The debut album by Montreal duo Hildegard, track by track

We spoke to Helena Deland and Ouri about their mystical music collaboration.

It is surprising to learn that Helena Deland and Ouri (Ourielle Auvé) were only acquaintances before Hildegard. They had known each other for years, but never spent time together one-on-one. Their managers shared an office and thought to themselves that it would be a great idea to book a studio for them. Deland reminisces about this.

“They came up with this idea and booked a studio for us, for eight days. At the time, we didn’t really question it. We just knew each other’s stuff and liked it. It turned out that we had a great musical chemistry. We didn’t at all kind of think that we were going to start a band together.”

Hildegard is born of that organic musical chemistry. While both of the artists have established careers in different backgrounds, they come together as one on their eponymous album. Hildegard is an excursion in their world, one they buiploreld together through those 8 days in a studio. What came from this is an experimental gem. Hildegard shows Ouri and Deland pure talent, from solo acts to a supergroup. Every song in the album is connected to their days in the studio, showing the process of them getting to know each other. 

“Each day we would create something and push it through the day. Stronger ideas survived the day. We just called each session like this and we didn’t feel like it was necessary to cut this kind of scientific approach from the album packaging,” adds Ouri

Arranged, produced, mixed and mastered by the duo, Hildegard is a very personal project. By deciding to embrace Hildegard of Bingen aura — a mystic nun from the Middle Ages who was also a scholar, a musician and a scientist — the two musicians became one, intertwined. Ouri and Deland say that at some point, it felt like she was with them. Deland adds that Hildegard of Bingen seemed to have contained multitudes, as if she had many lives and rallied them into one united force.

“The experience was extremely pleasant for both of us,” says Ouri. “The album is all about female pleasure and also about healing and all of that. It was not intentional, but I feel like she was kind of the ultimate expression of our experience.”

Deland and Ouri walked us through the album, through the inspiration and what each song means for them.

“Jour 1”

“Jour 1”

Deland: “‘Jour 1’ is our first night together. We were starting at the beginning of the afternoon and we had exchanged playlists. Some of the songs that we both really resonated with were more clubby. Maybe because at that point, we weren’t super close yet, it was easy to kind of bond on this party level. And we were also having a drink.”

Ouri: “It was just like the collision of the two (Ouri and Deland.) We wanted to be harsh, but also express softness. We just kind of traced the lines of the whole spectrum of the album without knowing it.

“Jour 2”

“Jour 2”

Deland: “It’s actually our favourite one. That’s why we wanted it to come out as our first single.”

Ouri: “It’s like, no ego, just resonating with each other and kind of hungover from the day before. We were fully embracing it. We were comforting each other and I don’t know…”

Deland: “We were being so emotionally, emotionally raw. That’s where I feel like we cracked our shells open.”

Ouri: “ We talked about dissociation and we entered more of a deep perspective on ourselves.”

“Jour 3”

Deland: “We didn’t really have a purpose for ‘Jour 3.’ In my head, it’s kind of sloppy, silly, a little bit dissonant. It’s just so simple. It goes like this: Oh, you know, I’m alone, you could call me.’ That’s a very common idea. It’s not anything too out-of-the-box.”

Ouri: “It’s the first time that we ever, like, showed our silly self, you know? We inserted an orgasm sound and we were playful about it. We never tried to do anything, but I feel like with this one, we did something silly musically.”

“Jour 4”

Ouri: “I was super low at the time and I wanted to express it in a lighter way and try to embrace all of the sides, all the layers of voice. I tried to feel, like, accompanied within myself. It was a very weird, emotional experience. It was a bit more personal. It felt such an amazing experience and a less terrible one.”

Deland: “We’d started jamming and ideas were laid down but Ouri definitely took the steering wheel for this one and rode it home. It was trippy for me to see this, and Ouri was kind of sampling songs that I didn’t even know and it was just this beautiful thing coming to life, really.”

“Jour 5”

Deland: “I like its instrumentation a lot. We explored harp, recorded instruments with our iPhones and made the soundtrack. The subject matter was about being a heterosexual woman and dating men. This was like something I was thinking about a lot of the time. I was wondering whether, you know, dating a man was kind of equivalent to relinquishing a little bit of freedom for me. That’s what it’s about, that moment of hesitation.”

“Jour 6″

Ouri:  “It’s a moment. It’s one of these days where maybe we just had to push so much out of ourselves that we were just sitting, one at the piano, the other at the synth. We just played for I don’t know how long. We cut something from that jam. The day we made it, I don’t think we realized what it was, this super simple instrumental. It’s a piece that can really bring comfort in the most vulnerable moments. I’m happy we kept it. It was maybe the least intentional one.”

Deland: “The way I think about ‘Jour 6’ is really… ‘Jour 1,’ ‘Jour 2,’ ‘Jour 3,’ we’re different trying things on and they’re working and it’s exciting.  ‘Jour 4’ and ‘Jour 5’ is still the same kind of motion. And then ‘Jour 6’ is just, like, nothing. It’s really naked. There’s a mistake, you hear the mistake, and you hear the little laughter after. We’re more vulnerable, which I think the record is a lot, but it’s even more first degree. It works on the record as a breathing space. Then it’s back revving the engines again for Jour 7!”

“Jour 7”

Deland: “I like the way Ouri said it the other day. She described it as a Mario Kart landscape!”

Ouri: “You see, like, post-psychedelic. Kind of slow, but still energetic!”

Deland: “It’s about friendship. It’s about us really finding each other. Yeah.”

“Jour 8”

Ouri: “I adore this song. I love it.”

Deland: “For a long time, I had a hard time listening to it, actually, because it’s really personal. It’s telling someone off in a very literal way. It is about someone who clearly did not respect my boundaries. It was just like a hard thing to talk about, but I think it’s really important to do it. I’m kind of amazed at how we did it. We made it work in a song that people can actually relate to. The song is really about being harassed and someone not taking no for an answer. This is scary and really infuriating. Making a song out of a situation like this is really where music is powerful, because I feel like Ouri and I are kind of expressing something in regard to moments where our expression was not at all considered.”

Ouri: “I’ve never had the instinct of writing a song about it. But I’m so happy to have supported the lyrics that Helena wrote and to create the soundtrack. I don’t know, I feel like I don’t have the ovaries to make it right.”

Deland: “It’s really scary, but it’s also so important for everyone to think about.”

At the end of the interview, when asked if they would make more music as Hildegard, both of them laugh and through the screen exchange a playful look before answering yes very happily. If at the beginning they barely knew each other, they are now friends that shared a spiritual experience, and we all want in.

The eponymous album by Hildegard is out on Chivi Chivi Records on June 4, 2021. For more, please visit the band’s website.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.