Ping Pong Go

Photo by Érika Essertaize

For Ping Pong Go, jazz and video games go hand in hand

Vincent Gagnon and P-E Beaudoin have played with loads of local bands but were only able to make this dream a reality when COVID-19 isolated them in a house with 30 synths.

Ping Pong Go is a brand new instrumental gamer jazz project from pianist Vincent Gagnon and drummer P-E Beaudoin. Having worked and toured with artists like Hubert Lenoir, Lou-Adriane Cassidy, Keith Kouna, Tire le Coyote, Ariane Roy and Gabrielle Shonk both are already well-known collaborators in the scene but have always wanted to form their own project. 

It wasn’t until March 2020, when they were both on tour with Lou-Adriane Cassidy, that their dreams became a reality. The tour was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic and both were quarantined in Gagnon’s home in Quebec. But luckily, they were surrounded by around 30 synths, a drum set and a ping pong table.  

“We spent most of our time playing ping pong, improvising music and recording it, ending up with several ideas for new tunes,” says Beaudoin. “Later on, we resumed composing and started the actual album’s recording. It was so much fun that Ping Pong Go soon became our main focus.”

Ping Pong Go’s sound could pair nicely with a retro 8-bit videogame, sometimes sounding like the ambient work of Brian Eno or the dancey synth pop of Daft Punk. There’s even an electronic tribute to Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong on the debut self-titled album. 

“At some point, you’ll hear stuff that may sound like Kenny G jamming over Top Gun’s opening track,” Beaudoin says. “The most obvious influences on this record are soundtracks from vintage video games: upbeat songs with simple, epic and catchy melodies.”

The pair never intended on leaving their mark on the gamer jazz genre but found that when they were jamming, they preferred the childlike melodies and wonderment found in vintage games. Just think of some old N64 video games — what’s the first thing that pops into your mind when recounting those days? It’s probably the music. 

Though, interestingly, none of the Ping Pong Go music is computer-generated or sampled. Ping Pong Go strives to use real instruments for every track.

“We are players rather than producers or composers,” Beaudoin says. “We did not feel like sequencing stuff.” 

This makes and Ping Pong Go live show all the more compelling, featuring a bunch of synths, a drumset and a guest musician on bass. 

“We do try to strike a balance between the album’s versions and freedom for everyone in the band to improvise,” Beaudoin says. “We add Dominique Plante or Cedric Martel on bass and Lysandre Ménard on keys, so there are a lot of synths on the stage. The energy is there, and the fun, too.” ■

Ping Pong Go launch their album at la Sala Rossa (4848 St-Laurent) on Wednesday, April 27, 8 p.m., free. For more on Ping Pong Go, please visit their Bandcamp page.

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