Hunter residents can get a taste of sweet French Canadian folk music in early April with a visit from Les Poules a Colin, a finely-tuned five-piece band of young virtuoso musicians.
Featuring four women (Les Poules) and one male (Colin Savoie-Levac on banjo, mandolin, vocals and foot-tappping), the band has been together on and off for eight years. The oldest band member is 26.
While they have two albums to their name, touring is their main game. Although it’s their first tour in Australia, they will spend two months here, playing major folk festivals (they’ve already played Port Fairy) and filling in the gaps with house parties and community hall shows.
In the Hunter they will play a gig at the Upper Lansdowne Community Hall in the hills north of Taree on April 5 and a house party in Newcastle sponsored by Tradewinds Folk Club on April 6.
The band has won recognition for their modern adaptation of traditional songs from Quebec, where they call home. But they play a lot of original music, and are in the midst of writing new music on this trip to Australia for an album they plan to record mid-year in Canada.
“It’s kind of our mission to write our new album on the tour,” says Beatrix Methe, who plays fiddle and vocals in the band. “We have to kick our asses a bit so we don’t go out partying too much.”
“It’s really exciting, we are putting a lot of new pieces into the concert. As the tour continues, we put more in.
It’s really exciting, we are putting a lot of new pieces into the concert. As the tour continues, we put more in.Beatrix Methe, Les Poules a Colin
“It’s always special to write when we are touring. We are in a different place, a different moment in time. You can get lazy when you are home. It’s nice here.”
Methe, born in Vermont in the US, is the daughter of two accomplished musicians. Her father Claude Methe is a self-taught Canadian fiddler and singer who has played traditional Quebec music for more than 30 years. Her mother, Dana Whittle, is an American-born composer, singer and guitarist who moved to Quebec.
Beatrix and Colin both toured with Dentdelion, a folk band featuring Claude Methe, Dana Whittle and Colin’s mum, Denise Levac, a flute player. Colin’s sister, Marie, is also in Les Poules, playing bass.
Beatrix and Colin both speak fluent English, and are called upon to do most of the media work on the tour, with others sharing the duties of logistics and finance.
“That’s what makes it work,” Methe says of the band. “We have five people, five brains and five hearts.”
The band is not only writing music, but recording it and sending it back and forth to Canada where their producer and a sixth band member are listening, revising and sending it back. It means new music is incorporated into every show. “It’s that thrill of challenging yourself, that thrill of sharing the moment,” Methe says.