collage-à-trois :: Q + A

Everything is beautifully white or awfully brown, auto-body shops are padding their coffers, and Winnipeg’s annual-show-season has the addition of collage-à-trois’ Winter Show. Formed in the summer of 2011, the jazz-inspired trio has been steadily writing, rehearsing, and playing in and around Winnipeg—including the TD International Winnipeg Jazz Festival and the Fringe Theatre Festival Mainstage.

This year, collage-à-trois’ Winter Show is also doubling as the release of their debut, self-titled EP. Stylus sat down with the three women  for a laughter-filled chat about their formation, their EP, bilingualism, and their upcoming show. Below is an edited transcript.

Catch collage-à-trois’ second annual Winter Show at the Gas Station Theatre on Friday, December 21st. Doors are at 7:30; show is at 8:00. Tickets are $15 ($10 if you are a student).

Stylus: You formed in the summer of 2011 as a group of friends looking to song-write and arrange together. Is there more to that story?

Rayannah Kroeker: Well we were all going to school in the Faculty of Music (University of Manitoba).  This project is really different from any other that we were a part of, and that we are a part of. It was kind of a chance to take what we were learning to another environment.

Shannon Kristjanson: Rayannah and I decided we wanted to have a band. We needed a third member because neither of us played guitar. There were songs that needed that, and “Hey Jocelyn is pretty cool.” And we got along with her well and she’s an amazing musician and—

Jocelyn Goertzen: I was halfway through my degree and they were done their degrees. I was super pumped because they were the big shots at the school and I got to be in their band [laughter].

SK: Very quickly, it just became a good fit between the three of us.

Stylus: What were the initial goals when you started working together on this?

RK: We definitely had short-term goals at the start.  Somewhere along the way it shifted dramatically [laughter].

SK: Basically we started off with the idea of a group—putting a couple things together, playing together, brainstorming ideas. And then we thought, ‘Ok we need a focus.’ So we booked a show at Aqua Books and were wanting to put it three months down the road, but they didn’t have any room three months down the road—they had room a month from them. So we said “Ok, I guess we’re going a month from now.” Then we just kind of put our butts in gear and really got to work and tried to, you know, fast track some things, and it motivated us to get stuff done, to get a product together. It gave us motivation for this one show to be this band.

JG: Originally, it was about playing the songs that we liked, and then we thought because we’re going to have a show we should play some originals, so we put together some originals and thought, “Well that was fun.” It sort of became a lot more originals—I didn’t think that when we started that it would be—I thought it would be more a show of covers.

RK: That was kind of the plan even, and now it is quite the other way around. There are some covers, but writing has become a huge focus for the group. I think all of our goals have been formed along the way. Because none of us knew how people would react—none of us knew how we would react. We were kind of just trying something out.

Stylus: Which brings us to your EP, which you released this month—your debut self-title. Was the process what you expected and is the product what you expected?

RK: Nope, and nope.

[laughter… for a while]

SK: Going into the studio for the first time—[Rayannah] had done a little bit of work before and I’d done some stuff playing flute and the such, some little things for other people’s stuff, it had never been my project—so we were all very green coming into the studio trying this for the first time. We worked with Adam Young. He came from a kind of country background, which in all honestly is nowhere near my genre of music—what I associate with, have a background in. So it was really cool to work with somebody who had ideas coming from a different place than where I was coming from.

So that was very time consuming in a way that, you know, we learned how to record. Right now I’m a lot faster at recording than I was three months ago. You definitely learn as you go, and we needed to do that.

RK: I think our songs have grown, like even now when we play them live they are more polished. I think we restructured some songs in a really cool way and made some decisions that we wouldn’t necessarily have gotten to had we not been in the studio.

Stylus: Stylistically it is quite minimalistic when it comes to the arrangements.  Obviously that is an aesthetic choice, but are any of you purists when it comes to the symmetry between a live set and a recording?

[loud laughter]

JG: I thought I was, but then I got into the studio and realized, “I can do as many guitar parts as I want!”

SK: It was a disaster. We had to reel her in [laughs]. It was kind of like, “Oh this is fun; this sounds really cool to have something different.” We can’t do a very similar version of that live, but what’s the point of going to a studio and actually recording if you’re not going to add stuff. It still sounds like our tunes, the same tunes when we play them live, but they just have their studio sparkle on them.

RK: It’s funny. We can all play the parts that we laid out live—just not at the same time. And I don’t think we ever crossed into territory of not representing our group anymore. We still very much represent our group.

Stylus: I want to ask about the bilingual aspect.  Obviously your band you go through a significant amount of work ensuring that everything is bilingual. When it comes to song lyrics, how do you decide if your song lyrics are going to be in English or in French?

SK: I’ve never got to a song, and thought, “Should this be in French or in English?” When I start thinking about it, it was already in French or in English. I think there is one that was different.

RK: Our audience matters a lot too. We have a fair bit of French repertoire, and with our upcoming show, some of them are part of it, some of them aren’t.  It’s just an additional consideration on top of slow songs versus fast songs and all that.

Stylus: Your winter show is coming up this Friday. Tell me about it!

RK: It is our second one in a row. We did the Winter Show last year, which was a lot of fun. Our first show was a bunch of covers, so when we booked the Winter Show, we thought we can do the same thing, but do mainly winter songs.  And that was kind of what we had in mind. We really loved doing that show, and wanted to do it again, but this time we have more originals.

JG: It’s our EP slash winter show, so we are definitely playing all of our EP.  And then selling it for the first time in hard copy there. We’ll pull out a lot of familiar music.

Stylus: You are bringing on a slew of guests. Are you playing their songs?  Are they joining you for yours?

SK: It’s a combination of both. We shouldn’t give too much away [laughter], but there are a couple songs that we did last year but have changed a lot, are very different now, and we found that adding somebody else to the mix would really add to that sound. We like to limit ourselves and push our creativity to make all of our songs work, but at the Winter Show last year we had a couple people come play with us, and we wanted to do the same thing this year.

RK: There are two guests where that isn’t the case, where we’re actually working with them to create originals. Whereas these other guests we had arrangements in mind, we had a plan, we thought who can fit that bill.

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