Text and Interview: Andy Fenwick
Photo: Audrey Canuel
On their new LP Recontrer Looloo, out on Beyond Beyond Records, Chocolat stuffs “Ah Ouin” with the same riff-based boogie found in the 70s proto-metal goodness of T. Rex, or Thin Lizzy in their prime. From this groove-base, “Ah Ouin” travels to a planet where surprises like wailing saxophone or carousel keyboards seem perfectly natural as they appear, however startling. Loads of bands try this; most go back to pumping gas.
It’s a more swaggering sound than 2014’s propulsive LP Tss Tss, but that’s not to say Tss Tss didn’t swagger, or that Recontrer Looloo isn’t propulsive. Like the similarly jazz-inflected Dungen, Chocolat go where they want, uninterested in abandoning their psychedelic sojourns anytime soon. They almost did, though; after a 2008 debut album and a mini-tour with the late Jay Reatard in their native Canada, Chocolat dissolved into separate music careers for a good six years. That “Recontrer Looloo” has followed so quickly, after Tss Tss, is a good sign.
Another good sign: as a perfect companion piece to “Ah Ouin,” Chocolat have released a wonderful, batshit-crazy animated video in collaboration with their friend and animator Jonathan Robert. There’s no end to what the video evokes, all of it good: La Planète sauvage, R. Crumb, Yellow Submarine, Ralph Bakshi, and Heavy Metal. It also sets the stage for the album-length, narrative concept behind Recontrer Looloo, in which a dual-gendered, guitar-headed despot wearing an Evel Knievel jumpsuit sows general chaos. If that doesn’t make sense, relax; the video kills no matter what you make of it. Whoever says rock has reached a dead-end hasn’t visited Chocolat’s planet yet.
We caught up with Chocolat guitarist and producer Emmanuel Ethier and asked him to explain everything.
What would you say are the major differences between the new album and 2014’s Tss Tss? For one thing, is the new record a full concept album, all the way through?
Tss Tss was recorded in a really raw way using less mics as possible (two on drums most of the time). We were using bleed as an instrument and it was a big but somehow fun mess. We recorded Rencontrer Looloo in the same studio (Victor) but used more traditional methods. We almost wanted it to sound like a classic rock record. We wanted it to be “metal” in attitude. It made us laugh which is always a good sign. It can be perceived as a concept album, but we prefer to leave the interpretations open.
I’m hearing a serious glam-rock influence in “Ah Ouin,” and “Les Pyramids” recalls Dungen. I always assume I’m going to be wrong when it comes to guessing influences, though. What have you been listening to, if anything, that filters into your own music?
I guess what we do have in common with Dungen is the influence of jazz. They also choose to sing in their mother tongue and still manage to have appeal to a foreign audience which is something we respect. We do love glam rock and we were in some ways influenced by it; not sure if I can name a band that was a unanimous influence during the recording process, though.
How did you connect with animator Jonathan Robert for the video?
He’s a good friend of mine. He’s in a fantastic band called Corridor and I was fortunate enough to produce their last record. We’re actually finishing their next record right now and it’s sounding amazing. He’s also an OK visual artist.
How did Looloo evolve? Was Looloo conceived in look and character before the video?
Looloo was conceived way before the video, the whole album was pretty much built around him.
Where does “Les Pyramids” figure into Looloo’s story, if it does?
You tell me!
How do you get that wonderful guitar sound in “Les Pyramids?”
If I recall correctly, it was my Rickenbacker Rose Morris’s neck pickup into a Death by Audio Fuzz War. The amp was probably a Fender Blues Jr.
On Tss Tss, and in the new songs, I really like your use of keyboards. What equipment do you use for that? I sometimes heard both organ and synths, like on the title track from that album.
The keyboard sounds on Tss Tss were almost entirely Garage Band iPad presets, no kidding. On Rencontrer Looloo, Christophe our keyboard wizard mostly used a modified Sequential Circuits Prophet 600, a Nord Modular and a Moog Source.