See Quebec’s best kept secret, tonight only

It’s the first time Quebec-based band Karkwa has toured western Canada in its 13 years together and its members have seen sold-out audiences almost everywhere they’ve performed.

Louis-Jean Cormier is halfway out of the shower when we begin our interview.

He only has 15 minutes to chat before he runs out the door with his four bandmates to play a show at Calgary’s SAIT campus bar.

These days the singer is in high demand.

It’s the first time Quebec-based band Karkwa has toured western Canada in its 13 years together and its members have seen sold-out audiences almost everywhere they’ve performed.

It’s something that came as a surprise to Cormier considering the band sings entirely in French.

“It wasn’t like that two years ago when we toured Ontario,” said Cormier.

Then again, two years ago, Karkwa hadn’t snagged the prestigious Polaris Prize yet, the equivalent of the Stanley Cup to Canadian musicians.

That came last September.

Since the band’s win, they’ve been profiled in magazines and newspapers across Canada and have toured extensively through Europe and Canada. They’ve also won a Juno and a Felix award for alternative album of the year in Quebec.

Thursday, they left their tour midway to play a free show in Montreal to a crowd of 100,000 fans who had gathered to see both them and Arcade Fire, the Canadian band who scored this year’s Polaris Prize, at Place des Festivals.

It’s a big change for the band considering their relative obscurity outside of the francophone community only a year ago.

“We have rules now about touring,” said Cormier explaining all the bandmembers are fathers.

“Five years ago no one was a father. Now the rock is at home.”

It’s one reason why the band chose to isolate itself in a palatial house in France to record their Polaris Prize-winning album, Les Chemins de Verre (The Glass Pathways).

The dreamy, experimental rock album was recorded in just three weeks.

The group showed up to the 21-room house that doubles as a recording studio without any clue of what their final recording would sound like.

For their previous three records they had practiced exactly how they were going to play each song before they recorded it.

“For us it sounded a bit fake,” said Cormier.

“(This recent album) was very spontaneous … it was the real shit.”

The band was given free reign to record in all 21 rooms at La Frette Studios including the bathrooms and kitchen.

They even dropped a microphone from the third floor down the staircase and recorded.

The result is an eerie, haunting sound, like in the song, Le Vrai Bonheur which opens with the sharp notes of a violin that have been run through a synthesizer and layered beneath hushed, poetic verses.

“It was a great honour for us to record there,” said Cormier explaining that French greats Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Fontaine have also cut records at La Frette, as well as Feist and Patrick Watson.

It’s a place the band never expected to be when they were thrown together for a college music contest in Montreal 13 years ago where they were students.

Pressed for a name for their band, they flipped the pages of a dictionary and chose whatever word their fingers landed on.

In this case it was carquois, French for the quiver on an archer’s arrow.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” said Cormier.

But when spelled phonetically, it sounded like a band name, he said.

Their first show was so successful that they were invited by the Quebec government to perform at a cultural Expo in Paris that year.

It was no surprise. The Radiohead-esque band has talent.

The fact the band has been selling out shows on its recent Western tour makes sense.

What’s surprising is that it took so long for the rest of Canada to notice its existence.

Karkwa plays the Yukon Arts Centre Monday night at 8 p.m. Tickets are $32

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read