Montreal’s own Groenland are fastly becoming one of the city’s must see bands. From the minute they started playing together, the sextet have been known to give incredible performances, beautifully mixing classical and electro sounds. Now, the musicians have been propelled to new levels of popularity, having released their first album, The Chase , a little over a year ago and having their songs featured in The Good Wife and in a British Airways ad.
So we caught up with lead singer Sabrina Halde to get to know the band a little better and find out what we can expect from these talented folks in the future.
N_: Your band consists of 6 members which is something that is pretty rare. How did that happen?
SH: At first it started out with just Jean-Vivier (Lévesque) and I but I always thought I’d be more at ease with a band, especially on stage because I tend to be shy. I’d say we got here for the sounds: we needed a bass, I wanted to work with strings. I never expected it to be like this but I do think it makes a lot of sense!
N_: Was it gradual or did it all happen pretty fast?
SH:We were four when we played our first show: we had the cello, the drums, Jean-Vivier and I. I think the second or third show we brought in a violin. The bass came it a lot later. So we were 5 for probably a year and a half.
N_: Now if you could add in another instrument, what would it be?
SH:Mmm!! Had you asked me that question 6 months ago, my answer would’ve been a low-pitched brass or a bassoon but now, I don’t know! I heard a flute solo not too long ago and it was so beautiful! But I guess I’d stick with a brass for now!
N_: So you would stick to something classic…
SH:For us that makes sense. They are instruments that have this sensibility to them and that accompany the piano and the voice very well. Then again, we added a Juno (synth) not too long ago and so it also makes sense for us to head towards the electro sound. I also really want to get a steel drum, for that Carnival sound, but it’s really expensive! [Laughs] As you can see everything changes, all the time.
N_: What about your name, Groenland. How did you all come up with that?
SH:Well it ended up coming out of this caucus. It was such a long process, for months that’s all we thought about! When you are in a group, it’s really difficult to end up with a name that everyone likes. This name made us dream, travel and explore this whole other unknown place. I don’t know… it just really inspired us!
N_: Your last album, The Chase, was very well received. Is there something that you learned making that album that you didn’t really anticipate?
SH:I would say it not really that album itself, but during this last year, we only took two months off and everything has taken up a lot of my energy. Everything has been happening so fast! So I would say that I never anticipated coming to the point where I think I’ve reached my limit, in terms of energy. Really, it’s about accepting that you aren’t superman and that you need to take a step back sometimes. The band and the music is something that I think about constantly!
N_: Was recording the album a long process?
SH:It happened really fast actually! For a year, we had been touring all over Quebec, sort of testing out our songs on stage. So when it was time to record the album, the songs were pretty much done. There were a few tweaks here and there in the arrangements but we spent about a week in the studio recording. We were just really ready for that album and we thought we were at a good place. We recorded what we had without much experimenting, it happened very naturally
N_: So should we expect the 2nd album more experimental?
SH:I don’t know! It’s so hard for me to say ” We are experimenting!”. We have a couple of new songs, one is more folk and that’s not something I thought we’d do. I got a little sick of the ukulele so I had stopped for a while but this one has a lot of it. So I think that even though it might not really show that we are experimenting, we are and hopefully we’ll find a direction that will make sense for us.
N_: While you are experimenting, who would you say remains an influence despite it all?
SH:Big band that really evolved like Radiohead, band that seem to have an endless careers. Other than that, I’d say we are influenced by The Dodos, Vampire Weekend, Feist. But we really listen to everything really and a lot inspires us!
N_: Any guilty pleasure?
SH:[Laughs] I’m not ashamed of saying I listen to pop! I really like Ellie Goulding’s voice! Her sound is really pop and even dubstep and something I think to myself: oh my god I can’t believe I’m listening to this. But I still do!
N_: And now, a few questions about our beloved Montreal…Best concert venue?
SH:Divan Orange as a musician. I like Quai des Brumes too but the sound isn’t that great! Which is a shame because the ambiance is great!
To watch a show, I’d say Corona. It’s just beautiful!
N_:..After show drinks?
SH:Quai des Brumes. Or Chez Baptiste, either on Masson or Mont-Royal
SH:[Long pause] You know what? We enjoy being in parks more than terrasses! Usually Parc Lafontaine or Parc Laurier.
Sabrina Halde: Vocals, ukulele, keyboard, percussions
Jean-Vivier Lévesque: keyboard, electros, percussions
Jonathan Charette: Drum
Simon Gosselin: Bass
Fanny C. Laurin: Violin
About Caroline Royer
NUMTL Founder and Editor-in-chief, Caroline is an Ottawa-born Montrealer who has spent the better part of her life playing and listening to music. Otherwise, she is a diehard Sens fan, freakishly into architecture and industrial design and terrible at staying put for more than 5 minutes.