Catching up with Le Vent du Nord a year after 20 printemps
“We’re not a political band, but in a way it’s a political act to sing in French wherever we go in the world,” said Nicolas Boulerice, a founding member of the Quebec band Le Vent du Nord, who last year celebrated 20 years together with their album 20 Printemps.
“We are saying we’re from that part of the world, we have tradition that’s still alive that’s different from others, and we’re proud of that!”
Over they past 20 years, the band has released 11 albums and won multiple awards in Canada, the U.S. and France, bringing traditional Quebecois music to the world. And yet there’s still work to be done getting exposure for their music. A few months ago, the band was playing with another group whose one member was surprised Le Vent du Nord had a successful international career singing in French.
“He said, ‘I didn’t know young people still sang in French.’ He was very serious. So we need to continue what we do because even for francophones in Montréal, they don’t see the francophone scene. It’s so fragile.”
All of which makes 20 years as a band such an accomplishment. André Brunet, a member since 2017, explained how the group wanted to make sure they got it right with 20 Printemps.
“We wanted to celebrate, to have the sound of celebrations and have everyone in the band happy with what we’ve recorded. We did some pre-production before going into the studio just to see how it sounded.”
Throughout their career, Le Vent du Nord has maintained a busy touring schedule, even during the pandemic.
“Maybe 120-130 concerts per year for 20 years,” said Nicolas. “We did a lot of virtual shows too, maybe 70 in total. The fact we are still together and we still have fun is because the band wanted to be as democratic as possible. That’s why it’s difficult. and why it’s working too. Everybody at the end should be proud of the result. I don’t know if we can do it for another 20 years, but we’ll try.”
Perhaps one reason for Le Vent du Nord’s longevity is the number of projects group members have done outside of the band over the years. As an example, Nicolas and fellow founding member Olivier Demers have released albums as a duo, Nicolas has a couple of solo albums while Olivier released a solo album in 2020. He’s also in a duo with Simon Proulx and is part of the trio Montcorbier. Singer and guitarist Simon Beaudry, on the other hand, is part of Duo Beaudry-Prud’homme with Phillipe Prud’homme and has released the album Le Sort des Amoureux with his brother Éric, who’s a member of De Temps Antan and La Bottine Souriante. The big collaboration for Le Vent du Nord was 2018’s Notre Album Solo where they combined with De Temps Antan to form a kind of Quebecois supergroup.
“The collaborations really feed the band a lot,” said André. “We recently recorded just the voices of Le Vent du Nord with a great classical pianist and a quartet that’s coming out in 2023. It’s important for us to collaborate because it keeps us alert. We love to create things… and we are good at it! We share our music with other people, which is fun to do.”
Le Vent du Nord is a band that combines traditional Quebecois music with originals written in the style of traditional ones. Finding old tunes and songs that haven’t already been covered by other bands in the province can be a challenge.
“It’s a constant search,” Nicolas said. “We all have books and old recordings so it’s always a question of finding a nice melody. When we start a new project, usually I already have 20-30 songs in the box. Then we bring those songs to the band.”
Connecting to traditional music can happen anywhere. At the Summerfolk Festival in Owen Sound last year, where we spoke, Le Vent du Nord had occasion to sing with Marcel Beneteau, who’s worked for over 25 years researching the oral traditions of the Detroit River French community.
“To keep a link with those people who are directly from the deep traditions is so important,” said Nicolas. “What we do is a balance between creation and tradition.”
“I come from a family where traditional music was everywhere,” said André. “We have a background of traditional but we went to school to learn music and have different horizons. So when the music became more popular in the 90s, young people like us were playing the music with another sound, something new, influenced by other bands like La Bottine Souriante. It’s fun to see now that there are a lot of bands starting up in Quebec. But we should keep in mind that tomorrow everything could disappear. So it’s really important for us to keep the line intact and encourage all the young bands and musicians who are starting.”
For more on Le Vent du Nord, go to leventdunord.com.