Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Monday, April 25, 2011

Le Chelsea Beat, keeping the Mod flame burning in Montreal

I'm glad to report that my city has nothing to envy other larger cities when it comes to the indie music scene. We have a bubbling talent pool here that never ceases to impress me. Le Chelsea Beat is the perfect example.

This talented bunch of seasoned musicians deliver a powerful punch of Mod infused garage beat. They do not hide the fact that they have a serious inclination towards the 60s sound and that's the way we like it. Seamlessly switching between obscure garage covers and original material, they can also easily alternate between French and English.

When I asked Stéphane Courval, guitarist for the group, where his love for 60s music came from, he gave me an answer indicative of the Mod Revival generation. "It's from 80s Montreal Garage bands like The Gruesomes and Déjà Voodoo that I got introduced to that sound. It pushed me to explore further and I ended up discovering great bands from that era. Local radio DJs like Mimi la Twisteuse at CISM and Phil Flipped Out at CKUT also had a big impact. I use to tape their shows and take notes of all the bands that I liked".

Stéphane Courval

With six members overtaking the stage, it's no wonder they have a commanding presence. Nowadays, it's not common to see 3 band members sharing the guitar duties. When asked who was the lead guitarist for the group, Stéphane was quick to point out that they don't really have one: "It's the most harmonious and democratic group I've ever been part of. There's no big egos or drama. When someone is interested in doing a particular solo for instance, he shares it with the group and he does it. It's as simple as that."

One thing you can't fault them on is their attention to detail. Their look is almost as important as playing vintage instruments. Daniel Fiocco, who's been collecting vintage guitars, sports a stunning 1966 Gibson Es-330td. He's also responsible for providing lead singer Pat Meteor with a 12-string British made Burns Baldwin Double Six. According to the date stamped on the pickguard, it was made on January 26, 1966. How more Mod can you get?

"They just don't sound the same,” says Stéphane. "They have a certain feel. You can pull different tones and effects from vintage instruments that you wouldn't get otherwise. It's all part of being authentic." The 12-string is certainly a nice touch and something you don't see every day. It does kick it up a notch and adds another dimension.

Michael Cowan, keyboardist for the group might not be playing a vintage Hammond B3 but he's undeniably a pivotal member of the group. He provides a certain energy that cements the group together. I definitely wouldn't want to negate any of the other's efforts so you'll simply have to come and see them live.

François Gagner on drums and Daniel Fiocco mastering the Gibson

And if you don't get that chance, no need to worry, they are currently working on an album with at least a dozen titles in various stages of recording. One thing is certain, once the album is ready, you'll hear about it here first.

In the meantime, check out this video of their Halloween show.

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