“Saint-Denis hearkens back to the mid-’80s garage aesthetic while maintaining a true sense of modern pop depth.” —Jonathan Sanders, Pop Matters
Gregory Orange pays about as much attention to the machinations of the entertainment world as a math professor might to an episode of American Idol. As founder, songwriter, and conceptual generator for the Dutch candy-apple-thrash band The May Bees, Orange crafts a sonic concoction that knows no true antecedent. Like Kurt Cobain, Thurston Moore, and Black Francis before him, he is an unclassifiable stylist bent on refraction and reinvention. That originality bleeds from every pore of the band’s new album, Saint-Denis.
Following on the heels of 2007’s broadside Drop Little Boy, Saint-Denis documents an artistic zenith that doubles as a repository of tasty aural snacks. Recorded and produced by Todd Tobias (Guided by Voices, Robert Pollard, Circus Devils), Saint-Denis updates the classic rock vocabulary, blending organically derived guitars and drums with modernist textures and Orange’s otherworldly vocals. Like Orange, Tobias is a melodicist with an established penchant for rattling bones with sound. And for Orange and Tobias, rock music is about emotional impact.
Orange describes the genesis of Saint-Denis as an epiphany he had while walking down the Montreal rue that serves as the record’s namesake (and on which he wrote the album’s songs). “Imagine this busy street,” he says, “with people walking, driving, shopping, drinking, talking, staring… I watched it for hours and hours, and I saw a sort of beauty in it. We are all alone in the world, trying to make something of our lives. And it’s tragic when we struggle and fail. It struck me that writing songs was a method to cope with that, a method to make this tragedy beautiful in a way.”
Built on the sturdy foundation of singer-guitarist Orange, longtime drummer Marzj, bassist Patrick Vetkamp, and guitarist Marcus, The May Bees are touring The Netherlands with an eye on follow-up dates throughout Europe as well as in Canada and The United States. Armed with the conviction that Saint-Denis holds their most realized and affecting work to date, they are encountering a global indie-music audience eager to be moved by something more passionate and profound than irony — an audience looking, maybe, for a little jagged beauty.
Produced by Todd Tobias at Waterloo Sound and mastered by Chris Keffer at Magnetic North Studio.
Also available from Wampus: Drop Little Boy.