Comprised of David Brown (vocals), Christian Bergeron (guitar), Nicolas Denis (synth), Philippe Lachance (synth), Francis Fugere (drums) and Julien Martre (bass/vocals), Quebec-based band The New Cities has just released their sophomore LP, Kill the Lights. Following up their 2009 debut Lost in City Lights, the band’s latest effort has passed through many hands on its way to completion, including production gurus The Matrix (Avril Lavigne, Korn, Christina Aguilera) and mixers Dave ‘Rave’ Ogilvie (Skinny Puppy, Marilyn Manson) and Joe Zook (Katy Perry, Weezer). From the offices at Sony, Julien Martre talks about becoming part of a bigger team and the careful creation of their latest offering.
Why choose music as your career?
For me, it’s always been a no-brainer because I’ve been obsessed with music from like, the age of twelve… Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana… I bugged my parents for an electric guitar and since then, you could say it was written.
Another artist told me that it’s easy to picture the sound you want, but to physically conjure it up can sometimes be a challenge – would you agree?
We know we want the electro-side to be predominant in what we do, so when we write a song, we imagine the keyboards and how they’ll sound. But big picture? We want it to be a surprise. I like to start from scratch with an acoustic guitar, a vague idea, and then go from there.
You’re from Quebec, but it was in Toronto where you got your start?
The Canadian music business is pretty much centered in Toronto so it made sense for us to go there. It all started with Greg Nori, who’s the singer for Treble Charger and he’s produced and managed Sum 41. He thought that for us to go to the next level we had to spend some time writing and then book shows in Toronto. Those shows are what got us attention from Sony.
What’s the learning curve going from unsigned to signed?
We’ve always been pretty DIY-oriented and pretty prolific, and we’re involved in every aspect of the process. A major label like Sony has really good tools to market and promote music, and just gets us one step further along to where we want to go.
So you’ve become part of a larger team?
Exactly. We’re aware that we have to work with other people to get our product out there and Sony’s doing a really good job in the end.
What kind of input does a major label have on your sound?
I mean, Sony was signing us and we felt very lucky but we weren’t going to make any compromises and they were fine with that. I think for the label, it’s a good idea to give the artists the liberty to do what they want. They’ve got people involved in the artwork and some other stuff, but again, it’s more of a team effort and we’re like… the inspirational source.
Tell me about the making Kill the Lights.
We wrote songs for a period of about three or four months. We stuck ourselves in a small room with no windows in our rehearsal space and started from scratch. We reached out to a bunch of producers in L.A. and set up 15 or 20 sessions to go and perfect the songs. We started with about 30 songs and chose 12 for the record.
And at some point, you made it back to Canada?
For the post work, we did the first half of it in L.A. and then went to Montreal – well a town in the woods about an hour and a half from Montreal – and we added guitars and bass and vocals there. We sent everything to Dave Ogilvie in Vancouver and he did the mixing and added some electro sounds and made everything sound really good.
What is it like for a French-speaking band to expand outside of Quebec?
The political reality of Quebec makes it a little harder for someone who’s born a Francophone to feel like they can make it outside of the province. It feels like an obstacle to overcome the language barrier and you’re kind of raised with that on your mind. For me, I just tried not to see it as an obstacle and just always believed I could make it.
What do you hope Kill the Lights will accomplish?
I hope we’ll have the opportunity to play for people in and outside of Canada. We’ve been to the U.S. and we’ve been to the U.K. twice already. The reaction’s seems to be really good. We just basically want to get back out there and keep promoting our stuff. In a perfect world, we’d get to do a world tour.
The New Cities’ Kill the Lights LP is available in stores and online now. Visit www.thenewcities.com for more on the band, and to view their video for Heatwave.
*Originally published under ‘Interviews’ on MyTelus.com.