JF Robitaille romanticizes Montreal

JF Robitaille has been on the Montreal scene for a decade+. Ahead of tonight’s launch for his new record, Rival Hearts, we asked him about the many romantic allusions to these city streets in his lyrics.

JF Robitaille

JF Robitaille has been on the Montreal scene for a decade+, sometimes playing in bands but mostly showcasing his singing and songwriting skills solo. He’s lived and worked in Toronto, London (U.K.) and NYC, but he’s never left his hometown for good.

Robitaille’s third record, Rival Hearts, launches with a show tonight at O Patro Vys, and to mark that event, I asked him to tell us about the Montreal references in his lyrics:

“Lately I conjure you, in the cigarette smoke off Parc Avenue” —“Jessie”

JF Robitaille: I lived on or just off of Parc/St Viateur for a large portion of the last 10 years, before moving to New York and after I came back. Those coffee shops were my living room. I probably wrote a couple of these songs at Navarino while eating a massive tuna sandwich.

“In the shadow of the cross, in the ruins where the ruined get lost” —“Black and White”

JFR: This chorus was initially written after I met a homeless man who’d lived on Mount Royal for 10 years, in the bushes. I eventually extended the shadow a little bit north…

“Named for the saint or one of these streets” —“Saint Catherine”

JFR: Just some thoughts I had about Montreal’s religious past, the city of saints, ville aux cent clochers and a girl named Cathy.

“It’s a cold return, it’s your city now” —“Dreams With You”

JFR: One of my first apartments was a loft across from the Bifteck and I spent many wandering years in the area. I don’t know what’s going on down there now, but it’s not good.

“Trapped in stone like a cavalier’s bright feather, grey and faded by the weather” —“Undevoted”

JFR: I was born in NDG and spent most of my teen years there as well. My grandparents moved into the neighbourhood in ’56 with many other Hungarians after the revolution. I think of those tree-lined streets whenever people ask me what’s so great about Montreal. The lyric refers to a statue in one of those little parks off Sherbrooke.

“Jessie, it’s the electricity between these buildings consuming me” —“Jessie”

JFR: No explanation required. ■

JF Robitaille launches Rival Hearts at O Patro Vys (356 Mont-Royal E.) tonight, Monday, Aug. 26, 9 p.m.

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