Translation: Reilly Doucet, editor at Altitude Sports
Still rocking the good stuff: Louis-Jean Cormier and Vallier
After transforming the Canadian and Quebecois rock scene in the early 2000s with his band Karkwa, Louis-Jean Cormier has embarked on a successful solo career. He recently released Le ciel est au plancher, and will be performing the album on tour this spring. We met with him to chat about music, fashion, and community involvement.
You’ve been quite busy these past few years, after putting out two albums and launching your 360 platform. As you prepare to head back on tour this year, how do you feel?
Well, I had the great idea of taking two years off right before the pandemic hit, so I already had plenty of time to myself to start looking forward to performing.
I’m so happy to be interacting with other people in the flesh again. We had a lot of virtual shows at the beginning of the pandemic, and I think we forgot how important dialogue can be in a real show.
Your 360 platform, a website with quite unique content, dissects your songs for upcoming, local musicians and invites them to record in your studio. Where did this desire to uplift Quebec culture come from, beyond your own music?
Probably from the cultural baggage carried by my parents and family. That’s to say, a certain pride in being from Quebec.
I consider myself a super lucky guy to have gained so much from my predecessors and peers. I’ve been around a lot of artists, and I’ve had the chance to work with some of Quebec’s musical legends from a very young age. I feel privileged and I think passing on knowledge is part of this process. It’s very important to me.
Le Ciel est au Plancher is a highly charged album that follows up Quand la nuit tombe, which deals with grief and the loss of your father in 2020. How do you transpose this vulnerability in concert?
Stage performances go hand in hand with the creative impulse. I think it's always easier to create songs about specific emotions and events, like grief or heartbreak. These authentic emotions are so pure that they come through really easily. And that goes for the energy in a performance too.
Le ciel est au plancher has received so much love and recognition. In a way, it’s helped me emotionally detach myself from my own mourning. But I’d say most artists feel the same when they perform. On stage, you become a floating mass that transforms as you experience emotions, and then you become a vehicle of something beyond yourself.
If you had to name only one - who is your biggest musical influence? What about a fashion influence? Are the two connected in your mind?
It’s way too difficult to name just one musical influence, but I will say that I identify with Sufjan Stevens. I admire him so much, from his extremely touching songs to his more eclectic, surprising, and innovative ones.
He comes up with really extravagant ideas for his stage costumes, but his general style is very simple, which resonates with me.
I always dreamed about being David Bowie, but a neon green jacket with shoulder pads just isn’t my style. At the end of the day, I think it’s more important to emphasize what I do rather than who I am.
What made you want to team up with Vallier?
Vallier’s clothing gives me exactly what I need: a really great look, with beautiful cuts and colours that can work in a variety of situations, while also maintaining a certain casualness.
I want to dress in a way that allows me to be myself - casual and chic at the same time, but also really comfortable. And that’s Vallier.
Tell us about your style evolution. Did your career play a big role in it?
As part of Karkwa and as a solo artist, my projects have never had a dress code. I consider myself a very simple person when it comes to fashion. I’ve gone through my share of existential quests to be something more flashy, only to discover that’s not the real me.
What are your essentials for your shows? What are your fundamental pieces or go-tos?
Definitely Vallier’s Leknes pants. I’ve already done about a dozen shows in them, and I love them. They’re the perfect cut, plus light and comfortable.
SHOP LOUIS-JEAN CORMIER’S PICKS
For every subscription to your 360 platform, you donate a dollar to Jeunes musiciens du monde. What does this organization do that’s so important to you?
Jeunes musiciens du monde has been around for over 20 years. They’re an organization based in Quebec that gives marginalized people access to music courses.
This could mean reaching out to environments with higher levels of poverty, and young people who may go down darker paths. Through learning music, these people are able to thrive. The organization has some pretty amazing stories, like people who have become lawyers or doctors because they got the chance to pick up an activity, interact with others, and open themselves up to the world. Jeunes musiciens du monde is active in five cities in Quebec, and has a mobile school that can visit Indigenous communities, for example.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
It’s funny you bring it up, because my answer is exactly the kind of thing I was teaching at Star Académie this morning: learning how to turn off your mind.
I think that in many areas of life, we overthink too much, and miss out on really good ideas. When it comes to creating, you have to let yourself be surprised, and act on instinct. It’s important to leave room for the unexpected. I wish I had learned earlier that songs will turn out better if you're not turning them over in your head from all angles.
You have to be more in tune with your heart. Give the head office a break, and start letting yourself just feel things.