“Call me when you arrive” says the text message on the phone in my hand as I stand in front of locked doors of an old brick building on St. Andre Street. I follow the instructions and a few seconds later, I am shaking hands with SiM’s manager, Marc-Olivier. He leads me down to the studio – a thick sound-proof door unveils a cozy room with wood panels, speakers taller than me, and two smiling faces – Simon Legare-Theoret and Francis Gorup, the two talented men behind SiM.
What hooked me about SiM is their feel – in a city where genres are beginning to sound like science experiments, clean sound, sincere feel and hints of comfortable familiarity are on par with gold. Their pop is interesting, partly because it’s built on contrasts, highs and lows, bass giving way to guitar and vice versa. This funky electric pop duo are a worthy contender in line for one of Montreal’s biggest names. I decided to have a little sit-down with them to figure out what makes SiM tick (or pop), their future plans, and dreams.
OCR: We’re in a studio right now, what are you working on?
Simon: Right now, we’re working on our next album. I don’t have a title yet for you, but we’re working on the next album, laying down some tracks, getting ideas together. We’re actually going to go in August to record the whole thing, just doing some rough work.
OCR: Right on! Are you guys excited for summer?
F: Oh yeah, and we’ve been busy, making sure everything is coming out in a sequential way that’s going to create the biggest bang for the summer.
OCR: Speaking of that, what’s the creative process like between the two of you? How does the magic happen?
F: I guess…I always come out with thoroughly rough structure on a crappy acoustic guitar and it sounds really folk-ish, really unlike the final product.
S: Yeah, campfire music. (laughs)
F: Yeah! And then I pitch it to Sim, and from there and forward he turns it into a more electric sound, and bounces the idea off of me, and I tweak it and bounce it back, and then slowly but surely it becomes a pop song.
S: I actually have a home-studio and when he comes with ideas, I lay them down in our little studio, and then we bounce it back and forth. You know, emails all the time.
F: I just come out with “hey, you wanna hear what I have” and he’d say, “cool, I could hear that on the radio, let’s put it down and see what we got.” And from then we don’t know how it’s going to go, but we work it out.
OCR: And that happens all the time?
S: All the time.
OCR: Cool! Is there a muse? Where do you draw inspiration from? Does the city have anything to do with it, the people you meet?
S: For sure, life experiences. But for us, there is a dark side and the bright side in our music. You’ve probably heard ‘The Things You Do’ and that’s a bright track, inspired by the fact that we live in the Montreal, and there is cold winters and it’s depressing, so we try to think of summer and channel that.
F: We always keep something in mind though. It’s always like, “when you listen to it, does it have something more than pop in the background?” If you’re a musician and you listen to our tracks, you can dig into a little more, and maybe hear some guitar, something you can tweak here and there. But easy listening is the first and foremost ingredient. Then it’s rhythm – does it make you want to bop your head to it? And if it makes you feel like it’s kind of hot outside if you close your eyes, then there you go! We know we got something – the ingredients of hot weather, good rhythm and the pop with a little complexity behind it.
OCR: I mean, someone has to bring summer to Montreal, because the weather is not happening. Let’s talk a little bit about you two have grown as artists. I mean, you [Sim] have been mixing forever, and you hooked up a while ago – has there been a musical evolution you can pin down? How do you feel about the journey so far?
S: So far it’s been three years that we’ve started composing music together. We started with ‘My Love,’ the summer feel with pop, funk, rock, and that’s what got us started.
F: We ourselves haven’t changed that much, but the proportion of ingredients we’re putting in the songs has changed. So you’re always going to have a little more rock to it, or a little more blues, or more jazz, but it’s always going to come full circle within a pop song. That’s how it’s always been for me, I mean, I started playing Metallica songs, and I went from Aerosmith to Guns and Roses, and then I went to Pink Floyd and then it got softer and softer and after it went to jazz, and I’ve gone full circle. But then I thought, I haven’t tried doing pop yet. Let’s try doing pop.
S: Also, when we met, I was dong electro pop, and he was doing more rock.
F: Yeah, we’re coming from very different backgrounds.
S: I kept pop and he kept the funk.
F: He called me about five years after high school (we didn’t really hang out that much. [Sim: I wasn’t cool]), and said, hey, Francis, you still play guitar? And I said I never stopped. And Sim goes, ok, well I just finished this song, and I’m going, “Oookay, who is this guy.” And I show up and hear this big base and I’m thinking “Holy crap, what am I going to do with that, I have six strings and that sound is so huge, I’m a tiny grain in the middle of it all”, I felt a little naked. But you know, I decided to play what I thought was right, and it worked.
But then we started getting feedback on what we’re doing , people saying that it sounded really good. And not just people who were our friends, or our mothers, and it sparked something and we thought, well, maybe there is something here. And we kept it going. Now we know when things do and don’t work.
OCR: Well there is definitely musical chemistry in your tracks. You sound like you know what you’re doing! You have a show coming up in Toronto, on July 19th – what can we expect? Are you going to drop anything new?
S: Yes. We’re going to drop some new tracks that will be on the new album. And we will play our classis, “My Love” and “Things you do” and everything else is a surprise.
F: The kind of show in Toronto has its own challenges too. We don’t have a lot of time, so it forces us to come in and kind of hit people in the face and go off. We can’t take you through a journey like a three-hour concert could. And it’s what we’d love to do, in the future, go through highs and lows with the audience and create some sort of contrast. But it’s not that kind of show. So we’re taking the songs we know work and we’ll see how it turns out.
S: I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure the audience is going to like it.
OCR: Is there anything that you want your audience to feel, when they listen to your music?
S: Yeah, our funk, for sure. The groove of our songs. When we play live it’s a bit more funky and less poppy, and we want to audience to feel that and be into it.
F: When we are doing the album, we have a tendency to go more electronic, just because it sounds better for us. But if we’re going to play the same songs live, we don’t have ten keyboards. So we trade off the electric sound for a more genuine, organic live performance. So we have a different sound live than we do on the CD, and it’s a different feel.
OCR: Finish the sentence for me: ‘For me, playing music is…’
S: Doing what we love. There is nothing like it.
F: For me, it’s my way out. I’m self-employed and it’s still my way out of my crappy job.
S: You know what, yes, it’s our way out!
F: Ticket to heaven. Doing what you’ve always dreamt of doing.
OCR: And another hypothetical question – if you could tour anywhere in the world, where would you start? Is there a dream destination?
OCR: I was suspecting something down South. I was like, what are you doing here, it’s cold?
S: Yeah, we’re not in the right place. But Brazil, because we have a lot of Brazilian fans, actually. We get a lot of mail in Portuguese, and we have to translate it ourselves most of the time. It’s a good place to play, and the fans seem to be a bit more into it.
F: And the weather is nice! In a way, it’s more informal also, there is more of a party atmosphere.
OCR: We can count on you to bring the party! Thank you so much for your time – it’s been rad!
If you want summer now, head to SiM’s webpage, with links to iTunes and SoundCloud to get your fix! The next album is due out late August, and will be followed by the band tour, so keep an eye out for their updates (you can sign up on the website to stay informed). You can find them on Instagram (@simofficialmusic), Twitter (@SiM_officialM) and Facebook. You can also catch them performing in Toronto on July 19th, at the Virgin Mobile Mod Club. For now, here is a taste of their summer sound: