Corridor. Photo by Mathieu Zazzo

Montreal’s Corridor makes a bit of music history

An interview with singer Dominic Berthiaume about the band’s exceptional new album.

This summer it was announced that Montreal band Corridor had been signed to one of the oldest and most respected indie labels in North America, Sub Pop, making them the first francophone band on their roster.

In advance of their excellent third album Junior (an impressive amalgamation of a generation of cool guitar music, released on Oct. 18), I spoke to singer/bassist Dominic Berthiaume about the events that led to this new stage of the band’s career.

Lorraine Carpenter: How has signing to Sub Pop changed things for you so far?

Dominic Berthiaume: It’s basically opened doors to a wider market. Before we were mainly focused on Quebec, France, Switzerland and other French-speaking places. We always went where people wanted us to play, but singing to Sub Pop means working with 40 people instead of two or three people like we used to do. We have a big team helping to get our music to a wider audience: publicists, PR, people working on radio. For the past two weeks, we’ve been #1 on alternative commercial radio, which is kind of crazy.

LC: Maybe the status of Sub Pop kind of makes up for the language barrier?

DB: I mean Sub Pop has a huge following on their socials, and the label has existed for 30 years so there are fans who have an unconditional love for the label and they’ll at least listen to everything they release. When they put out our first two music videos, we already had a lot of things going on because of their following.

LC: How much had you played the U.S. and ROC before this?

DB: For the U.S., it all started in early 2018. For Canadian bands and international bands, it’s really expensive to tour in the U.S. in the legit way — we never wanted to go to the U.S. the non-legit way; you can get banned for five years and we didn’t want to risk that for a few shows.

The band has existed since November of 2013, and throughout the years we would hang with other bands, and a lot of them told us to never go to SXSW — “it’s a shitty festival,” “it gives you nothing” — so we never did South By. Then in 2018 we thought, “Let’s do it, and we’ll see how shitty it is.” In the end it wasn’t shitty at all for us because this is where everything started for our U.S. career. We met some people in bands that invited us to be their opening act, and that really helped us to build an audience there. South By was where we signed the contract for U.S. touring.

In Canada, we played a bit in the Maritimes and Ontario but never the Prairies or B.C.

LC: So where did Sub Pop first hear you?

DB: It was when we played M for Montreal in 2016, and the co-president of the company was there. M does francophone showcases where usually none of the international delegates go, but by chance this guy was there and he really liked what he saw. At that time it wasn’t a question of getting signed but it was a first foot in the door.

In 2017 we released our second album, which still had really good reception and I don’t know how but some people in the Sub Pop office really enjoyed it. Then for the label signing we had recorded four demos and our touring agent asked us if he could send it to some people he knew and he sent it to one of the Sub Pop A&R guys, who was really into it. He flew from Seattle to New York to see our show and a couple of days later they sent us a contract by email.

LC: I understand that this album was made really quickly. Do you feel like that got you better results somehow?

DB: We’re still not sure, not until the album gets released and we get feedback from people around us. We feel in the band that it’s too recent to judge anything, but the production sounds really good, and closer to our live sound so I’m quite happy about that. It’s a little less lo-fi and muddy. Maybe, for the creative process, next time I’d like to do something between what we just did and what we used to do. Our two first albums, we might have taken too much time to make them, but the last one was a little too fast.

LC: You had the same producer though, right, Emmanuel Ethier? Aside from the scheduling, what did you strive to do differently with him?

DB: We wanted the record to sound big, and Emmanuel knew what mistakes we had made with him in the past. With this one, he really knew what he wanted — everything had to be loud. ■

Corridor plays the M for Montreal festival with opener Absolutely Free at le National (1220 Ste-Catherine E.) on Friday, Nov. 22, 9 p.m., $21.50/$25