So, if you took Feist and split her into three, and then had all three of those Feists join TLC… and then got everyone together with the Black Keys… you might be getting close to what Chic Gamine does. This band is like when the coolest, most fun crowd in town is the same group you turn to when things get heavy: your best good time buddies and the safest shoulders to cry on. They have Motown souls, French Pop spirits, and Rock and Roll hearts. And they're actually French. (Check out the bilingual tumblr!)
Three of the founding members, Andrina Turenne, Annick Bremault and Ariane Jean, grew up together in the Francophone arts community of Winnipeg's St. Boniface. In 2007, the trio recruited another local powerhouse vocalist, Alexa Dirks, as well as Montreal drummer Sacha Daoud. Chic Gamine emerged as a full-on vocal collaboration with no lead singer. Each of these voices brings something rare and personal, and with no hierarchy they're all free to trade off and fuse over Daoud's hyper- intelligent rhythms and some serious instrumental grooves.
Chic Gamine's first release—self-titled and independent— hit the scene a year after the band met. It promptly earned them a 2009 Juno for Roots Album of the Year. 'City City', released in 2010, was nominated for the same award. Their third album and first official US release ('Closer', 2013) was mixed and mastered by Rick Rubin's Grammy winning engineers. It garnered not 'reviews' so much as literary fist pumps and high fives. Ariane has recently transitioned to new projects, but album number four for Chic Gamine is on track for fall 2014. Get your breath good and bated.
Live, they are known for living up to their name. "Chic gamine" translates loosely to "stylish, mischievous young thing." An unpredictable, often hilarious, and totally captivating presence has helped earn them some major dates—it's no doubt part of the reason they've already played with R&B royalty. They've opened for Smokey Robinson and shared a line-up with Mavis Staples. Staples told the young band they reminded her of nothing less than her own sisters, the legendary Staples Singers. Chic Gamine has also played for straight up Royal royalty, performing before Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth the Second of England in 2010. The band was nationally televised playing Canada Day at Ottawa's Parliament Hill, and was among the artists chosen to show off Canada's amazing culture to the world at the 2010 Olympics.
The group has bewitched audiences of all sizes across vast swathes of geography. In 2011, they opened for Marc Broussard on a 5-month coast-to-coast North American tour. They've had main stage slots at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Calgary Folk Festival, Regina Folk Festival, Strawberry Folk Festival, Dawson City Music Festival, California World Fest, among others. They finished up a successful 2013 EU-UK tour with a packed show at one of France's top music festivals, Transmusicales. Their presence has definitely been felt at SXSW: they drew the largest crowd of the day to their 2012 showcase and were invited back for not one but two 2013 slots, as well as a few non-official shows on the side. NPR and Bitch Magazine included the band in their Best of SXSW lists. NPR's Stephen Thompson named them as one of his four must-see acts out of the 2000 bands participating in 2012. Not surprising, then, that they've played twice on NPR's much loved show, "A Prairie Home-Companion". And it's not just American airwaves that appreciate (them)— Radio Canada loves them too. Espace Musique gave Chic Gamine a coveted spot on their 2009/2010 list of Musical Revelations.
At the heart of all this is a trio of frank, astonishing voices that have the intimate, effortless quality of much-loved instruments. Their sound is crafted with deft historical references and offbeat new ideas, all woven into something exhilarating and just beyond contemporary. They can be sweet without turning saccharine, melancholy without getting melodramatic and raucous without ever being messy. Chic Gamine dwell in that elusive realm between music that holds you in awe of the talent and beauty infiltrating your ears, and music that just makes you want to dance like a hooligan, shed all those tears you've been stuffing down inside, and rock the hell out with the ones you love best—which suddenly includes everyone in the room.