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Les Shirley Build a Temple to Maximalism 

Obsessed with the excess, there's no such thing as too much for this Montreal punk trio.

by Christine Leonard

If you’ve watched the TV series Metal Evolution (Banger) back in the day then you’re probably already familiar with the phrase made famous by guitar virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen. Simply put – “More is more.” It just so happens that this enthusiasm for the enterprise of maximalism is both the signature style of and a modus operandi for Montreal-based punk rock outfit Les Shirley. And that’s exactly why they selected the epithet for the title of their forthcoming album.

“It really represents the spirit of the band,” says lead singer/guitarist Raphaëlle “Rapha” Chouinard. “More is more. Less is bore.” It just came naturally … we didn’t actually think of that title until the end of the process. When we got to listen to the mixes and stuff it made so much sense. The new songs were written during the pandemic and are a reflection of my mind at the time. The panic, the anxiety, the lack of purpose in your calendar. I would definitely say that the subject of the lyrics is a lot deeper than on the first album; it’s more like a voyage. At the end of the album you’ll feel like you want to go back and listen to it again because there are a lot of layers.”

Composing a fierce all-female cast that encompasses the artistry of Rapha along with percussionist Lisandre Bourdages and bassist Sarah Dion (both of NOBRO), Les Shirley introduced themselves to the scene in 2018. And, they’ve brought their strength, desire and talent to their raucous, reckless, deliberately overcapacity musical endeavours ever since.

 “I like minimalism in some genres of music, but I’ve never been able to translate that into my own music because I’m a very intense person,” says Rapha. “I can really appreciate artists like Billie Eilish who add those tiny little elements into the song and it makes all the difference. The nuances are great, but Les Shirley is all about the energy and the power. Especially when you see us live. Minimalism is great but maybe not for this project!”

A multifaceted follow-up to their May 2021 debut album, Forever Is Now, Les Shirley’s latest creation, More is More, benefits from the production skills of Marie-Pierre Arthur, who has worked with notable creatives such as Karkwa, Galaxie, Ariane Moffatt, Nanette Workman and Stefie Shock, to name a few. For the insatiable Les Shirley the resulting album is a tempest in a teapot that drags the past into the future and sets a new bar for fresh, fast and, above all, irreverent punk rock with a French-Canadian flare.

“For the first album the songs came out of jam sessions, but this time around we fired up the software and came up with loops and layers and experimented with electronic drums as well so it was really a diff approach, so I think it gave us some extra lib not restraining ourselves in a power trio setting,” Rapha explains. “But then again, on the other hand, it’s going to be quite a challenge for us to play it live so we decided that for the launch show in Toronto and Quebec City we’re going to have a full on big band, we’re hiring two extra guitar players and a keyboardist for it to come alive. I think it’s going to be interesting.”

Solidly stitched to a nostalgia for reincarnating the heydays of rock and roll with a impudent dash of modernity thrown in for taste, the three friends have developed a reputation for laying down scorching guitar riffs that provide a backbone for their punked-up beats and catchy, rebel rousing lyrical content.

Looking back, Rapha observes that opening for NOFX in front of 20,000 people at the sold-out FestiVoix of Trois-Rivières was the icing on the cake for a summer filled with touring and getting back in the groove of being a working band. At present, Les Shirley are riding high on the adrenaline, and notoriety, that comes with releasing hot singles from More Is More, including the timely “Nothing Compares” and the ringer “Random Call.” The advent of having your audience sing your own songs back to you is an accomplishment that seems a bit surreal at times, but Les Shirley is all about amping up the party and providing music for the masses. After all, it’s what got them through high school and it just might get you through your next morning commute.

“I find that it’s so hard to actually make the effort to discover new music because there’s so many platforms uploading content every day. When you listen to the radio in your car it’s an amazing medium. They’re basically feeding you new music. Like back in the day when you’d watch MTV and Much Music, when I was a teenager that’s where I got new music. It was easier when people were kind of curating it for you. I feel like radio is very much in that spirit and it’s an amazing medium for that,” Rapha says. “The other day our bass player, Sarah, and I were coming back from a gig and stopped at the gas station and the second I turned the car back on our first single off the new album ‘Random Call’ came on CHOM. It took us like five seconds and we were like ‘Oh! Wait a second! Is that? Ohhhhh!’ and then we cranked it up! It was the first time I’d heard this particular song on air and it’s a really cool feeling.”

Check out the singles for “Random Call” and “Nothing Compares” from Les Shirley’s sophomore album More is More due for release October 28th. With a European tour already under their belt, the punked up power trio is eager to trash the next stage and tip a few in the name of good ol’ fashioned excess.