For Vincent Roberge, life’s been coming at him fast. Under his artist name, Les Louanges, he’s experienced a whirlwind of success over the course of the last five years. The Quebec City native was awarded Francophone Album of the Year at the Junos for his 2018 debut, La nuit est une panthère, which was also shortlisted for the 2019 Polaris Music Prize. On his home turf that same year, Roberge cleaned up at the ADISQ Gala—Quebec’s equivalent to the Grammys—taking home three awards.
His sophomore album, Crash, is due out Jan. 21 via Bonsound, the Montreal-based label responsible for amplifying other emerging Francophone artists like P’tit Belliveau, Lisa Leblanc, and Franky Fade. Crash is a robust musical offering that puts Roberge’s multi-instrumental talents and brilliant producer mind on full display. Consisting of 15 soulful tracks steeped in pop sensibility, the album takes cues musically from the likes of Frank Ocean, Colin Stetson, and Prince’s 1987 album Sign o’ the Times. With three music video singles already out into the world — “Chaussée,” “Quest-ce que tu m’fais,” and “Crash” featuring French R&B sensation, Corneille — Roberge is already feeling the momentum of his latest body of work.
On the train from Quebec City to Montreal, RANGE spoke to rising artist about his new album, his upcoming Quebec tour, and the surreal nature of transitioning from playing arena shows one day to a house show the next.
How has the pandemic and Quebec’s curfew been treating you?
At first, it gave me the break I needed. When it first started, I’d been on tour for two and a half years and I didn’t have time to take a break. It helped me avoid a potential burnout. But after, it’s been shitty, like for everybody else. (laughs)
You’re about to release your second album, Crash. Aside from its English title, what would you say sets this album apart most from your debut?
Since the first album, there’s been a lot going on in my life—my personal life, and on a professional level with music. I had a lot more to talk about. The first album was more me dreaming about my future life, or talking about what I wanted to do. But for this one, I had a lot of things on my chest. Since the first album, I’ve worked my ass off, and definitely picked up some cues along the way. I’m more aware of what I like and what my strengths are. What sets this album apart is that I’m way more confident and in tune with myself.
What are some of the biggest things you learned about yourself in the last three years since the release of La nuit est une panthère?
I’m still asking myself that question! But the pandemic and the whole album process gave me time to reflect. A lot of the songs talk about aspects or events that were part of those three years. Maybe I’m more sure of myself now—it’s not something I learned from it, but I’m more at peace with the things I’m good at, and the things I’m not.
You’ve performed for large crowds in Montreal and Paris, but in May you’ll be performing at a microbrewery in Frelighsburg, QC, right? How do you feel about the contrast?
I’ve got a funny anecdote about that! You know the Belgian singer, Angèle? She’s a pretty big deal in French-speaking countries. I played before her show at the Bell Centre [in Montreal], and it was the biggest show I ever did. I’d never played in front of 10,000 people before. It was completely unreal. But the next day, I was playing in Frelighsburg, and the contrast was out of this world. You go from playing in an arena where people knew the lyrics and were very into it, to being back in the van the next day to play for 100 people in a house. There are still people there who pay for my show. Also, Quebec is not that big, so there’s a lot of contrast. I’m from Quebec City originally, so I can play two nights there in front of 2,000 people, but you’re also going to play much smaller gigs.
What’s the incentive for Quebec artists to play smaller towns like Lavaltrie, Frelighsburg, or St-Irénée, rather than just Montreal, Quebec City, or Sherbrooke?
The thing I love the most is playing my music in front of people. I want to play. Even if it’s a smaller gig, it’s a win-win. I get to play and introduce people to my music, and get paid. I’ll play in front of whoever wants to hear me. It’s not about the numbers or capacities.
That’s also why I’m working on a European tour. It’s still hard for French-speaking artists to break into the rest of Canada or the US. You can live a good life being an artist in Quebec, but that’s just how it is. So there’s no other choice. For now, I’m freaking blessed. Most of the shows are sold out. It is what it is, and I’m just happy to play.
What else do you have planned for 2022?
My album’s been done since July 2021 so I’m already working on new stuff. I want to go on tour. I also do some production work with people. Right now, I’m trying to work with a new rapper from Montreal. I liked how he sounded, and tried to dabble in beat making. I’m a big fan of rap, too. I’d really like to establish myself as someone you can go to for producing music. That could lead me to more contracts and gigs. It gives me an occasion to do what I love the most.
I was in France and Belgium in November. I went there to do some collaborations with other artists. When the album’s out, I’m not going to take a two-year break before getting new stuff out, that’s for sure.