In a Mile End loft on 435 Beaubien Ouest (Outremont, Montreal), is the home of Lab Synthèse, Beaubien Magazine, and a newborn record label, Arbutus Records. Having the opportunity to sit down with Sebastian and Alexander Cowan back in December 2008 when it was snowing buckets in Vancouver, I (Steph) was able to get a hold from both brothers a general sense of their personal philosophies of life and the inspirations behind Lab Synthèse, Arbutus Records and Beaubien Magazine. Sebastian: …It was about 4 years ago, I went to a new years party in Vancouver at this loft space, and I thought how you could do so much more with the space than what they [the hosts] were doing with it. I actually then went to university in the UK, but after I got back I talked with some friends – one from Mexico (who had a friend in Montreal), my friend Dave who’s from Vancouver, and then Alex who also was in Montreal – and basically over these huge conference calls we had, we roughly got together all our ideas… Dave and myself moved to Montreal in September 2007 and about two months after, we found a loft space and moved in. We put down a list of all the possible things we could do with it: concerts, vernissages, and film screenings – anything you could think of. We wanted to make it into a well-rounded art collective besides having it only be just a ‘venue’… it would be a good way to connect with the city and generate some kind of gravity towards the space. We invested in a PA system and all kinds of equipment and within two months we had built in all the necessary walls, installed a bathroom, and we found everything that we could find to put inside the space…. From venue, to art collective, to just having the space addressed as “the loft”, as the younger Cowan brother Alex puts it, Lab Synthèse has progressed, evolved, adapted and has developed a well-knit internal community of local Montreal artists, musicians, and friends... all I could think of when I first heard of Lab Synthèse was: 60s and 70s, Warhol, the factory, The Velvet Underground, Nico, grass, artists, innovative experiments, and awesome shindigs with extraordinary live acts. I can only imagine the space being somewhat like a post-modern Warhol factory in the 21st century, located in a perfect locale in Montreal, and where people can easily come and go as they please; where independent artists share with one another their own creative and personal artistic crafts, whether it be film, theatre, music, paintings, provocative discussions, interactive/visual art… you name it. Sebastian: We eased into our second phase by holding film screenings. And from there we decided that what we really needed to be doing was to be developing a community … to be networking this [Lab Synthèse] and to foster a community Alexander: We started off with the film screenings every Monday night, and on top of that, we started to have shows again, but having them be more driven from within our own group of friends, our own internal community as opposed to ‘outdoor’ promotions. And with this new focus came Sebastian’s new record label (Arbutus) that’s based on a band that has a bunch of our friends and other local acts. And also, we also were running the magazine too, [Beaubien]. So, we have all these shows now that take place, there’s the magazine, and pretty much everything is now driven from Lab Synthèse itself [stressing that there no longer is a collective], which is the venue, which Sebastian handles and is working everyday for… Sebastian: It was hard, because I really had the ideal of a collective but you know things just don’t always work out [like that] the way you picture things; people give and take different amounts, some take more than they give and then you’ve got to pick up the stray ends and balance things out yourself, which makes it quite difficult… I think that the important shifts from then to now is that the first phase was about this huge surge of energy; the second phase [was] about developing an external community; and now, the third phase is about having its focus on the inner community. That is where our strength comes from, which has been much more rewarding than anything else. A lot has developed from that initial idea of an art collective… Now we have the magazine and the record label… How has the Montreal crowd responded with everything you've done? Alex: [From past shows] we've had strong support and built a community, and mostly kept in contact through the internet and our friends we know that kind of bridge both worlds... The worlds are separate in some ways, we're definitely .. Sebastion: .. very Anglophone Alex: Yeah, exactly... lots of people do come from out of town... but the film screenings actually are great for keeping the local community coming out. It's really great. There's people that will just come to our place no matter what we have just because they think it's a neat thing going on. Sebastian: It's nice seeing the same faces over and over Alex: Yeah, and it's big too. Not even counting our friends ... there's a good 30-50 people that will show up periodically for no other reason why. They don't even know the acts or anybody else there but come with just their friends or even by themselves simply because they want to hang out... We also have a great location. We live right on the border of what I guess is a pretty hip neighbourhood .. Sebastian: .. like Main St. in Vancouver Alex: Yeah, kind of like that. And we're just on the side of the train tracks, you can imagine the train tracks divide one neighbourhood from another. So since we live just around the corner, we don't really get as much attention from the "authorities".. Sebastian: ..and we don't get neighbours who complain, we're right outside Alex: It's like a desolate trainyard, but yet it's soo close to downtown and where everyone lives... With the small independent record label Arbutus Records and its recent launch of Sean Nicholas Savage’s album (back in January at Lab Synthèse), what came from Sebastian’s mind's eye was made into reality. This was something that would benefit not just himself, but his friends and those who love the purity of music for simply just being what it is. Arbutus Records features a group of four musicians that you all should definitely check out: Sean Nicholas Savage Oxen Talk ("Pommier Rideau Portemanteau", what a nice refreshing sound. You'll definitely love this band if you're into Beirut) Jurassic Park and Claire Boucher Sebastian: …Oxen Talk, they’re all my best friends and are incredibly talented. They’re basically the reason why I wanted to make a record label, to simply get their music out. Their sound is vey much ‘old time’ … Alex: And Sean’s music is kind of and more like acid butter pop. It’s catchy… he uses a lot of heavy synth, simple drumbeats that are fast…it’s really infectious, accessible, but still emotional… Steph: Do you guys have a specific preference as to what kind of genres of music you like to listen to? Alex: Actually it’s interesting that you brought up that question. I mean, you know at first everyone was more interested and into electronic music like Aphex Twin for instance, but now things have definitely taken a turn towards the indie-rock, or the folk insurgent thing that’s going on. So, I guess our tastes develop with what comes out and what’s centered on the local scene in Montreal. Now when you look at what’s there, there’s more pop/folk opposed to electronic, which isn’t bad but we’re both more interested in electronic music. Sebastian: I used to make electronic music more seriously than I do now, but we do perform together every now and then purely for the reason to give people a fun time and have something dance to. Alex: [At the magazine launch] We were playing and everyone was hanging off the rafters and tossing beer cans everywhere and it was just a crazy party where everyone was having fun…. Is there a favourite band(s) at the moment that you can’t stop listening to? Or book you can’t put down… say if you were stuck on a desert island? Sebastian:  …Hm, that’s hard. I only really listen to my friends’ music now…I can’t remember the last time I bought a record, except for those by this guy named Warren Hill…[Mississippi Records] … “I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore”, and “Life is a Problem” are really great. Alex: I think its still pretty safe to say that we like Aphex Twin a lot. In terms of books, if I was stuck on a desert Island I’d want to bring something really heavy and dense that would take me a long time to get through, so I’d probably choose [Wilhelm Friedrich] Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit. Just to give our readers a taste of what it's like, how would you describe Beaubien Magazine? Alex: The magazine is kind of a weird eclectic mix of poems, short stories, a lot of visual art, and then the occasional investigative journalism piece…but it really reads and it looks a lot like a literary journal. There is the possibility for development, but really it’s main purpose is to reflect in a concrete literary form what’s happening right now… The Cowan brothers are but two of many other intelligent, young, talented artists out there who are without end, up to the neck, crammed with dedication and a keen sense of generosity, artistry, liberality, and ambition. Where it all began with a simple concept of what to do with empty loft space, Lab Synthèse, Arbutus Records, Beaubien Mag. are what appears to encompass the essentials of art in and of itself. It’s a place where relationships culminate, and where you can “bask with Basque in the warm glow of [a] cinema screen with speakers and screen taller then yourself”...B.Y.O.B., converse, and watch stunning films like "Grey Gardens", "Delicatessen", or "Ivan's Childhood", for F-R-E-E. Although I haven't been (but am now beyond eager to fly out to Montreal), the loft certainly seems like a place that will always remain genuine to its philosophy, simply Art Becoming. Last but not least I'd like to give a big THANK YOU to Sebastian and Alex for sharing with our readers what Lab Synthèse, Arbutus Records, and Beaubien Magazine is all about! Check out the website and their facebook groups here: Lab.Synthèse (+ Beaubien Magazine, Arbutus Records) (facebook, MySpace) Arbutus Records (facebook, MySpace) Beaubien Magazine (facebook)