Despite what the outside world might think (and that means you, the rest of Canada!) the language issue is anything but in the Montreal independent music scene. Artists of English and French languages have come closer together over the past decade and created an almost hybrid community here in Montreal.
Director Yannick B. Gélinas tends to focus on the positive rather than pick at the almost crusted over scab of the longstanding negativity associated with language in this province. She seems justified with his slant because the artists she interviews like Ariane Moffat or Patrick Watson seem to agree that the two languages within Montreal indie music community has largely worked together rather than in opposition.
Around the time of the mid-2000s Montreal was named the epicenter of the indie music world. It was around the time that the rest of the world was discovering a little band called Arcade Fire and then started listening to the rest of the music being produced here. Bands like Stars and The Dears were discovered. Acts like Godspeed You Black Emperor showed that you could have success without compromising. None of what was coming out of the city was truly commercial, but it got Montreal on the music map. Regardless of what language it is being sung in the indie music coming out of Montreal has been called original, diverse and bold. Gélinas’ documentary tries to uncover what makes the local scene in Montreal so special. What she comes up with is the cool venues, its magnetism, its typically Montreal attitude and bilingualism.
Montreal residents have for the most part always thought that this was a cool place to come from. Now the rest of the world is beginning to clue in to this as well. Montreal is distinct from the rest of Canada and even Quebec. There really are two Montreals: English and French Montreal. It is a cosmopolitan city with lots of different influences. Visitors and newcomers have said that it is like being in Europe when visiting Montreal. It has the advantage of being near two big music cities in New York and Toronto.
There is a pride coming from Montreal and being part of its music scene. Montreal attracts musicians from across Canada because of the relatively low cost of living. It is also attractive to musicians because it has a large university population that has money to spend on music. Lots of musicians live in Montreal’s Mile End district. There are also a lot of live music venues in the area like Casa del Popolo and La Sala Rossa.
Bottom line is that the indie music scene in Montreal benefits from the collaboration between the English and French communities. They don’t worry about what language they are singing in. They mix together. Louis-Jean Cormier from Franco group Karkwa has worked with Anglophone Patrick Watson and neither bats an eye. Anglo Jace Lasek from Besnard Lakes has produced music by the francophone group Chinatown. It is seen as natural or normal. Stir into that unique mix a creative environment that is really receptive to different styles of music and you have an environment that oozes great music.