Duchess Says Special Blend
Published Oct 31, 2016Duchess Says are at the beginning of a world tour in support of their new record, Sciences Nouvelles, when singer Annie-Claude Deschênes drops a bombshell on the whole campaign. "We didn't want to play these songs live, really," she confesses over the phone from Washington, DC.
Immediate, confrontational and unpredictable, the self-described Montreal "moog rock" band's riotous, audience-activating live exploits are well-documented, so as they prepare to hit the road with their first new album since 2011's In a Fung DAY T!, it's not the candour you'd expect.
Deschênes describes this record as a more concerted studio undertaking — one so committed to its experimental process that it inspired the band to build their own recording studio, "to be closer to [their] ideals." The live show was an afterthought.
Deschênes explains that the group inevitably incorporated some of the tracks into their live performances, workshopping cuts like "Negative Thoughts," "I Repeat Myself," "Inertia," "Inertia Part II," and "I'm an Idea" in concert for a little more than year. As a result, she says, those songs are "more structured."
Sure, some passages on Sciences Nouvelles are abstract, but even the looser entries qualify as songs. Delivered in English, French and onomatopoeia, the album borrows from arty new wave and post-punk acts like Talking Heads, Public Image Ltd, Devo and Bauhaus, but it's all shot through a modernist, avant-garde lens.
While "Talk in Shapes" is a futurist sound poem "based on a graphic that [the band] tried to illustrate with music," "The Family Physicians," Deschênes says, is a prescriptive, dadaist cutup assembled out of sentences of found texts from science magazines.
"It's kind of a mission we've been on for 12 years," says Deschênes, explaining that the art-forward approach is part of a larger project to synthesize visual art and music. "I don't think we've reached our goals yet, but we're on it."
Watch the video for Sciences Nouvelles track "Negative Thoughts" below.