Qualité Hotel – Shaking up the Montreal music scene


by Max Jones | photos by Vincent Fugère

Once upon a time, about four months ago, Misteur Valaire was offered the chance to play a DJ set in their hometown of Sherbrooke, QC. They turned their noses up, though, at the idea of getting on stage and spinning someone else’s party beats, so they decided to turn out an entire album of their own.

Thus, Qualité Hotel, the pure-party version of Misteur Valaire, was born. After nine-to-fivein’ it for a few weeks on the music for Motel Califorña, all they needed was some help from their friends.

“We sent the tracks to some friends, gave them the theme of the song and the album, and they took care of the rest,” mentions Luis Clavis (Louis-Pierre Phaneuf) at the album’s launch party. Surely an album with 16 collaborators must have taken a while to assemble, I say.

“About 20-25 days,” he replies. “It was actually accelerated by this party. We already had the date set with SAT, so we decided to use it as an opportunity to launch the album.”

SAT is the Société des arts technologiques, and they didn’t simply provide a space for Qualité Motel to perform; they provided a multimedia experience to accompany Motel Califorña.

Fourteen fire hydrants (bornes fontaines) were placed around the Quartier des spectacles in Montreal, so that with Invisible, the augmented reality iPhone App developed by the Metalab team at SAT, fans can take pictures of the hydrants and then be treated to a Qualité Motel song as well as the story behind it.

The SAT-proposed and -produced experiment fits perfectly with the band’s technology-embracing style. The three-song set they performed in the Satosphere on Monday did not feature a single “traditional” instrument, but rather five guys banging away on laptops and synths. The result is a party show along the lines of Girl Talk, with the addition of some live rap.

The launch party itself showed what is remarkable about the Québec music industry: its ability to promote their own. When I arrived a half-hour early, I was excited to be the only media there. Once the doors officially opened, I realized I was lucky to have had five minutes with Luis Clavis, as CBC, ArTV, and NRJ radio were all lined up for pictures and interviews. The band drank beers and soaked up all the attention, even posing for some shots with Mitsou, the Québecoise pop legend that appears on the track Honey Cruller.

Qualité Motel were not intimidated by the pop royalty, nor did they show any fear getting up in front of a stiff industry audience to perform dance music while the sun was still shining outside. After the band rattled off five minutes of mercies to the assembled crowd, they retreated backstage to change into costume. When they reemerged, they were sporting authentic hipster garb: short jean shorts, big fluorescent shades, and pastel tank tops. The outfits were the perfect representation of the band’s style, as were the incredible graphics on the Satosphere walls provided by Zef&Santo.

Despite the fact that the audience was close to 100 per cent francophone, the three-song set featured exclusively English songs. This showed the chink in the Québec music industry’s armor, in that if Québec groups want to keep growing, they will have to do so outside la belle province. Qualité Motel knows that, and they have their eyes on bigger prizes.

After they finish a tour of Québec in April, they’re off to Europe.

“We’ll be touring France, Germany,” Luis Clavis mentions, “and oh yeah, England. But we’ll launch this album in May in France.”

Those places are a long way from Sherbrooke, but they’re about to get rocked Eastern Townships style.

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