A short but sweet half-hour set by Ottawa-based duo Etoile Noire drew a roomful of listeners into The Papery at Bank and Fifth early Friday night. The two stood side-by-side in the store front nook, armed with guitars and mics, to deliver their Canadiana blend of country, folk, and roots/rock.
Lead guitarist and vocalist Justin Trudeau and singer, guitarist and percussionist Fabien Melanson have each built up a solid history of musical experience. They also have a strong network of fans and fellow musicians from their solo and band careers. Together, their collaborative efforts have brought a diverse array of styles that are evident in their music, with sophisticated structure, great rhythms, and lyrics that are filled with both poetry and wit. The past year has been going at a whirlwind pace for the duo, beginning with the release of their first single “Gone” in February followed by a hefty handful of well-attended gigs, including an invite to do two back-to-back Marvest shows. They release their first full length album on November 8 at LIVE! On Elgin, and are already planning their east coast tour to follow.
The set began with “Native Girl” which featured Fabien’s warm vocals and Justin’s great lead work, followed by the country-flavoured and quick-paced, “Get Stoned.” I enjoyed some great chicken-picking guitar work by Justin, as well as some nice counter vocal melodies. The two also each brought one of their own songs into play: Justin’s “Tripping On Emotion” conveyed a personal world of hurt that somehow spun into this great song with a happy vibe, and witty lyrical content. I loved the half-time drop into the chorus, harmonies, and more counter melodies near the end. Next, it was Fabien’s turn to play his own song of heartbreak, “Room For One.” Its country-infused flowing melody featured a catchy foot-stomp box rhythm that carried its way straight into the feet of the listeners.
One of their newer songs, “Shadow Of The City”, was a beautiful three-quarter-timed, piece of folk magic that featured a nice change into the chorus. It was another example of the small details of interesting twists, turns, and textures they write into their music. The two finished off the set with their single, “Gone”, and the crowd got into the song’s rhythm and energy. The two then took their set over to Whole Foods Market, which I’m sure stirred up a whole new crop of fresh fans. The time and care that Etoile Noire put into writing their songs makes each one a work of art, and completely memorable, as I left with the sound of their music still swirling in my head.
Spotlight on Marvest will introduce you to the talented music makers in Ottawa performing FREE! shows as part of the Marvest offshoot of CityFolk.
Friday Sept 15, 2017 – 7:00 PM – The Papery (850 Bank St)
Friday Sept 15, 2017 – 8:15 PM – Whole Foods Market (951 Bank St)
What was your reaction to the news you’d be a part of Marvest and who was the first person you told?
Justin: I was quite excited and actually surprised considering the youth of our project.
Fabian: I was in a drive-thru when the call came in and a little frazzled. But the people at Marvest were very nice and pleasant to work with. I am excited to be part of the artists performing, and looking very much forward to our shows.
Please describe your sound.
Justin: Like indie rockers trying their hand at country
Fabian: Southern style grooves. Organic beats. Folk, country, indie, etc. Sounds like Steve Earle, Gordon Lightfoot, to arena rock like Kings of Leon and The Black Keys.
How did you get started on your musical journey?
Justin: As a young boy I borrowed the “Stevie Ray Vaughn Live at the El Mocambo”. I haven’t been able to put my guitar down since.
Fabian: I grew up with music around me. I grew up in a large family of musicians in the maritime of Canada. I enjoy helping people. I believe music is the number one source of healing energies, emotional distress, and brings people together in harmony.
What can music fans expect from your show? Will you be playing or releasing any new music?
Justin: People can expect a sense of intimacy and truth. Perhaps even surprise as well as a temptation to tap a foot.
Fabian: Groovy, organic beats and sounds using only acoustic guitars. Bilingual Canadian poetic lyrics. Unique yet familiar compositions in dynamic arrangements. Listenerscan expect to be taken for a musical journey.
What artists are you hoping to catch during this year’s Cityfolk and Marvest?
Justin: Looking forward to catching, Jack Johnson, Nathaniel Ratliff
Fabian: Very much looking forward to Jack Johnson, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Amanda Marshall, Father John Misty, Broken Social Scene, Danielle Allard and Matt Mayes. I am also looking forward to hearing these other artists I haven’t heard before.
Connect with Étoile Noire:
Gig Pick: Étoile Noire at Marvest
By Terry Steeves on September 11, 2017
Étoile Noire is an Ottawa-based acoustic duo formed in 2016, made up of long-time musicians Fabien Melanson and Justin Trudeau. Fabien’s great lead vocals, rhythm guitar and stomp box, combined with Justin’s formidable lead guitar licks and vocals have woven the perfect blend and balance of two musicians showcasing their amazing talents. Each have had separate musical careers for many years, and are well-known on Ottawa’s music scene. Apt613 asks how the two came to connect and discover their chemistry for songwriting:
Fabien: “We got booked together playing cover shows in the past, but we realized there was a connection musically. We found we could read each other very well, knew where we were going next in the song, and seemed to do that very effortlessly. So we thought something like that was worth exploring, and we both have experience writing songs.”
Justin: “We really locked ourselves in my kitchen for pretty much the whole of last winter. Almost everyday, we would just sit there and write, focusing on one line at a time, then another, and so on until we had a verse. Then we’d move onto the chorus the same way. Sometimes we’d just talk about the theme of the song, every aspect of how we want it to sound. We’re both pretty picky and we had a lot of those ‘hair standing up on the back of the neck’ moments. We’ve both been involved in many projects. Me myself mostly as a guitarist, Fabien as a singer, but I’ve always been interested in singing as well as writing songs.”
In less than a year, Étoile Noire has gone from writing songs to releasing their single “Gone” this past February, to playing some key gigs and planning a full length CD launch on November 5th at LIVE! on Elgin. Their recent invite from CityFolk to appear at Marvest this year has been another sign of how quickly the two have been setting off sparks with their music. The two talk to Apt613 about what’s been a whirlwind of a year so far:
Fabien: “We’re in for a full length album and planning a whole year to follow with it. We’ve been lucky with getting invited to play shows like St. John’s Pub in Arnprior to open up for some pretty notorious acts like Julian Taylor and Jeff Martin (Tea Party). Then a couple months ago, we got an email to play Marvest, and they also said they‘d been keeping an eye on us, and that was pretty cool.”
Justin: “All of this has been giving us the motivation to keep working in the studio. It‘s exciting… from that first song we put together on a whim for Valentine‘s Day, to now our new stuff, which is gonna be so different and colourful. Eric Eggleston is our producer… the way he operates the board, he‘s like a magician. Other than a little bit of percussion he‘s added, it‘s just been Fabien and I on the album.”
The two have blended their styles together to create a wide array of genre-hopping organic sounds. Add to that the fact their music features bilingual lyrics and you’ve got a unique duo that celebrates both their French/English heritage. Fabien talks about the music, while Justin tells us about what’s ahead after the album release:
Fabien: “We’ll always be paying respect to the fact we’re a bilingual act. French is such a nice language to sing in, and adding it means we have so many words we can use now. I’m learning more about French and how their poetry goes… French artists too. We’ve got a couple songs that are bilingual in addition to “Gone”. Some others we’ve set out to achieve a little of that southern sound… I think we both love indie Canadiana music… a mix of country, folk, pop, soul, some homemade hip-hop beats. Music is fundamentally rhythm-based, so it’s a really great thing to add stomp box to certain parts of the song. Because we’re duo, we can fill up the soundscape… people like a beat they can hear.”
Justin: “We’re going to be touring that album immediately after the release. We have already a couple gigs booked for the east coast and we’re pretty certain we’ll be filling up the rest of the tour pretty quickly. We’ve also been talking to a Québec promoter who’s very enthused about getting us in those areas. We’re so excited to be able to touch base in that kind of a network.”
Apt613: “Have you ever thought of adding more instruments?”
Justin: “It’s always been in our hopes to bring in more sounds, whether we remain a duo or not. Cause there are ways, and I think we’re gonna try a couple things, maybe some bass tones, and there may or may not be accordion involved…”
Fabien: (laughing) “Apparently I can play accordion…”
Justin: “But as far as being a duo, we love playing the more intimate rooms and it’s been really working out. I love when you can hear a pin drop.”
Étoile Noire perform two sets on Friday September 15. First at The Papery (850 Bank St) from 7–7:30pm and then at Whole Foods Market (851 Bank St) from 8:15–8:45pm. Visit etoilenoire.ca for more about the band and see cityfolkfestival.com for the complete Marvest series schedule.
Our first interview with w/ English Phil and co-host Tariq Anwar!
On Fabruary 14th, 2017 (Valentine's Day), Etoile Noire releases their first single and support video for "Gone". They are songwriting for the next few months with plans to release a full length album in October 2017.
We are so very excited to announce we will be performing at the Marvest/CityFolk festival this year. Visit our Tour section for details :)