Five years ago in Montreal, Sabrina Halde and Jean-Vivier Lévesque started a project that would soon become Groenland. Halde describes the six-person group including her, Lévesque, Gabrielle Girard-Charest, Ariane Gruet-Pelchat, Simon Gosselin and Jonathan Charette, as an indie pop orchestra. “It was my first original project and I kind of wanted it to be big,” Halde, the lead singer, says, “The whole goal was to…play music and pay the rent and make a living out of it”.
And they’ve been doing more than just paying rent. The band released their album The Chase in 2013 which won the 2013 GAMIQ award (The Quebec independent music scene awards) for pop album of the year. After the album release, they were invited to play at Osheaga, a big thing for a band who wants to keep playing at festivals in the future. This year they released their album in Europe and they just returned from a very successful tour promoting the release.
Groenland’s song “Their Hearts Like Gold” was featured in an Apple iPad commercial which premiered during the Academy Awards. Halde describes that as a dream come true. “We were saying before ‘wouldn’t it be so crazy if it happened’”. And it did.
As with anything truly Canadian, language has played a role in the band. They’re from Montreal, but Halde sings in English. “It’s funny, when I sing in English, people says ‘Oh, but you’re French’” Halde says. But after years of drawing on influences of English-speaking jazz icons like Whitney Houston, Halde is most comfortable singing in the English language. “The way I sing is really related to the intonations of the English language…the sound [flows] better”. Although she’s tried to write songs in French, English words just seems to work for her.
Despite the language, the band does identify some Quebecois influences in their music. “The personalities of the band members are very sincere,” Halde says. They don’t have a commercial attitude that is often found in musicians outside of Quebec. Groenland has French folk influences too. But Halde says that Groenland is more than that. They draw on many genres and styles when writing their music, including popular American and European musicians.
The ultimate goal for Halde and the rest of the members of Groenland is to continue making a living from their music. Halde says that all the band members have different motivations for doing music, but for all of them, music is the most important thing for them. It’s really the only career option, as Halde says “we don’t have a choice.” The band hopes to keeping touring and performing at music festivals all over the world.
Groenland will be performing at Jazzfest Saturday, June 27 at 10:30 pm at the Marion Dewar Plaza.