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Sun March 31, 2013
Music Interviews

Chic Gamine: The Girl-Group Sound, Stripped To Its Bones

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 8:53 am

Chic Gamine is a Canadian band giving a new spin to the classic '60s girl group sound: Its roster is four vocalists, a drummer ... and that's it. Chic Gamine's leader Andrina Turenne spoke with NPR's Laura Sullivan about the group's latest album, Closer. Click the audio link on this page to hear their conversation.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

LAURA SULLIVAN, HOST:

Once again, you're listening to WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Laura Sullivan. And it's time now for music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CLOSER")

CHIC GAMINE: (Singing) I just wanna be closer, all right, just a little closer, that's right, why can't I feel, oh...

SULLIVAN: This catchy little number is called "Closer," and it's the title track from the new album by the vocal group Chic Gamine. And what you're hearing is just four voices and a drum set. That's it. Consider it minimalist Motown. Chic Gamine is from Winnipeg, Canada, and singer, Andrina Turenne, joins us now from the CBC Studios up there. Welcome.

ANDRINA TURENNE: Hello.

SULLIVAN: For those of us having trouble remembering some of our high school French, what does Chic Gamine mean?

TURENNE: Well, chic as in stylish - so chic - and gamine is - means mischievous young thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CLOSER")

GAMINE: (Singing) And the moon rise, moon rise, and the sun still sets, but don't forget your heart here, oh, don't forget, oh.

SULLIVAN: Tell me how your band got together, because it seems like kind of an unusual configuration for a group.

TURENNE: Yeah. It is, I guess. But we just have such a love of singing together and harmonies, and so our natural draw was to work together and to see if this configuration could work. And so we have four singers - myself, Andrina, Ariane Jean, Alexa Dirks and Annick Bremault, all four of us from Winnipeg, Manitoba. And then the drummer, Sacha Daoud, is from Montreal, Quebec.

SULLIVAN: Do you ever miss having those huge, soaring horn sections that you hear in Motown music?

TURENNE: Well, we just try to create them with the voices. We enjoy singing those parts. I mean, it's nice to have a full band behind you. But, you know, as the band is growing, we're adding so much more instrumentation. We now have a Moog keyboard that we use for baselines and a lot more guitar.

SULLIVAN: I think I actually hear a whistler on one of these songs.

TURENNE: Yeah, yeah.

SULLIVAN: The song "Don't Think That I Can Stay." And a very good whistler, I might add.

TURENNE: Alexa Dirks. She's a great whistler.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T THINK THAT I CAN STAY")

TURENNE: She grew up in Winnipeg, as well, in - just in a different neighborhood. And I remember we heard her sing, and we were just like, holy smokes. Who is this? We need to see if she would be interested in singing with us and starting a band. And so - and Sacha is from Montreal, Quebec, which is a 27-hour drive away, and we asked him to be our drummer.

So from the get-go, it just - it was just like everybody took a chance on this, and everybody just said, OK, we're going to do this, but we don't really know what we're doing.

SULLIVAN: I'm speaking with Andrina Turenne of the Canadian band Chic Gamine. Their first record in the U.S. is called "Closer." I understand you got quite a compliment from American soul royalty. Let's just play a clip of her music first before I ask you about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'LL TAKE YOU THERE")

MAVIS STAPLES: (Singing) Help me now I'll take you there, oh, mm.

SULLIVAN: That's Mavis Staples

TURENNE: Oh, man.

SULLIVAN: How did she discover your music? What did she say about you?

TURENNE: Well, we played at the Strawberry Music Festival in northern California probably four years ago, and she was headlining the stage that we were playing on that night. So she was performing right after us. And I've been, like, such a long-time Mavis Staples fan - we all have. So after the show, we met backstage afterwards, and she was telling us, she was, like, oh, you guys were the girls singing?

She's like, you reminded me of my sisters and I singing when we were kids. And it was really, really awesome. And it happened to be that day, my 27th birthday. And I was like, Mavis, that was an amazing show. There's one song, though, that you didn't sing that is my favorite one. And she's like, which one is that, baby? So I told her it was "Let's Do It Again" from this soundtrack of a movie that she did with Curtis Mayfield. So we just sang it. She sang it with me. We sang it - almost all of it backstage.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET'S DO IT")

THE STAPLES SINGERS: (Singing) Let's do in the morning, sweet breeze in the summer time.

TURENNE: And it was the greatest birthday present of all time.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET'S DO IT")

SINGERS: (Singing) All laid up next to mine, sweet love in the midnight.

SULLIVAN: Let me ask you about another song "Paper Moon" on the album.

TURENNE: Mm-hmm.

SULLIVAN: This feels like we're going even earlier than Motown. It feels like we're in the 1950s here.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PAPER MOON")

GAMINE: (Singing) Da-dum-dum-dum, paper moon, why do you shine so soft and bright, swallowing the rays of light and holding them over the night, oh.

SULLIVAN: Tell me about this song.

TURENNE: When we started the band, everybody brought many songs, and we started working on arrangements. And this one is sweet because actually, we were at - my parents have a cabin in northern Manitoba, and we went outside at night for a break, and we actually arranged this one around a campfire under the moon. It was a really, really beautiful moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PAPER MOON")

GAMINE: (Singing) So as the day grows cold at night, you rise right out (unintelligible) the lovers who hang onto paper moon, cut out of my heart.

SULLIVAN: So what's going on here vocally? Who's doing what?

TURENNE: OK. So Alexa is doing the bass part, (singing) du-dum-dum-du-dum, and then I'm harmonizing that part with her. And Ariane is singing sometimes with us, and then sometimes doing the harmony on Annick who is singing the lead.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PAPER MOON")

GAMINE: (Singing) And holding them over the night, oh.

SULLIVAN: Some of your songs are in French.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SULLIVAN: Is it difficult to deliver soul music in French rather than in English?

TURENNE: I don't think it's difficult. I think that when you're writing in different languages, there's some languages that are better to say certain things, you know?

SULLIVAN: Like what?

TURENNE: Well, you know, like the song that we have on our U.S. release, "Tristesse Suspendue," is a super beautiful, kind of poetic, like lament, sort of, that for Ariane, when she wrote it, just came out in French.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TRISTESSE SUSPENDUE")

SULLIVAN: And what is it saying in French? What is that about?

TURENNE: So it's about a sadness, like a sadness that hangs over, like, a cloud. And when you move, it just follows you around, and you just can't sort of seem to get it from under it.

SULLIVAN: So it sounds more French in that light than English.

TURENNE: Yeah. I guess maybe just the way, like, the approach of the way you want to sing it, the, like, language fits it better. But, you know, we're also into the idea of translating some of our songs so that we can do some of the songs in both the French and the English markets.

SULLIVAN: Oh. Does that work? Is that hard?

TURENNE: It works. I mean, we do it to pop songs all the time, so why can't we do it to our own, you know? Like, we'll think of a pop song like, (singing) it's getting hot in here. And we'll say like, (foreign language spoken) and change the words to French.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAYS AND DAYS")

GAMINE: (Singing) Days and days in the dark waiting for the light that used to be in my heart. Now I'm all out of feelings, so much for happy endings.

SULLIVAN: That's Andrina Turenne of the band Chic Gamine. Their latest album is called "Closer." And you can hear a few tracks at our website, nprmusic.org. Andrina, thanks so much.

TURENNE: Thank you so much, Laura.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DAYS AND DAYS")

GAMINE: (Singing) There's a whole in my heart and I don't need your love to fill it up. You try to make me stay. I want to get away. I want to get away. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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