When Stories Behind The Songs sat down with Laura Sauvage (aka Vivianne Roy), her LP had been out for weeks and she hadn’t even heard it yet. It was only upon reflection for the SBTS Behind The Album, Track by Track feature of Extraordinormal that Sauvage took the time to listen to her own album, track by track, for the first time. “Once you release it, it’s kind of not yours anymore,” she said.
Sauvage is an artist filled with dualities. She writes songs quickly using her “automatic writing” technique but is deliberate and symbolic with both her moniker and album titles; she is only 24 but has an old soul of a voice; she is a French-singing band member and an English-singing solo artist; she often writes with playful humour but sings with a shade of darkness that is relentless in intrigue.
The more we learned about her, the more we loved. Sauvage is a prolific writer who often sees music in ribbons of colour. Her first full-length solo album as Laura Sauvage, the addictive Extraordinormal, was written over the course of two months while she was recovering from a serious hand injury that resulted in her becoming ambidextrous. The album was recorded within only a week’s time fulfilling her desire to keep it raw and full of character. After sharing many belly-laughs during our interview, she offered one of her homemade merch pins she had made from ’50s Playboy magazines. Gifted, humble, professional, and creative, Laura Sauvage is an artistic force.
Laura: I always try to stew up ideas for art projects. My name is Vivianne Roy, so I wanted to play around with that. My publishing company is Vive Les Roi (Long Live The King) and I wanted to have a project called Le Roi Présente and just do random albums like, Le Roi Présente La Reine (The King Presents The Queen) and just have a bunch of trashy songs about like, every province. Like, every province is the Queen’s abandoned kids and she doesn’t really know what’s going on in their lives. I should probably go back on that [laughs]. I wanted to have a backing band too sometimes and I thought of Le Roi et Ses Sauvages (The King and His Savages) and I kind of liked that idea. When I started working on the project finally – which absolutely came out of nowhere – I just decided I wanted a more feminine name [Le Roi became Laura]. I wanted to disassociate with my actual name. I didn’t want to be Vivianne Roy from Les Hay Babies. I wanted to have another name so people could discover it without any connotation to my other group.
Your band, Les Hay Babies, has received critical acclaim including an East Coast Music Award nomination – what role does your solo project play in your musical life?
L: Well, Les Hay Babies is still going on. The girls also have a vintage shop, so they have their side project too. When they’re in New Brunswick and I’m in Montréal, I can still play shows. We were all solo artists before starting Les Hay Babies so it was absolutely normal for me to keep writing. If you hear the album and you hear Les Hay Babies, it’s really different and I wanted to do something really different too.
L: Yeah, six days. Well, the songs aren’t complicated – we had some more complicated parts – but it was just really fun. I’m a super fan of character and having things happen naturally, so if that’s what it is, that’s what it is. We hardly did any overdubs afterwards. Sometimes I just had a song idea that I didn’t even have a pre-prod for and I was really stressed about going into the studio. We would play it for the first time and it’d be like, bam! “Okay, we got it. Let’s not touch it anymore. That’s what it is.”
L: Yeah, I got my first experience to have a one-take. I think it was “Have You Heard The Good News?”. We were all tripping out. We all just had a blast.
L: Yeah, yeah. I didn’t imagine it to sound as clean as it is now. I was listening to a lot of My Bloody Valentine right before and a little bit of Sonic Youth too. Just stuff that doesn’t always sound produced. I’m also doing this project because I want to learn how to record albums. So I wanted to rent an empty house somewhere outside of Montréal and just set up in there and have it very noisey and reverby from empty rooms and stuff. But then they suggested the studio and I was down. I got there and Ben, the mixer, was totally used to it and everything just sounded great. I’m not regretting that at all.
My experience of the album is that there are moments, like in “Have You Heard The Good News?”, when it gets a little gritty and fierce and then there are moments in songs like “No Direction Home” when your voice kind of melts in warm tones. Do you think about your vocal tone and how to approach certain songs before you record or perform them?
L: When I write a song, it’s kind of like having your palette of colours before painting. I’m kind of synesthetic so when I was younger I would listen to music and see ribbons of colours all the time. I often associate songs to colours. You have your shade that you want to put on that song. I like all kinds of shades and I try to push myself to any vocal limit. It was super weird for me for “Have You Heard The Good News?” because I never, ever performed that way.
L: I think it’s red and blue. Just like Americana Submarine was [her previous EP].
L: “Rubberskin” is a little more red… “I.D.W.Y.S.” is red. “Dying Alone” is a green. “Nothing to Something & Vice Versa” is a very navy blue.
L: I wouldn’t say identify with, but I have a lot of vocalists that I definitely look up to. Obviously Lou Reed and Feist – I’m a huge fan of Feist – and also Balthazar, a band from Belgium. They started as a kind of electro duo and now they have a full band. They kind of have a rap approach but it’s very Lou Reed too. It’s very cool. There was one place [on the album] that was a wink to Balthazar in “Jesus Was My Buddy”. The song is not at all like Balthazar but there’s just one little spot that is like something they would do.
L: Oftentimes I have random names that come up. I texted my boyfriend this week saying that I think my next album is going to be called Taken For Granite [laughs] and have the album like, carved out of granite [laughs]. The EP before was Americana Submarine which was my transition from folk to reaching to the underground stuff that I also listen to. Extraordinormal was just flat-out me. There are influences all over but this is the purest form of the person you’re meeting. As a musician, everything. My sense of humour is definitely in there and my serious side too. I’d say it’s the most to-the-core part of me.
L: The building is a factory in Sudbury, actually. My friend and I were planning on going to Fargo in North Dakota to take a picture of this big pyramid that I think was built during the Cold War that was used to shoot down missiles coming over Canada. It’s just super eerie. He asked me while we were recording and I was like, “Yeah, if it’s organized by the time I get out of here, we’ll leave right after.” But I was very busy for like, two weeks – like, not five minutes to myself. So then I was in New Brunswick and we were leaving the next day for North Dakota and I called him and said, “This cannot happen.” He wanted me to drive since he didn’t have a license and it was in January and it would’ve taken 25 hours to get there plus I had to come back and mix and play a show. So I was like, “Let’s go to Sudbury! It’s our friend’s birthday!” [laughs]. It would have been super cool but then I thought, in Fargo it’s going to be super boring and freezing so what’s the next best thing? Sudbury! So we just drove around for four days trying to find stuff to maybe make a collage. But it was really tough. We even went to a casino to try to get pictures but it didn’t work. So the album cover is basically layers of pictures we took in Sudbury with the factory to make it clear that it’s Sudbury without using the Big Nickel. It’s weird because Moncton and Sudbury are like two parallel universes. They’re super duper similar. For some reason people in Sudbury come to Moncton or we go to Sudbury so there’s a lot friend connections.
L: Well, it’s called the “Wild Session” because the name of the studio was Wild Studio. But I wanted to do exactly that. I wanted have a fuller version on the EP and have a more stripped down version on the album. Usually, it would be the opposite. Usually the EP would be totally raw and super simple. After releasing the EP, I played a bunch of solo shows and this is how I would play it. It’s kind of weird to play upbeat, rocky songs alone because it just feels empty so I just take my time with every song.
L: The only other one that was written during the EP was “Jesus Wants to be my Buddy” and the rest all came around the summer and after September of last year. I got a really bad cut on my hand so I couldn’t write or play music for the summer. Right before that, we got a grant for the EP but we decided to use the grant for the album, so we had to have it done by a certain date. But then I cut my hand, so during the fall I just went on a writing spree and wrote most of it in like, two and a half months or something.
L: Well, it was fucked. I panicked because I didn’t know to what extent I would get my hand back. I was doing the dishes and I was washing a glass that broke and it cut a tendon in half. So, I lost the motion in my finger for a while and I kind of panicked, but it all ended up working out. Other than that, the lyrics come from stuff that I’ve observed and always kept in my mind. Like, “White Trash Theatre School” really happened. We were hanging out in front of a cultural centre and a bunch of crack heads came up and started fighting and I remember this girl in a wheelchair screaming, “FUCK OFF, DEBORAH!” with the biggest Maritimer accent – like Trailer Boys kinda shit [laughs]. It was awesome. This is like, four years ago maybe. I secretly thrive on those little moments. [laughs].
For more on Laura Sauvage, read the Stories Behind The Songs feature Behind The Album: Extraordinormal – Laura Sauvage
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Twitter: @LauraSauvage_ Instagram: @laura.sauvage.music