Recently, a reader named Jérémie (ça va, Jérémie?) wrote to us with a list of weird bands to check out from his hometown, Montreal. And as we were going through them, we came to a startling realization: The Weird List has zero Montreal bands on it! Clearly this is not acceptable state of affairs, so we’re remedying it tout suite with our favorite of Jérémie’s suggestions: a freaky electro-pop collective called Les Amis au Pakistan.
Les Amis au Pakistan (Friends in Pakistan) have been around since at least 2007, when they released a candy-colored romp of a debut album called Espace Libidinal. Its trippy tracks bring to mind the sampledelic electronica of Avalanches and the avant-pop chansons of Lætitia Sadier and Stereolab, but there’s a surrealist quality to the music and vocals — sung by a quartet of female vocalists — that makes the whole thing delightful and fresh.
Their music videos are, if anything, even more far out than the music, despite being shot on what appears to be a zero-dollar budget. Here’s the clip for “Un p’tit tour de minoune.” I’m not sure which of the singers this is — there are now five of them, named Solange Lavergne, Jacinthe Fradette, Caroline Fournier, Evelyne Mireault and Katia Cioce — but she’s my favorite, for reasons I don’t think I need to explain.
In 2009, Les Amis returned with a sophomore album called Cosmetic Cosmic that was sleeker but no less trippy. Here’s the video for “Nobodée,” which to me sounds like hitting the goth club on ‘shrooms but to Les Amis apparently sounds like a bacchanalian afternoon of yard work and light bondage.
This is where I should mention Les Amis au Pakistan’s two male members: Simon R. Tremblay, who writes and produces most of the music, and Joël Chevalier, who does most of the lyrics and directs the videos. I wish I knew more about them and the group’s beguilingly weird singers, but hardly anything has been written about them in English and not a whole lot more in French. This review of Espace Libidinal from Canadian music site Exclaim is one of the few things I had to go, and about all I could really crib from it was the Stereolab comparison — which, frankly, is a stretch, especially once you get to the much more beat-driven productions on Cosmetic Cosmic.
After Cosmetic Cosmic, it looks like Les Amis au Pakistan went on hiatus. Tremblay released a solo album under the name Native Cell that might be even weirder than Les Amis. But they returned in 2015 with their third album, High Apothéose, which I think is my favorite LAAP album yet. Musically, it’s all over the map — the title track is bhangra meets breakbeat, “Muffin Top” is sad disco playing through blown speakers, “Jésus, Mon Ami” mixes Jersey club with Empire of the Sun-like synth-pop grandeur. But the craziest moment probably comes on “Black Circles,” a full-blown disco punk freakout made even freakier by its video, which is probably what the orgy scene in Eyes Wide Shut would have looked like if Fadades had shown up.
So thanks for introducing us to Les Amis au Pakistan, Jérémie! I’m sure they’ll be the first of many Montreal bands we’ll write about — but for now, I think they represent your city quite well.
- Les Amis au Pakistan on Facebook
- Les Amis au Pakistan on Bandcamp
- Tir Groupé’s Bandcamp page (LAAP’s label; their first two albums are available here)