Q&A with Les Poules à Colin’s Beatrix Methe

COURTESY PHOTO
Quebec’s Les Poules à Colin will perform two shows in the Music Room of the historic Manor House on Saturday, April 13.

Quebecois folk music group Les Poules à Colin will perform at the Manor House with two shows on Saturday, April 13 at 6 and 8 p.m. as part of Sylvester Manor Educational Farm’s concert series.

The group’s sound is a seamless blend of their Quebecois upbringing and North American influences that range from old-time to jazz, with a mixed repertoire of original and traditional pieces in both French and English. Fiddle, guitar, lap-steel, banjo, mandolin, piano, bass and foot percussion are used by Les Poules à Colin to reveal a unique and modern perspective on traditional Quebec culture. The Reporter caught up with the band’s Beatrix Methe to talk about folk music and the hen behind their name. Tickets: $30 in advance; $35 at the door. (631) 749-0626, sylvestermanor.org/music.

What’s the meaning behind the band’s name?

Our band name references one of Quebec’s most popular and cliché traditional songs that tells the story of Colin’s hen that is unfortunately killed and turned into a yummy soup when found on his neighbor’s property. We basically made a very tasty pun 10 years ago based on that song and the fact that the only guy in our band is named Colin. We promise our humor has evolved since.

Does folk music in Canada vary between location? How?

Canada is a vast country and the culture is very different across. Being French-Canadian, we especially feel that our language is the biggest difference. And from language so much follows — we have different references, different roots, different stories and so definitely our music sounds different.

Does Canadian folk music differ from American?

There are a lot of similarities in American and Canadian folk music. When you hear both you can definitely draw connections between the two, whether it’s in the spirit, the language, the rhythm or instrumentation. I think that old ties between French-Canadian and Cajun music are a good example of how this music has travelled through time and space and still exists and is being transmitted. You hear a lot of the same songs in Louisiana and in Quebec or Acadia. The same stories travel. Sometimes the music gets lost in between, but it’s still the same all over the place.

Where/how did the band meet?

Most of us met as kids following our folk-musician-parents on tours, in music parties and gatherings in the trad community here in the region of Lanaudière, Quebec. Each of our parents are connected somehow with music; they’ve all played in each other’s bands since way back in the 80s (Entourloupe, Josephine, Ni Sarpe Ni Branche, Manigance, DentdeLion). So we got to know each other as childhood friends. We decided to officially form a band just for fun when we were teens, ‘cause we happened to play instruments that fit well together. (Also, it’s important to note that Marie and Colin are very much connected, as in sister and brother.)

Do you compose your own songs?

For most part we sing French traditional songs. Or at least that’s the starting point of our music, so usually either I or Sarah (the other singer) will find a song from a songbook, or an archival recording, and will rewrite the chords or sometimes melody and that will be the core of the music. I have written a couple of original songs in English for the band through the years, which we have been mixing in with the folk songs. “There’s My Room” (which is on the last record) or “Ste-Waves,” which is also the title of our second album. The trad world is a very communal one, in which there is a lot of song sharing. It’s a beautiful way of contributing to the traditional passing of art, stories and music.

How did the band members all get drawn into folk music?

We all grew up being part of the trad community and learned to play music with each other, and with some of our folk idols, who also happened to be our parent’s friends. Most of us didn’t necessarily think that we’d end up playing folk music; music was just part of our day to day life. But I guess we just all connected somehow and in different ways to Quebec’s traditional music, as if it was just meant to be.

Who are some of your folk music inspirations?

We definitely love the classic Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, but some of our all-time favorite music is made right here in Quebec. Bands/musicians like Norouet, Les Frères Berthiaume, Genticorum, Michel Faubert, André Marchand have been real inspirational for us growing up and still are to this day. One of our favourite groups is a French folk rock band from the 70s called Malicorne. They sing old French traditional songs, like us. Their music is so old but yet so new and fresh, they are like a full circle. They have a special place in our hearts, I guess, because we see a lot of ourselves in their musical process. They hold the true answer to folk music having a place in our today world. We hope that we can keep making that true!

Who are some of your non-folk music inspirations?

All of us have different musical tastes, it varies a lot. But for the most part we all listen to music that is quite emotional. Lots of indie/folk/pop music. One of our favorite albums these days is “The Party” by the Canadian folk-pop singer songwriter Andy Shauf. For my part, one of my biggest discoveries for the past couple years is the singer-songwriter Adrianne Lenker from the American band Big Thief. Her songs just touch you instantly. We’ve also discovered the amazing Jesca Hoop and her latest album “Memories Are Now,” produced by Blake Mills, which has been one of our top albums to listen to in the car on tour. It’s amazing to see folk and pop co-exist more and more.

What do you hope people take away from seeing you perform?

We just hope we can make people feel the way we feel when we play music together. We’re just a bunch of friends having a blast, learning and discovering new things everywhere we play, and we hope that we can transmit that desire to keep the world changing and growing!

How has time affected the way you write songs or the way that you shape your songwriting?

We’ve been a band for 10 years now, so lots has changed and lots will keep changing. As individuals and as a group. We basically grew up playing music together, our references, knowledge and environment are constantly growing and giving us lots of stuff to feel and write about. We definitely have reshaped the way we write music over the years, whether it’s influenced by the places we visit, the people we meet, the connections we make, the new instruments we learn, or the music we discover, there’s always a new reason why we wanna keep making music!

Are you all full-time musicians?

Yes! We all have pretty much made this band our full-time priority and main focus. Marie also works with our manager Heidi, as an assistant and tour organizer, and the rest of us give music lessons at home as well.

Have you ever been in a band playing a different type of music?

My background has mainly been fiddle-type music all my life. My dad is a fiddler and taught me tunes my entire childhood. It’s only in my late teens that I started writing songs more seriously. I had seen my mom do it my whole life and I guess I had this natural draw to it. Although Les Poules à Colin is my main project, I also secretly have a band of more singer-songwriter type stuff with my partner Quinn; we are constantly writing songs and recording for fun, so who knows what will happen with that!

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