The first time I saw Chic Gamine live, I was struck by the unusual set up: four vocalists and one percussionist. The four-part harmonies were stunning and their sound wasn’t lacking despite only having one drummer with occasional instrumental help from one of the vocalists.
But singer Alexa Dirks prefers not to define Chic Gamine as primarily vocal.
“If someone asked me what our style was, ”˜vocal’ wouldn’t be what I would necessarily say,” said Dirks. “Obviously we’re prominently vocalists but I would classify us more as pop-R&B vocal; it’s not your pared down a capella.”
The other vocalists are Andrina Turenne, Annick Bremault and Ariane Jean. Sacha Daoud is the drummer.
That first show I saw was in 2008 and Dirks says they’ve expanded their sound since then.
Their new album City, City is more polished and has a fuller sound than their last album. Dirks says this change is in part due to the way in which they recorded their first album.
“When we made the first album we were only together for about three months so we crafted the album to be what we thought we sound like live,” she explained, adding that this time around they decided not to limit themselves in this way.
The website assigns a wide range of genres to the band. It lists Chic Gamine as retro world-beat, old-school R&B and doo-wop, with influences from the French-Canadian chanson. They even make up their own classification called “pop-vox’n’roll.”
City, City alternates from fun, upbeat pop songs like “Comme un GÃ¢teau” to soulful ballads like “Silence.” But whether playful or toned down, listeners are carried from song to song on the beautiful harmonzing of the four singers. The album is undoubtedly playful; even the songs that seem to be attempting a more serious tack still manage to add a fun element.
Three of the 14 songs on the album are in French, and two are in both French and English. The number actually seems rather low for the number of francophones in the group: four of the five band members are francophone, everyone except Dirks. While their French-Canadian background is apparent on the album, it isn’t the main focus. Besides, you don’t need to know what they’re singing about to enjoy the upbeat French numbers.
Last year, Chic Gamine became a Juno award-winning band. While they couldn’t attend the ceremony because they were on tour, they ended up celebrating in a log cabin in Montana. Dirks says it’s a great accomplishment for a band that had only been together for two years at the time.
“It’s great having that attached to your name,” she said. “In Canada it gives people a reason to watch out for you. It gives you some credibility.”
Their new album was released on Oct. 12, so their next one is a way off, but Dirks says we can expect to see more albums from them in the future.
“We’re in it for the long haul,” she said. “We definitely plan on making more albums together”¦. We’re all writing still; we’re always being creative, so you never know.”