Release Date: June 27th 2018
Meave are a progressive rock band based in Montreal Québec. After initially starting out as an informal jam project between multi-instrumentalist Alexis and guitarist Nicolas, the duo recruited drummer and vocalist Michèle with the intention of starting a more serious project. Whilst the band went on to audition an array of additional members, they eventually settled on the trio format and christened themselves ‘Meave’. After testing the waters with a couple of pre-release tracks in late 2017, the band decided to take the plunge and cement their inaugural mark on the local unsigned scene by recording and releasing their debut EP. The resulting self-titled product showcases a band with an overtly clear sonic identity and a fantastic sense of musicianship.
An extended bass synth loop kicks off the eight minute epic ‘Éthérée’, before gradually being layered with a range of other eerie synth sounds. This instantly showcases one of the band’s biggest selling points; their inherent focus on their sonic identity. They describe themselves as being ‘dark, mysterious, and organic’, which is instantly displayed through the opening synth section. This shows the band are fully aware of their sonic identity, which is a very admirable trait. The track soon eases into a guitar-led half-time section, with Alexis’s French lyrics sitting atop the mix. Being a Qubec-based act, I felt the use of French lyrics on the opening track strongly contributed to their visual identity and effectively showcased their personality. Particular praise on this track goes to Michèle for a wonderfully-written drum part. She keeps her part sparse and ambient, suitably accenting key moments of the arrangement with pounding toms and crashing cymbals. This provides solid infrastructure to guide the band from section to section and effectively adheres to the philosophy of ‘playing the song, not the instrument’, showing a fantastic sense of musicianship.
‘Skeleton Woman’ opens with half-time pounding toms and a picked guitar line before being joined by Alexis’s vocal track, which is now sung in English. Bass joins at around the midway point and the track eases into a full-time representation of the opening material. Transitioning from half-time to full-time is clearly a signature trait of the band and one they execute very effectively. As a result, I’d thoroughly encourage them to continue to make use of this on future releases. My attention turns to Alexis’s vocal delivery, which is overall fantastic. He delivers his lyrics in a laid-back and almost ethereal manner, albeit still with the confidence and swagger that’s so desperately required from a lead singer. This shows good adherence to the band’s ambient and progressive sound as well as a great sense of musicianship.
‘Flowers on the Stage’ is based around a dissonant lead guitar line sat atop rumbling bass. Nicolas’s clean guitar tone instantly jumps out at me; it has a great reverberated sound to it, effectively contributing to the harmonic ambiguity of the track. Additionally, the tone is very full-bodied and crisp, which glues the arrangement together and sits wonderfully in the mix. Plainchant-style vocals enter around two thirds of the way through, which I thought was an interesting influence that worked phenomenally well. At this point, my focus turns to how the band would best operate in a live setting; as Alexis currently handles bass, synth, guitar and vocal duties, I’d imagine this would be very difficult to replicate live. As a result, I’d strongly urge the band to consider making use of backing tracks for the synths and to allocate all guitar duties to Nicholas where possible.
‘Lost Rivers’ opens with synth drones and delayed guitar, before launching into a more grunge-influenced representation of the main chord progression. The track eventually builds into a coda section of distorted bass and chanted vocals, with the use of distortion on the bass effectively holding the more ambient aspects of the arrangement together. At this point, my attention returns to the band’s sonic identity, which is very well-channeled and thoroughly-focused. The band’s use of the progressive rock genre is consistent across each track and they make use of a host of signature traits to firmly establish a sound that’s unmistakably ‘Meave’. This is something that’s very rarely seen across debut releases and one the band certainly deserve to be proud of.
The EP rounds off with ‘No Boredom’, a track that effectively reprises many of the band’s signature traits. This includes half-time sections, melodically-sound lead guitar lines, laid-back vocals and pounding drums. I thought this served as an excellent conclusion to the album and ultimately left me wanting to hear more from the band. Finally, my attention turns to the album’s production, which is overall very good. The material is very well-recorded and it’s clear the band have taken adequate time to source appropriate tones and takes at the source. The mixing and mastering is also excellent, with all levels and frequencies being well-balanced and the production having a consistent feel from track to track. Overall, the self-titled debut from Meave exceeds all expectations, showcasing a very well-formed sonic identity and great attention to detail. Highly recommended for any fans of progressive rock.
You initially formed as a five-piece band before stripping things back to the three of you. What made you settle on the trio format?
The two guys that used to jam with us had other priorities/musical projects. Also, they come from a more of an electronic music field. And by the way, they are still friends of ours. Actually, one of them will perform with a special version of his project, Fantôme de Rockland, at our cassette launch in November. When we started jamming just the three of us, we realized that we create well together and that we were a complete band that way.
The opening track ‘ Éthérée’ is sung in French, whilst the rest of the tracks are sung in English. What made you decide to open with a French track?
Interesting question! We actually never thought of that. We made our decision based on the ambiance that we wanted to open the EP with. Éthérée is the last song that we wrote. We had made the reflection before about writing songs in French, since it’s our mother tongue. We also have an affectionate relation with the French language, but because most of our musical influences, it tends to be easier to write the lyrics in English. However, we plan to create more songs in French in the future.
Your sonic identity on this project is very well-channeled in relation to many other debut releases. Who are you mainly influenced by?
Even though we have some common musical influences, our musical backgrounds vary. For Meave, we all agreed to play a raw and heavy sound, mostly influenced by post-punk, stoner rock, krautrock, music from the 60’s, space rock, and shoegaze. Bands that influence us include: Joy Division, The Velvet Underground, Spacemen 3, Black Sabbath, early Pink Floyd, The Black Angels, Preoccupations, Disappears, Neu!, White Manna, The Vacant Lots, Earth, The Kills, Ty Segall, Rakta, Follakzoid, Beak, The White Stripes, and more and more and more…
Tell us a little bit about local music in Montreal; is there an active progressive rock scene?
In Montreal, we are surrounded by very interesting musical projects. Two of the members of the band come from Europe. They were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Montreal underground and indie music scene. It’s so easy to discover new local bands, like Population II, No Negative, Calomine, Talleen, Pachyderm, BARRE, Silver Dapple and DEAF amongst others. Every week, we have the chance to attend a great show at different venues like L’Esco, Ritz PDB and Casa Del Popolo just to name a few. We are lucky to live in a city that glows with creativity in different fields, music being one of them.
What’s next for Meave?
We will do a show in November here in Montreal (at Brasserie Beaubien) and launch a cassette version of our EP. We plan on doing more shows in Montreal and the surroundings for now. Also, we would love to release our EP on vinyl. Soon, we will start composing new songs and hope to release a full album in 2019.