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Malajube bridges language gap with music

Courtesy of Dare To Care Records

Published in the Victoria Times Colonist

Say what?

That’s the reaction most English-speaking audiences have when they listen to the ornate French lyrics of Montreal-based pop-rock group Malajube. But according to vocalist and keyboardist Thomas Augustin, it’s this language divide that’s bringing the band closer to their diverse and ever-growing fan base.

“It’s the musicality of the band that drives the whole thing,” Augustin says over the phone from his home in Montreal. “And people get that instantly. They don’t care about whether it’s French or English.

“People come to our shows and are really enthusiastic, even though they don’t know what the hell we’re singing about. We have a strong sense of what our music should be, and it’s a sound that can cross frontiers since it’s not relying on the lyrics and the meaning.”

Malajube made the long list for this year’s Polaris Music Prize — a Canadian music award that recognizes independent artists solely on merit and artistic ability — for their latest album Labyrinthes. They’re one of 40 bands to be recognized from across the nation.

In 2006, Malajube also received a long-list nomination. It was for their record Trompe l’Oeil, which wound up being one of the top 10 Polaris finalists.

It seems that fans couldn’t care less if they were singing about donuts and black flies. All that matters is the band’s colourful pop melodies.

These past few years have seen Malajube’s fan base explode from a meager handful of devoted Quebec supporters into a worldwide following. But Augustin maintains that breaking the language barrier doesn’t mean Malajube’s music would get through to more fans.

“Singing in French is a personal choice, not a commercial choice,” Augustin says when asked whether Malajube’s increasing popularity with English-speaking audiences means the band will eventually have to incorporate English lyrics into their music.

“We don’t feel pressured at all to mould our music to our audience. It’s about being authentic and being comfortable with the fact that you sing the language you speak. You don’t have to pretend and have a phony accent.”

According to Augustin, Labyrinthes involves a bit more experimentation with synthesizers and pacing. It’s less pop-oriented than Trompe l’Oeil, requiring a few good listens before it starts to make an impact. And considering fans and critics have taken a liking to the record, French lyrics and all, Malajube must be doing something right.

Which is why they don’t plan to sing in plain English any time soon.

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