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Mothland Records in pocket-sized format

Interview by Louise Jaunet

The Montreal-based label launches their first eclectic, colourful cassette compilation, in the image of their annual psychedelic festival Distorsion.

Genres and styles : Psychedelia

Additional Information

In only three years of existence, Mothland’s moths have chewed out a place for themselves in Montreal’s nightlife. Their cocoon is based in an underground parallel universe, out of the spotlight. Only the initiated can access the portal to this dimension, which is located in the Bermuda triangle formed by the three taverns on St-Denis Street at the corner of Mont-Royal. Despite the imposed distancing and the uncertainty that reigns over the artistic world, the psychedelic conspiracy Mothland has decided to move forward, with an officially metamorphosis into an independent label.

To mark the occasion, Mothland are releasing their first cassette compilation Sounds from Mothland Volume 1, an astonishing mix of demos and unreleased B-side tracks from various local and international artists who have marked the Montreal psychedelic niche over the last five years. Below, you will find an exclusive listening link that will give you access to the tracks of the compilation. You will be able to listen to a post-disco utopian ballad by the shoegazers Yoo Doo Right, a post-punk cover of the song Enigma Of The Absolute from Dead Can Dance by the Frenchman Jessica93 or a live recording of the Sunwatchers, a New York jazz-punk quartet. To collectors and lovers of rarities, the cassette is coming out in a small limited edition of only one hundred copies.

PAN M 360 entered into telepathic communication with the “mothés” community to discuss psychedelic music, the mythical 4AD label, origami, and their official launch as an independent label.

PAN M 360: You launched the first Distorsion Festival in 2015. Mothland followed two years later. How was the Mothland agency created? What was lacking in the local scene?

Marilyne Lacombe: Mothland started from the Distorsion festival, which is the idea of forming and organizing a community around the Montreal psychedelic scene, to give tools to this scene, places to broadcast, organized in a professional way, while keeping a DIY charm. The artistic direction of Distorsion became the artistic direction of Mothland. As a festival programmer [Taverne Tour and FME], I found myself representing the scene we had built around Distorsion to other programmers and bringing it to festivals that were not necessarily niche festivals. We still opened the door to bands that would never have played in more mainstream festivals.

PAN M 360: There are many festivals that focus on psychedelic music, in a strictly speaking musical sense. Yours has a wider opening field, with post-punk, noise, no-wave, garage, and so on. How do you gather all this around the psychedelic label? What is your vision of the term psychedelic?

ML: We had a very broad, modern, and up-to-date vision of the psychedelic scene. Musically, we didn’t have a limit of style, but more of a state of mind and an aesthetic, I think.

Philippe Larocque: We wanted leftfield programming that was also accessible. It’s not just a two-hour drone show, there’s a party side to it. We mixed heavy bands with electronic music, it didn’t have to be just rock, like in the San Francisco counterculture. We have more of an experimental vibe. For example, Crabe and FET.NAT joined us, they’re bands that have been around for a long time. The scene already existed but we made a bridge between several experimental bands that didn’t necessarily have a direct link. For us, it fit into the same definition of psychedelic experimental music.

Maxime Hébert: We wanted something that would change perception, whether it be sounds or images. That’s one of the main drivers. Psychedelic music is very appealing. People stay in front of a psychedelic video clip because it stimulates them. Psychedelic music is just as stimulating. It’s not a closed genre, it can be enjoyed by so many different gigs.

ML: In 2014, there was a kind of Golden Age of psychedelic rock with Levitation, Austin Psych Fest. We were inspired by that, but we really gave it a Montreal flavour, I think. The idea behind Distorsion was to start a community, a scene started to gravitate around Distorsion, bands that would come back often and we started to forge stronger relationships with them, like Paul Jacobs, Atsuko Chiba, and Yonatan Gat. That scene, that community needed a hat to introduce those bands to the industry. At the beginning, Mothland was purely a booking agency. Our mandate was to take the bands we had federated and present them to festivals. I think there are doors that opened up with the work we did.

PAN M 360: From the very beginning, you brought together local but also international artists, why did you choose to have an international opening very early in the project?

PL: With the Desert Daze gang, the world in Europe of Teenage Menopause, we wanted to find moths all over the world, people who had a bit of the same vision. We began to forge ties with Elzo Durt, who made our posters for Distorsion. His friends from Le Prince Harry came, and we decided to reprint on tape the split between Duchess Says and Le Prince Harry. We didn’t want to be a label but on the side we made a small run of this cassette, it’s like breaking the ice to start making a label.

ML: We’ve built bridges, not only with festivals, but also with labels, other communities and organizations that are a bit like us and that do the same kind of work. There have been encounters, links that have been forged through all of this. Our initial mission was to create an original community, with people helping each other and creating together. There has always been St Denis versus St Laurent, Esco versus La Casa, I think we always had the idea of bringing people from both sides and being together on the same stage.

PAN M 360: You say that Sounds from Mothland is influenced by the punk compilations of the ’80s, which label or compilation do you think of?

Jean-Philippe Bourgeois: On 4AD, all the artists collaborated together on the albums of This Mortal Coil, there was this aspect of community, of creating together. 

PL: I had this desire to look to the past, to look at the labels that influenced us and that were real curators with a strong identity, like 4AD, Sub Pop. Releasing this mixtape was precisely to do something that no longer exists in our time, everything is digital, everything is intangible. Sub Pop and Rough Trade used to release compilations that were sick, nowadays, labels make playlists with all the hits of their artists on Spotify but it just stays there. I didn’t want us to get into that. Without falling into nostalgia, we can bring back what worked back then. As a music lover, sometimes you need something tangible, the finished product. 

[exclusive listening link]

PAN M 360: The compilation is a good representation of this year’s collective feeling. We all feel out of our comfort zone, and that’s what you asked the artists to do to create the tracks. Can we say that it’s a call to stay creative and experiment despite the uncertainty that hangs over the artistic community?

ML: As much as Mothland was born out of the need for this scene to be represented in booking, we also realized that there weren’t many labels in Quebec anymore that were taking risks. It’s really the pandemic that made Mothland as a label truly become a priority. After the first two months of the pandemic, we realized that the shows weren’t coming back for another year, maybe even two years, so it became Mothland’s priority to release music. We reviewed the whole way of doing things, we’re learning how to manage this whole ecosystem. It was a great way to reconnect with the world.

PAN M 360: Paul Jacobs signs the design of the cassette. How would you define his artistic signature? We obviously think of Daniel Johnston’s drawings.

PL: The first time I met Paul, he was wearing a Daniel Johnston t-shirt. We asked Paul to do the packaging, to make it look like it was hand-drawn. We called the compilation Sounds from Mothland, to say that Mothland is really a tangible place. Paul ended up designing his little apartment with someone who plays music.  

ML: It’s the universe that we carry with us everywhere we go. 

PAN M 360: What about Elie Chap’s mystery insertion?

PL: To bring our totem animal, I had the idea to create a kit of how to make your own origami moth. A mothé is like an underdog too.

Watch the Distorsion Domesicle again here.

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