The French connection

Malajube are proudly belting their mother tongue across the country

Malajube’s third album Labyrinthes was shortlisted for the 2009 Polaris Prize. From left to right: Mathieu Cournoyer, Francis Mineau, Julien Mineau and Thomas Augustin.
Malajube’s third album Labyrinthes was shortlisted for the 2009 Polaris Prize. From left to right: Mathieu Cournoyer, Francis Mineau, Julien Mineau and Thomas Augustin.

Montreal-based band Malajube has been making its way onto the charts and into the hearts of people all over Canada. Now they’re reaching out internationally to find fans everywhere.

The francophone indie-rock band was formed around 2002 and released their first album, Le Compte Complet, in 2004. Since then, Malajube has catapulted to success. Their second album, Trompe-l’œil was a huge hit and received praise from critics making Malajube one of Montreal’s massive success stories alongside high profilers like Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade. The band is made up of Julien Mineau, lead singer and guitarist, his cousin Francis Mineau on drums, Mathieu Cournoyer playing bass and latecomer Thomas Augustin on the keyboard. Mineau said he has no complaints about the band’s dynamics and said they all work really well together thanks to a calm attitude and approach to music.

Their third and newest album, Labyrinthes, seems to be a changing point for Malajube. Frontman Mineau admits to being a relatively quiet person, despite the in-your-face approach of the bands previous stuff. The new album is a shift, and as the title suggests, it’s a journey through different styles and tempos of music.

“Its not an album that you listen to once and then don’t want to listen to it ever again,” Mineau said of Labyrinthes. “With a lot a pop songs you like it for a while, then you hate it.”

The album is still a crowd pleaser despite the music’s maturation. While the music is less catchy and upbeat, it accomplishes what Mineau and his band mates set out to do.

“It’s calmer, changing and complicated,” he said.

Inspiration for Malajube’s music comes in many different forms. Either a grey day in a big lonely city, girlfriends, disease or rednecks—Malajube sing about it all.

Mineau found city life to be isolating and depressing. This feeling is evident in the metaphorical lyrics Mineau relies on for songs. The well-known song “Montreal -40 Degrees” calls Montreal an arrogant city, but one that Mineau can’t help but love.

Mineau said Malajube draws fans from various brackets.

“You need the little 14 year-old kid with the leather jacket having the best night of his life to make it good,” he said. He doesn’t seem to care if his fans are French, English, Canadian or otherwise, just as long as they dance to the music, but the band is proud of their French heritage. A lot of bands with English as a second language choose to sing in English, but Malajube doesn’t. Renowned for refusing to sing in English at any show, Malajube sticks to their native tongue.

“I don’t think that I could do anything good in English, I would need help and I don’t want help. When you don’t live in English, you cannot think in English,” Mineau said. “The French people that sing in English sound phony to me.” Mineau admits he sang in English starting his musical career, but the success and recognition the band deserved wasn’t happening. Without confidence in their language skills, Malajube struggled to secure its rightful place in the limelight. Mineau’s English is flawless despite a thick accent, but he said he felt like a poser trying to sing in his second language.

Language barriers don’t seem to hinder the band’s progress, though. Traveling far and wide to places like the U.K., Japan and South America, Malajube has found a fan base wherever they go.

“Everywhere we’ve played there have been Francophones at our shows. Even in Germany there were Francophones,” Mineau said. But the band doesn’t have to rely on their Quebecois support; the music they make says it all.

“There isn’t language involved in making the music,” he said, “We try to make it a good song without the words.”

Malajube play The Mansion this Friday night with Young Galaxy. Doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance at Brian’s Record Option, The Jungle, Chumleighs, Sunrise and Destinations.

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