Choses Sauvages have been a totemic symbol and véritable bête de scène of the Montreal music community since their eponymous debut album was released in 2018. As demonstrated in last November’s sold out triumphal homecoming show at Quai des Brumes, their promising blistering live shows match the funk and groove of city stablemates Men I Trust and TOPS with the fury of the early Stooges.
METAL caught up with lead singer and arch trouble-maker Félix Bélisle to discuss the band’s roots, recent singles Mort de peur and Pression and their plans for upcoming album Choses Sauvages III.
Can you tell me little about how you guys started out -  who were the first people to approach each other and make the decision to start playing music, and what were the artists you were listening to at that time?
Marc-Antoine (Barbier, guitar) and Philippe (Gauthier Boudreau, drums) were studying music together in high school and started jamming in Marc’s basement. I joined them shortly after, playing the bass - mostly just making noise. Tommy (Bélisle, guitar and keys) and Thierry (Malépart, keys) joined over the following years. We were really into indie rock bands around that time such as Death From Above 1979, LCD Soundsystem, and SUUNS.  But we also listened to a lot of older bands like Kraftwerk, Sonic Youth and The Stooges: discovering all of these early on really had an impact on us and made us want to get serious about our sound and music.
How do you find the city of Montreal is reflected in the music that it produces? Which venues, promoters or bands were you going to see back when you were starting out, and were there any other bands you worked closely with at that time?
For me, the sound of Montreal is somewhere between America and Europe, with influences from all the different cultures endlessly shaping it. It is constantly evolving. We played for years at all sorts of weird and random spots all over the province. These included DIY venues, festivals and schools. I’d say the most important venues, for us, would have to be Divan Orange (RIP), L’Escogriffe and Quai des Brumes. This is where generations of bands new and old -mostly in the french scene, but across the board - played in Montreal. L’Esco and Quai are still active and very important for bands based here. They are small venues that bigger bands love to play, but are also just small enough for local bands to have a blast as well. You can meet some of your favourite artists there as well.
Your earliest releases were either bilingual (Late Night, 2013) or in English (Japanese Jazz, 2015). You’ve previously described this as a time when the band was struggling to find its identity, before switching to writing lyrics solely in French for all subsequent projects. How did making this change alter your creative process and help solidify the bands identity?
We chose to sing in french  because it’s our first language and it’s easier to be  precise, honest and emotional with our writing. It just became natural to make music that had lyrics in it. Don’t get me wrong, we were also still trying to find ourselves musically at the time of these bilingual releases. It allowed us to play all these different local shows, for people to discover us and for us to build towards our true sound.
Choses Sauvages has a reputation for incendiary live shows which differ from the more laid back, funkier sound of the band on record (you were great at Foufounes in November!). How has your live show evolved from when the band was starting out, and how have you adapted your performance to fit different venues as the band has grown?
I used to play bass and sing for the live shows, but slowly shifted towards only singing. This was the major change that just made us rethink our performances and include more interaction with the crowd. This was a big revelation for us at the time. I think we always thought of the album as a toned down version of our live shows. We would rarely play the songs before hitting the studio, they are recorded with a different exploratory energy. The live shows are always more accurate versions of how we actually intended them to be, because in every show you find us fine tuning the songs and they end up being a bit different every time, simmering in this live context. All this is about to change with our next album, which we will be recording live because we would like to capture more of that raw vibe.
How has the touring process evolved as the band has grown: does it match the expectations you had before beginning your career? Are there any shows you remember in particular as really special or infamous?
We definitely weren’t expecting to make a career out of it (laughs)! Touring changes with time, let’s just say it gets less chaotic. A show comes to mind:  we had this song, now called Damoclès on our first album, its working title was - in French -Danny’s Birthday, which was this weird, random inside joke. We ended up playing a show at a university where the crowd was wasted: turns out they had been playing beer pong all day (literally the whole crowd : there were 25+ tables installed since noon). Somebody randomly screamed that it was his friend Danny’s birthday during the already very wild show, and of course they didn’t know about our song so we played it for them as a work in progress. Danny is not a common name in Quebec! That made me really happy, as it should, and I shot a penis-shaped water gun full of high sugar apple-flavoured beer in the crowd (as one does) but the gun was way more precise and powerful than I thought, and it all ended up directly in someone's eyes in the front row. Pretty sure it was Danny. Chaos ensued.
How do you like to write songs for the group - do you start with lyrics, a beat, a groove?
We usually start by just playing purely instrumental music together, it is a collective process. We talk about the work in progress extensively. We see what comes out and work on those that we really like, and eventually drop the ones that don’t excite us as much. Writing lyrics comes last. We do have some collaborations in mind for the next album! We really like working with artists that we love. I can’t confirm anything yet.
Last year you released two singles, Mort de peur and Pression. Will these be part of an album, and do you intend to produce the third album (Choses Sauvages III) as a sequel to Choses Sauvages I and II? What is behind the the desire to make a new record, and how do you see the latest project in relation of your previous work (is there anything you’re hoping to do differently)?
Pression and Mort de peur will not be part of our third album. They are islands that are made to connect our albums, like our previous one-off singles that we released between I and II. This is us experimenting to see which way to go, and building new material for our show. Our next album is fulfilling our desire to move forward, to try new things, like I said previously, to better capture what it’s like to see us live.
How was the band’s relationship with the studio evolved as you’ve become more established: do you try and re-capture the energy of the early material you worked on or embrace higher quality production?
We usually go with the flow. For CS III, we will embrace a more DIY production, as it will be recorded in Marc’s new studio. I'm not saying we want the whole project to be lo-fi, it is more driven by the desire to have a sense of control over the process. As for the rise of the cost of living, it certainly has hurt the city in terms of culture. Studios closing, condos being built, people in said condos complain about the noise in the next door venue, venue closes. I think we are in another era in the Montreal music scene. It’s not necessarily negative, it was a predictable next step in the city’s cycle, but it's certainly way more difficult to live here and make music. Still, great bands and projects are brewing and we are excited for the future.
There’s a strong theme across the visual art that accompanies each of your previous releases - which artists have you worked with and what are your plans for the new release?
We have nothing planned for the visuals of our next album, it is too early to say, although we are very close to being done with the composing of CS III. It is usually just us showing each other visual artists that we love, local or not, and choosing collectively on someone we all agree on. Maybe for the next one it will be different, we’ll have to wait and see.
What’s next for Choses Sauvages in 2024 - do you have upcoming releases or tour dates planned?
The next album should come out sometime in 2025, and we are planning to tour it extensively. For now, we are playing Mad Cool festival in Madrid this summer and maybe some more European shows, but other than this short run, we are planning to concentrate on the production and recording of album III, which we are very excited about.