Some bands spend years playing depopulated venues in dive bars, fighting with surly sound men and prostrating themselves before cantankerous bar owners to get paid enough to afford the next leg of the tour. Groenland is not one of those bands. They released their first album The Chase in April, and things have been on the up and up ever since with awards at GAMIQ (Gala Alternatif de la Musique Indépendante du Quebec awards) and tracks snapped up by advertisers. Though the rise might seem charmed, Groenland deserves big love. The band makes spectacular, orchestral indie music that sounds grand, lush, and gripping. The world thirsts for great music to be brought to its attention and sometimes the stars align to make that happen. While the sudden attention might seem – oh — sudden, the band has a longer history.
Lead singer and master of the ukulele Sabrina Halde is quite modest about the sudden attention, attributing it to luck and a hug from media. “I was in the right place,” she explains. “It felt great. But you can never guess it’s going to be that big. You’re just doing what you have to do and hoping people like it. Everyone is super kind to us. The newspapers never say anything harsh and it’s the first time we’re trying something. It feels good to have people behind us.”
Even the sound on their first album evolved spontaneously. “I don’t think the sound was conscious,” Halde said, “It just made sense all together. Our attitude was go for it. Go for what you want right now, before it’s too late. Try everything and let it go. So, for example, when nature comes into the lyrics, I didn’t mean to do it, but it just there.“
The album, though, is a reflection of the band’s real personality – a live, performing band, and Groenland has been performing live for years around the city. “We’re a live band more than a studio band” Halde says, “It was super fun to record an album, as our first experience. But you can really judge our music by the shows. Before the album, we were playing a lot in Montreal.”
In fact, Halde trained as a jazz singer at CEGEP. She laughs as she explains how hard it was at first. “At first, I had no confidence before as a singer. I didn’t sing in front of anyone until CEGEP. I really needed that confidence.” In addition, the vocal training developed her method of making music. “The classes help me write the melodies. Improvisation is part of jazz — trying to be inspired and singing anything that comes out of my mind. It’s all about the confidence to try it all.”
Halder met her band made Jean-Vivier Lévesque at CEGEP and their musical connection was pre-ordained. “I can remember a party where we were just jamming, skatting, and snapping fingers,” she says. “I remember it started there. I knew that he was in a another band, and they were pretty successful. I liked what he was doing. When I saw him again at university it was the right timing.”
“We wanted to start a new project and tried something electro, but it didn’t work,” Halder says. “We didn’t have patience in front of computer. We needed something more organic and asked our friends to try something with us. We tried the strings and now we’ve been together two years, all of us.”
Bringing in the full band adds new dimension and can change the songs as they get written. “Jean and I, we work on the structure and melody and add words when we can. When we’re ready, we bring it to the drummer. Then we bring it to the whole band and that can change the whole song. Superhero used to be just ukulele and voice. When we added the strings, I had to change the melody.”
“Sometimes I like it better like that,” she says. “I think of a better melody.”
Groenland is playing with Misteur Valaire, Les Jupes, The Lemming Ways, Elliot Maginot, and Andy Shauf at Petit Campus (57 Prince Arthur E.) on November 21 at 1 p.m. Free.
Groenland is also playing at the Corona Virgin Mobile Theatre (2490 Notre Dame W) at 8 p.m. on March 13. $28.90.