First things first: Solar Year are not "another Grimes project". Of course, their debut album features a track ('Brotherhood') that sees Claire Boucher on backing vocals, and their music shares a similar impressionistic feel of her works between the Geidi Primes and the Halfaxa period, but there's also much more to them than that.

Waverly - that's the record's title - is probably the most deep, sensorial and immersive experience that Montréal has offered us lately, a piece of work that finds its distinct qualities from other associated artists in the local music scene (you know, Blue Hawaii, Majical Cloudz, d'Eon and so on) in the way Ben Borden and David Ertel have incorporated tribal and organic elements in it. But most importantly, it is an album that grows on you with every listen, and an album that you will come back to time and time again.

We first gave it a spin when it was self-released by the duo last year, but when we picked it up again in its remastered form to prepare for the interview that follows, we found ourselves way more enthralled than we were at the beginning. So we highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of that.

We'd also like to remind you that our good friends at No Fear Of Pop still have a few copies of the beautiful 'Night & Day' 7" single available to purchase. Head over to their imprint website now for more information.

How did you guys start playing together?

We were sort of matched up by Alex Cowan from Blue Hawaii. We didn't know where we were going at first but it was clear that we were on the same wavelength from the start.

What are your main musical influences? What I get, listening to Waverly, is that an aspect that distinguishes your sound from the other acts in the scene - Grimes, Blue Hawaii, Majical Cloudz, etc - is your use of tribal percussions, which are treated in an esoterical way that's not far from the musical offer of Dead Can Dance and Fever Ray. Am I right?

That's a great way to describe us. Certainly we've been influenced by all the artists you've mentioned. Not that we're good at analyzing our own music, but we're seeing a trend in our new tracks towards more world music styles like Sainkho Namtchylak but mixed with a down tempo feeling like Massive Attack. We're curious to see what happens to the percussion when we step away from electronic dance influences and mix up more organic textures.

You also appear as deeply interested in (and influenced from) Western religious art, Gregorian chants, new-age culture and - as I also get some sort of woods imagery from your music - nature (Naturalism?). Would you say that these interests are really widespread in Montréal as it seems from all the music that's currently coming out from the city? Or even better: would you say that the Montréal community is new-age-y in some way?

Of the music artists breaking out of the scene in Montreal right now, we don't think we see a trend towards New Age or world music influences. Grimes has name-checked Enya and Hildegard von Bingen in the past but we can't think of other Montreal artists thinking that way. We actually sample a lot of sounds from nature, like footsteps on icy snow or the ocean, which might account for the natural imagery which we see as elemental. We are interested in group trance experiences which aren't limited to the religious and much of the medieval music we listen to is actually secular in origin. But we are interested in modern religious spaces at the intersection of stark and cold / organic and reverent. Peter Zumthor's chapel in northwestern Germany really sums up this juxtaposition.

Remaining on the Montréal music scene: I've got a couple of internet friends from your hometown and I saw them getting annoyed by the huge amount of critics that tag the equally huge amount of artists getting (the deserved) recognition after the rise of Grimes, as a "new wave". They point out that there isn't a "new wave" - the local scene has always been vital, and that there's no turning point but a continuum. What is your point of view on this subject?

We actually feel like, starting around four or so years ago, that there was a pretty clear new wave of music coming out of Montreal. In the early 2000s there were indie bands like Arcade Fire and Godspeed You! Black Emperor but by the time we and our friends showed up in Montreal that thing had kind of passed over. Arbutus Records' space called Lab Synthèse rallied a lot of like-minded people together and helped to create a cohesive scene of new music that was more influenced by EDM and pop music. Bands like Flow Child, d'Eon, Grimes, Blue Hawaii, and us have had an early community that would be happy to watch us play and develop out of thin air. When we started to see shows happening with a line-up that cohered and we finally realized that there was something new and distinct happening.

Much of your debut LP was recorded like a "collage", by layering sounds and samples and blending them into each other. Could you explain better how your creative/working process operates?

We always feel like every song is its own process or even its own project/journey. Our process is constantly changing. Sometimes we brainstorm sound ideas by improvising together, and then we take those sounds and try to refine them into a coherent structure.

Another outstanding quality of Waverly is that it's a deeply sensorial and immersive experience, so it made total sense that you put together a special performance at the McGill Memorial Swimming Pool, relying on an underwater sound installation. How did that idea come about?

We came up with the idea while brainstorming amongst ourselves and friends. We clicked with the image of people floating in suspended animation. It was a pretty crazy undertaking. Ut wouldn't have happened if we were slightly less lucky/we didn't have a few community institutions rally behind us. We would love to be able to do it again, and improve on the concept etc.

I know that the both of you are also multi-media artists. How did this affect the Solar Year project and in particular - I guess - your live shows? Have you got any projects currently going on in the multi-media field (and outside of music)?

We make all the videos that we project in our live shows, which lately have involved 3D graphics and natural imagery. David recently composed the music for an audiovisual installation that showed at the Berlinale. At the moment we are focusing on creating visual/media art as Solar Year. We are working on two installations one at ROX Gallery in NYC (closing party performance on July 20th) and one in Montreal in September. We have a residency at Montreal's PHI Centre in August, where we'll be working on multimedia projects and collaborations.

Have you got a particularly memorable moment from your latest European tour? Which country has the most responsive audience?

We both really loved Berlin and had some great shows there; audiences in Paris and Lille where amazing. Had a great time hanging with friends in Antwerp, really like that city.

Any plans for the upcoming future that you can reveal?

We're very excited about our upcoming videos with directors Allie Tsypin and Melissa Matos, Braids, lights at the end of tunnels, and light shows à la Olafur Eliasson. As we said, we are putting on a special installation-performance at ROX gallery in NYC in July 20th and the Art Pop festival in Montreal in September, which will involve surround sound and 360º visualizations. Tour plans TBA.


Waverly is released on June 24th in Europe/UK on Splendour, and the following day in the US via Ceremony.