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.
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.
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…
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.