By Noah Levine
These days it seems there’s no shortage of bands from Montreal, bands with the word “Wolf” in their name and bands pounding out the sounds being labeled dance-punk. We Are Wolves certainly qualifies for all of the above, but the bilingual trio of Quebecois deliver their serrated keyboard rock with an intensity that separates them from their various ilk.
It’s fair to say WAW play dance music, but they bring wildness to it and nothing’s bolted down too tight. At times their sound is really just punk rock with spiky analog keys playing the part usually held down by a distortion-driven guitar.
“The music has attitude, but we’re not, like, trying to kick somebody’s face. It’s supposed to be symbiotic with the crowd,” says Vincent Levesque, who supplies those edgy keys.
He’s joined in his noisy exploits by Alexander Ortiz, who provides a charge at the mic and on bass, and drummer Antonin Marquis, who gives everything its rattle and boom. They met in Montreal’s art community, sharing a common history with hardcore and punk. Levesque believes that background informs what they do today.
“I guess it gave us depth, especially in the ethics of music making,” he explains. “Being something that’s true without being compromised. Somewhere along the way we found that electronics could be part of punk.”
For him in particular that somewhere came in the late 1990s when he discovered the electro-rock of Trans Am and Add N to (X). They showed him how “analog synthesizers can have real depth and anger” and got him interested in their possibilities. WAW came together not too much later.
The band’s approach to these sounds drags their punk tendencies into the club context to pair its irreverence and rough edges with the relentless energy of dance beats. Two-thirds of WAW hold down DJ residencies back in Montreal and they like making music people to get people moving. The way Levesque sees it, the fact that this combination of styles happens to be an “in” sound right now is just a nice coincidence for the band.
“The music was always from the start supposed to be dance-y, but it wasn’t supposed to be ‘the new sound’ because we’ve been doing it for years,” he says.
Still he and the band like what they’re hearing from other bands building the “bridge between rock and dance,” as Levesque puts it. But to him, WAW getting caught up in the hype around these sounds is really no different than the coincidental hype they receive just being a band from Montreal. After all, they live in the musical hotbed the likes of Ghislain Poirier, Chromeo, A-Trak, Islands, Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade call home.
Calling Montreal home does have its advantages as there’s always plenty of press attention on the local scene, but Levesque says that also brings added pressure. Still the music community is friendly and with so many disparate sounds represented everyone is appreciative of what their fellow musicians are putting together.
There’s always plenty of music going on back home with practice spaces and side projects easy to find, but Levesque is also channeling some of his energies into an upcoming art installation that, like all his work, shares a connection with the music he makes.
“It’s more like in general terms of aesthetics,” he says. “It has a bit of a rough edge, always. It kind of has a home made feeling, not a cheapo homemade, but true to what it is.”
That’s really what the band is all about. There’s a barely restrained explosiveness to their music and their performances that comes from the same place Levesque, Ortiz and Marquis come from. Sure they’ve got a lot in common with many bands, but the conviction and attitude behind WAW’s music smashes through and sets them apart.
We Are Wolves perform live at Outdanced, with DJs Mother Hubbard, Rubix Dudes and Mr. Bobby at Funky Buddha Lounge, 728 West Grand, (312)666-1695, on January 22 at 9pm. $5, rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org for free admission before 11pm.