If everything goes according to plan, the Quebecois band De Temps Antan will successfully transport an audience from their seats to a homegrown, French-Canadian kitchen jam session.
Playing traditional folk tunes derived from the shared, rich heritages of Quebec and Louisiana – with Cajun influences being the most obvious connection – the trio’s performance goal lies somewhere between being cultural ambassadors and being the life of a really great party.
Speaking with a thick Quebecois accent tinged with what sounded like a constant smile, the band’s violinist, André Brunet, said the traditional folk songs offer a small-town feel that most anyone could recognize.
“We work a lot to bring the spirit of what is a kitchen party,” said André Brunet. “It’s really fun to bring people there. Even if they don’t know what to expect for sure people will go home from the show with a nice vibe of smiling.”
De Temps Antan brings their home-style act to the valley on March 18 when the Whitefish Theatre Company hosts their show at the O’Shaugnessy Center.
The group – consisting of Brunet, Pierre-Luc Dupuis on the accordian and Éric Beaudry on guitar, mandolin and bouzouki – all come from similar, small-town backgrounds in Quebec, where the unique, rich culture is channeled into energetic songs with ever-evolving melodies.
Part of their heritage is to provide the percussion with their feet, Brunet said, stomping to a rhythm rooted deeply in other genres of music, such as salsa or African drums.
“We start tapping the feet before walking when we are young,” Brunet said. “It’s the basic rhythm of the Quebecois spirit; it’s just a groove.”
Similarly, the lyrics are often part of an old, storytelling tradition from the region. Brunet said the group dug up some of its repertoire in a university library in Quebec where archivists stored songs sung by the older generations of regional villages, some recorded in the 1950s and 1960s.
The music and melody comes from the trio, Brunet said, which has a significant musical history of its own. All three met while playing in the popular folk band La Bottine Souriante, soon locking on to one another’s similar traditional backgrounds and influences.
After a year or two, they started playing together as a trio because it was a good fit, Brunet said, but it was not initially a full-time endeavor.
Calling themselves De Temps Antan, the band evoked a double entendre fitting their style: when translated, the band’s name means both “yesteryears” and “once in a while.”
Now, in their sixth year together, the band is a fulltime priority for Brunet and Dupuis; Beaudry is still involved with La Bottine Souriante.
“It’s very fun because we know each other for years, but we never got the chance to play often together,” Brunet said.
Fun is a constant, overarching theme for the trio’s music and performances. Audience participation is a mainstay at their shows, where the band chats and laughs with the crowd, as well as plays call-and-respond tunes to get the crowd into it.
And though their songs are in French, Brunet said most audiences catch on to enough words to sing along. Even if they don’t know what they’re saying, they understand the underlying language of music, Brunet said.
“I remember when I was young listening to many English singers; I was just not understanding any words but I was listening to the melody,” Brunet said.
Most of the songs are explained before the audience hears them, he said. As an example, he describes a song on the band’s latest album, “Les Habits Papier,” which translates to “Paper Suits.” The song of the same name explores the life of a man who loses everything, including his clothes, and must learn to traverse the world in a paper suit, Brunet said. It makes everything a little trickier, he said, especially when the man sits next to someone smoking a cigarette or drinking water.
Brunet said the Flathead Valley audience members should be prepared for a friendly, funny and lively evening.
“It’s a nine- to 99-year-old show. We invite people to come have a good time,” Brunet said. “It’s going to be fun and people will have the chance to have a good time, a full two hours of laughing and good melodies.”
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