It’s been a very solid year and a half for Montreal-based rock outfit Karkwa. After winning Canada’s Polaris Music Prize in September 2010 for their album Les Chemins de Verre (The Glass Pathways), the band has toured extensively in Europe, and played key US dates including SXSW, a packed house at Piano’s in New York and for Julia Roberts and guests at the after-party for the premiere of her film Jesus Henry Christ at the Tribeca Film Festival, and finally, teaming up with fellow Montrealers Arcade Fire to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Pop Montreal. In the midst of a brief 3-night tour of the U.S., BestNewBands.com caught up with lead singer Louis-Jean Cormier to chat about his favorite city here in the U.S., what it meant for the band to win the Polaris Prize and what the band has on tap for 2012.
Daniel Kohn: Are you excited about the upcoming tour? What city are you looking forward to playing and why?
Louis-Jean Cormier: Yes of course it's, Chicago, Pittsburgh and NYC! No specific reason, really, but maybe we are hockey fans?!!
DK: What new place are you ready to experience that you haven't been before? That being said, why only 3 shows here in the U.S.?
LJC: Chicago is, for us, one of the most exciting dates of the year just because it's been a long time that we've wanted to go here, and it's a very beautiful city. We sing in French and it's not a really specific goal for us to break the US. It's very funny (and a little strange) to play in American cities and still sing to audiences in French!
DK: Winning the Polaris Prize is quite an accomplishment. What were some of the emotions running through your head when you were announced that you won? What does winning the award mean to you?
LJC: We were pinching ourselves, and asking, "Why us?" We were scared to speak in English in front of all those talented (English-speaking) artists that we have listened to for a very long time. Winning the Polaris Music Prize changed a lot of things for us. Meeting new people, for one: North American agents and PR who work with us now, and being discovered by almost every Canadian music lover who had never heard about us before then who didn't live in Quebec!
DK: There seems to be a burgeoning indie rock scene in Montreal, and it's been like this for some time. What is it about the city that is so conducive for the good music that seems to be emanating from there?
LJC:I think it's the mix between French and English people. The relaxed feel of the city and maybe the weather that changes a lot over the course of the year. You just don't have time to get bored, so you create and sing!
DK: What's your favorite place to visit in the States?
LJC: It was NYC but maybe, after today, it's Chicago!
DK: If we were to go to Montreal, can give us a quick 24-hour guide to the city, a la Anthony Bourdain?
LJC: Yes, of course. You'll find a lot of cool bars, a lot of very beautiful women (or men, it depends what you're looking for...ha ha!!) and you'll find very friendly people who speak both languages and eat poutine!!
DK: What are your plans for 2012?
LJC: Break. We did a little too much in 2011. We will do a lot of side-projects and records with others. We are planning to release a live album of Karkwa and hopefully, sleep!