Neil Stopforth talks to Solids’ guitarist and vocalist Xavier Germain Poitras about touring, their latest EP and finds out the surprisingly simple reason Montreal is home to so many successful bands.
In 2014, Solids (not to be confused with power-pop band The Solids) released their high-energy fuzz-laden debut LP, ‘Blame Confusion’ which drew comparisons with 90s noise rock bands such as Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth.
Relatively unknown, they were touring with fellow-Canadian punk rockers, PUP, who’d also just released their debut LP and their experience was a mixed one, to say the least. “It was miserable at some points!”, laughs Xavier, when recalling their tour of the States. “It was so funny because we were both really unknown and wondering why we weren’t opening for bigger bands but no one knew about us!”
Things couldn’t be more different now though. Back on tour and supporting PUP, every venue so far has been a sell out and with their new EP, ‘Else’, recently released, the band are enjoying themselves a lot more this time around. Usually a duo, they’ve even brought a third band member with them. “When we recorded ‘Else’, I kind of cheated a bit with the amount of guitar tracks I could record and emulate live”, Xavier explains. “So to do these songs properly live we had to add another member. We’ve added another guitar so now we can both split the bass parts and then just play our own guitar parts. Guillaume actually added his own guitar parts too so he’s a full member of Solids, not just like a touring musician.”
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Xavier’s unusual guitar style of playing the bass notes and lead is a big part of Solids’ sound and it also gives the band freedom to improvise during live shows. “When we were a two piece I had to do all the bass parts and the lead at the same time and now it’s more jam friendly,” Xavier says. “For some songs we never know how how long they’re going to go on because it’s like ‘let’s end it when it ends’”.
When on stage, Solids like to play loud but it’s not simply a case of turning up the volume for the sake of it. Xavier wants the volume to be a part of the live experience. “We like it when it gets physical and you can actually feel it.”
Playing live and loud is one thing, but there’s quite often a difference between a live sound and what’s on the record. “It’s never the same and the energy is not the same either, I think.” Xavier says. “Even on ‘Blame Confusion’, which was way more off the floor and no overdubs. Even with one or two overdubs, it’s never like the loudness, and it’s music that is best heard pretty loudly. I’d say now when we go into the studio we don’t say things like ‘now we’re going to do this the same’ as we know it’s not going to be the same anyway. It’s a lot more fun to say, ‘let’s just make the best record we can’, instead of saying things like ‘oh, do you mind if we do this overdub here’ or if we add something we’re not going to be able to do live, it’s like ‘live is going to be something else’, so that’s what it should be.”
While vocals are often the most prominent part of any song, it’s the music that’s most important to Solids and they’re generally layered between the guitar rather than over them. “I think we really consider the vocals to be like another instrument in itself”, Xavier explains. “I guess it kind of shows in the music because it’s always music first and then sometimes a vocal line will come in the studio that we think has to be done. We don’t consider the vocals to be not important but they can be just another layer that we add to the music.”
With so many successful and diverse bands hailing from Montreal, the secret behind the city’s success of producing all these bands is surprisingly simple. “I think it’s a really, really nice city to live in,” says Xavier. “As simple as it sounds, it’s also the cheapest to live for young musicians. If I think about a place like Toronto or Vancouver, the rent is sometimes twice as expensive so a lot of the bands that come out of Montreal are not necessarily from Montreal, they move there and have their headquarters there.” Xavier’s passion for his home city is easy to see as he continues. “I think mostly it’s just that it’s really, really cheap and really cool. I really enjoy living there, I couldn’t see myself moving away from there. Although I’m not that much at home these days, I really want to keep at least one foot there”.
Despite a busy summer which has seen Solids tour parts of Canada, the States and Europe, Xavier is already looking ahead and looking forward to writing some new material ‒ something he finds difficult to do while on the road. “We’re flying to China after the London show and then we have a couple of weekend tours in Canada. After that we want to take it easy as much as possible and write another full LP which is long overdue. I need to be immersed with the noise and it’s easier to have a jam space. I’ve tried to write a little bit on the road but it takes way longer. You can try a new riff in a sound check or something but it’s not like you can really work on a song.”
Solids’ EP ‘Else’ is out now via Topshelf Records.