Postcard showing the Montreal skyline

No Place Like Home: TEKE::TEKE take us on a musical tour of Montreal

Montreal-based septet TEKE::TEKE released their new album Hagata last week via Kill Rock Stars, and by the time closing track ‘Jinzou Maria’ wafted to its dreamy conclusion at the end of my first listen they had already become that band that I will spend the next six month jabbering excitedly about to anyone who cares to listen (and indeed many who don’t).

“Hagata is a very deep word, something present but also something left over from someone or something no longer there,” explains vocalist/guitarist Maya Kuroki. “It’s like waking up from a dream, or being connected to the other side of something.” It catches the spirit of the record perfectly.

It’s a genuinely thrilling album, each track stuffed to bursting with more ideas than many bands manage in a full album. It rages and purrs, races ahead and wanders off on its own course, challenges us and welcomes us all in, weaving an astonishing array of influences from around the globe into an immense, luminous tapestry then picking at the threads, shifting its bold shapes into surreal, kaleidoscopic nebuli.

It opens with the blistering flute-lead stomp of ‘Garakuta’, which starts with an East Asian flavour before segueing into space-rock haze and it doesn’t look back from there. We get ‘Hoppe’s itchy alt-rock guitars and jittery drums, ‘Gotoku Lemon’ with what sounds like a dhol drum beat floating in a psychedelic mist, ‘Me No Haya’s beautiful floaty woodwind and gentle brass and ‘Doppelganger’, which sounds like it could be the theme tune to a cult 1970s Japanese TV Western. If it’s not jostling for position at the top of my end of year favourites list it’s going to be a very special year indeed.

Hagata is a record that sounds like it could be from everywhere and nowhere all at once, so we asked the band to take us on a tour of their hometown, Montreal, Quebec and tell us how it’s influenced their sound.

Photo of the band Teke::Teke

What makes Montreal a special place for music?

I’d say the city’s diversity and affordability. Montreal is such a melting pot, not to brag too much about the city but we often say in interviews that we like to think that a band like TEKE::TEKE couldn’t have possibly been formed anywhere else in the world. Montreal brought us together, from very different backgrounds. I think it could be said about a lot of bands here. You can hear it in the music that’s being made here.

The quality of life is also a big one for artists here. Rent is still reasonable (compared to other major cities in Canada or in the world for that matter), you can manage a side job while having time to create.

It’s a small city, very community-oriented, it’s easy to bump into people and make connections. There are several venues of different sizes to choose from, affordable studios, approachable show promoters and facilitators. There’s a lot of resources for artists and I feel like you can get something going quite easily whether it’s DIY-style or with support from some organization or label or festival. I don’t feel a lot of competitiveness, it’s more about being creative and constructive. I would add that the fact that Montreal is a bilingual city, with both French and English as spoken languages also makes for a unique environment, if you dare be curious enough to indulge in both cultures, which I don’t see why one wouldn’t. 

Is there a scene or a sound that you’d describe as being specific or special to Montreal?

There definitely are niche scenes, like any other cities, I guess. It’s something you notice if you attend different types of events and go see different artists and bands like I do, but like I said earlier, it doesn’t feel to me like there’s any competition. I personally have made a conscious decision a while back to just see it all as one big thing. Therefore the ‘Montreal sound’ could be anything, it’s a mixture of so many different flavours.

Give us a quick history lesson – who are some of your favourite bands and artists from Montreal?

Some of our favorite artists in Montreal are Suuns, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Jerusalem in my heart, Backxwash, Joni Void, Nadah Elshazly, Kee Avil, Keiko Devaux, Sam Shalabi, Big Brave, Paul Jacobs, Gus Englehorn, Collectif 9, Kid Koala, Voïvod, Tamayugé, La Sécurité, Child Actress, Duchess Says, La Force, Men I Trust, Hippie Hourrah…

And who should we be looking out for right now & why?

All of the above… because of their artistic approaches and the cutting-edge aspect in  their music.

What impact do you think living in Montreal has had on your sound and songwriting?

I think for the same reasons mentioned earlier, Montreal has always allowed for everybody in this band, on their own individual journey as musicians, to connect with different people and collaborate in other projects. That certainly is reflected in the sound of TEKE::TEKE through what everyone brings to the table as far as influences, ideas, and the way we approach the songwriting process. 

Where are your favourite local places to play or see live music and why?

I have just recently been to a concert at a place called ‘Bain Mathieu’, which used to be a public bath, built in 1930 and abandoned in the 90’s for several years. Some art association got a hold of it and made it into a multifunctional hall. They kept a lot of it as is (the audience stands or sits in an empty pool), they renovated it, built a stage and treated the acoustics of the room. It’s a pretty cool place. I like older venues that kept a certain vintage charm, places like the Rialto or LaTulipe, or the Lion d’Or… But often, I found myself going to see shows in more intimate settings, smaller venues like Bar l’Esco or Casa Del Popolo. Those are also fun venues to play, close to the people.

Aside from the bands, who are some of the local heroes working to keep music thriving in Montreal?

The ones I know personally have been at it for many years, I’m sure there are newcomers that I don’t know of. Show promoters like Blue Skies Turn Black, Dan Seligman and POP Montreal (a music festival in September), Greenland Production, Mutek, a label like Constellation with the Hotel 2 Tango studio and venues like Sala Rossa and Casa del Popolo, they’ve all been crucial to the city’s music scene. The DIY culture has always been very present in Montreal too, so there’s a lot of events that take place in people’s lofts or galleries or church basements, parks and whatnot. Our friend Marilyne Lacombe and the Mothland crew have been putting on some really cool events in the past 6 years or so, bringing in some really good international bands via their annual psychedelic music festival called Distorsion, while keeping a focus on new emerging local artists as well and providing them with opportunities to connect with those international artists.

We asked Teke:: Teke to share some of their favourite songs by Montreal artists – check it out below:

Here are some songs about Montreal by Montreal artists (there aren’t so many to choose from) and some songs by Montreal artists we love (but not necessarily about the city).

1) Suzanne – Leonard Cohen
Perhaps the most popular song about Montreal. I remember my father listening to it a lot when I was a kid, not knowing what it was about back then.

2) Rooftops – The Frenetics
This song inspired by Montreal was written by my dear old friend Malcolm Bauld, one of the most underrated singer-songwriters I know and who had a big impact in my life both as a musician and as a human being. The Frenetics was his band in the early 2000s.

3) Awkward Party – SAMWOY
Our dear friend and producer Samuel Woywitka who tours with us as our sound engineer and collaborated on several of our recordings also goes by the moniker SAMWOY and creates these cool songs and soundscapes. He told me that this one was heavily inspired by Montreal and all the strange encounters he’s had here. This is from his first album that just came out.

4) City of Night – Rational Youth
I’m not sure if this song is about Montreal but I feel like It could be. The band is from Montreal, circa 1982.

5) Montréal -40 – Malajube
These local heroes from the 2000s released some pretty phenomenal pop tunes en français, and although, in all honesty, this one isn’t my favorite of theirs, it doesn’t get much more Montreal than this in terms of lyrics.

6) Witness Protection – Suuns
7) Wa Ta’atalat Loughat Al Kalam (part 4) – Jerusalem In My Heart
8) Blood in the water – Backxwash
9) Palmyra – Nadah El Shazly
10) Run Rabbit Run – Gus Englehorn

Hagata is out now via Kill Rock Stars. Order/stream now from all the usual places

Find out more about TEKE::TEKE on their official website

Catch TEKE::TEKE live in the UK at the following dates
Sept 2 – Manchester, UK @ Manchester Psych Fest
Sept 3 – Dorset, UK @ End of the Road Fest
Sep 5 – Southampton Heartbreakers 
Sep 6 – Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach 
Sep 7 – Bristol Crofters Rights 
Sep 8 – London Moth Club 
Sep 9 – Brighton Psych de Soleil

Article by Paul Maps
Montreal Postcard from Adam on Flickr, used under Creative Commons Licence

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