Whether you’ve heard Ariel Engle’s work in AroarA, Broken Social Scene or in a more supporting role, it’s hard to deny both her vocal talents and artistic vision. With the right timing career-wise and personal events inspiring her, Engle decided to turn solo this time around with La Force. While sharpening down on an electronic edge, Engle has included many of her friends on her latest record La Force to keep it vibrant and lively. We caught up with Engle ahead of her North American tour (dates below) to discuss life’s curveballs and controlling her own collaborators for once.
NT: After years of contributing to other people’s recordings and collaborating over the years, what lead to this new solo album?
Ariel Engle: This album started off as a second-offering from AroarA, and as we were going along a lot of things happened in my life. To put it plainly, life and death happened, and it was this time of great difficulty and stress in our lives. It became La Force because it became evident that I needed to produce something of my own for once. AroarA isn’t dead though, we do a lot together right now as it is so it was good to have something separate.
NT: In this case too, what did you want to do previous from anything you’d done with AroarA, and what inspired you about the electronic textures you’ve worked with?
AE: This record has a lot of AroarA in it because I made a lot of songs with Andrew, and his sensibilities are in them. He has a great feeling for electronic sounds and turning something organic into something that’s not. We both share that aesthetic, so it’s hard to tell where it’s him, me or his influence on me. I realized making songs with both Andrew and Warren (Plans and Animals) that they both see me as someone with strong opinions on every step of the process, and won’t just let things slide. If there’s something I don’t like, I can’t get over it and have to change it.
NT: How did Charles Spearin, Warren Spicer and Nyles Spencer all come on to produce, and how did each of them affect the record while allowing you to keep it cohesive?
AE: It’s good to preface that Andrew produced as well, as well as the fact that I don’t really know what producing means anymore. I may not have given myself enough credit there either, but I wanted to acknowledge the contributions of others since I’m really grateful to work with them. They all had a hand in it though, but none of it sounds like one particular person because so many people had their hands in it. Potentially for my next record I’ll try putting on more limitations and stick to one other person so I can see what it sounds like when it’s basically just me.
NT: On this note you’ve also got a cast of your own making guest contributions on this record, so how was balancing this with keeping things focused?
AE: Part of becoming La Force though was working with all these different creative people and learning to articulate what I like and don’t like. A lot of them are just people I know in Montreal. Mishka Stein is someone I met through singing with Patrick Watson, and he’s a phenomenal bass player. I’ve known Warren for many years and we’ve performed together at so many things. It’s such a community, so you find people who are simpatico and have a good cross-over with you. Liam O’Neill’s (SUUNS) drumming just inspires me, and it was electric to perform with him. I’ve shared a meal with everyone on this record so I already enjoyed their company. It’s so intimate making an album, “You Amaze Me” was written in the room and if you’re not comfortable with all the people in the room, you won’t get the alchemy right.
NT: How did you want to tackle the harsh realities of the refugee crisis and the politics behind it on “Ready To Run”?
AE: Every morning I get up and before I make coffee, I’m listening to the news. So every morning had this unhappy story. It was a stark contrast between having this baby with me, and hearing these dark stories. I’d been filming some videos of her eating and doing various things for the first time, and in the background was news about people being destitute, and dying on boats. I just feel like we’re all so affected, if you can stop for one moment you’ll be moved by the plight of other humans and realize where you’re born is truly a lottery. I felt like I had to write about it, and it came out in this more punk-rock sound before becoming what it is now which is more of a simple protest song. I want to be more involved though!
NT: You’ve also discussed how life and death in your life inspired the album, so how did you want to represent that in the music?
AE: My music is dripping with life and death, and that’s really what it’s about mostly. It exists in the space between those two points, as a mother, losing someone who raised me, those are both such substantial experiences. If I hadn’t written about either of those it would’ve been weird, especially if I was trying to write a happy dance record instead.
Words by Owen Maxwell
La Force Tour Dates:
9/19 – Ottawa, ON – The 27 Club (tix)
9/20 – Toronto, ON – The Drake (tix)
9/21 – Montreal, QC – Phi Centre (tix)
9/22 – Sherbrooke, QC – Boquebière (tix)
9/23 – Quebec City, QC – L’Anti (tix)
10/10 – New York, NY – Mercury Lounge (tix)
10/12 – Philadelphia, PA – Ortlieb’s Lounge (tix)