Ben Champagne on Broken Life Stories

from left: Daniel Bégin, Charles Robert-Gaudette, Ben Champagne, Martin Lavallee, Francis Mondoux; via Facebook.
Genre: melodic/progressive rock, alternative, indie
Origin: Montreal, QC, Canada

With two members of one of my favourite now-defunct bands involved, it was only a matter of time before I took notice of Montreal's Nil. They've been around since 2006, a collection of honest musicians exploring and delivering the sad beauty of defeat, disappointment in society, and the destruction of hope.

If the city could be described as a vault filled with cultural gems, I would not hesitate to classify Nil as a precious stone in a raw state. It's a pity they're not making bigger waves, but at least for the fans, the music and live shows in particular are a special experience. Their sound is unexpectedly transparent, melancholic, and artistic, with equally piercing videos.

That last one with group choreography is my favourite. It was a couple years ago, when Mat Joly made a guest appearance in "Fix Me Up" that I fell in love. I find that they're very much like Daniel Vincent's gorgeous Neverending White Lights harmonies, but less conceptual and more conventional.

The band has acquired a neat, loyal fanbase through four years of touring, but I can't wait for them to release an actual compilation of songs. (Just so I can buy them off iTunes, rather than listen to static, applause-filled tracks on my iPod. While I marvel at the live aspect of music, but I like the portable aspect, too.) So I decided to go about pestering vocalist Ben Champagne. To my delight, he was very quick at responding.

The word "nil" literally means zero or nothing. Is there a reason you chose this moniker? Do the letters stand for anything?
I chose the name "NIL" since I started music on a new angle. I wanted to have a new artistic identity. For me it was like being into nothingness again. The name "NIL" was perfect.
(c) Louis Turmel; via Facebook.
Last we heard, your debut record, Broken Life Stories, was coming out this year- will you be pushing for a label or self-releasing?
We are currently in studio to finish the album Broken Life Stories. Of course, now we are independent, but we are negotiating with several record company to launch the album this year. If we do not get what we want, we will emerge independently.

I'm anxious to know, will it be a summer release?
It won't be a summer release. probably in the beginning of winter.

Who's the main songwriter? Is it a group responsibility?
All the song are written and composed by me (Ben Champagne).

Fairmount or St-Viateur?
everywhere (I'm still trying to figure out what this answer means. Hang tight, bagel fanatics!)

Favourite song to sing around the campfire?

"Hobo Blues" by John Lee Hooker

I'm a fan of your videos- they're a complimentary combination of artistry, emotion, and sensuality. How do the concepts come about?
Usually in my writing I talk a lot of human emotions, of desires and reality. All the videos of Nil are inspired by the reality that is already in the writing. Sensuality and physical attraction is our reality in this modern world.

What would be the next best visual of Nil's music without lingerie models and black/white film?
The next video is now being in color. The concept is very different from past videos. I can't say too much about it, but the only thing I can tell you is that this will be a great video with beautiful sexy nurses.
from left: Mondoux, Robert-Gaudette, Champagne, Danika Angela Ava, Bégin, Lavallee; (c) Dominic Gouin; via Facebook.
A lot of fantastic baroque pop, singer-songwriters, and modern rock outfits hail from Montreal (Arcade Fire, BRAIDS, David Usher, Malajube, etc). What aspects of the current scene do you like/dislike?
I do not hate anything. I'm just a musician and I hope I do not have to worry about it one day. the scene is changing as the music.

How's the weather like in Montreal this week?
The weather is perfect.

Name some tunes that will definitely be on your summer playlist.
"Montreal Calling" by Mobile (video)
"The Girls" by City and Colour (video)
"Into the Black" by Neil Young (video)
"I Hung My Head" by Johnny Cash (Sting cover)
"Angeles" by Elliott Smith (video)
"1901" by Phoenix (mp3)
"Bridge to Nowhere" by Sam Roberts (video)

Describe Nil's sound in a single phrase.
Nil has a heterogeneous sound which stacks the different spheres of contemporary music.

Thanks, Ben! via Facebook.