Nourishment from Montreal

Francophone garage-rockers talk about the Montreal buzz, English-speaking fans, and their upcoming European tour

Fans don’t mind that Les Breastfeeders sing in French. In fact, some find it exotic.
Fans don’t mind that Les Breastfeeders sing in French. In fact, some find it exotic.

Picking up where bands like The Hives and The Mooney Suzuki left off, Les Breastfeeders are all about
having a good time. Combining the simple, repetitive riffs and casual sensibility of garage rock with the ferocity of ’70s punk, Les Breastfeeders have earned fans and friends by just being themselves.

Like their label mates and fellow Montrealers Malajube, who were shortlisted for the Polaris Prize last
year, they sing in French, but lead guitarist Sunny Duval insists that singing in their native tongue has never been a problem.

“When you sing punk rock you don’t necessarily need to hear or understand the lyrics,” he said from
his home in Montreal. “We play fast and loud. People who get into the lyrics, they [can read] the album notes. People get what we mean when we go on stage. They understand immediately the rhythm and energy,” he said. “Most people think it’s a plus that we sing in French because it’s exotic to them.” However, in French, the name Les Breastfeeders doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a funny-sounding, catchy word. It’s catchy in English, too, but for different reasons. When the band began playing in front of English-speaking audiences, they were met with disgust from some fans.

“We’ve had people in English saying it’s the worst name they’ve ever heard, and that it’s a bad name for a band,” Sunny said. “But most people just find it funny.” Maybe that’s just what happens when the name of your band stems from accidentally seeing your female neighbour topless while drinking with your bandmates. “We looked through the window and saw our neighbour topless. Johnny [Maldoron, the band’s tambourine player] thought it would be funny to name our band after breastfeeding.”

Les Breastfeeders have had quite a successful career, despite their odd name. The five-piece has been playing Francophone garage-rock for the past seven years, with two U.S. tours, a slew of music videos and two full-length albums under their collective belt.

But, to clarify, the name did come before the band. “The name came first, from Johnny. ... The band didn’t even exist.” “The band started when Luc [Brien, vocalist and guitarist] and Joe [Bassist] used to live in an apartment building and jammed together. Joe recorded Luc playing guitar once, and added drums and bass. I was playing in a band with Joe, and one day he asked for me to jam with him,” Duval said.

Despite already being in the band Les Mauvais Quart d’Heure— or, the Bad 15 Minutes—Duval started jamming regularly with Brien’s roommates before enlisting Suzie McLelove.

“We did jam, and it was really magical. We kind of wrecked my other band, and got more members in this one. We formed a band and did our first show on December 6, 1999 after only jamming three times all together.”

Being associated with the Montreal scene has helped Les Breastfeeders break the Englishspeaking market. The buzz sparked by bands like the Arcade Fire and The Stills is still resonating, and even Europe has picked up the good vibrations. “The Arcade Fire, The Stills, The Dears ... those bands got
international press. It opened the doors for Montreal bands like us,” he said. In two weeks, Les Breastfeeders will perform at the ultimate indie rock festival, South-by-Southwest, in Austin, Texas, before kicking off their first European tour in April. We’re going to [tour in] France and we’re going to spend four days in the U.K. It [will be] our first time in France. Both records are released there. We’re really excited about going to tour in U.K.” For a band that finds influences among garage rock bands of the early ’60s, a tour in the U.K. will be like preaching to the converted.

Bands like The Seeds and The Creation, who are staples of the 60’s garage rock scene, all originated in Britain.

“Garage rock and rock ’n’ roll are our roots, it’s what we all listen to,” Duval said, listing The Animals, The Stooges, The Buzzcocks and The Ramones among their influences.

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