Folly & The Hunter are one of Montreal’s best kept secrets, though they won’t likely be a secret much longer. This indie-folk quartet is one of the best new bands to come out of Montreal’s rich music scene. Frontman Nick Vallee’s gorgeous lyrics, combined with the multi-instrumental talents of Christopher Fox, Laurie Torres and recent addition Phil Creamer, paint a rich and fantastical musical landscape akin to Bon Iver crossed with Sigur Rós.
The band’s debut, Residents, has been extremely well received (and with good reason), and they’re currently working on their sophomore album, which will likely see release in 2012. As if the high quality of their recorded sound wasn’t enough, they have one of the best live sounds you’ll hear in this city, making it hard to believe that they have been a band for only slightly less than two years.
I sat down recently with Folly’s Nick Vallee.
Jake Freekin’ Smith Do you find that being Montrealers influences your music?
Nick Vallee Yeah, definitely. I think the most important influence of Montreal is the Montreal music scene. For instance, being around all those really good musicians pushes you to be a better musician. I feel like if I had developed my music in Vancouver I’d be way more kind of a lame singer-songwriter, folky sort of thing, you know? Or in a stoner jam band or something. Yeah, something like that. Yeah, so it’s the focus on the arts here that I think is the main thing that really influences me.
Smith Did you have any musical idols or influences when you were a kid?
Vallee I didn’t really listen to music when I was a kid. I listened to classical music: Bach, Beethoven and all those, I liked those, but I only listened to that and The Lion King, and apart from stuff like that I really didn’t like music. I think when I was about 11 I actually said music’s dumb. Like, I would say that to people, which is pretty funny. I was more into drawing and playing with Lego and stuff.
Smith Do you have any big musical influences now?
Vallee Definitely Feist, Arcade Fire, some local ones –I’m influenced by old Miracle Fortress, like Fives Roses, and there are some important ones I’m not thinking of… Oh, Bon Iver obviously. Bon Iver, Iron and Wine, I guess a bit of Mumford and Sons, Nick Drake… What else… I’m so bad at thinking of bands.
Smith Tell me about the new direction you guys are moving in.
Vallee Well, we’ve been writing a host of new songs and they kind of have a little more… they’re a little bit bigger, a little more put together and all have more of a united feel to them. I feel like Residents was… it turned out well, but I feel like it was disjointed in the way that it was put together because we were so new and we weren’t really sure what direction we were going in. Some songs are extremely folky and poppy, and other songs are really post-rocky. I think what’s happened with the new songs is that we’ve started really finding a sound and everything is coming together more consistently.
Smith Have any of you ever performed in any facet other than music, or performed other kinds of music?
Vallee I did Shakespeare when I was 12. I did a whole bunch of ridiculous Shakespeare plays for children, or adolescents I guess, and I was, like, one of the only boys in the play, so all the girls would always have to play all the male parts – it was really ridiculous. I know that Laurie’s played in a whole bunch of different kinds of musical outfits; I mean even now she’s playing with Rae Spoon and North My Love, and in the past she played with a post-rock band called Slowest Runner in All the World, so she’s done a whole bunch of different stuff. Chris was in a punk band a long time ago in England. I think he was a, um, tambourinist? I’m not sure if it was with the same band, but he would dance around on the stage playing tambourine, so I guess he could be seen as having dance performance experience.
Smith Do you have any crazy stories or mishaps that have happened to you on tour?
Vallee It all went pretty well, actually. We planned it… well, Laurie and Chris planned it meticulously. I didn’t really do a lot, I’m not very good at that kind of stuff, so… But nonetheless, it was really well planned. We were also in contact with Paper Beat Scissors, who’s from the Maritimes, and he helped set it all up – we had places to stay. It actually ran really well. Nothing really insane happened, we just got fed a lot and made some good friends and it was, all around, fun.
Smith I guess you already answered this question, but when you were growing up, did you know you wanted to be a musician?
Vallee No. I started playing guitar when I was 15. And at that time I wanted to be a punk musician [laughs]. I didn’t even really know, I mean, I always wrote songs, but I never admitted that I was a musician until I was about 23. And I’d never really taken it seriously until then. So, actually being a focus in my life, it’s a very new thing, only a couple years old.
Smith What do you find people get from your music? Or what do you want them to get?
Vallee It seems like people respond really positively in the sense that it’s accessible but at the same time respectable, in the sense that people from what seems like all spectrums of the world get it. I mean, all my mom’s middle-aged friends love us, and random people in Indonesia love us, and then, you know, normal young people – you know them young people also enjoy us. What do I want people to get from the music? I think that the best thing about music, especially music like this, is to sort of make people experience the sublime nature of living and existence. And I’ve always thought the best music especially – I think most immediately of Sigur Rós – is something that takes you beyond your day-to-day problems and just kind of makes you realize that things are beautiful in the world beyond what’s happening around you, because there are so many shitty things happening in the world and what I think the purpose of our music should be is to give people a sort of escape, which I think it’s so important for music to have: that sort of ability to put all of that aside for a second and just listen to music.
Smith What was the last book you read?
Vallee I read… Sex at Dawn [bursts out laughing]. I don’t know if I should say that…
Smith Too late, you said it.
Vallee [Still laughing] It’s a pretty good book. It’s not really super poetic – it’s actually a study on why it’s so hard for humans to be monogamous. Mostly looking at apes and the prehistoric organization of people. It’s not supporting polyamory, it’s just showing why monogamy is harder than people would expect it to be. More importantly, I’m reading Game of Thrones right now. My reading tastes are obviously extremely embarassing [laughs]. I shouldn’t have said either of them.
Smith If zombies were roaming the streets and you had a chance to get away from the cities and into the countryside, what would you put in your backpack?
Vallee Oh my God. I would bring some sort of weapon that can decapitate zombies. That’s important. And a… God, I’ve never been asked this before! This is hard! I’m trying to think of things that aren’t incredibly cheesy to say. I wanna say I’d bring my guitar, but that’s kind of ridiculous. ’Cause you know you still have to have fun when you’re not being chased by zombies. And maybe I’d put a cat in my backpack, even though I’m allergic to them, because then I’d have a companion.
Smith If you could describe your music as an animal combined with a band combined with a food, what would it be?
Vallee An animal combined with a band combined with a food? Um… a black bear, combined with Bon Iver, combined with… uh… food… What kind of food are we? These questions are difficult! I’m just trying to think… and… spaghetti, I don’t know.
Smith What is your most memorable movie moment that was strongly combined with a song? And what song?
Vallee I’m gonna look like such an idiot [laughs]. Hmmm… Return of the King. Ha ha ha, no.
Smith Isn’t that Enya?
Vallee No, it’s not Enya, it’s like that, uh [singing], “Oh can you seeee? On the horizon!” It’s at the end. Or that part when it’s like, “Oooooooh.” Oh yeah! That end part of Gladiator when he’s dying – that’s pretty awesome. When he’s walking through the fields. I don’t know if these are actually my favourites though.
Smith What would be the theme song to you losing your virginity?
Vallee Oh no. Oh, something really embarrassing and awkward… That’s a good one. I feel like it would be… Who was that guy from a long time ago? This hilarious artist from… He used synths and stuff… My brain is not working right now, I gotta think of something else. My God! I’ve never even thought of any of this stuff – this is hard! Just gotta think of something that’s more… No Surrender, Bruce Springsteen.
Smith And what was it actually?
Vallee Um… Silent panicking of my brain freaking the fuck out. I don’t think there was any music actually.
Smith What was your favourite cartoon growing up?
Vallee Ninja Turtles. Pretty standard.
Smith If you could have one useless super power, what would it be?
Vallee [Long pause]… Completely useless? I’m so not witty right now. I hope I don’t completely embarrass myself… [another long pause]. Turning things I touch into silk. Not just clothing. Turning everything into silk.
Smith What is your favorite internet meme?
Vallee Ooh, gotta think of a good one. Probably Forever Alone. The Forever Alone face – that’s a pretty good one.
Folly & The Hunter with Lakes of Canada at Casa del Popolo (4873 St-Laurent Blvd.), Nov. 27, at 9 pm
Tix are $10 at the door and $8 in advance at www.indiemontreal.ca