With two decades of music making behind them, Moncton-based jazz-fusion group Les Paiens is anything but stagnant. The group is celebrating the release of its dynamic new record, Carte Blanche , with a show at the Tide & Boar in downtown Moncton tomorrow evening.
Surviving 20 years in the music business is no small feat for any band. To commemorate this momentous occasion, not only does the band have a new record but it also has a documentary that will be airing on the Radio Canada radio and television outlets in Atlantic Canada.
The idea of undertaking a documentary on the group was a seed unknowingly planted in an interview with the band.
“Just after Christmas last year, we had done a radio interview where we shared that we were thinking about doing a new album,” Paiens drummer Jean Surette begins. “Leo Theriault, the creator of the radio program Bande A Part, heard the interview and asked us about a new record and then asked if there would be any interest in taking part in a radio documentary to celebrate 20 years of Les Paiens. That idea then evolved to include television as well as the Radio Canada web platform.”
The resulting documentary, Les Paiens: Musiciens de l’Acadie Urbaine, airs on Radio Canada television on Monday at 6:30 p.m., while the radio special airs tomorrow at 11 a.m. on 88.5 FM in Metro Moncton.
Although Les Paiens didn’t explicitly set out to make a documentary to celebrate their 20th anniversary, Surette says that the end result surpassed even their expectations.
“We didn’t ever see this coming but are very happy with the end result. In addition to interviewing a lot of the people who we worked with in the past, Leo also found some archival footage that we didn’t even know existed. Leo definitely went all out when it came to putting things together.”
Carte Blanche marks the first new music from Les Paiens in more than four years. While some of the material on the group’s new album dates back to song sketches from 2009 (and as far back as 2003), the record is also comprised of a number of tracks derived from more than three hours of improvisational jamming.
Although Les Paiens may be veterans of the Moncton music scene in one sense of the word, they have embraced the evolution of their sound, refusing to be locked into what people may have come to expect from them.
In the last year, the group added a fifth member, Moncton musician Jonah Hache. Hache joins the ranks of Les Paiens alongside Jean Surette, Marc Arsenault, Denis Surette and Sebastien Michaud, contributing the electronic element of loops, which add a different dimension to the group’s sound.
“The first time that we performed with Jonah was at the Evolve Festival in Nova Scotia,” Surette says. “We knew that he had his gear with him and so we asked him if he would be interested in performing with us. By the time we were done our sound check, we had asked him to join the band. It was something that we felt was right and so we went with it.
‘”Bringing Jonah on board was to help us diversify our sound. Both him and Sebastien work really hard together to add these different textures to our sound.”
While their members’ talent has unquestionably played a part in Les Paiens continuing to be a consistently popular concert draw, one could also argue the fact that the group is not pursuing music as a full-time occupation has also helped contribute to its longevity and ability to keep things fresh.
“Having the opportunity to step away from the band from time to time helps in that we never get bitter about not making it in the music business,” Surette says. “We are in total control of what we want to take on, so if a good two- to three-week run of shows comes across our lap and is worth it, we can go for it. If anything, Carte Blanche, is very representative of where we are at as a band right now. We have no obligations in terms of pursuing a career path nor do we have to answer to anyone else when it comes to our vision for the music.
“Another great thing about where we are at with the band is that everyone in the group is completely behind what we are doing. The five of us would much rather play 20 great shows a year than to play 60 shows where half of them aren’t that great. Our priorities as a band now are not the same as they were 20 years ago. There are kids, jobs and other obligations to factor into the equation now. What truly matters at the end of the day is that we are all on the same page.”
Article published in the November 8, 2013 edition of The Times & Transcript