Here come the hollow men – An interview with BROKEN COLUMN + exclusive “Intuition” EP review

Interview Review Broken Column “Intuition” EP

Photo by @Brooke Dee

From the ever fervent and exciting Montreal underground alternative music scene come the minimal post-punk 4-piece Broken Column, born in the spring of 2018, sharing their mutual love of early 80s post-punk and new-wave, by Alexandre Savard (guitar) and Max Seaton (bass), already active players together in several punk bands (Disposer, Repulsives, Talleen), soon joined by singer Alex Cyprine (Qúetzal Snakes, Deaf, Orchids) and Keyboardist Stephen Baird (Bland, Orchids). 

Named themselves Broken Column after a verse from a 1925’s T.S. Eliot poem “The Hollow Men”, the band have dropped today their DIY 7-track debut EP “Intuition”.

I had a nice exhaustive chat with the band, followed by an exclusive review by Loud City Mike.

  • Thanks so much for the interview. Let’s start from the band’s early origins, what was the trigger for you to be a musician and start a band? How did you meet?

M.S.: Hello. Thanks for having us! I think the love for music can only come from the music itself. Maybe it’s like some kind of epidemic disease, some are immune and some are not. But once you get it… Alex S. And I met playing in other bands together and we met our other half through friends.

A.S.: I started playing guitar in my early teens and I always wanted to play in bands. Then I moved to Montreal around 2003 and I opened up on a lot of new music. Fast-forward to 2016. I met Max through a mutual friend and we clicked musically, we had some punk bands together and we were both really into early post-punk and new wave so we decided to start our own side project that became Broken Column.

A.C.: I mainly come from the Garage Punk scene in France, where I have had many bands since I was 14 years old. I have been in Montreal for 3 years. Here I started with DEAF (noise rock duo and then trio) and I had the opportunity to share the stage with Alex S.’s band Talleen. I really loved it and when I saw that he was looking for a singer for a new project I got in touch.

S.B.: When I saw that people playing instruments were having more fun then the people playing sports – I answered @Alex Cyprine facebook post of needing a synth player – ( ” I don’t play synth but I own one” )

  • What is your musical background? Which bands or, even non-musical, artists informed your sound and how it developed over time?

M.S.: Our use of a drum machine comes from me wanting the band to sound like Cocteau Twins, Second Layer, and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. Other of my personal influences are: The Cure, Bauhaus, Siouxie & The Banshees, Chrome, Big Black, The Sound, Bowie/Iggy/Eno, Gang of Four, The Fall… This could go on forever.

S.B.: I strummed a guitar a few times in high school – decided to buy an instrument and learn when I was 21 so I wouldn’t be an angry old man the rest of my life

A.S.: Generally speaking a lot of bands and art inspire me, I’m really into new wave stuff like Devo, Depeche Mode and Gary Numan, also darker stuff like Killing Joke. 70’s-80’s punk is also a big influence. I like the darker side of music I guess.

A.C.: When I heard the first recordings it made me think of bands on Sacred Bones, a label I love.

  • Personally, Montreal reminds me of synth-driven acts or the Constellation label, but is a fervent and creative city all over the music spectrum… How much Montreal did, and still do, influenced your creativity?

M.S.: I absolutely love Montreal. We’re all not originally from here, but this is the type of city where artists flock. Lota of bands, lots of venues and lots of music lovers to go see those bands in said venues.

  • Can you talk about the Montreal underground music scene? Is there a sort of community between bands/artists? Any tips about new up-and-coming local bands?

A.C.: Since I’ve been in Montreal I’ve been able to watch not one community but several in the underground music scene, both French and English, there is punk, garage psych, heavy metal, etc, etc… Like everywhere else in the world. Often the communities overlap, that’s how I find myself doing post-punk, coming from the garage scene… For Broken Column I can’t really say which single community we are part of, but we collaborate with Analogue Addiction, Mothland, the punk festival “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Paris” and soon we will be playing in more of a garage/psych festival. As for my favorite local bands, I would say No Negative, Yoo Doo Right, Ought,… there are too many to name!

  • How important are the lyrics for you? How much is your lyrics writing from personal experience and how much draw from external sources?

A.C: The lyrics are important in this project, but more for ourselves. I think my French accent and the way the voice is mixed make it difficult to understand the words, but that doesn’t prevent me from spending a lot of time writing the texts. As far as inspiration goes, it is usually based on personal experience and feelings, but with an abstract twist. In “Father” and “Cocoon”, which is about my father, I describe a father figure and his faults, but it could apply to anyone. I also write about love, literature, and fantasy, like in the song “Mirror”, about Alice in Wonderland. I must admit that most texts have a rather sad and pessimistic tone, which works well with the kind of music we make, but I like to include some glimmers of hope …

  • Do you draw on, or are you influenced by, any non-musical cultural resources (eg films, literature, visual art) in your creative process?

M.S.: I guess I could compare being a band with being an art collective or movement, like Dada or Surrealism. A big beautiful and weird collage.

A.S: I am a big cinephile and so are the other members of the band. We like music that paints a picture. I remember Twin Peaks being an influence in the process of writing one the songs. 

S.B.: I’m primarily influenced by film (a little visual art) rather than music. My favourite directors are Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino.

A.C.: I read a lot of science fiction, like Philip K Dick but also books about esoterism. I love to read about Satanism, witchcraft, sects and other natural and supernatural deviances of our world and worlds we do not know.

  • Your debut EP is finally going to be released, please help us to better understand the title, the influences, the sound, the recording process and the ups and downs that have brought to the final result?

MS.: I had a lot of ideas for the EP’s title and I shared them with the band and we felt that the word “Intuition” reflected very well our creative process. Nothing is forced, it’s all very natural. Every part of a song is intuitively developed from an initial thought or idea. 

A.S.: We decided early on that we wanted something minimal, we never over-thought stuff. We did what came naturally The recording process was fairly quick and easy. I had some recording gear and we did everything ourselves. I did the mixing for the record and that was what took the longest time, we’ve gone through multiple different mixes but in the end, we are really proud of the final result.

  • The EP at first listen seem a cohesive and emotionally wrenching piece of work? Did you, thematically, have an all-encompassing thread or building feeling you wanted to portray in the EP

MS.: We wrote these songs in a short period in the fall and early winter. Maybe the cold air affected the sound. 

  • What do you think of the resurgence in the last few years of a great number of bands related to the gothic dark sound of the 80s?

M.S.: With the internet nowadays everybody has access to this immense catalog of music from every era. It only takes a few clicks to find the most obscure releases. The late 70s/early 80s post-punk scene was a wonderful and extremely creative period. I guess it’s just hard to resist the attraction.

  • What’s your favorite part about playing live and can you remember your 1st gig as a band?

M.S.: Live shows are a lot of fun. I love the nervousness.

A.S: As cheesy as it might sound, my favourite part of playing live is seeing people enjoying themselves. I remember our first gig being nerve-racking, but it ended being a really fun show.

A.C: Playing live is my favorite part of being in a band. I can put on my frontman singer costume, literally, and let myself go. It’s an almost paranormal experience during which I feel like a puppet guided by a supernatural force. I love being on tour, which disconnects me even more from reality and lets me let go even more…

  • Which bands/artists are you listening recently and what are the last records you bought?

M.S.: These days I’m really into wire’s Colin Newman’s solo albums, Talking HeadsEno trilogy and The Fall‘s Brix era. The last records I bought are The Psychedelic Furs‘ “Love my Way” 12″ and The Danse Society‘s “Album + 12″ singles” comp. One of the actual artists I love the most would be Jessica 93, from France, with whom we played 2 shows in the spring. You should check it out.

A.C.: The last bands I discovered and love are Orville Peck, Issue (a new band with members of Crocodiles and Flowers Of Evil) and Devil Master, which was the best live show I’ve seen in Montreal this year. Unfortunately, I can’t buy records right now because I am looking for a job.

S.B.: Prince, Ducktails, The Allman Brothers Band

A.S.: Recently I’ve been listening to Eagulls’ first album. The last records I bought were Adam and the Ants“Friend or Foe” and Trio’s “Trio and Error.” 
  • Many thanks for being our welcome guest, just the usual final questions: what are the plans for the very near future? Is there still something you’d like to add?

M.S.: Thank you! We have a release show tomorrow (August 1st) in Montreal with a great band from Toronto called “Deliluh” (you should check ’em out too) and other shows scheduled in the next months. We are also already working on our 1st full-length which should come out next year.

A.C.: I would like to tour in France and Europe soon…

Here’s what our Loud Cities Mike has to say about “Intuition”

When digging in the dirt is not so rare to discover diamonds, some pretty dusty newborn babes that are waiting for you and me to throw them some light and start talking about in public. Before I start, let me copy-paste their own manifest as it was posted on their FB page only on July 24

“A restless drum machine and hypnotic synthesizers are the foundation on which a desperate, piercing guitar and dark flanged basslines are laid. Cavernous, but sensible, the vocals bring every part together in one fragile and unexpected harmony.”

Introducing Montreal‘s new entry into the restless and enchanting world of post-punk, Broken Column with their debut “Intuition” EP out on July 31. The album contains 7 really old-school-generated songs and it is the kind of a record which made me speak to myself like “really now? wow, how nice is this record.” Everything in here is targeted to remind the old days of the genre, and I don’t really think that BC made it all deliberately. Once the disc completed I clearly felt the band’s edges and their roots and as they mentioned before, yes I heard these desperate and piercing guitars, these dark flanged basslines, while I also discovered an authentic killer-poet on the microphone too. I am telling you about the initial grey pressure of the genre’s pioneers who are seemingly here as the new band’s icons and guests. The early Tuxedomoon’ horrors, the early Clan Of Xymox’ fears and thrills, the early days of The Damned, the early days which seem to appear again on that specific string of new bands that are not only revisiting them as a retro fetish but actually all are like a warning again..the new dark age of the world is here. The leading track is “Mirror” with an official video too, the first video of Broken Column as everything so far is new about them, check it out!

If you asked me for some more focus tracks from “Intuition” EP I would certainly and highly recommend, “Nothing”, “Image”, “Obsess”,  and “Father”. Together with Mirror”, it is almost the whole album and in these songs, I found the band’s peculiar mentality and their psyche. I think that we are facing the next hot name of Canada‘s alternative scene and if everything goes well with them I foresee their name in all the dedicated media being at least well accepted. Check their debut, please!!!

Catch the band live tomorrow, August 1st, for the release party at Montreal’s l’Esco 08.01 † Deliluh † Broken Column (Lancement EP) + Hélène Barbier

Keep up with Broken Column:

Photo by @Brooke Dee

Written with love by Fabrizio Lusso and by Loud Cities Mike

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