Anemone, the Montréal-based psychedelic pop quintet, can be phonetically troublesome— it’s an-em-own in French but an-ne-moh-nee in English. Irrespective of language, the band’s product sounds a lot like what you’d expect given their breezy, unbuttoned image.
While the group is fronted by pianist/vocalist Chloé Soldevila, an equally crucial member of the group can be found a few feet further back on stage: Miles Dupire-Gagnon.
Dupire-Gagnon is a Montréal-based percussionist who has played with a number of Canadian groups over the past decade—including Elephant Stone, an indie group that fuses Western sonic psychedelia with traditional Indian sitar, tabla, and dilruba. Aside from his stable roles in Anemone and Elephant Stone, he is also a session player and, increasingly, a producer.
A few days ago, he played Osheaga, apparently a big deal… Musically, he’s got a lot going on. Banter couldn’t resist an opportunity to riff:
Banter: What got you into drumming?
Dupire-Gagnon: Well, my mom studied music and always was listening to music at home. She would bring me out to see lots of concerts throughout my childhood. My dad was a professional session bass player. He passed away when I was pretty young, but I remember sometimes he would bring me on stage. So I was around music a lot as a kid. I remember there was this one time when he brought me on stage at a live performance and when I saw the drummer, I just remember thinking, “Yeah, this is totally what I want to do.” It’s a cute story, but it’s a real one. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I started classes in elementary school, but even before that, I had sticks, and I would just drum on whatever I could find. I was in an intensive classical program in high school as well, where my program gave me a lot of time to create and practice music. That emphasis on music, and on percussion specifically, just continued through CÉGEP and university where I studied jazz and popular music.
Banter: Nice—sounds like a real natural progression. What’s the biggest misconception people have about drummers?
Dupire-Gagnon: I think musicians, drummers included, sometimes are more focused on their own ability to play the instrument than to play music with others, and that’s a totally fine thing to do, but I consider myself more as a musician than just a drummer or instrumentalist even in the way I play, I try to serve the music as much as I can. But, the only real difference is that we [drummers] have to show up earlier and leave later at gigs.
Banter: Right. But would you say there’s a significantly different role for drummers?
Dupire-Gagnon: As drummers, I think we can influence the band in a different way. When you’re rehearsing and performing, you can emphasize and accentuate certain elements of a song because you’re controlling the nuance and tempo in a way. And the more you play with different bands, you develop a sort of external ear that allows you to sense the energy of the group and how you can affect it.
Banter: Do you guys party more?
Dupire-Gagnon: No, I don’t think so… I mean… maybe a little bit. I think drummers are just very intense people. But, I’ve also known some pretty, pretty wild guitarists and bassists.
Banter: And in terms of substances, how does that impact your music? Are you someone who sees that as a distraction from the creative process or as an integral part of it?
Dupire-Gagnon: I think it’s all about balance. Music is the most important thing in my life, so anything I do including my lifestyle will influence the impact on my music. It can be a distraction or the opposite... It’s all about a balance and the reason why you do it.
Banter: I believe it. Okay, let’s talk genre. Your work incorporates many styles and musical approaches. When you’re creating, do you think about labels and categories, or do you think that’s only something that matters when it comes to marketing?
Dupire-Gagnon: I create music that involves a lot of experimental components from different genres, which is something I think most people enjoy. Without even knowing, we incorporate styles we always have been listening to, so those become important to our creativity. In my case, what excites me the most in music is when I listen to something that feels new to me in any way... That’s what I'm truly looking for when I listen to music.
Banter: Montréal has been a cultural epicentre for a long time, a place where indie musicians always seem to be in their element. In recent years, it’s become a more popular destination for some of the biggest artists in the world. In large part, this is due to the success of events like Osheaga and Jazz Fest. How do you think the city’s musical community is impacted by this cultural shift?
Dupire-Gagnon: I think Montréal has always been very musical, but in the past few years, even more is happening. I have a feeling it's due to a lot of Canadian artists from around the country, and even artists from the U.S. that are interested in the culture here, wanting to come because rents are lower than other big cities and people know that so much is happening. Given that there is already so much local talent, it creates an interesting melting pot. I do think festivals like Jazz Fest and Osheaga are a great thing for culture here, but I also think that it’s because of the artists from here that those fests can really be as big as they are. It is, in a way, the city's musical community that has an impact on the cultural shift.