Perhaps it’s their fantastically trashy, synthy rock music . Or maybe it’s their engaging, original show. Then again, it might be because the band itself is made up of three talented, down to earth, hilarious guys. Whatever the reason, Montrealers sure love their Wolves. And we don’t blame them.
I had the pleasure of meeting up with We are Wolves founding members Alex Ortiz and Vincent Levesque to discuss their upcoming Anachronik Festival show, their take on fame and what we should expect from the pack in the future.
Origins: We Are Wolves
Pint in hand, the guys explain how the band came to be. About 14 years ago, Alex and Vincent were a couple of young Concordia Art students looking to blow off some steam and explore a new creative, extracurricular, path. Having the same musical taste and background, they started making music together. The idea was to stay away from a defined art project, something that could have easily become calculated and restraining. The goal was to keep their sound primitive: the almost voodooesque mesh of a standing drummer, repetitive notes from various instruments and delayed, undecipherable words.
They incorporated synth to their raw, punk rock sound early on. Back then, the use of synthesizers was perceived as being solely part of the electro world, thus, We are Wolves were labelled as being an electro band. Something they didn’t think they were. With time, the use of synths became more frequent in other genre of music, namely rock music. So the band faced less and less prejudice due to their choice of instruments, and more praise towards the music itself: rock fans who previously stopped themselves from listening to the band, found themselves giving the pack a chance and being pleasantly surprised.
Being in a primarily Anglophone environment originally, Alex and Vincent say they kept creating in English, finding it a bit easier to express themselves that way. The language itself was of little importance; the lyrics were more of a rhythmic necessity rather than the main focus of the music. As time went by, their songs did become wordier and while they continued singing primarily in English, you can often hear them sing in French, even in Spanish.
Unphased by shoulds and shouldn’ts, We are Wolves continued to create without barriers. And continue to do so. Rightfully.
Untamed by Fame
We are Wolves are made up of 3 guys, Alex (vocals & bass), Vincent (keys) and Pierre-Luc Bégin (drums), who don’t take themselves seriously. “We are Rockstars” is something you’ll probably never hear them say. Thirst for the art aside, they believe that exact mindset has gotten them to where they are now. Their unpretentious, clown-like attitude helps them connect with their fans, even though they are conscious that yes, they are doing quite well. They’ll be the first to admit they feel a sense of pride when they hear their song on CHOM, for example, but that pride is quickly matched by gratitude….and perhaps a little confusion. Their success, though appreciated, still surprises them. Furthermore, they would never take it for granted.
To this day, Alex and Vincent tell us that the fans’ post-show comments are a huge part of why they keep going. They appreciate them so much that they tend to prefer playing smaller towns where the crowd is really into the music and people aren’t afraid to show it. Bigger cities can sometimes be filled with calmer showgoers, and when fans do come up and tell them how great the show was, its almost in a whisper. (So if you like the show, go and tell them! But…be cool, yo.) That being said, even We are Wolves can get a little tongue tied when in the presence of other artists. Vincent admits being a little star struck while sitting beside former The Clash members Mick Jones and Paul Simonon at a dinner a few years back. And when the band played with Kevin Cosner‘s band at The Ottawa Bluesfest, the wolves did not dance with the star. (Get it?!)
Keeping your cool and staying down to earth is something the band thinks every artist should know. They explain that often, newcomers will act in a respectful way towards them, then turn around and talk to their peers with arrogance and unattractive pretentiousness. Alex and Vincent have the balls to set them straight: it’s not because you have a guitar in your hands that you are suddenly a rockstar. To them, it’s important to remember that we are all humans and the more you think of yourself as God-like (or Bono-like), the more it’ll hurt when you’ll fall. Amen to that!
We Are Wolves will be headlining a show on May 2nd at the Club Soda, as part of the Anachronik festival; Montreal’s newest music festival. The band explained that playing such a festival in their hometown is always a great opportunity, one they rarely pass up on. Beyond that, the show also has the added bonus of being timely: it will mark the end of their recent Quebec tour. And after months of being on the road, there’s nothing like coming back home for the final show!
The Anachronik Festival is not only focused on the music, but also on the ambiance of a show. That is something We Are Wolves have been doing effortlessly for years, making them a perfect fit in that regard. Alex and Vincent explain that the use of props and costumes are indeed a part of the show, but never a calculated one. Inspiration can come from anything like a movie or a cooking show, and is often thought of only a few days or hours before hitting the stage. Theatrical it is not, as the guys feel as though there needs to be room for interpretation. Though they take creativity seriously, they have fun with it and it’s that exact energy that is transmitted to their audience. They provide the kind of show where you run to get your beer (provided you can actually move!) in between songs, not during. You absolutely won’t want to miss this one.
Back in Their Den
After finishing the tour, Vincent and Alex tell us they’ll be going dark. Though they have a few shows lined up in the summer, the band’s primary focus will be to continue working on their music. With two new songs already recorded, they plan on continuing their musical exploration, possibly even collaborating with others. Being an established band, they feel as though the pressure of appealing to people is lesser, limiting the boundaries of what can and should be achieved. As they say, at this point, people will say what they want.
Though the exploration phase is in full throttle, don’t expect the guys to become overly technical along the way. Their technique and capabilities as musicians continues to grow, yes, but they try to keep the rawness present. According to them, music should stay passionate; an art form. We are Wolves aren’t aspiring to be musical geniuses, in terms of technicality. It’s all about the craft.
Which is probably why the trio doesn’t really know what they will be releasing next. The idea of an album is not predominant, as it becomes very expensive and very stressful, very fast. Their exploration is not limited to the music, but the format of it all. A T-shirt? An EP? Who knows!
So, expect the unexpected. You’ll never be able to predict what a Wolf will come up with next.
We are Wolves are also set to play 2 shows in Toronto, during CMW.
Photo cred: Eric Prescott-Gagnon
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.