By Will Yannacoulias
Mark the date; on October 8th well known Saskatoon artist Lévi Soulodre will release his third album from his band The Pxrtals, the ambitious La Poétesse. Inspired by a collection of French language poetry written by his mother Cheryl Georget Soulodre and featuring the soft, bell-like voice of his sister Natalie Soulodre, the album is a poignant exploration of the close connection of family juxtaposed against the distance of years. Today the first single and video, “Clin D’œil”, was released in advance of the album. Soulodre spoke with NSMZ about the song, the video and the unique exciting album to come.
The roots of the project reach back to pages of personal poetry which Cheryl Soulodre quietly wrote in her youth. As Lévi recalled, “Mom wrote these poems when she was in her 20s and 30s, living in Alberta, in Manitoba, and in Bordeaux, France when she was working on her PhD. One day I was helping mom with office work and I came across a poem, which would ultimately became the song “À la recherche” (In Search Of). That led me to ask ‘have you written anything else?’ She’s always been very private about her artistic endeavours, even though she’s a talented writer and a fine painter. When I asked if she had anything more, she spent an afternoon cleaning her office then presented me with this half inch stack of papers. Some were poems that had been published in Alberta and Quebec, others were rough drafts. Before that day Mom’s poetry had been a mystery to us; reading it, and later working on these songs has been such a wild and intimate trip.”
The adaptations of his mother’s poetry into songs required various levels of revision, but “Clin D’œil” was recorded in almost its original form. “The lyrics are the full poem unedited” Soulodre explained. “I repeated one line as a chorus, that’s it. The lyrics are quite literal… the glowing sand, the barges, the girls, it read to me as a description of a beach scene, a utopic vision of how we all like to spend our time. The last line roughly translates to ‘isn’t that real life, after all, to enjoy the sun and friends.’, which I think is a perfect sentiment and a universal truth.”
Soulodre’s sparse musical arrangement and the song’s fun, carefree vibe are the perfect compliment to Natalie Soulodre’s beautiful voice and the charming sentimental French lyrics. Soulodre reflected that “Musically I really dug deep to sow these ideas and develop them into the song. I had a feeling that this song would stand out, in a sense ‘wink’ at you. I feel like I channeled a bit of a Brian Jonestown Massacre essence, especially their more acoustic records. The character of what that band is, and similar bands of the 60s persuasion; breezy, airy, mystical, trying to create a mix that sounded like people sitting around a fire playing a tune, waves lapping at the shore. I also channeled a Serge Gainsbourg vibe, easygoing but with a deeper shade, mellower psychedelic pop stuff. There’s a line ‘se couchent sous l’étoile’, (to lay under the stars), I tried to emulate that feeling, floating at peace.”
The simple, nostalgic video for Clin D’œil was shot by Moose Jaw Fransaskois artist éemi (Émilie Lebel). Soulodre spoke of éemi with the highest praise, elaborating that “We met in Saskatoon at La Troupe du Jour, where we did a summer show together. I’ve always been really intrigued with the music she’s making, really into her sound and her whole aesthetic. She has a wonderful artistic vision; bold yet intimate, with a really pleasing style that shows in the honest candid way she captured some of the shots. We talked a lot about 60’s New Wave cinema, which I think she captured in this picnic on the banks of the South Saskatchewan. We’ve been really jelling creatively and musically, it’s cool. She absolutely killed the video, it’s simple but touching.”
“Clin D’œil” is available on Youtube and all streaming services. La Poétesse is scheduled to be released on physical formats and on all streaming services October 8.