Xarah Dion salutes the Montreal scene on her new LP

An interview with the synth wave artist prior to the local launch for Fugitive.


Xarah Dion

Despite the literal connotations of Xarah Dion’s new record title — Fugitive — the singer and synth wave composer is pretty comfortable staying put.

Having been an active player in the local scene since the early aughts, she has never felt the need to seek career opportunities in another city. After all, even a decade after the big indie rock boom, this scene continues to support emerging artists and have reach far beyond Quebec’s borders. Essaie Pas (featuring Dion’s former bandmate in the duo les Momies de Palerme, Marie Davidson) and Kaytranada are only two recent examples of Montreal artists in the electronic field who’ve gained international attention.

“For me and a lot of my colleagues, it seems like it’s been working great to be based here,” Dion says. “There are many institutions here and organizations that are supporting the return of electronic music, synth wave, cold wave and the techno party scene, which is also in a way related.”

Dion is closely tied to the foundation of the current scene not just as a musician but as a cofounder of Mile Ex underground venue la Brique, where a number of Montreal acts got their start recording, playing shows and partying.

“In the last year I’ve played more standard venues,” she says, “but to play at an underground venue or to play at le Ritz or Casa, for me it’s close to the heart. I don’t think a venue has to be underground and DIY and secret to do things from the right place.

“Of course there could always be more alternative venues (like Casa and le Ritz), but the ones that are in place have been very supportive of my work and synth wave and new techno scenes in the past years. They have helped a lot to bring this scene forward, and to give opportunities to international musicians to come and play as well.”

Fugitive is sonically unified but thematically divided into two chapters, one referring to elements of the local music scene, one addressing more personal, intimate issues in Dion’s life. Fans of her live shows and her first album, 2014’s Le Mal Nécessaire, will love the use of her distinctive vocals, sitting between heaven and earth over tricky, propulsive synth riffs recorded live, all-analogue.

“Fundamentally, the arrangements and the approach to recording and even writing is different than the previous record. When things have to be played simultaneously, it changes how the music is orchestrated. I also wanted to have a sound that would be more consistent, so having the same instrumentation for all the songs was central.”

Dion has spent the past few weeks preparing for her record launch this week, and her European tour to come at end of October.

“I’m trying to bring a bit less gear than on my four previous tours, which were maximal,” she says. “But for the launch I will be bringing my studio with me, as I have the pleasure to do at local shows. For now it’s planned as a solo performance but I might have a surprise with me.” 

Xarah Dion launches Fugitive with opener Gold Zebra at Bar le Ritz (179 Jean-Talon W.) on Friday, Sept. 30, 9 p.m., $10