When I met Montreal musician David Martel before his Saturday night Zoofest show for an interview, he politely excused himself to go behind his parked car on Ste. Catherine Street East to change into pants (he was wearing shorts). Being the gentlelady that I am, I nodded and turned around, staring into the vitrine of a bookstore waiting. When he was done, we found an empty stoop and began our pre-show chat.
Mobtreal : What have you been up to for the last couple of years? You seem to have been under the radar…
David Martel : I released an EP in 2011 (“You’ve Heard the Best! Now Try the Rest…”) and after that was with a band for a while. We did some shows for about a year and a half. Then I started working with a new manager. We decided that we wanted to do something at a really awesome studio. I was going to just stick to a few EPs that I was going to whip together myself every year or few months. And we decided that it’s easier to get more attention with a full length record. Sometimes you get overlooked for publicity when you just do an EP. Often an EP is looked at as something that can lead to another thing. So we decided to write enough songs for a full length album. I had to save up, started writing, started jamming… I’ve always been playing shows, though, in Montreal here and there at places like Divan Orange, Sala Rossa and around town and some shows out of town. We just recorded at Break Glass Studios and just finished a full length album. We just released an EP (“Versus Us”) which is a preview to the album because it’s not done yet. We recorded 11 songs [and] we released four.
M : When are you planning to release the new album?
DM : I’m not sure. It could be anywhere; fall, winter… We’re going to [let the EP| sit for a while, shop it around to labels and stuff like that. Either we release it with a label in the next few months or release it ourselves eventually.
M : And will the songs from “Versus Us” be included on the new album?
DM : That’s possible. Not sure. It could be one or two songs, it could be all four, it could be none. We have enough material with the rest of it to be an album.
M : I know that you’ve done a lot of festivals (SXSW, NXNE, Midem) and now Zoofest. What is the most interesting part about participating in festivals for you?
DM : It’s a fun opportunity to make new fans. A lot of people who are coming to check out a festival like to see what’s going on. Some people really like going to festivals for the purpose of discovering bands and to [listen to] a lot of music.
M : You’re from St. Hubert and you’ve lived in Montreal for a long time. What’s your favourite neighbourhood in the city?
DM : Probably around the Jean-Talon Market. That’s where I’m living now. I really like that area. I’m right near the Beaubien metro on St. Denis. You’ve got Vice Versa on St. Laurent which is a great place to drink local beer. You’re close to everything by bike. We’re not really Rosemont-Petite Patrie [and] we’re not really Little Italy. St. Denis kind of divides those two so I’m kind of in no-man’s land.
M : What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you because of or during your musical career?
DM : Most interesting [thing] that has happened to me is going to places I’ve never been to to do a show. I got to go to Cannes and Nice for Midem. A friend of mine I met a few months prior to that… I emailed him and he’s like, “Oh man, I live in Nice!” So this guy lived in Vieux Nice; a fort. We’re talking old. Forget the Old Port old. Hundreds of years older than that. The culture and history of Europe is amazing. So we stayed in his place, went to little markets, bought baguettes in the streets, cheap bottles of wine and we drove over to do shows in Cannes at night. [I have never] been there before so that was an amazing experience.
[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]
David Martel’s performance that night was nothing short of stunning, if not slightly mismatched with Zoofest’s more quirky and experimental penchant. His soaring voice is reminiscent of Thom Yorke’s in that it has a massive range that is kept in complete control. It is so otherworldly and grand that it often seemed to overwhelm the tiny Théatre Ste Catherine. Eyes piercing and face contorting with obvious emotion as each lyric left his lips, the atmosphere created by the songs was moody and introspective. Perhaps the show could have used a few more upbeat tracks like the bouncing “What’s a Truck” but no matter. What transpired was an ethereal experience for the audience, with a thoughtful dedication of “I’ve Got It All” to the beautiful city of Montreal from his latest EP “Versus Us”. A troupe of 5 other musicians joined him on stage to complete this tour de force performance.