They may look like your typical pop-rock boy band, but Sowatt definitely has a few edges on the competition: They're cute, they speak two languages, and the songs from their newest release "In My Life" are infectiously catchy. The Quebec City quintet were in town to play Canadian Music Week, and after talking to lead singer Paul and guitarist Dave - no last names given - it's obvious that Sowatt are ready to take on Canada.
"We've been together as a band for about eight years," says Dave. "I went to school with Sebastian, the other guitar player, and then we met Paul, we heard him sing and it was great." (Paul, who's sitting across the table, shrugs modestly and smiles.)
"In My Life" isn't Sowatt's first release, but it's their first English album. When asked about the differences between the French and English albums, Paul looks thoughtful. "It is different in the sense that at first, we recorded an English album and then translated it. But I think it lost something when we translated it from English to French."
"With rock music, it's kind of weird," adds Dave. "It's like another world, so music can be similar but the whole package is really different because of the language."
"Phonetically, French is so different from English," Paul concedes. "French is more of a song language, and English is more rhythmic."
But given that music is the international language, Sowatt has had no problems in touring with established English-speaking artists. They've shared the stage with David Usher, Simple Plan, and April Wine, and they even performed a solo tour of Quebec high schools throughout 2003. The reception to that unorthodox tour was "really good," according to Paul. "That was a weird thing, to go into peoples' environment and start to play, because it's not like you're inviting people to come see your show - you go there and play. So that was a little bit hard sometimes, mostly at the beginning of the show, but by the end there were a lot more people there than in the beginning. People were a lot more enthusiastic."
That description sounds almost identical to the burgeoning rock scene of Quebec City's more popular neighbour, Montreal. Given that Montreal's become the new "it" scene for Canadian music talent - think The Arcade Fire, Stars, and The Stills - the guys are willing to acknowledge the city as having a great vibe, but admit that they're not so tuned into the scene.
"First of all, I'm not too aware of what's happening in Montreal or here and there," says Paul. "I'm so completely into what I do every day, like writing and stuff, so I'm not a good critic of what's happening in the music business."
"But there's a lot of great bands coming from Montreal right now. I hope that the record companies are going to come next!" comments Dave with a laugh. "There's also a lot of good bands in Quebec City. Projet Orange are from Quebec City. But Simple Plan did a great job - they're huge and they have a great image. I think they represent Montreal well. We're proud to have a band like that coming from Montreal and becoming famous."
Though there's still a disconnection caused by the ever-present language barrier, Sowatt agrees that the English language success of bands like Simple Plan and Projet Orange can only be beneficiary. "If Projet Orange sings in English and it helps French bands, that's great," says Paul. "I think there's a line between French and English. I don't think French is gonna help English bands, but English is gonna help French bands."
"You know what I think?" Dave says, leaning forward. "When you're a French person from Quebec and sing in English, people from Quebec don't believe in what you do because they only want you to sing in French. I think bands like Projet Orange and Simple Plan are going to help change that. But the rest of the world questions too much the idea of French and English. If they like the music, I think it speaks for itself." He nods seriously. "In Quebec, people breaking out in the world of music will help things."
It shouldn't be too long before Sowatt adds their voice to the mix.
Writer: Caitlin Hotchkiss