Bibi Club

Montreal, meet Bibi Club, the king and queen of living room party music

We spoke with the local indie/dream/jangle pop duo whose debut album Le soleil et la mer has made waves internationally, and quickly earned them a following here at home.

Bibi Club, comprised of real-life couple Nicolas Basque (one-third of Plants and Animals) and Adèle Trottier-Rivard, have emerged as a force within Montreal’s music scene in a relatively short time since their debut album, Le soleil et la mer, was released last August on Secret City.

Mixing genres like indie pop, jangle pop and dream pop (as well as jazz, folk, post-punk and plenty of others in between), their tunes immediately stand out with their heavy use of reverb, bilingual vocals and glistening instrumentation. Bibi Club’s palette of influences is a diverse one, too: Stereolab, Suicide, Alice Coltrane, Air, Mount Kimbie and Talking Heads, to name a few.

Le soleil et la mer had been recorded between 2020 and 2021, during peak pandemic times. The duo attributes the delay to indecision as to whether or not to self-release the album, coupled with not having a team at the time to help guide them. 

“Because we’re a couple, we were like, ‘We need to have people to help us out, because we’ll go crazy if that’s all we do with our lives,’” Basque says. “We got lucky. We found management, then they helped us out and we sent the record around. That’s why it took a while. It’s just long. Every label and everybody in the music industry was exhausted because they had to cancel and rebook so many things. They had a pile of records that were not released, or had to be released, or that they maybe didn’t even want to release anymore.”

The past half-year since the album came out has been exciting for the duo — a busy time, of course, but one where it feels like a foundation is being built. While the logistics can be challenging at times, since the couple have children at home (one child together and two from Basque’s previous relationship), Basque says they’re “really well-surrounded” by their families and their team.

“We’ve been travelling a lot since the release, which is great. Not really eco-friendly or planet-friendly (laughs), but I’m quite happy about that,” adds Trottier-Rivard, who mentions they’ve been meeting tons of new people while touring, as the band recently performed in Brazil and have played shows in France on several occasions.

“I feel we’re learning a lot about ourselves, playing live,” Basque adds. “When the codes are different, you start almost forgetting about yourself, and you can let loose in a different way. There’s something that’s been really fun about playing in places where nobody knows who we are. It’s almost like you’re the underdog. You have to not really convince them, but invite them to be part of that musical experience.”

Bibi Club March issue cover Cult MTL
Bibi Club on the cover of the March 2023 issue of Cult MTL

Their partnership started out as a musical one before gradually blooming into something more. Trottier-Rivard met Basque while she was touring alongside Plants and Animals, and while she’d also been working with their frontman Warren Spicer on an album for Ludovic Alarie. 

The two met through Spicer, and Trottier-Rivard then started coming to Plants and Animals’ sessions. She and Basque would also go to the same shows in Montreal (watching artists like Suuns and Moonface), and occasionally play together on stage. While on the road in Canada and the U.S., the two started sharing musical ideas with one another, which they’d continue upon returning to Montreal.

“I was working on some ideas by myself, but I knew that I needed someone else to share ideas with,” says Trottier-Rivard. “Nico was this huge artistic revelation (for me). I was like, ‘That’s the person I want to share those things with.’”

The two had another band prior to Bibi Club, which started as a project with video artists. “It was a bit more epic and darker, in a way,” Basque continues. “At some point, we took the time to start working on the record, and we were like, ‘You know what? We want to start from scratch. That’s not what we want to be musically.’”

After resetting their musical approach, Bibi Club released their self-titled debut EP in May 2019. The name originates from their living room where they and their loved ones — their “bibis,” aka their children, friends and family — would come and have a mini dance-party. It also pulls from the Arabic word “habibi,” meaning “darling” or “my dear” (Trottier-Rivard’s aunt is from Morocco, and would frequently call her “bibi” growing up).

“Adèle calls everybody she likes ‘bibi,’” Basque continues. “At some point during the pandemic, it was madness in the house. Through all the sounds, she’s like, ‘I think I’ve got a name for the band! What about Bibi Club?’ We’re like, ‘Ah, that feels right!’ 

“There’s also something (in the name) that felt connected to the music. There’s something a bit joyful in the music. At the same time, we always try to keep tension. So there’s the ‘club’ part, but at the same time, it sounds like it’s not a ‘happy’ project.”

Trottier-Rivard, who says that dichotomy reminds her of artists like British post-punks Dry Cleaning, adds that she and Basque are inspired by “music that has a certain spirituality or depth, but is still joyful, playful and not dark.”

“Bellini” by Bibi Club

As a temporary respite from their lives as parents (their kids are often around while they’re rehearsing in their basement and/or recording demos of new songs on their phones), Basque and Trottier-Rivard took LSD one night during lockdown. “It was a long journey,” Trottier-Rivard says of their eight-hour trip — no travelling puns intended.

“It had been six months. Schools were closed,” adds Basque. “At the time, we were living in a smaller apartment, the five of us, and doing school at home. We were going crazy. At some point, we booked the studio, and we were like, ‘We can’t just be parents. We’ve got to be artists.’” 

The two had an instrumental number they’d been wanting to track whilst in the studio. “I didn’t have to sing on that song, so we thought, ‘We could get high!’,” Trottier-Rivard says.

Though it was a fun experience, their booked studio time meant they’d be going down the rabbit hole during broad daylight. By 4 p.m., the song was tracked and recorded. “We did two takes, and then it was just like, ‘Oh, that’s just too much for us!,’” Basque says while Trottier-Rivard takes a swig of water next to him and nearly spits it out laughing.

The end result of their afternoon acid-fuelled adventures? “Bellini,” the nine-and-a-half minute instrumental that serves as Le Soleil et la mer’s woozily danceable penultimate track. “That’s the LSD song,” Trottier-Rivard adds.

In case you’re reading that and asking if that’s why it wound up being such a long song, it was already structured that way beforehand. Right before COVID hit in March 2020, Basque hosted a dual-night event at Ursa (Martha Wainwright’s community space on Parc Avenue) where he and different friends would jam and improvise. Adèle was there with him one night, and already had “Bellini”’s chords locked down. Basque wrote the melody, and the two tested the song out that night. 

“A lot of friends after the show were like, ‘You should record that song! There’s something good in that jam,’” he continues. “We always had it in the back of our mind… It was improv, so I had a timer for 10 minutes. We knew what would happen at each moment. But when we recorded it, it was the inner clock! (laughs)”

Another track borne from one of those jam nights at Ursa was “Femme-Lady,” which Cult MTL placed atop our Top 52 Montreal Songs of 2022 list. While jamming there with Erika Angell of Thus Owls, Basque was working on a beat and chord progression he’d eventually bring to the studio, where Trottier-Rivard would lay down vocals.

“We could imagine a group of people singing that song,” she adds. “At some point, we invited my sister and my mom to sing at the end. It felt like a genuine thing to do, to reunite for a song and have the three of us sing together. We had our launch at POP Montreal last fall, and we had a group of friends singing this song with us on stage.” 

The “Femme-Lady” in question is also neither a femme nor a lady, but an “ugly” pineapple-shaped chandelier given to Trottier-Rivard’s sister by their mother that they randomly decided to christen with that name. “Because (Adèle’s) mom and her sister were on (the song), we kept the inside joke,” Basque says. “At the same time, there’s a meaning behind it. It resonates in a weird way, ‘femme-lady’ — it feels like it’s from another era, or something!”

“Femme-Lady” by Bibi Club

Bibi Cub haven’t just been making waves locally, either. In March, they’ll be heading to Austin, TX for SXSW and Boise, ID for the Treefort Music Fest. Shows have also been booked later this spring in France, Germany and Wales, as well as for the Great Escape festival in Brighton, England in May. The duo have also headed back into the studio to record more new music (“We have a bunch of new ideas,” Trottier-Rivard says).

In late January, they travelled all the way to Brazil to perform at the SIM festival in São Paulo. Alongside fellow Montreal artist Fernie (who was born there and speaks Portuguese), Bibi Club spent an “intense” week down in Brazil’s biggest city, where they played two shows. 

“We saw some beautiful things, beautiful plants. We ate some amazing food, and also met really nice people,” Trottier-Rivard says about their experience. The duo played two showcases, including one for the Brazilian indie label Balaclava, who’ve had artists play POP Montreal in the past.

“They were asking us, ‘Do you know Beaver? Do you know Dan Seligman?’” Basque adds. “It felt like we made friends… Now we have people we know over there. Musically, it was a rich experience. We came back burnt out from the whole thing, and at the same time, enriched from all the meetings! (laughs)”

Clearly, Basque and Trottier-Rivard make quite the musical pair, and not just a romantic one, and they’ve jokingly referred to each other in the past as “both our favourite artist to work with.” So what makes their mutual musical chemistry come so naturally? They speak the “same musical language” — in fact, Basque thought Trottier-Rivard was the best singer he’d ever heard from the first time she tracked vocals next to him, and Trottier-Rivard has felt a similar euphoria while hearing him play guitar.

“Once, I cried during Nico’s guitar solo,” she continues. “I’d never cried during a guitar solo in my life. He was playing with his other project, and it’s like he was dying onstage. I started to cry. It was really moving.”

Though they bring different areas of musical expertise to the table, their skill sets complement one another nicely, whether they’re focused on the more creative or technical side of their music. Since it’s just the two of them while in the studio, it also gives them a lot of space to themselves to experiment.

“We get the chance to try things for the first time,” Trottier-Rivard says. “I’ve been trying a bit more to engineer (songs) — more than I ever did in the past, because Nico let me try.”

The dynamic of performing live as a duo is also one they enjoy, and Basque describes it as “a bit like being in a circus without a net. If one of us stops playing or singing, everything falls apart. It demands that we have to be focused and ready, but it’s really nourishing at the same time. It’s wild, so it’s fun.” ■

For more on Bibi Club, please visit the band’s website.

This article was originally published in the March 2023 issue of Cult MTL.

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