In Conversation—with Mangeur de Rêves

Alex Cégé: voice, acoustic guitar
Jici LG: electric guitar, voice, acoustic guitar
JPhil Major: bass, voice, acoustic guitar
Raphaël Liberge-Simard: percussion
Florent Schmitt: electric piano

Mangeur de Rêves (“Dream Eater”) is a Montreal-based folk-rock band that formed in 2016.

The band has just released their debut album, Histoires a l’envers (backwards stories), a masterpiece of tight harmonies, atmospheric musical arrangements, and thoughtful lyrics reflecting the vastness of our inner worlds.  The two founding members, Alex and Jici, are psychology grad students, and the band’s name and song lyrics reflect their predilection for the landscapes of the psyche.  The album was recorded at Breakglass Studios (where Arcade Fire, Plants and Animals, Elephant Stone, and Elizabeth Shepherd have also recorded).  Recently the band’s bassist and backup vocalist JPhil Major and founding members Alex Cégé and Jici LG met with Wanda Waterman to talk about their lives and their sound.

How did you guys meet?

ALEX: Jici and I met in 2014, but we didn’t start the band until two years later.  We were studying the same subject but at different universities, and we were introduced to each other at a party.  We’d written two or three songs but had no band to play them, so we started looking on Facebook and other places for musicians.  One day we went to see Pain of Salvation, a progressive metal Swedish band.  We knew there would be a lot of music players there because it really is musicians’ music — very technical and progressive.  At the end of the show when we went to the coat check we said out loud, “Hey, it’s time to recruit some musicians,” and the guy in front of us turned around.  It was JPhil.

JPHIL: “I can play music! What do you guys need?”

ALEX: When we were looking for a percussionist we posted ads on the “Musicians Montreal” page on Facebook.  Raphael was following that page, but he’d turned the notifications off for a while because he wasn’t trying to get into a group.  One day he woke up and his cellphone was on the bed and completely by chance a single ray of light — the curtain was almost closed — was shining onto our ad.  Maybe because his musical preferences were so close to the wording of our ad, the notification had appeared.

JPHIL: Thanks to Facebook’s algorithms.  We were looking for something so specific, and then this guy Raphael arrives.

JICI: He was a true progressive metal fan like us.

ALEX: We like to say that we’re metalheads that don’t play metal.  We play soft music, so we say we don’t play “metal,” we play “wood,” which has a more folk quality.

How long did it take to record Histoires a l’envers?

ALEX: Nine intense days stretched over four months.JPHIL: The first session was during the Saint-Jean-Baptiste weekend.  What better way to celebrate la fête des Québécois than by playing in a Québécois band! At first. we went through the whole album live together and when we went back it was only for overdubs and tweaking.JPHIL: We wanted to celebrate Jean-Baptiste a little so we went to eat poutine at La Corniche, a Tunisian restaurant on Boulevard Saint-Laurent.  It was quite good.  It had merguez sausages in it.

Were there other instruments on the album besides your own?

JPHIL: There was a therevox.  It sounds a bit like a theremin, but it’s a keyboard.  Instead of pressing keys there’s a piece of metal that you slide to the note you want.ALEX: It’s like a moog but instead of pressing keys you move your fingers.  There were no virtual instruments.  And the console was analogue; it was a Neve console, the same one Led Zeppelin used to record “Kashmir.” It had a couple of other owners before the guys at Breakglass Studios bought it.  JPHIL: The Neve console was handmade by Rupert Neve, and he only made a handful of them.

Was the song “Ainsi Parlait Pinel” about the French pyschiatric reformer Philippe-Pinel?

ALEX: It’s more about those who live at the Philippe-Pinel Institute here in Montreal, about a man we could say is mad—but the whole point of the song is delivering a message and asking the questions, “What is madness? What is normal? Who actually lives at the Institute Philippe-Pinel—is it the madmen? Is it us ? Where is the line drawn?”

How do you find time in your hectic academic studies to work on your music?

JICI: I need this time with music.ALEX: It’s a necessity.JPHIL: I was mourning the end of a relationship at the beginning of the summer and these guys helped me through it just with music therapy.  ALEX : Our psychology studies teach us a lot about relational dynamics, which really helps with song writing.  It grants us a creative insight into relationships.

What’s next for Mangeur de Rêves?

ALEX: New songs, promoting the album, and shows.  We made the quarter-finals for the contest Ma Première Place des Arts.  Then in March we’ll know if we’ve made it to the semi-finals.  It will be on March 9 on MAtv on Videotron.

Mangeur des Rêves, left to right Raphaël, Jici, JPhil, Alex, and Florent

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