The Peptides’ Claude Marquis explains his dogged search for new musical horizons: back in 2006, armed with a home-recording laptop, a perfectionist’s zeal and a knack for singing beautifully about the fatal flaws in human nature, Marquis and his cohorts gave rise to The Peptides, a refreshingly bizarre blend of music-with-a-message and whimsical, retro-styled theatre.
In typical convention-defying form, The Peptides released not one but two albums this summer: For Those Who Hate Human Interaction and the pared-down North Hero. They followed 2008’s Stereo Stereo and 2007’s I’m a Spy.
The two new albums are quirky and original, but vastly different. One features vocalist DeeDee Butters (pictured). Xtra cornered Marquis to discuss the inspiration behind the social commentary of For Those Who Hate Human Interaction.
Xtra: With such theatrical, expressive music that spans a variety of genres, the first question that comes to mind is where is Claude Marquis from? Where and when did this musical fire ignite?
CLAUDE MARQUIS: I escaped Quebec City at 17 looking for a global perspective. I began writing songs as a kid, and the first tune I composed was something about being dragged to hell. Quite fitting, having been educated in the Catholic public school system.
But what is igniting my fire right now is the G20 debacle. There is a song on the album named “For Those Who Hate When Freedom Hurts,” but it has nothing to do with civil liberties being trampled upon. [Ed note: we wish it did!]
Xtra: You named the band for “addictive chemical neurotransmitters” after switching from painting to music. First of all, why was a switch necessary? And what did these addictive chemical neurotransmitters have to do with it?
CM: Apparently one can become addicted to certain peptides that release emotions. After 13 odd years and numerous exhibits, I had grown accustomed to the painting life, so I had to reprogram my brain, which initially was wary of change and fearful of investigating music. You know, like a crackwhore having to reform into a daytime desk job, for instance.
Xtra: You call The Peptides an art project. What do you mean by this?
CM: Rather than it being a gambit for fame and glory as some pop-music endeavours can be, this effort is an exploration of art within the confines of a fully realized music project. I’ve always believed that if every artist would simply keep their work concealed in their individual homes, it would make for an uninteresting and ugly industrial world. While not every artistic work is pleasing, it is nonetheless imperative to flash open your raincoat… or so say the voices in my head.
Xtra: Do you consider The Peptides to be also a social project, given that For Those Who Hate has an element of social commentary?
CM: The album is definitely a jab at humanity’s more disappointing features. I could have written another 30 songs with all the fodder available, but I actually had to eliminate tracks. There is a song on the cutting-room floor named “For Those Who Hate to Walk Alone,” with the lead vocals performed by local DJ and electronica recording aficionado Dan Valin. The tune was a finger-pointing poke at humanity’s incessant need to conform to religious beliefs for that ever-illusive heavenly hug.
But for Xtra readers, we know that historically most religions are at the very foundation of all worldwide homophobia. Canadian protocol seemingly binds us to politely discuss religious issues as if their dogmas must be forever preserved as cultural heritage. No, I won’t accept or tolerate the deranged superiority complex that believers grab hold of as they subjugate the queer community to a damnation of eternal fiery torment in their warped heads.
And the moderate believers are somehow worse! Would you join the KKK just because they stopped lynching and now have free daycare, yoga and Happy Meals, for instance?
Xtra: For Those Who Hate Human Interaction is deceptive. Such light melodies with dark, over-the-top lyrics. What inspired this, and how did you pull it off?
CM: I’ve been forever dumbfounded by the psychological trappings of human behaviour. So when I read a restaurant guide’s critique describing an “apathetic” burrito joint in Burlington, Vermont, as a good place to go “for those who hate human interaction,” it sparked a musical theme in my head. It would all seem destined for a dire and heavy output, but all of the songs are specifically catchy in order to trick one into humming along to humanity’s demise.
Xtra: You’ve said you move from recording project to recording project. What can listeners look forward to next?
CM: Moving helps quell the worrisome fact that as I lose myself in music, there is a great number of the human population scavenging for food and water. Our next gush, titled Love Question Mark, will be the mirror album of For Those Who Hate Human Interaction. We’ve got some ’80s electronica alongside a mishmash of ’60s-tinged tunes, a Ravel’s Boléro-esque spoken-word sex education tune, almost 100 one-word adjectives, adverbs and verbs describing love set to an oompah brass band, and lots of searing ballads of love lost and found. You can consider it a musical rainbow flag, for instance!