Secret Witness

By: Dream Chimney

The following interview was conducted on November 29, 2023

It's a pleasure to invite Secret Witness for a chimney side chat. Their next release 'Have You Ever' drops on Bienvenue Recordings this week. Read on to discover what's great about being an artist in Montreal, writing songs in a cabin in Saint-Sauveur, and who they think is making great music right now.

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I'd love to know who are all of individual members of Secret Witness and parts you all play?

It's a pleasure to be featured on Dream Chimney, thank you for having us! Secret Witness is an all Montreal-bred formation, composed of Gab Godon aka Laroie (vocals, lyrics), Gabriel Rei (production), Gene Tellem (production) and Pascal Deaudelin (drums and percussions).

How long have you all known each other, and when did the collective begin?

We've all known each other for many years, we all started out as friends before jumping into music making together. Solid friendships laid the perfect groundwork for embarking on a creative endeavor, as we were well-acquainted with each other's backgrounds and influences. Our very first studio session as a group took place in the winter of 2020.

How long have you all known each other, and when did the collective begin?

We've all known each other for many years, we all started out as friends before jumping into music making together. Solid friendships laid the perfect groundwork for embarking on a creative endeavor, as we were well-acquainted with each other's backgrounds and influences. Our very first studio session as a group took place in the winter of 2020.

What brought you all together?

This first reunion was thanks to Laroie’s initiative. She had organized a few writing sessions with different people, and invited Gabriel, Gene, and Pascal to come along in a cabin near Saint-Sauveur here in Quebec. We spent a week jamming and writing without expectations, and the process turned out to be effortlessly enjoyable, revealing a promising outcome. From that studio week emerged a few standout demos that would later become the groundwork for our first mini-album, Volume I. We reunited once more in the summer of 2022, laying the blueprints for our upcoming full-length project. 'Have You Ever' offers a sneak peek into what the near future holds for us.

Among the four of us, there's a diverse range of influences. The ethereal and soulful vibes of Larry Heard and Lil Louis resonate strongly with us. Additionally, we're big fans of the timeless productions of Sade and George Michael. Maybe also St. Germain and Jamiroquai. Cheers to the diverse tapestry of influences shaping our music!

What is the communality in music that you all share? Or are all of your tastes quite different?

Our musical preferences are all quite distinct, but there's a definite overlap. We share a love for rhythm and emotion in music. A solid groove and an inspiring melody are essential for all of us.

What was the first release you guys made together?

Our debut release is a six-track mini-album titled 'Volume I,' a project that aimed to showcase a diverse range of house flavors by blending storytelling with immersive rhythmic dance foundations.

How does the process of writing and creating a new track begin. Does one person take the lead or it is more of democracy?

It all begins with rather straightforward elements, be it a groove initiated by Pascal or a chord progression/bass line suggested by Gabriel or Gene. Simultaneously, Laroie observes the emerging vibe and begins writing down some ideas - a melody or insightful words/sentences, that we then record and use as a starting point for arrangement. As a form of guidance, we've also begun experimenting with developing themes ahead of our sessions. Whether it's an intriguing paragraph from a book or an idea sparked by a recently watched movie, these serve as excellent starting points that keep us creatively engaged and inspired.

If you could put the vibe of Secret Witness into a few words what words would you choose?

Mystery, romance, groove, intuition.

Did you start with a musical vision in mind and what was that vision.

Each of the four members comes from diverse musical backgrounds, so we try not to overthink when in the studio. Our aim is to embody our unique interpretation of fundamentals such as Soul, R&B, and Balearic. Our approach is one of spontaneity and genuine expression, allowing the music to unfold instinctively.

You are all Montreal natives. How would you describe the music scene in Montreal and its different parts?

Being Montreal natives, we are deeply immersed in the vibrant and diverse music scene this city has to offer. Montreal is a unique blend of cultural influences, and one aspect that sets it apart is the distinctive Quebec French music scene. Given that French is the predominant language in Quebec, this scene has a distinct identity, and it operates somewhat independently from the Anglophone scene. Within the electronic music realm, Montreal showcases various shades and styles. Different venues cater to specific scenes, creating distinct hubs for music lovers. Despite these differences, there's a palpable sense of unity and support across the scenes and genres. We've witnessed a growing sense of communion among artists and fans, fostering a collaborative spirit that transcends boundaries. Montreal, known for its affordability in the past, has faced challenges in recent years as the cost of living has risen. This shift has posed difficulties for the artist community, making it increasingly challenging to thrive in the city. Despite these challenges, the resilience and creativity of the Montreal music scene continue to shine, reflecting the spirit of a city that remains a dynamic and influential hub for artistic expression.

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What is great about being a musician in Montreal?

Even if it can be challenging at times, being a musician in Montreal is a unique and enriching experience. One of the standout aspects is the city's rich cultural tapestry, providing a diverse and dynamic backdrop for artistic expression. Montreal is a melting pot of influences, and this cultural mosaic contributes to a music scene that's not only eclectic but also welcoming to a variety of genres and styles. Moreover, the collaborative spirit within the Montreal music community is truly special. There's a sense of camaraderie among musicians, fostering a supportive environment that encourages creative exploration and collaboration. Whether you're in a cosy jazz club or an underground electronic venue, the city offers a plethora of opportunities to connect with fellow artists and audiences. The city's history of hosting numerous music festivals, from the world-renowned Jazz Fest to emerging indie showcases, adds another layer of excitement for musicians. These events not only provide platforms for exposure but also contribute to the cultural fabric of the city, making Montreal a hub for music enthusiasts from all walks of life. While the cost of living has presented challenges, the resilience of the Montreal music scene prevails. The struggle is met with determination, and the result is a community that values creativity, diversity, and the shared love for music. Overall, being a musician in Montreal is about navigating a city that embraces the artistry of sound and celebrates the unique contributions of each musical voice within its borders.

Does the city support musicians with venues and commitments to the art?

Financial challenges are, not surprisingly, a significant hurdle in the realm of musical pursuits. Fortunately, through our formation Secret Witness, we were fortunate to partake in a residency hosted by the PHI Center, an art center in Montreal. This opportunity allowed us to initiate the recording process for our upcoming project, including the creation of our single 'Have You Ever.’ To fully dedicate themselves to their craft, musicians often rely heavily on governmental and philanthropic initiatives. This is why having diverse sources of income undoubtedly contributes to a sense of independence and control over what one brings to the table. Montreal stands out as a special terrain that attracts a diverse array of music enthusiasts. But in terms of venues, the city could certainly benefit from additional spaces to host events. That being said, there are some unique and exceptional spots and actors that play a crucial role in maintaining the city's vibrancy in the music landscape.

What can be some of the challenges you face in Montreal to release music?

Releasing music in Montreal presents a unique set of challenges. One notable hurdle is the limited presence of electronic music in the Quebec media landscape. It's an interesting paradox where, oddly enough, it can be easier to gain recognition and success in cities around the globe than in our hometown. While this global appreciation is incredibly rewarding, it also underscores the need for more local recognition of electronic music in our city. On the funding front, the reality is that securing financial support for music projects requires an extra layer of hustle. Montreal boasts a vibrant arts scene, and the demand for grants is high. Unfortunately, the availability of funding doesn't always match the enthusiasm and talent present in the city. We find ourselves navigating a landscape where artists need to be not only creators but also adept at navigating the intricacies of grant applications and funding processes. Despite these challenges, the resilience of the Montreal music community is palpable. We see it as an opportunity to further amplify the voices of electronic artists within the local scene and to contribute to the broader conversation about the importance of supporting diverse musical expressions. As we continue to navigate these challenges, we remain committed to creating and sharing music that transcends borders and resonates globally.

Tell us a little about of Bienvenue Records and its mission.

Bienvenue was established in 2019 initially as a platform for Gene's personal music. The inclination toward independent endeavors has consistently fueled the creative process and having a dedicated space for one's own sound aligned seamlessly with this ethos. Additionally, with involvement in Montreal's La Rama Records store, the need for a label became apparent, aligning with the desire to collectively share a commitment to the different shades of house music.

I guess having your own label gives a lot more creative control right?

Absolutely, but it’s also a way of connecting with like-minded people, who often end up having a big impact on the label’s overarching vision. Remaining open to whatever comes your way is crucial.

I am really interested in the fact that Bienvenue focuses on one track for different moments. Tell us about this unique concept?

The main mix for Have You Ever was written during an entrancing nighttime studio session. As we started talking about releasing that track as a single, the idea came to our mind to create a dancefloor-oriented version to complement the original. These two mixes serve as two sides of a coin, offering distinct perspectives on the same articulation.

Aside from being musicians, are you all DJs too?

We are all very enthusiastic about sharing music! Gabriel and Gene have been active DJs for the past decade, which is a significant aspect of their journey as producers. Laroie has recently delved into the craft and begun cultivating her own passion for it—she even hosts a monthly radio show on Balamii Radio; be sure to give it a listen! Pascal is also deeply passionate about sharing his musical discoveries; he curates monthly playlists on Spotify that have garnered attention.

Have you played out as DJs together, how does that work?

Indeed, Gene and Gabriel share the decks as part of a house and techno project called Game Plan. A first EP was released on Bienvenue not long ago.

Live seems to area that a lot of acts are focusing on. Do you guys have a live set?

Absolutely, live performances hold a special place in our hearts. During our residency last summer, we took the opportunity to film a live performance of one of our upcoming songs from the next mini-album. As we dive deeper into the live realm, we're currently in the process of bringing more musicians into the mix. This step is crucial for us as we aim to infuse our songs with an even more vibrant and dynamic live feel. The collaborative energy of live instruments adds another layer of richness to our sound, and we're eager to explore this dimension in our performances. However, it's a bit of a juggling act at the moment. All of us are deeply immersed in other music projects in the studio, which is fantastic but also keeps us quite busy. While we're in the planning stages for live shows, it's looking like the actual performances might take the stage sometime next year.

Who do you think is making great music at the moment?

Teddy Bryant, Cleo Sol, John Beltran, Larry Heard, Fabiana Palladino, Greg Foat - only to name a few…

What other projects are Secret Witness working on for 2024?

We are gearing up for the release of Volume 2, a mini-album currently in the works.

If you had to choose a Secret Witness peak time bomb what would it be?

A cheeky shoutout to our upcoming track - Have You Ever (Club Mix).

What is your ultimate sunrise tune to represent you?

The Morning Sun by Eddie Chacon - the best invitation for a smooth day to come.


Check out the latest release from Secret Witness