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Population II Summon a Soundtrack of Original Sin 

The Francophone post-punk trio bite the proverbial apple and turn up the volume on their new EP, Serpent Échelle.

by Sebastian Buzzalino

Photos by Didier Pigeon-Perreault

It’s no surprise that a band that originates in Canada’s “pays de la pomme” – or “apple country” – region, Saint-Joseph-du-Lac, QC, heads straight for a Garden of Eden reference when explaining the driving force behind their aesthetics. Population II, who now reside in Montrèal, skirt a jammy line of expansive scorched-earth prog-sludge and jazzy post-punk interludes, barely above which Pierre-Luc Gratton’s howling, sinister vocals foretell the cataclysmic end of society as we know it.

“There’s this duality in our lyrics that talks a lot about the forbidden apple — classic references like that. We all want to bite the apple and have some fun, even though everything seems stacked against us,” says keyboard and guitarist Tristan Lacombe while on break from his day job silkscreening. “There’s a big pessimism in the world, but we make sure to keep it light and beautiful by making art. Like, that’s the best we can do. And that’s the only thing that brings joy.”

Lacombe, along with Gratton on drums and vocals, is joined by a third childhood friend, Sébastien Provençal, on bass. Like many other ambitious trios, they spent countless hours locked in a groove, jamming out idea after idea over mega sessions, feeling out potential song ideas more by instinct and a shared consciousness than by a spark of inspiration. Wild and farflung, Population II continue to build from the ground up organically, working (and recording, even if just on their phones) a session until a nugget of an idea is dredged up — and from there, they refine that idea until a song is formed.

“Most of the time, Seb will arrive with a bass line and we can play over that for hours. The thing that’s really important to us is to record everything so we can try and remember everything we like. We’ll listen back to stuff and out of an hour jam or something, we’ll have a good 20 seconds that could make a verse,” explains Lacombe. “Just jam, throw everything on the table, keep it very fluid.”

“One idea we really like,” he says, “is influenced by Teo Macero, Miles Davis’ producer in the early ‘70s. Basically, Miles would just, during the On the Corner Sessions, he would just play for like an hour — there’d be some guidance of maybe a melody or something that keeps coming back — and Teo would listen to the tape over and over again and just find the little part that catches here and there. He’d then cut everything up and make it work together.”

Their upcoming EP, Serpent Échelle, hot on the heels of their 2023 full-length, Électrons libres du québec, embraces the jam aesthetic through and through. While previous albums perhaps leaned heavier towards the massive sludge riffs and crushing sound, this four-track EP presents a more variegated sound that veers closer to jazz and prog influences. Nowhere is this more evident than on album closer, “Comme tu les souhaites (Ding Dong),” which was written in a mere half-hour almost as an energetic release from the weight of the rest of the EP.



“Basically, we all had parts kind of written for that song on the side,” says Lacombe. “We were in the studio on the last day and we just thought, ‘Hey, let’s record a new song, compose it all in studio. Let’s do whatever and add some layers.’ We played it live between the three of us and layered synths and oscillators all over the place, had some fun.”

As a foil to their sound, that sense of fun is at the core of Population II — despite the growing, gnawing pessimism to be found in the world at large, and at times in their lyrical content. Lacombe describes a more carefree and loose existence between themselves and their friends, a chance to share song, wine and good times. The world is falling apart around them, and, as individuals, maybe they’re too small to effect any large-scale change. But they’re driven to make art for themselves, first and foremost, as a way of building fraternity and resisting the looming apocalypses. So yeah, bite the apple and have fun: it’s all going to be over one day anyway.