Montreal DJ and producer Ghislain Poirier is used to travelling and playing parties around the world, but the temporarily grounded artist has found a silver lining in being a homebody while his latest album of globe-spanning sounds, Soft Power, sees the light of day.
“I’m happy about the vibe of the album, even during the pandemic,” says Poirier. “The album wasn’t made for the club, so even though I can’t DJ these songs right now, the album stands on its own and hopefully will bring good vibes to people.”
Soft Power once again finds Poirier dipping his toes in the transatlantic span between the Caribbean and Africa. He’s as loyal as ever to longtime collaborators Boogat, Red Fox and Samito, who all appear on the album, but he also used the album’s more casual, calm vibes to make a new foray into chilled out Brazilian music working alongside a couple of Flavia’s: Parisian Flavia Coelho on the velouté single “Café Com Leite” and Sherbrooke’s own Flavia Nascimento on “Me Leva.” He also worked with Canadian-Haitian artist Mélissa Laveaux for the first time.
Put it all together, and Poirier’s new collection of tracks suits a Montreal summer backyard hang amongst friends.
“I feel the title describes the album socially and politically, but also artistically,” he says. “Artistically speaking, it’s softer than what I’m used to, it’s more song-oriented. I wanted to make a mellow album that could be with the people in the background or foreground. In a certain way, I made an album that’s exactly what I want to listen to at home. I do love DJing and making people dance, but I love being home and chilling, too.”
Has the founder of legendary local parties Qualité de Luxe and Bounce le Gros before it lost his festive spirit? Not quite, as he says the former will return to its monthly status as soon as it’s safe to do so.
The word that keeps coming back in describing his current mood, in the making of Soft Power pre-lockdown and now in our current state, is vibe. It’s why he likes going back to his usual collaborators while also exploring and finding new ones along the way.
“Making music isn’t about one night, it’s about establishing relationships,” he says. “There’s a lot to say in making songs with people you feel the vibe with. A song is a snapshot or a moment in time, so when you make a song with somebody, that one song won’t say everything you need to say. When you’re able to make more songs with people, it’s like having more dates with someone. You can go deeper and explore more themes with them.
“There are many ways to work with vocalists. Sometimes you send them a track and they send back their part. I don’t really work that way. I’m more about connecting and talking about life, by phone or in person, and the song is a result of that vibing. We could do a three-hour session and the first two and a half hours don’t even involve music, it’s just talking. Even if it’s not in the music, it will still influence the vibe of the song. There’s a better understanding of what you’ll do together.”
It’s also that act of creating and retaining those bonds over the years that gives Soft Power, and everything Poirier does (think titles like Migration, Boundary etc.) an unspoken political edge.
While he didn’t guide his vocalists in any particular direction in terms of subject matter, the sum of Soft Power’s parts serves as a statement on working together and bringing your life experiences towards a common goal.
“I wanted to bring forward a sense of unity with the album,” he says. “For me, it’s a 2020 album from Quebec, but it’s also a reflection of the music that’s happening around the world at the moment. Some people talk the talk, but this album is more about walking the walk.”
That being said, Poirier’s a white guy working in BIPOC music milieus. So what’s the respectful way to go about it?
“It goes back to what I think is most important about making music: it’s about meeting people and spending time with them sharing experiences. You have to spend time with people, you have to spend time to understand their journey, their trajectory and their struggle. If you try to view collaboration as a transaction, that’s where things can go bad. Each person is unique and comes with their own experiences, and you can’t ignore that. You have to understand the people you make music with, and they have to understand you. That connection will be reflected in the music in the end,” Poirier says.
“It’s easy to fall into that trap because capitalism is built on transactions and the monetization of our time, so when you try to do something fast, you don’t take the time to understand what’s going on. Making art, music or even a party, it takes time, reflection and applying what you see to make people feel included and for it to feel like a true dialogue.” ■
Soft Power is available now.
For more Music coverage, please visit our Music section.