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Choses Sauvages: Totally Wild!

The funky Francophone five-piece reflects on 10 years of untamed rhythms. 

by Stephan Boissonneault

Photos by Stacy Lee | Design by Alex Kidd

Choses Sauvages might not be a punk band per se, but one glance at their raucous live show and it’s no secret that the Montreal-based quintet comes spring-loaded with punk rock sensibilities.

While it might be a surprising sight for newcomers to see lead vocalist Félix Bélisle shirtless, climbing speakers with a microphone cord recklessly wrapped around his neck, after hearing the group’s decidedly contrasting blend of disco and new wave, it becomes clear that Choses Sauvages exist to defy expectations and that’s exactly how they have attracted such a devoted fanbase.

The band — whose name literally translates to “Wild Things” — have started to develop a reputation for putting on one of the most entertaining, energetic and unforgettable live shows in Montreal and beyond. Aware of the possible language barrier between them and their quickly growing English speaking audience, performing all of their music in French was actually a catalyst behind their desires to channel their inner Iggy Pop and the Stooges on stage. Now focusing solely on singing live—he used to play bass as well—Bélisle mentions that he always tries to “one-up” himself when performing out in the, well, wild. 

“I’m singing in French and they probably don’t understand shit, so I wanted them to have something to remember.”

“I always go to the venue before the show and sort of scope it out to look at the possibilities to fuck around,” says Bélisle. “I remember shows on the East Coast and there were maybe like 12 people eating, and I was dancing on the tables, just trying to stir the pot. I’m singing in French and they probably don’t understand shit, so I wanted them to have something to remember.”

Sometimes he will directly ask a security guard if he can climb something like a rafter. “They’ll always say ‘No you can’t,’ but he will do it anyway,” guitarist Marc-Antoine Barbier laughs.

It’s now been a decade since Choses Sauvages debuted their sound, releasing two full-lengths in that time simply titled Choses Sauvages and Choses Sauvages II. Sitting at a picnic table outside of their jam space surrounded by circling pigeons, the band are celebrating the release day of their latest single, “Pression,” a one-off single built around ghostly vocals and a steadily building synth loop that bubbles under the surface, eventually breaking out. 

“Pression,” which translates to “pressure” in English, is a funky techno-adjacent tune about anxiety and feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders. But what is the band feeling pressure from, and is it the same as when it all began 10 years ago? “The first single was back in 2013, when we were barely able to play our instruments,” says drummer Philippe Gauthier-Boudreau. “So I don’t think we were feeling any pressure back then, or even thinking about things like a label or reception.”

“We really had no idea how to play or record, and I remember you using a little baseball bat and a kitchen spoon for your drumsticks,” guitarist/keyboardist Thierry Malépart says to Gauthier-Boudreau as the group laughs. “So, as you can see, we were always very DIY,” Bélisle adds.

According to Choses Sauvages, the trends of the Montreal music scene in the 2010s were primarily focused on folk, pop, and singer-songwriter musicnothing really close to the kind of music that the five young lads wanted to put forward, which was rooted in the weirder and more avant-garde ‘Kosmische Musik” genre from the late 60s and 70s. Though it wasn’t so much of a conscious decision during the band’s beginnings, the group filled the void by releasing more left-field music. Much to their surprise, there was an energetic response; their fanbase was growing and people were showing up. 

“We had a lot of friends, I guess,” guitarist Marc-Antoine Barbier laughs. “I think a lot of the Cégep [schooling before post-secondary in Quebec] community was gravitating around doing art that was a little more outside of the box, so we were part of this era,” Bélisle adds. “Those shows really built the foundation for the band.”

“I think in the first three years we played like 100 shows, so we were experimenting, but whenever composing a song, we were always keeping in mind how to play it in front of people,” keyboardist Tommy Bélisle says.

Now, 10 years later, Choses Sauvages is one of the “it” bands in Montreal, known for their high-powered live shows that have sold out some of the city’s larger-capacity venues. However, they still relish in playing the smaller, more DIY bar shows. This is where they feel most in their element. 

“We all used to grow up watching big bands play smaller venues just for the fuck of it.”

“We all used to grow up watching big bands play smaller venues just for the fuck of it, so it’s really, deeply ingrained in our identity as a band,” Félix says. “Sometimes, during those smaller shows, the crowd really feeds off our energy and a few things can get damaged.” Or in the case of the sold-out l’Escogriffe show back in February, around 90 pint glasses that were dropped or smashed to smithereens. “But that’s punk rock, I guess,” Félix laughs.

While other notable live performances lately have involved the band taking their talents to the local festival circuit for FEQ 2022 and FME 2023, where attendees quite literally left the dancefloor in pieces, the most ideal venues for catching their incendiary antics remain the most intimate stages you can catch them on.

Choses Sauvages say they are slowly working on new material for what might become their third LP, but since they’re consistently touring they find themselves focusing more on leaving a mark on their audience rather than carving out time in the studio. 

Whether it’s their refusal to be categorized in terms of their sound, their appearances, or their famous shows, Choses Sauvages have done nothing but prove their band name is accurate in recent years. As they build towards their next set of tracks to add to a future face-melting set, it’s refreshing to see a group that embraces the very essence of being wild.

Choses Sauvages perform Nov. 16 at Foufounes Electriques (Montreal) as part of M For Montreal’s MARATHON Festival | TICKETS & INFO