Expect Sweat: Interview with Montreal’s own Po Lazarus

Po Lazarus Po Lazarus at Brutopia on Dec. 26. 2014. From left to right: M.-O. Novak, Paul Mascarenhas, Joshua Carey, and Luc Delisle. Photo Megan Schmidt

If they aren’t already on your radar, they should be. The guys behind Po Lazarus have been playing up a storm on the Montreal scene for over a year now, and they show no sign of stopping any time soon. Composed of Joshua Carey (vocals, ukulele), Paul Mascarenhas (bass, guitar), Luc Delisle (guitar), and M.-O. Novak (drums), Po Lazarus delivers its listeners a variety of songs that straddle the line between forlorn folk music and rock n’ roll. These charming fellows have been quite busy as of late: this past summer they released a five-track EP (available here for listen and download) and are now working on producing their upcoming album, all while continuing to play live shows at various venues within the city – and if you’ve been to any of them, you’ll know that they certainly know how to put on a good show.

I was lucky enough to sit down with three-quarters of the band – Josh, Paul, and Luc – who took some time out of their busy schedules to chat for a spell before putting on a great (and necessarily sweaty) performance at Grumpy’s later that night.

Po Lazarus

Po Lazarus

Moegi Egan (ME): How long has Po Lazarus been a four-man band?
Paul Mascarenhas (PM): A little bit over one year now. Since last December, in 2013.
[Before that point, the band only consisted of members Joshua and Paul.]

ME: How did the band start out? What pushed you guys to start making music?
PM: Well, Josh lost the drummer of his old band. I had recently started playing guitar, and so had he… So we just joined up and started making songs immediately.
Joshua Carey (JC): With lack of knowledge, but with enthusiasm and gusto.

ME: Your sound has obviously undergone some changes since Luc and M.-O. have joined the band. But what about your creative process? Has it evolved in any way since you’ve become a larger group?
JC: Well there’s a lot more working on songs as four people, so that’s good. Paul and I have a lot of the groundwork ready when we’re making a song, and then Luc and M.-O. give their many suggestions and opinions.
Luc Delisle (LC): Yeah, so songs transform for sure.
PM: Then again, there are also songs that just come about from jamming together.
JC: Or Luc has ideas or suggestions because he has a better knowledge of music, in my opinion.

ME: The name ‘Po Lazarus’ stems from a traditional American folk song with the same title, right? So would you say that your own sound is influenced by this musical genre at all?
JC: Maybe not from as early as that [when the song was released]. But, we do cover some songs that date back to that time period. We definitely like American music.
LD: That song [Po’ Lazarus] was covered by a lot of folk artists, especially ones that we look up to.
JC: Just the story behind it, of the prisoner hiding up in the hills and then being caught and dragged down, and killed for the bounty… I think it’s representative of our ultimate demise.

ME: Are there any particular artists that inspire you, musical influences that you look up to?
LD: Obviously that would be Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk. We’ve covered a few of their songs. That’s just as far as the band is concerned.
PM: My Morning Jacket is a more contemporary group that influences us as well.
LD: A little bit of Led Zeppelin too.

ME: During your shows, do you play any particular songs more than others? Any crowd pleasers?
PM: Well the only song we’ve ever played twice in one show would be If You Are Alone, by request.
LD: There are some songs that we feel are stronger than others, and if we have a short set, those ones do tend to come back more than the rest.
PM: Those are the ones that are going to make the album, probably.

ME: On an individual level, do you guys have any favourite songs? Either from your EP or other ones that you play during shows?
JC: I like the song called Will You Be My Baby, it’s nice and dancey.
LD: I’m a big fan of A Man Loves His Whiskey. That’s one of my favourites, along with Backyard Voodoo.
PM: I like The Seams.

ME: What is your absolute favourite venue to play at in Montreal?
JC: I mean, on nights like this when we’re playing at bars, we love Grumpy’s. We hang out there, we’ve got good friends there, and people always get fun.
LD: That’s a bar that we would go to even if we weren’t playing.
PM: It’s nice and cozy, we feel at home there… I don’t know if that’s a good thing.
[laughter]
LD: Petit Campus was also really nice when we played there [for POP Montreal]. It’s a great stage, good sound, good enough size for there to be a lot of people, but at the same time not too many.
JC: When we played at l’Escogriffe as well, I liked it a lot. It got sweaty and packed.
LD: Actually, generally speaking our shows are sweaty. I think that is an accurate description of a Po Lazarus show – it’s not a Po Lazarus show if you’re not sweating.
PM: Yeah. We thrive if we can touch the people and sweat on them.
JC: But they do not let us…

Po Lazarus

Po Lazarus

ME: Are there any venues that you haven’t played at yet, which you really want to?
LD: I’m actually curious to see what the new Turbo Haus has in store.
JC: We love those guys at Turbo Haus, so we’re definitely looking forward to see what they’re coming up with.

ME: Last question: what does 2015 have in store for Po Lazarus?
LD: Well we’re working hard on our album. We currently have a fundraiser going for that. That’s going to be a priority, and maybe getting some videos up on YouTube. Our friend Josh Brown actually put up a super good video that we really like from our show at l’Escogriffe, so we want to work with him to try to maybe make a live session – something cool that the fans can watch while they’re waiting for the album to come out.

Be sure to catch Po Lazarus when they play at Casa del Popolo (4873 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montreal) on January 30, 2015 at 9PM, alongside Amos the Transparent. $10 pre-sale, $13 at the door.

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