Interview by Miriam C.

This interview marks the beginning of a new start after an unwanted stop due to force majeure (which include work and study) thus with a huge delay, I commit myself to publish this awe-inspiring heart to heart with Canadian singer and bassist Robin Wattie. However it’s possible, I would like to publicly apologize for my tremendous postponement with both the artist and the PR but let’s focus on it with a useful introspective: as previously stated, BIG|BRAVE come from Canada and the trio, on 15th September 2017, has published their 3rd LP “Ardor” via Southern Lord. With meticulously researched interpretation, they managed to ingeniously mix drone rock with the best experimental music that you can find out there. This conversation was collected back in October 2017 at the Melkweg in Amsterdam during the special 1-day festival aptly named “Southern Lord Records Presents” in which it was featured the crème de la crème of Southern Lord Records‘s acts such as France’s experimental prog band Magma, Finnish’s progressive crazy elfs Circle and last but not least, the experimental superstars SUNN O))). Without spoiling any contents, personally I’ve intensely enjoyed meeting this artist and, even if this trascription does not properly showcase the positive attitude and open-mindedness, I really do invite you to carefully read this interview.

First of all Robin, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine, how are you?

I’m very well, thank you! Thank you for having me!

So, guys, you’re currently on tour in Europe, are you enjoying it and how is the feedback?

I’m really enjoying it, actually. We’re having a good time and the feedback has been really warm, loving, open and the people are excited. We played Paris last night and it was our first time and the audience was amazing, hilarious and super-drunk which made us really funny but we’re absolutely having a blast. We never know what to expect and so far, it exceeds our expectations for sure.

Though BIG BRAVE has already released 3 full-lengths, I imagine that there are still a lot of people that don’t know you, can you give us a general glimpse of how and when the band got together?

Yeah, it started off with Matt […], the other guitar player – we both were roomates at first and I did just started to play the guitar and sing and he had been playing the guitar for a long time and he had many many different types of bands and were just jamming in our living room and Louie [Alexandre Beauregard] is an old friend with Matt and he moved to Trois Riviéres, Québec and he came back and we wanted a drummer because we’re starting to playing live and we wanted to get a little bit more louder and experimental because on first instance we were a folk band……

[laughs] Really? I’m sorry but this is unbeliavable. You know, yesterday while I was preparing I was listening to some your songs from your latest album “Ardor” and now, you tell me “folk”? It’s a long shot, really.

Yeah, [laughs] it’s pretty mad and people laugh every single time we say this. We used to be a really ambient, dissonant, folk music with minimal, sort of instrumentation…..

Like some sort of European neoclassical bands like Arcana, Dark Sanctuary

Maybe something like that, yeah, actually….

Just one month ago, you have released your third album “Ardor”, would you like to share more details about its genesis and writing process?

Sure. Well, what happened was with the previuous album “Au De La”, although we were happy with it, we felt that we could go a bit further, push the ideas further and “Ardor” is a sort of manifestation of that: really really pushing ourselves further and further and further and Mathieu [Bernard Ball] spent a lot of time in the jam space like hammering stuff out and then, I would come in with sort of putting together, adding stuff and taking away stuff. It was long but for me, it was definitely one of the album I’m most proud of, I feel like I can really support this album because I feel we sort of figured out what it we are doing, as well, and it takes a lot of time.

You push yourself harder and harder and now, you think that with album you have found the right identity as a band…

Mathieu and I started already writing new songs and we’ve already the skeleton of 2 songs ready because this time around,  for the next album him and I better will spend the most of our time in the jam space, just like spending hours working on one thing but definitely, we’re going in the right direction that we want.

I really love the “Ardor”’s cover album but in truth what is supposed to express?

Thank you for your appreciation. Probably….

Just your impression because everyone has its own idea and it doesn’t get along with the others…

Right. I don’t know what the artist was trying to convey but I know for us, the look fits the sound and the mood of the album. I feel like it’s very expressive when you look at it and it painted like the smiley art on paper which is….. I don’t know how to explain this but when you use a brush on it, it takes a way the paint and you have to work on it. For me, it was just a more visual representation of how our music can look [laughs].

Although the signing with Southern Lord dates back to almost 2 years ago, in hindsight how is this collaboration has reflected positively your expectations?

What it did, actually, I think it has to do with the relationship that we have Greg [Massi, owner and SUNN O)) member] because he’s really supportive, trusting and you can tell he just love music and all the kind of music. He just want to be able to share that and so, we feel really supported by him and we feel like no matter, what sort of direction we end up going, he’ll be open and supportive of that, well, at least open to it.

You don’t have any musical labels or restriction…

Exactly.

Because, you know, Greg comes from SUNN O))) you are perfecly aware of what he does. They are some sort of impossible collective to define and so, they have (or had) many musical phases: drone, ambient, industrial and experimental and you can really expect everything from Greg

Yeah, exactly. Anything and everything. Just his enthusiasm is somenthing you don’t find in the musical industry because he’s also running the label and that can weight on someone’s spirit and motivation to even want to be a part of it.

That can crash with the market’s request and the artist’s desire because nowadays, it’s difficult to be themselves and express what you want without have any no pretences and most of the labels want something in return…

Exactly, yes, so it’s refreshing, motivating and incouraging to not only work with someone that is just clearly his hard work but doing it because love and passion are still there, it helps us remind ourselves that “Oh yes, we’re also doing this because we love it and we’re passionate about it”, so there’s that freedom and support that help us a lot.

Recently, I’ve read an article on echoesanddust.com where you were asked to pick for each of you all the album that changed your life or better that influenced you so much during your musical career and I was really abashed  by your choices: you chose Gillian Welch, Tony Conrad with Faust for Mathieu and Shipping News for Louis. So, I’ve wondering how americana, experimental and post-hardcore can successfully live side by side in BIG BRAVE’s music?

[laughs]… because it’s really different, yeah. We, actually, all of us listen to very different music and we all love the music we listen to…. like I love the music they listen to and viceversa. We have an appreciation for music in general regardless the genre and I think, what it has to do is provoking something, if we are provoked intellectually, emotionally or anywhere in between, it captures us – and that can come from all kind of sounds and stuff like this. For me, Gillian Welch and David Rollings in that album it’s just, I don’t know what is it, it’s melancholic, it’s beautiful and both the other two albums, like the Tony Conrad that Mathieu picked has a lot to do with our desire, need  and want to push the music we’re doing otherwise we’re doing folk, if didn’t….

I think this peculiar musical picks in a way reflect your desire and your will to artistically push your limits, you know..

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely and what it come down to it is that being not provoked in a negative way but just provoked in a way that makes think about things…..

Like it stimulates your mind…

Exactly, your mind and your heart make you feel something, make you think something even if it is a negative thing or a positive thing, we’re doing our job. You know, like it’s my motivation, Matt and I are from the visual art background so….

This explain everything… [laughs] Yeah, I’m into metal and everything but if I should tell you what sometimes I listen to, you won’t expect it and I mostly listen to everything starting from 80s pop music…

Yeah, yeah me too, I have Madonna‘s tapes from the 80s. I still have them, also I have still this Brad Delp‘s tape that from the fucking 70s or something, it was my mom’s…

You come from Canada, I love all those Rock FM artists like Bryan Adams, Tom Cockrane: I’m a person that likes to be stimulated visually and musically because I think listening always to the same shit doesn’t work out…

Yeah, I agree. You know your prospective become smaller – ok, listening to only one type of music is great and I respect that and your world would be only that: it’s so limited and there is so much to explore and why I think, we do what we doing because we’re fundamentally curious about everything and nothing is stupid. Music is not stupid, music is what it is, it’s just people having opinions about it and that’s fine but it reaches one person, it doesn’t mean that it will reach another person.

Not everybody has the same taste, you know?

No, no.

This time for the recordings you have opted to collaborate with Montreal’s renowned experimental visual musical artist Radwan Ghazi Moumneh from Jerusalem in My Heart and also the curator of the 12 -hours long Drone at the Guess Who? here in Utrecht. How was working with him and how his working method influenced you?

Well, it was…… first of part of the question: working with him is amazing, he’s not only super professional and he’s open to all kind of questions, whoever stupid you might think they are, he knows that are not stupid cos’ it’s like we don’t have a lot of experience recording in beautiful recordings studio like the one we recorded in, the Hotel2Tango. So, we’re like “Hey, what this do?”and he’ll be like“Oh, I’ll show you” and he gets right into it and the ideas that we brought to the table, he was always open to try them out, just for see how it goes. It was one of the best work experience that I had while working with an another person and he’s not totally hilarious, he’s such a kind, generous human being so it’s really hard to not have a good experience working with him and I’ve spoken with almost everybody who worked with him and they have just confirmed such. And as how he influenced us was exactly that because he was open to trying up things with us as recorded even though we were running out of time and restrictions, etc etc. It helped us and gave us room to experiment and not everyone wants to that or it feels it can do that when recording a band or something…..

Experimenting sometimes can be a challenge and to have to be open and to prepared to say “Ok, let’s try this” but it’s like find yourself at the end of the cliff and after, there is nothing underneath you, so you have to realize “Am I able to do the next step by literally jumping into the unknown?” – so, experimenting is this, personally I think you face a huge challenge and you did with Jerusalem in My Heart and it can be a some sort of security…

He really is, he does it, he’s like a safety net. For us, “Hey, we’re gonna die here”and he’s like “Ok, I’ll catch you”. You know, that’s amazing.

Notable also are the participations of violinist and singer Jessica Moss from post-rock band Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Thierry Amar for Godspeed You Black Emperor! Who played the contrabass. How these collaborations born?

What happened was….. I think I’ve almost forget, I don’t wanna believe it [laughs]…. Jessica is one of those people I cannot believe that I know her, like I still cannot believe I know her enough to have on our album and that I’ve even… I think, we wanted to ask her, we been wanting to ask her ever before we called ourselves BIG BRAVE and she was one of the people we would die to work with her and then with recording “Au De La”, she asked us if we wanted to collaborate with her and we were like: “What!? Are you fucking kidding me?” – like “Why do you have to ask!?”“. Of course, we want you just like a bit… she liked our music and that was unbeliavable. When we practiced with her for recording “Au De La” and playing live, she brought us to the level that we should have been in here at that point because she amped her amp for being professional, for just taking the things more seriously and she just came in and listen a little bit and after blurt out this beautiful melodies: it was exactly what we wanted and even stuff, we thought didn’t want it and we realized that we wanted after she did it and we were like “What!?” and then for the second record, she said yes and we’re definitely like to have her again but even, with Thierry for a couple of times he kinda alluded and I was kinda “What!?”

 

And then, I mean we’re talking about Godspeed You Black Emperor! but they’re are like the Aerosmith of post-rock or something like that. I know that my comparison is bullshit…

No, no but I know what you mean – it’s just that they are those people of that genre of music where it’s like to you look to them for.. like you said “the gods of post metal and experimental”, you know, that’s what they do, that’s what they did and still doing it and it’s like “They wanted to work with you!?” and it’s like “We better say, yes, of course” because it’s not only a privilege, it’s an honor and it’s huge fucking responsibility. So, we shyly asked him like “Hey Thierry, would like come in during this day and maybe you would like to come in to listen” and then, he came and the first thing he did, Louie and he cried. He just listened once and he was jamming with us and the stuff he came up with I actually cried because it was so beautiful and it was more of what we expected and he recorded and we were like “What the fuck!?”, the same thing with Jessica and we were like “I cannot believe my life, right now”.

You know, I felt the same thing when I’ve attended the gig with Alcest and Mono and I saw people crying with the closed eyes and I was one of them…

I know, I know, right..

And I was crying me too because I saw the band was fucking covered by smoke on the stage, I wanted to see their faces and I said “C’mon, I fucking close my eyes and I listen to the music” and I found myself crying with my eyes closed and it happened with Alcest too. It that kind of music that experimental says everything for me because post rock is quite limitating…

Absolutely, I agree and if you can… it’s the same thing for food with me in music: music makes me feel something like eating a food. Like, what else is there? It’s so beautiful. Jessica Moss‘s solo music does that to us like every single time I watch her play live, I cry. I’m not kidding, it’s like…. there’s no words to explain correctly this but that beauty, that vulnerability, that strenght, that emotion…

Well, thank you for this great interview. Please be free to say hi to your fans and our readers. Thank you so much for this interview!

Oh my gosh, thank you so much for these amazing questions and I really did love them. You’re such a great interviewer!

 

Photos by Pasha Marrow

 

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