Grand Lodge No. 24, the church-turned-recording-studio recently purchased by Emery Street Records, officially opened and the owners threw one hell of a fucking party. On Friday, November 14, producers, musicians, artists, members of the press, publicists and other members of the local music industry — as well as various randoms there for a good time — were invited to Farnham, Quebec to check out this latest acquisition by the independent, DIY Montreal label.

Arcade Fire, the former owners of the century-old church, caused a buzz in the international music community when they announced via Twitter that the building was for sale in January of 2013, the main reason being that the roof was in an advanced state of disrepair. Emery Street Records president, general manager and executive producer Francis Lemay saw an opportunity to take an already legendary studio and expand its reputation as well as bolster the mystique surrounding Emery Street Records and solidify their position as important promoters of the Quebec music industry. He had the old carpet roof replaced by a metal one as well as repairs done to the masonry, doors and windows. The building — which houses the studio where the majority of Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible and parts of The Suburbs were recorded — was ready to take bookings from the public in May 2014.

Emery Street finally got around to marking the opening of Grand Lodge No. 24 by throwing a wild party for friends and other members of the local music community, a grand and complex undertaking at the level and with the success that they managed to pull off. It had absolutely everything a good party should have and some spectacular extras as well.

Each and every room in the place, including the common areas like the concert hall and basement living area, has been given a major makeover by some very prominent Montreal artists including Cedric Taillon (curator), Chris Dyer, street art collective WZRDSGNG, Jean-Michel Cholette, Guy Boutin and Clockshovel. The party also featured live painting by Zilon, Labrona and more.

Other live entertainment included some really top-notch burlesque performances by Lavender May (curator), Ruby Rhapsody, Madria, La Reine Rouge and La Reine Noire and the weird and wonderful Lady JosephineSeb Black and Eddie Paul both played sets interspersed between the burlesque performances. (Eddie Paul recently released a new video for his single “Shut Up and Dance”, check it out here if you haven’t already!)

They had full bars set up staffed with bartenders that looked the part, serving up Farnham Ale & Lager. Outside, there was a bonfire in a barrel and free mulled wine courtesy of Barefoot Wine & Bubbly. Das Food Truck was set up on the premises to satisfy hungry party-goers.

To top it all off, the new owners had purchased a school bus to ferry guests between downtown Montreal and Farnham, ensuring that no one would have to drive back to the city intoxicated. Hell, they even provided coat check at no cost. That’s how you get shit done.

All in all, considering everything that could go wrong when you’re a homegrown DIY label throwing a party of this magnitude, everything came together spectacularly with nary a bump in the road. Of course, a fire truck showed up at some point, presumably called upon by the presence of smoke from the barrel fire and the incessant ringing of the fire alarm when someone decided to started playing with the dry ice machine in the basement (I’m looking at you, Zacchia).

One last detail that was not overlooked: the hiring of some event photographers to capture it all, check out their work below!

Photos by Alex Sergerie, Edgar Delacroix, Michel Thibault and Jonathan B.P. courtesy of Emery Street Records. 

opening of Grand Lodge No. 24
Eddie Paul - Alex Sergerie

Well it took a little while to round up all the photos from Forget The Box’s 5th birthday bash last month but here they are! We’d like to thank everyone who came out to the show and everyone who has supported us over the last five years. We have some personal thanks so let’s get to it:

Chez Nick and Dr. Sugarbottom’s for the excellent refreshments.

O Patro Vys for hosting us.

Seb Black, Eddie Paul, the Emery Street crew, Two-Year Carnival, Ruff Talons and Po Lazarus for their killer sets.

Indie Montreal for putting on the show.

Thanks to Stephanie Laughlin and everyone who helped her put it all together.

Click on the photo to launch the slideshow. Photos by Iana Kazakova and Alex Sergerie.

FTB party photos

The Emery Street Records crew have been busy since Seb Black’s official album launch at the end of May. At the end of this month, fellow label mates Eddie Paul and Les Tavarneux will be releasing their new singles ‘Dig Myself A Hole’ and ‘Musique la Juge’ respectively. Seb Black just released a new video for his single ‘Go Out In Style.’ Get ready: badass dogs chewing on raw meat, lovely Burlesque dancers, a bathtub full of milk and FrootLoops, and a nice collection of taxidermied animals:

If you missed him in May, you can catch Seb Black perform August 24 at Divan Orange. In the meantime, here’s a review of his last show:

Seb Black has more than just one trick up his sleeve. His signature smoky rasp is definitely the real deal but was by no means the only star of the show, which took place May 30 at a full-to-bursting Katacombes. The performance served to officially launch his new album ‘On Emery Street’ and the band obliged by playing the album in its entirety, with the exception of one song (‘Lil’ Boomer’) from start to finish.

Seb BlackA piece of the atmosphere that Black and the Emery Street musicians have created back at their record label HQ follows them onto the stage. The show had a vibe reminiscent of an old-timey carnival mixed with a punk rock funhouse, all with just a touch of sophistication. Girls were dancing and guys were raucously singing along as Black’s hideously mesmerizing stuffed monkey, used as a stage prop, gazed at the crowd from its perch.

Black is a great showman and his raw energy is contagious. Guitarist Eddie Paul, bassist Guillaume Besnier, drummer Marc-Antoine Sévégny, and keyboardist Matthew Shefler are all very talented musicians with their own distinct stage presence that compliment Black’s charisma well.

The songs as they are performed live differ slightly from the recorded work. Many of the electronic elements present on a few of Black’s songs (‘On Emery Street’ and ‘The Rich Kids’) were hard to pick up on live. The same goes for the brass sections on ‘Got No Twist.’

Nonetheless, hearing the songs a little stripped down did not take away from their essence, style and spirit, which is really what makes Black’s music so interesting in the first place. You could throw these guys on a street corner with homemade instruments and they would probably still sound good.

Photos by Chris Zacchia

Seb Black on Emery Street

We are on Emery Street. Seb Black is seated on an old, Victorian-style couch like a King on his throne. The walls are painted metallic purple. At his feet, a small, black pit-bull is gnawing on a raw, bloody piece of meat that’s almost as big as she is, getting blood all over the snow-white faux-fur carpet. Black looks on, completely unconcerned, a cigarette in one hand and a tall-can of Pabst in the other.

Emery Street studiosThe scene is completely bizarre and surreal but there is an unmistakable air of refinement and class to it. For Black, it’s just your average Tuesday night. This is a small slice of life on Emery Street, the headquarters for the appropriately named Emery Street Records.

Emery Street HQ is Black’s kingdom, a world so real and raw that it crosses the line into fantasy. This place has to be seen to be believed. It’s much more than your average record label headquarters. A completely organic DIY space, Emery Street features a high-quality recording studio, several jam spaces, and is also where most of the musicians on the label eat, sleep, work, and play.

So what exactly happens when you put a bunch of people who are all musicians, singers, songwriters, and friends into one space? The resulting energy is exciting, intoxicating, and a little bit frightening at the same time.

The purpose of all this, according to Black, is to create a world so unusual, so out of the ordinary, it becomes the stuff of legend.

“We’re trying to create an atmosphere, and that atmosphere will be legendary,” Black says.

Then there’s the music, which is almost just a by-product of the crazy world that Black and his fellow musicians have built for themselves.

“Anyone can make music,” Black said. “Anyone can learn an instrument and play songs. You have to have a style and you have to live that style.”

Seb Black on his throneFor Black, living this way comes naturally. His story has all the markings of a classic punk folk tale. A high-school dropout raised by a passionate, free-thinking single mother up north in the Laurentians, Black started making and producing music at a young age.

When he was 18 years old, he was living almost 100 km north of Montreal in Val-David, producing music for hip-hop artists.

“My manager said ‘I’ll introduce you to a big producer but you have to meet him on Wednesday at ten in the morning on the corner of St. Denis in Montreal.’” he said. “I didn’t have a ride so I hitchhiked here and met him.”

This attitude of going out and just doing something without having a backup plan is what led Black to where he is now.

“Most people have shit holding them back,” he said. “I’m just lucky that I had the life I had, which might have been really hard, but it gave me the chance to truly not give a fuck.”

The emphasis on this idea of having a style and living that style is what all the musicians at Emery Street seem to have in common. “Style is like a religious word around here,” said Eddie Paul Hodorek, whose band is signed to the label, along with Seb Black and a third band called Les Tavarneux.

Eddie Paul moved in around three years ago when Emery Street was starting to come together. He’s the first to say that this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. He had to adjust to the constant movement, chaos, and noise in the house, not to mention sleeping in a room with no windows.

“Everything you know, or you think you know, has to change,” he said. Is it working for him now? “I work for it now,” he replied.

His statement speaks volumes about the concept of Emery Street as its own entity. Every member seems to agree that the musical products created by all of these individuals would not be the same were it not for this environment.

Emery Street studios
Eddie Paul at Emery Street Studios/his bedroom

Contrary to what most people might think, the total absence of rules, schedules, and regimented work slots is incredibly conducive to inspiration and creativity. The proof is in the music. Seb Black’s album ‘On Emery Street’ will be officially launched on May 30 at Katacombes. Tickets are 10$ and you get a copy of the CD. Meanwhile, Eddie Paul and Les Tavarneux are looking to release their respective works sometime in the fall.

“There are bands out there with budgets from their record labels. They’re paying for studio time, they’re watching the clock,” Hodorek said. ”That’s the difference: we’re all friends and we’re all here for each other. We get the benefit of everyone caring about everyone else’s music. The whole process is more enjoyable ‘cause it’s not about money, it’s about each other’s thing.”