After years of composing, artist Antoine Bédard was looking for fresh inspiration.
In an effort to spark his creativity, the Montreal musician, who performs as Montag, gave himself strict parameters for a year-long project.
“I wasn’t productive; I couldn’t write anything. But then I came up with the idea of writing music within a certain timeline so I wouldn’t have any choice but to write something,” he says. “Then I went even further and thought, What if I wrote a song a month for a whole year?”
To further combat “blank page syndrome,” Bédard assigned musical styles to each month. “I had carte blanche for January. I didn’t want any restriction because it was my first one, the single that was going to break the ice. Then the second one, I knew, was going to be psychedelic.”
“Trippy,” “French,” “dreamy,” “spaced out” and “gay beach” were also added to the calendar. “This was a way for me to not write the same song over and over again,” Bédard says. “It really pushed me to explore music composition in a different way each month.”
The finished product, titled Phases, is an experimental yet cohesive collection.
The most challenging song, “Sunset Explosion,” Bédard says, came from the month he designated for rock — because “I’m not a rocker,” he laughs. “There were definitely some challenges with each restriction, but some styles were more challenging than others.”
Bédard is no stranger to musical challenges: he has composed several theatre pieces, dabbled in sound design and cofounded a successful gay club night at Montreal’s Royal Phoenix called Audio Porn Club.
He has also composed a number of “soundwalks,” where participants download MP3s and follow set routes through various urban settings.
One 2011 soundwalk features music by other composers and showcases the architecture of Ottawa. (The piece, calledPolytectures, is available for download at artengine.ca.) More recently, Bédard collaborated with author Sophie Mankowski to create soundwalks that highlight downtown Montreal and the remnants of Expo ’67.
“Doing the first walk opened me to the artistic dimension of architecture,” Bédard says. “What inspired me was to write music that is the translation of the language of architecture. What’s the sound of a building? How can you translate the mood of a building into a sound? What would be the voice of a particular building and why? I had a lot of fun exploring that.”
Bédard is an out and proud man, but he says he never strives to create specifically gay art or music.
“Relationships really affect the way I write music. I’m not sure if it’s sexuality, really, but I’m not going to be afraid to say ‘he’ when I refer to someone that I love or something that I experience in my romantic life. That ‘you’ that I talk to will always be the boy, and I’m going to make that obvious in the lyrics,” he says.
Bédard’s upcoming appearance at the Mercury Lounge will be the first in which he is accompanied by a full band. He says he’s looking forward to creating a “bigger, fuller sound.”
“That trio really brings a lot of strength to the live performance. I’m so excited to share the songs.”