing up the festival and snuck through the spellbound seated crowd, finding a spot on the floor right in front of the soundboard. I sat there getting chills while taking pictures, overcome by the energy in the room. The solo project of Acadian singer and guitarist Vivianne Roy (also of Les Hay Babies), she has been compared to the likes of Courtney Barnett and Beck, plus the girl knows how to rock a captain's hat. Originally from a small town in New Brunswick, Roy commands a room, going between heart-pounding moments of thick classic guitar sounds and quiet moments of vulnerability, all mixed in with witty lyrics woven into songs with titles such like "Fucker (Stole my phone)" & "Cyanide Breath Mint." The entire audience was captivated, myself included.
When I caught up with Laura Sauvage/Roy after her set we shared beers as she explained the isolation that comes as a franglais artist who grew up outside Québec. "For us and other francophones outside of Québec it's weird, there's this big gap in between (the communities) but we relate," she explained. "It's another club. The reason you're doing stuff in French is cus you're a minority and you can still fucking do it... All that being said, as a French musician in Québec now I find I'm super welcomed and the people are super nice. It's such a small industry and there's a lot of good music that immediately shows up. If there's a good band they're gonna pop up out of nowhere." Even though she lives in Montreal now, Sauvage still feels that it's tough for bands outside of the province to be heard outside of their communities. "A lot of bands outside of Québec are fucking amazing and they're their own hometown heroes but you'll never hear them. It's just insane. Just travel, go to random bars and see random shows. That's how you discover crazy bands."
Earlier this year Laura Sauvage released her extraordinary debut album Extraordinormal, a follow-up to her 2015 EP Americana Submarine. Growing up, Sauvage watched a bunch of MuchMusic and remembers hearing bands play "a new sound, something very cool that didn't sound American. It didn't sound European. I didn't sound like Canadian rock. It had that Québec sound." These days though she's into the west coast scene that labels like Burger Records & Hardly Art highlight, and excitedly starts listing what she's been listening to on the road while touring; Gazebos, The Memories, Tacocat and Shannon and the Clams to name a few.
A month or so after FME, Sauvage and I caught up over the phone. I asked her where her head was at when writing the songs on Extraordinormal. She explained, "it's 'Extraordinormal' in the sense that it's no care, just very blah, very vomited out, very plain. Nothing out of the ordinary… It just felt nice to not overthink everything. Sometimes you just punish yourself, putting yourself in this box where you just critique everything that you do."
"I love seeing regular towns being very regular. Not in a festival mode. Seeing regular people do their regular things. Just real people. That hypes me up." Sauvage continues, as she talks about how she loves just driving around and hearing people's stories. "I love knowing that people are living outside my head."
Sauvage admits that it was kinda stressful, seeing as there wasn't a lot of time between writing the songs that would be on Extraordinormal in the fall and recording them that winter. "It was a good stress, just a kick in the ass," she laughs. Recorded two hours north of Montreal in Wild Studio on Lac Sawin, the album was made with the help of bassist and co-producer Dany Placard, Mathieu Vezio taking care of percussion, guitarist Olivier Langevin and Ben Bouchard who plays keyboards and also mixed the album. "Winter is the perfect time to record because you don't wanna be outside anyway," said Sauvage. "It's the best time to get cooped up somewhere and just concentrate on a project. You're not touring as much cus' it's a lot more dangerous with the snow."
Indeed, Extraordinormal is the kind of musical warmth that's much needed for the colder months, going between tracks that will have you rocking out in your kitchen to the softer moments that will keep you cozy. Recently, Sauvage received three nominations for Quebec's alternative independent awards, the GAMIQ, Extraordinormal is up for Rock Album of the Year and Singer-Songwriter of the Year. She's also released her video for album cut "Have You Heard The Good News" which was inspired by 1973 cult classic The Holy Mountain, which happens to be a personal favourite of hers. "It's a movie I watch very often" she confessed, "I wanted to do a traveling sales person going from house to house, selling body members and at the end putting it all together, building a Jesus on a cross kinda thing."
I ask Sauvage if there's any francophone shows or films she'd recommend and she shares her love of Québecois Simpsons, "it's like another series altogether with very familiar characters." Many English speaking Anglo-Canadians don't realize that there's a whole other side to Canadian culture that they just aren't aware of. "They have their own greats," Sauvage explained to me, "I'm a francophone and there are francophones living all over Canada." When I ask her about the division between the French and English communities she simply states, "a lot of people just can't stand the fact that they're different."
In the end, Sauvage and I both agree that "langue" is no reason to limit yourself from dope sounds beyond your mother tongue. "You could be singing in Spanish, German whatever, it'd just be fucking cool but because of our history there's this big wall between French and English. There's this big anglo society against the French in New Brunswick right now that not a lot of people know about, but they want to ban bilingualism. Fucking snap out of it!"
"In a lot of countries, kids know four or five languages. It's a great thing! If you're close minded enough to think that only one language is the way to go, you're not gonna hear the other side of the story. I'm not into the division. I find that stuff just annoying. Still, I meet people like 'Oh there's French people in Saskatchewan?' Uhhh yeah! 'Oh there's French people in Alberta?' Uhhhh yeah! And those people do fucking cool things! French, English, who fucking cares. Make art!"
Kate Killet is a writer and photographer based in Toronto, most of the time. Follow her on Twitter.