FELP HELP félix petit

Producer Félix Petit put out the call to famous friends for his debut as FELP

An interview with Petit about his solo EP HELP, feat. les Louanges, Hubert Lenoir, Laurence-Anne, Klô Pelgag, HAWA B and more.

In the sweltering noon-hour heat on the first official day of summer, Félix Petit seems to be chilling right at home in the comfort of Rosemont-la-Petite-Patrie’s hybrid café/record store, 180g. 

As coffee orders are placed, one of the shop’s co-owners lifts the flaps on a square cardboard package and shows us the goods. The box contains a stack of vinyl copies of Petit’s first official label release as FELP: a solo EP, aptly titled HELP.

With 10 tracks and 3 interlude segues clocking in at just under 27 minutes, HELP arrives right on time. Which, considering how busy its creator keeps himself with an already-flourishing (albeit more behind-the-scenes) music career, is saying a lot.

Petit is a go-to studio producer for some of Quebec’s most bankable young talents. Les Louanges, Hubert Lenoir and Laurence-Anne are just a few of the artists Petit regularly works with. All three show up to HELP. So do Greg Beaudin, Klô Pelgag, HAWA B and even more, still. 

Because when talents like les Louanges and Lenoir need somebody — not just anybody — to bring their visions to life, they get by with a little help from Petit. So when, early in the pandemic, he began composing his own solo project, they showed up for him in kind.

“Very early in the process, I called the guests,” Petit explains.

“For example, Hubert joined very early in the process. We did it all in one session, all the vocal recordings. And for three years, I kept those demo recordings on the tracks. And at the end, during the mix, he sent the new vocal recording.”

During that period, artists wanted to record their own albums, and Petit had no shortage of production work. HELP, he explained, was a slow burn, but one he managed to take on with intention when small opportunities to advance presented themselves.

“It was very efficient. I’d have like two days to do a song. So if someone was open to doing something, I’d tell them I wanted them on a song and ask if they were available.”

“Then Bonsound gave me a deadline, so I managed my time over one month to close the deal.” 

And with that, as Petit and friends mixed and mastered their way through many late nights, HELP finally arrived.

And the result, despite its brief run time, is a sprawling exercise in controlled chaos. HELP is a woozy, trippy, highly nuanced affair, unstuck in time and unencumbered by pretense or pomp, and structured such that listeners might find any number of moments in the groove to lend their attention.

“I wanted the pacing and the project to be short because I know, based on my experience, I like half an hour of music!” Petit laughs. 

“If something begins and ends in half an hour, I’m very happy with that. I wanted HELP to be, like, flash-music.”

Music, Petit offered, is the only art form that can bend time. That can be a blessing or a curse, to his mind.

“Sometimes one minute of music can feel like two hours of jail,” he says. “You have to skip it. I’m okay with skipping. I’ve skipped a lot of songs in my life.”  

Babyfoot by FELP feat. Klô Pelgag

FELP makes sample music with a composer’s ear for structure, a musician’s ear for style, a beatmaker’s taste for experimental time signatures and sample layering, and a studio professional’s intuition for seeing a creative idea through to the finish line with its artistic vision intact.

This is how Petit approaches production for every project he collaborates on.

“I’m here for the artist. When I’m doing an album, I try to really accompany them, to take their ideas, get those ideas clear, and not be putting myself in there. And I live for that. Production is all-encompassing.

“Whatever it is that permits a record to be produced, if you know how to do it, you’ve gotta do it. Recording, composing, arranging, beat-making, whatever. A producer takes the idea and makes a record with it. And I like that because it’s concrete.” 

Petit moved to Montreal at the age of 18 from his small hometown of Besançon, France, to study saxophone at Université de Montreal. 

There, he met like-minded musicians with whom he plays to this day. In earlier incarnations of FELP (and its sister band, Chienvoler), Petit and his jam partners would mount near-three-hour live shows for like-minded music nerds. 

“Nobody could guess which song was from which band that was playing. It was weird P-Funk vibes!” 

And with a little more help from his friends (including keyboardist Jérôme Beaulieu, drummer William Côté, bassist Jérémi Roy, vocalist Em Pompa and all of the guests on HELP), FELP performs the first-ever and possibly only live presentation of the entire project at the Montreal Jazz Fest on July 7.

“I wanted to take my chance to put something out there that might enlarge the spectrum of what we can hear. Sometimes, music starts to go in the same direction,” offered Petit.

“With HELP, I wanted to showcase how things can be done a little differently.” ■

For more on FELP, please visit his Bandcamp page.

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

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