Expwy reaches its final destination

Matt LeGroulx plays his last show as Expwy tonight, so we spoke to him about the new/final Expwy record, his other music projects and the hazards of smooth jazz.

Matt LeGroulx
Prolific Montreal pop-rock project Expwy has reached the end of the road.

Expwy was a pseudonym for songwriter Matt LeGroulx, who till the end recorded his myriad genre studies — 10 releases since 2010 that you can listen to on his Bandcamp page — in his apartment in the Point. He’s decided to retire the name for good, but not before one final show tonight at l’Escrogriffe.

He also recently released his last record as Expwy, Flagellation Honey. Like most of his works, he picked a specific genre from the onset, this time the ’90s alternative rock of his youth, and created an album, filled with unusual lyrical imagery, around that.

“I tried to avoid doing a ’90s alternative record for a long time, even though I’ve always come up with those kinds of songs,” he says. “I never wanted to do things that were easiest for me — I wanted to take on things that I didn’t necessarily understand and try to figure them out.”

Sludgy riffs and slower tempos is as logical a conclusion as any for a project that had previously delved into bossa nova, double concept records about the Ville-Marie Expressway that can be played simultaneously, and smooth jazz covers. Actually, it was that last excursion that expedited Expwy’s demise.

“The Grimes smooth jazz cover got way more attention than anything I had ever done,” LeGroulx says. “I was working on a smooth jazz album but I quit about halfway through. I thought to myself, ‘I’m spending too much time working on smooth jazz.’ It wasn’t fun anymore.”

Flagellation Honey, on the other hand, is Expwy’s most professional-sounding recording yet, even though it was all done at his apartment.

“If anyone says it sounds lo-fi, I’ll punch them in the mouth. I used $2,000 worth of microphones, and I spent a lot of time mixing it as well. If anything, it shows how much I’ve progressed in all areas of music production over the last four years.”

He says the album is also the product of laziness, since he didn’t put the same effort into paring down the songs into tight pop nuggets as he normally does. Some of the songs even exceed the, *gasp*, four-minute mark.

LeGroulx is a firm believer in songwriting efficiency. Last month, a radio station in Calgary introduced a “QuickHitz” format, which shortened hit radio songs to just the essentials. It was a controversial idea that drew enough complaints to warrant sacking the plan three weeks later, but it’s something that LeGroulx could get behind.

“Most of the time a pop song isn’t more than a verse and chorus that repeats itself, so why beat it into the ground?” he says. “If they’re pop songs, they’re supposed to be catchy. If they’re long, it negates the pop-ness of them. Some of them have two-minute-long introductions where nothing goes on.”

Even though Expwy is no more, LeGroulx has a bunch of other projects on his plate. He plays in another local rock band with a keen pop ear, Chairs. He’s also playing with synth pop group Ambrose and songwriter Samantha Savage Smith. There’s even a country band in the works, the Spoon Boys, where he’ll be able to flex his improving lap steel chops.

If you haven’t listened to Expwy, you’re missing out on some deliciously warped pop-rock nuggets. Here’s his ode to Montreal from 2012’s EP:

Expwy play their last show opening for Ottawa’s Pony Girl alongside Year of Glad and Bantam Wing at l’Escogriffe (4467 St-Denis) tonight, Thursday, Aug. 28, 10 p.m., $5