The Montreal-based musician sheds light on his newly released, sophomore solo album.
By: Sun Noor
Jonathan Robert, who goes under the pseudonym Jonathan Personne, is a Montreal-based musician, illustrator and producer who is predominantly known for fronting the francophone indie rock band Corridor. He has directed most of the music videos for his band as well as a few local bands such as Chocolat, Jesuslesfilles and Peter Peter. Back in August, he released his second solo record titled, Disparitions via Michel Records. He had quite the busy agenda last year, taking on plenty of illustration and video directing projects. With the release of his debut solo album Histoire Naturelle, Corridor’s critically acclaimed third record Junior, which lead them to be the first francophone act to sign to Sub Pop Records and touring out of the country extensively, Personne found himself overwhelmed and nearly fell out of love with music. With his latest creation, he sheds light on the past year while exploring sounds reminiscent 60s psychedelia, 80s post-punk and spaghetti western rock. I previously caught up with the artist to get a grasp of what went into his record.
First off, I want to congratulate you on the release of another great record. Tell me about this project and how you put it together.
“This is my second album. I started my solo stuff a couple of years ago when I was trying to record for myself like some songs and ideas that didn’t fit through Corridor. That is how I ended up composing stuff for myself. With my first record (Histoire Naturelle), it took me a while to put everything together, like almost four years and so I had time through that to compose almost all of the music for the second album (Disparitions) through that. I finished the record last summer“
Did you start working on both of your records at the same time?
“No. I just started to accumulate the ideas but I was not working on it then. I was working on the bigger bank of ideas which were finished then. My third album is also ready to be recorded.”
Did you go into the making of Disparitions with completed ideas or did you explore and work with different ideas at the same time?
“The thing is that I had a lot of ideas but I tried to put everything together at the same time and think about the direction of the album more. I wanted it to have less indie rock influence and be more different so I thought about going more into a classic rock direction. I was attached to aspects from Spaghetti Western soundtracks that I explored on my 1st record and I wanted to explore that more on the second one. I got a bit mixed up in the middle of the process, I didn’t know which sound was better so I ended up doing a mix of both classic rock and Spaghetti Western tracks.”
That’s really cool! One of my favourites from the record is Disparitions. Can you tell me a bit more about its context?
“I always pick one of the album’s tracks as the title. I do the same with songs for Corridor as well. It always ends up being a track that represents the album the most. I think with Disparitions, that was the case, Generally, the themes of my albums are similar. With the first one, I explore subjects such as the end of the world. At the same time, I was really influenced by the tough year I had in 2019, which was really intense for me. I have some workaholic tendencies and during that year I realised that since signing with Sub Pop with Corridor, the music would take a lot more place in my life. I was keeping the same pace with my illustration work and directing music videos as well. So in 2019, I released my first album, composed and recorded and released Junoir for Corridor and was touring a lot while working on music videos. At some point, I would realize that I was really exhausted and was not in a good place. I had to take a break and distance myself from all of that, which I talk a lot about in this record.”
It’s easy to get lost in that endless cycle of being overworked. Now that you’re not touring, do you feel like you’re in a more relaxed place compared to last year?
“Yes, totally. There’s a positive aspect about that. As well, I had to learn to say no to projects and stuff that could appear as opportunities. At some point you have to take the time to enjoy your life. I love doing music and I don’t want to consume my life, I took some distance and when we started we took off the whole summer of last year, which really helped me get back on track. We went on tour in the fall and things were way better for me. The vibe when I was on tour was great as I make music with my friends who are really easy to speak to and understand where I’m coming from when I talk to them and really respect that as well.
It’s important to have a very positive and healthy relationship with music and the people you work with. Why did you choose Springsteen as the lead single for the album?
“That was the song that was always mentionned when people gave me feedback on the album. I guess that was a good choice.”
Yeah I think it perfectly sums up the album. What are some of the Spaghetti Western films in particular that really inspired you when you were working on Disparitions?
“I don’t think there were any movies in particular but more of their soundtracks. I haven’t really seen any films of that genre recently so I think it’s more of the images and how I picture them through memories as I used to really like them when I was younger.”
Aside from “Spaghetti Western rock,” how else would you describe this record to someone who has yet to hear it?
“ I think with the way I construct an album, I like to have a strong cinematic aspect and narrative. I like when all the songs go together and are strong. That’s how I approach my albums and that’s what I try to do.”
You’ll be playing double sets at FME in the upcoming weeks, are you excited to get back on stage?
“Yeah, totally! I think everyone missed that, the musicians, the crowd, everyone’s craving that right now. I’m playing with both of my bands so it’s going be a fun two days. I know there’s going to be some weird aspect to it, like playing to a distanced crowd but I guess it’s going to be fun anyway. At least at least there’s not gonna be like some people talking really loudly at the bar.”
Yeah, that’s the worst part! I hate when I go to shows and I really want to watch a set but people are talking, it’s really annoying.
“Well, yeah, I know there’s going to be less people, but more people that really want to see the show for real.”
Yes at least there will be an attentive crowd. Lastly, some of your favorite albums at the moment?
“This week I was listening a lot to John Cale’s album Paris 1919, which is very good. I’ve been listening to this group which reminds me a lot of Stereolab but it has a different vibe at the same time. They’re called Vanishing Twin. I’ve been listening to two of their albums lately. During the beginning of the pandemic I was also listening to a lot from The Walker Brothers, The Carpenters and a lot of Niko too, the Chelsea Girl album.”
Here are more photos from Jonathan Personne’s POP Montreal performance back in September:
Download/stream Disparitions here!