It’s criminal, really, that Mark Berube is not properly appreciated in this country. Absent from Polaris lists and hipster lips, Berube hasn’t let his underground status keep him from having his music heard around the world. His next project on that mission is the September 14 release of his EP, Tailored To Fit, which hopefully holds his fans over until his new full-length comes out in early 2011. We asked Berube about his creative process, his ambitious touring and his upcoming musical plans.
1. You’ve got a new full-length in the works — why release an EP in the meantime?
We haven’t released anything since Sep 2008, and we had the Cohen cover and some live recordings we were happy with that won’t go on the album. So we decided to release an EP to show what we’ve been up to, and to give a little sneak preview of the new album by putting the track Tailored to Fit on it (which will be on the new full length album).
2. How is work coming on June In Siberia? Is there a release date yet?
The album is pretty much done, save a few more things. We’re looking at late January 2011 to release it.
3. You’ve lived in different parts of Canada and the world and toured extensively as a musician — how do your travel experiences affect your songwriting?
It makes you appreciate home immensely, especially those few quiet hours around the kitchen table with paper and pen as you try to synthesize it all. Not to say touring isn’t fulfilling, but it’s always nice to come home after a long tour. I find I can only write at home, not on the road. I collect on the road, then shed at home.
4. Why did you select a Leonard Cohen track for your first recorded cover?
I think it’s rare to find a song by someone else that really hits you and becomes a natural part of your repertoire. “First We Take Manhattan” first hit me when I read the lyrics. I hadn’t heard the song yet at that point, and actually embarked on writing a bluesy/faux-tango before hearing the song. I then listened to the recording a few times to get the overall idea, but still kept my original ideas. It was a cool process to go through.
5. You’ve got some European tour dates coming up — how do Euro and North American audiences differ?
I find most Western audiences, North American and European, more or less the same actually. People just want to enjoy themselves while listening to good music that’s sincere. We just try to do our best with keeping those things in mind.
6. Tailored To Fit features live tracks — how does touring play a role in the development of your albums?
The songs always evolve, and sometimes change quite drastically over time. I love it when that happens. It also opens doors idea-wise for future songs.
7. Considering how much touring you’ve done, do you write your material with any particular audience in mind?
No. If the song feels natural and instinctive, that’s good enough for me.
8. You made a move from Vancouver to Montreal. How did that affect your music career?
It’s no secret that Montreal has a very rich music scene that keeps the bar high. That being said, Vancouver does as well. I just really love Montreal as a city. Being half Francophone, the city also offers the other half of our two solitudes that I love. Each day is mad mash of both sides. The city would be ruined if they figured out a way to get rid of that famous tension between the Anglos and the Francos. As far as my music career, I can concentrate more on it because the rent is lower.
9. Which are some of your favourite artists to play with?
For sure the musicians in my band (Patrick Dugas – drums, Kristina Koropecki – cello, Amelie Mandeville – bass), as well as jumping on the stage with the likes of CR Avery, Dan Mangan, The Fugitives, Emily Loizeau to name a few.
10. Is there anywhere you haven’t yet played that you’re really hoping to book in the future?
Would love to go to Iceland and Russia.
11. Finally, what are you plans, music-wise, for the rest of 2010?
I’ll be doing a solo tour out West (BC and Alberta) in Sept-Oct. Then the band and I will be heading for a three-week tour of Switzerland and France in November. Looking forward to a full 2011 as well.
Thanks for the interview,
Photo by Sylvia McFadden, via Creative Commons