Acoostic Sessions: Live musical performances done in and around Montreal. Season three is presented in conjunction with Seratone Studio.
If you’re living in Quebec, chances are that you’ve already heard of Velvet Black. Their dynamic live act was on show extensively off the back of debut album Orleans, and their music videos have enjoyed heavy rotation on MusiquePlus, with the track “Everything Is Alright” rubbing shoulders with the likes of Drake and Coldplay atop the most-played chart upon release.
This Quebec City trio swing between rock and pop, with a sound heavily influenced by Southern Californian vibe and South American lifestyle. They’d describe themselves as gringo pop-rock.
If you’re not familiar with the music of Mathieu Giroux (Vocals, Bass), Jean-Pierre Parent (Drums), and Jesse Mercier (Guitar, Backing vocals), you certainly will be soon. Velvet Black are one of Quebec’s hardest-working acts – their latest achievement being landing the opening act gig for Canadian legend Bryan Adams at Festivent in Lévis on August 2nd. “We are incredibly excited,” says Jesse. “We were selected directly by Bryan Adam’s management, so this means a lot for us. There will be between 40,000 to 50,000 people, so it’s pretty much the band’s biggest accomplishment so far!”
“It’s hard being an English act here in Quebec,” explains Jesse. “But when it pays off, it really pays off.”
We chatted to the Velvet Black lads about being Francophones in an English act in La Belle Province and the history of the band after they performed their track “Venice” for Acoostic Sessions.
So, if we get this right, once upon a time you were called Blue Daven’s Code?
Jesse Mercier: Yeah, a long time ago. About three years ago we changed. We changed management…
Jean-Paul Parent: …A line-up change as well…
JM: …Music as well.
What was that transition like? Going from being one band to being another band?
JM: I started the band with Matt. There were a few members who joined the band but we kicked them out *laughs*. No, I’m just kidding, it was just not working anymore.
J-PP: It was a natural thing because it was kind of the point that we were at musically. The whole heavy thing was kinda getting old. We were gravitating naturally towards something else.
You started a bit heavier?
J-PP: Yeah, we were actually doing showcases in Los Angeles. Our new manager said, “You should change your name because, no offence, it’s kinda confusing.”
JM: Also, when you look it up on YouTube you get all these old videos of heavier music that didn’t have anything to do with the newer stuff, so we just decided to change (the name).
J-PP: We pulled all the old stuff from the media because, to me, it sounds terrible. It sounded awesome at the time. It was like, “Shit! This new fucking sound!” But I listened to it a while back and it’s terrible.
JM: Can’t believe we sounded like this.
J-PP: The whole heavy sound and “big manly” shit. It’s terrible.
JM: That’s the thing with every kind of art, I think, when you start. You always get better, so you look at what you’ve done in the past and you’re always like, “Oh, hmmmmm.”
How did you land on the name Velvet Black?
JM: Our manager told us that we should change our name…
J-PP: …Our former manager…
Former manager? So it was like, “Thanks for the name, see you later?”
JM: No, no. They helped us out a lot.
J-PP: I think we were hungover in a dorm room in LA and we were just rummaging over some names and Black Velvet came up.
JM: Yeah, Matt came up with Black Velvet.
J-PP: We were getting more into blues at the time, so it was kind of a good fit. Our manager said, “It feels too old.” We came up with Velvet Black because the order of the words in french is “velours noir.” That’s what Jesse came up with and it kinda stuck.
JM: But still people are…
J-PP: …Yeah, they’re fucking it up *laughs* always man. They keep calling us Black Velvet. It’s Velvet Black but people’s faces when we say it are like, “Why the fuck didn’t you call yourselves Black Velvet?” *sighs*
You guys are greatly influenced by Californian and South American sound and lifestyle. How so? How did these cultures infiltrate your lives?
JM: We went there a couple of times and most of the bands we listen to are from California.
J-PP: Yeah, Southern California…
JM: …Matt and I, we always come up with the Latino vibe, you know, in the songwriting for a reason that I don’t know.
J-PP: Yeah, it comes out naturally. It’s warm. It makes you want to dance.
JM: It’s a sound we really like, and no-one really uses that sound. Everybody is like, “Oh, you have a Latino sound” and that’s sort of our trademark.
J-PP: When you start understanding songwriting and going deeper and deeper into knowing yourself and stuff you try to, after a while, make a sound that’s only in your head. You try to recreate it.
JM: It’s a vibe, you know?
It’s something natural inside of you that’s coming out…
JM: And I think, basically, that’s where we want to be. If we had the chance, we’d probably move there (California). I think for all three of us that’s our favourite city in the world, Los Angeles. And we’re always thinking about it, about going back there and playing shows there…
J-PP: …We’re pretty active, we’re always going out and stuff, but we’re from a place that’s so…
J-PP: …Yeah, it’s so windy and cold. It’s tough. Well, it’s not tough living there. It’s really easy compared to other parts of the world. But it’s just, like, your winter tires and your coats and your hydro bills. It’s so cold, you know!?
Has any band in particular influenced you more than others?
J-PP: Do you know the band The Neighbourhood? I think for all three of us it was so revolutionary when their stuff came out, with the big reverbs. I think in our music there’s a lot of stuff going on.
You guys are Francophone, singing in French and English. Do you feel that it’s important that you sing in both languages?
JM: Actually, we might come up with a song in Spanish one day because I speak Spanish and that’s something we like. We don’t want to have any limit on what we can do. And we don’t really have a choice if we want to be on the radio here. We have to have a French version. But we love French music, like Daniel Bélanger…
J-PP: …Jean Leloup…
JM: …Philippe Brac, so many great artists that are from here.
J-PP: It just comes out in English, I guess. I was brought up in French but my parents put me through English school. I learnt to read and write in English, so all the words and stuff just come out in English. It doesn’t come out in French.
One of the big issues in Quebec and Montreal is the alleged cultural and linguistic tensions between Francophones and Anglophones…
JM: Yeah, absolutely.
Do you feel that at all? In Quebec City or Montreal?
J-PP: Not at this point, because we’re not well known enough. So I guess we don’t feel it right now.
Mathieu Giroux: I think we want to go everywhere with our music too. In English you can go everywhere…
J-PP: …Yeah, a lot more doors open too.
JM: I went to university, my French is perfect. I don’t have to justify myself. A lot of people try to protect French and stuff but they can barely speak it properly. I do. But some people want to protect French so bad that they forget that it’s cool to have different people.
What’s next for Velvet Black?
JM: People are gonna here a lot from us, I think. It’s constant work, you know, because there are so many bands out there, so many kinds of music you can make. And you can make music from your computer at home and have a million plays on Spotify, it’s crazy. So as a band what you have to do is always work. And that’s why we came down here today, because we want to meet new people…
MG: …Doing something different.
J-PP: I think that what’s next for us is more shows and more music to come really soon.
MG: To create.
JM: We’re pretty much a live band. That’s what we like and I think we give a good show. We have energy on stage and we’ve toured so much that we’re really comfortable on stage. That’s what we wanna do, I’d be on tour my whole life, I don’t mind it.
To keep up with Velvet Black, and to find information for upcoming shows, check out www.velvetblackofficial.com and be sure to like them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram. Check out past seasons of Acoostic Sessions here.
Words – Zac Strevens
Cameras – Zac Strevens, Anthony Imperioli, & Gabriel Alvarez.
Editing – Zac Strevens
Audio – Simon Petraki
Direction – Zac Strevens