Culture & Conversation

Once upon a month

Music lovers – it’s finally here! After all the inevitable hype leading up to the Montreal International Jazz Festival, it kicked off with last night’s sold out Prince show at Metropolis. We’re in a for a rollercoaster week of amazing international and local acts, including Montreal’s own orchestral chamber folk ensemble Mark Berube and the Patriotic Few, which features percussionist Patrick Dugas, bass player Amélie Mandeville and cellist Kristina Koropecki. Their poetic, intricate brand of orchestral arrangements is a unique sound that is sure to delight.

Braving torrential rains, Berube sat down with Roverarts in Little Italy and talked about his songwriting process, new fatherhood and performing for the first time  at the Jazz Festival. Berube’s father is a native Montrealer, and “my whole childhood he’d be raving about [the Jazz Festival]… it’s always an honour when you can get into a festival that’s that prestigious.”

Berube and band have been touring almost non-stop through Europe and Canada over the last couple of years. The most recent album, June in Siberia, was launched in March, sparking a Canada wide-tour. “I’ve always loved that part, because I get to visit all of my friends in cities across the country.” This one, however, was a bit more stressful than usual – Berube’s wife gave birth to their first child three days after returning home from tour. “I’m never ever doing that again,” he says with a wry laugh. “You have no idea what you’re in for!”

Fatherhood certainly isn’t slowing him down though, aside from having to practice a little more quietly. The band is already booked for a handful of shows in Quebec during July, and has plans to head back to Europe for a tour in the fall.  On the songwriting side, he says “the bank is full.” He’s already begun work on an upcoming EP, this time in French.

When talking about his songwriting process, Berube becomes even more animated. “I’ve just always been interested in the lyrical part of songs… if the lyrics are really good, you can go into the song even deeper. It’s like this nice present and I’ve always loved that.”

It’s clear that songwriting is a process he doesn’t take lightly. Growing up in Swaziland during South African apartheid, Berube remains inspired by the folk songs of black workers that endured through decades of repression. “The only [songs] that survived… were the ones that had the strongest melody… If a melody cannot stand on its own before you add the instruments, it means it’s not strong enough.”

With his most recent album, June in Siberia, it’s clear that this approach to songwriting is only getting better. Add that to a band whose primary joy is the energy of a live show, and you’ve got an amazing performance in the making.

Mark Berube and the Patriotic Few at the Savoy du Metropolis (59 Ste-Catherine E.) tonight, June 25, and Sunday, June 26, at 7 pm

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