Q&A with Endrick Tremblay - hailing from Montreal, Endrick and the Sandwiches play frenetic blues rock

"I think that the impact of blues rock is year after year less powerful, because it’s been mainly a man type of music. It even became a white man type of music through the years. I think that society has a craving for new types of models and if the blues rock genre isn’t able to reinvent itself, people will look someplace else."

Endrick & The Sandwiches:

Sultans of Swings Play New Wave Blues

Hailing from Montreal, Endrick and the Sandwiches play frenetic blues rock by two guitars, harmonica, saxophone and a heavy hitting rhythm section. Endrick has energy to burn. He casts a fresh light on a style of music in danger of running out of breath while also paying great respect to its progenitors. Endrick Tremblay is a singer, guitarist, and harmonica player who grew up in Mont-Tremblant, a village where at an early age, he met the musicians who's storied lives called to him. As a teenager, he cut his teeth playing punk rock music at local house parties before being asked to join the Outsiders Blues Band. These new compatriots were twice his age, so armed with his fake ID, he played loads of bar gigs, recorded the first album of his career, and discovered the myths and legends of the blues. This fascination for this style led him to share his discoveries weekly on the late-night radio program “Blues avec Endy”, which ran for two years.                                                          (Endrick Tremblay / Photo by Greg McEvoy)

With their first self-titled album already in their pocket, Endrick and the Sandwiches have had the opportunity to perform at Sherblues & Folk, Montreal Jazz Fest, and the Mont-Tremblant Blues Festival. The impression left is often similar: “BarEscogriffe was the theatre for an epic concert where Endrick with his Sandwiches performed a three-hour show of original compositions and interpretations of classics in an electric environment (...) teaching a younger generation (...) an entirely new face of this genre of music.” And this, similarly while Endrick performs as a solo acoustic act: “During this concert, there was a magical progression that played out while the audience discovered little by little the jovial personality of this Mont-Tremblant native, who has no hesitation in amusing himself creatively with their participation.” Overall, Endrick and the Sandwiches are a new wave blues act who avoid self importance while looking to shake the hips of their audience with fun-loving songs. Endrick has a lot of energy to burn. He knew only one way to survive the motionlessness of a pandemic, write joyous songs. "Sunny Soul" (2021) is the latest album that he recorded with his Sandwiches. A naively idealistic sermon supported by a party mix with a pop, soul, r & b and alternative flavour. Between Lou Bega and Lou Reed, the party is a cure for the storm, and Sunny Soul leads the parade.

Interview by Michael Limnios                Special Thanks: Sarah French Publicity

How has the Blues n' Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

My views of the world are deeply connected to what music taught me. The bandmates, musicians, audiences and lovers I have met are really the best part of what I get out of a countercultural life. The solidarity in a band is essential because you have to put your ego aside to serve a song. It allows you to reach out on another level. It affects my view of the world by making me believe in a world that could be less selfish. Also, to be playing improvised music is the most explicit example of what a real democracy should be. We are free, but we need to negotiate our space in the song. We also have to speak loud, or lead, just one at a time, plus we have to support one another. If you’re a smart player, you’ll find a way to have fun and play some funky background without overshadowing your gang.

As described in the song Sultans of swings by Dire Straits, I think that the real blues and rock thing is not necessarily happening with stardom, but in dive bars where people are jamming just because it makes them feel good when it’s grooving. Reading a lot about the history of the blues helped me to accept the absence of commercial success and the fact that I haven’t been able to make a living out of my music. A bunch of the legends of the genre were having day jobs and it doesn’t mean they were less interesting.

"The rejection of superfluous. The first era of punk rock was an attempt to bring back something raw, get rid of the glitter of stadium rock. It’s working class music. I see blues and punk rock as similar genres because the persona of the artist and his unicity is often more important than the song itself. Both styles are all about having a good time and heal what hurts you by strumming it out." (Photo: Endrick Tremblay)

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

My sound is passionate, but not even close to the sound of the artists that inspired me (John Lee Hooker, JJ Cale, Mississippi John Hurt…). I know my limits, but I try to accept them and have fun anyway. You have to start somewhere if you want to go somewhere. My music philosophy is «Serve the muse, don’t expect the muse to serve you». This music has nourished me all my life and I still want to humbly celebrate it anyway.

My creative drive has always been there and I don’t think it’s a thing I could rationally explain. I think we all have that potential. It’s a mystic thing and the muse visits you when she wants. My songs usually come from dreams or quotes from my construction co-workers. What makes you an artist or not is if you make sure to notice these nuggets. The image that would best describe my impression is that we are just a channel who notice the beauty and try to express it again from a new angle.

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music?

I am more and more concerned about how I can be serving the song instead of “showing off” with guitar solos. The musician life teaches you to be humble. As years go by, I also try to understand and accept my flaws. The life of a musician is a nice laboratory: you learn to negotiate your space with other instruments and people. It’s teaching you how to respect yourself and how self-confidence is essential. It also teaches you that the only way to be relevant is to be unique, to find this genuine thing that sets you apart, even if it’s a funny thing.

What has remained the same about your music-making process?

I started to play music when I was a teenager, and everyone knows how important your gang is when you are 16 years old. I am amazed by the centered place friendship has occupied ever since in my music practice. Even now, at 32, time spent with my band always feels like family time.

"The life of a musician is a nice laboratory: you learn to negotiate your space with other instruments and people. It’s teaching you how to respect yourself and how self-confidence is essential. It also teaches you that the only way to be relevant is to be unique, to find this genuine thing that sets you apart, even if it’s a funny thing." (Endrick and the Sandwiches / Photo Valérie Paquette)

What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?

I hope that I am able to share, through my music, my passion: passion for life, love and celebration, passion for humour and rock n roll. Especially the passion for the music that has been done before mine.

If some people would notice a mixture of something new with some influences from the past, that would be it! It’s a thin line between inspiration and pastiche, but we try our best to keep some of the tradition not too far…

How do you describe "Sunny Soul" sound and songbook? Do you have any stories about the making of the new album?

With the confinement I had energy to burn. The motionlessness of the pandemic inspired me 9 short and joyous songs. They kind of all appeared to me at once in one week of march 2020. That’s how Sunny Soul became my new persona and the band jumped in with me to create this madness: Lyrics that are naively idealistic and music inspired by Sly & the Family Stone, Rose Royce, The Staple Singers and Booker T. and the M.G.'s . I wanted to make something that was less serious: a mix of Lou Bega and Lou Reed. I felt like it was time for us to mix our adulthood musical influences (John Lee Hooker, Howlin Wolf , Bonnie Raitt, JJ Cale…) with the big shiny tunes of our youth, the pop music of the 90’s. I felt like it could help people pass through this year if we could come up with something that would make them dance, or at least laugh. I wanted it to sound like the soundtrack of a funky cartoon of the 70’s. Sunny Soul is just an ode to the little pleasure of life.

What´s been the highlights in your music career?

I don’t have any insights that come naturally as highlights of my music career. I tend to embrace all of the musical adventure as a beautiful, although sometimes hard, work in progress. I know that, at 90 years old, looking back at it in a rocking chair, I’ll be seeing a river flow much more than a couple of crucial moments. You never know when this crazy feeling of levitation reachable through the playing of music is going to hit you. Sometimes it’s at your rehearsal space, sometimes alone with an acoustic in the woods and sometimes in the worst dive bar when your band is really cooking.

"I hope that I am able to share, through my music, my passion: passion for life, love and celebration, passion for humour and rock n roll. Especially the passion for the music that has been done before mine. If some people would notice a mixture of something new with some influences from the past, that would be it! It’s a thin line between inspiration and pastiche, but we try our best to keep some of the tradition not too far…" (Endrick Tremblay / Photo by Greg McEvoy)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

We have a rehearsal space in the most sketchy building in town. We call it the Iberville Palace of the Iberville Jam Crew. From outside, through the corridor, it looks like it’s abandoned, but we’ve managed to give our local a cozy vibe. It’s my paradise. That’s where we write songs, we rehearse and, most of all, we jam on week-ends. It’s such a magical place. We basically have a beer, improvise good grooves and exchange instruments one after another. We usually meet there instead of going to bars and we just play. This new tradition has already lasted for two years now. I thought the pandemic and the confinement would make me miss the gigs more than anything, but, turns out I mostly want to play good music with my people at our shady palace. Looking forward to jam again…

What would you say characterizes Montreal music scene in comparison to other Canadian local scenes?

From my experience, I can tell that Montreal’s music scene has a really unique vibe. I go out often and see D.I.Y. shows as much as I can, in town and out of town. Compared to the rest of Canada, Montreal has a lot of acts that sing in French instead of English because of our culture and history, but I feel like it’s not the only thing that sets Montreal’s scene apart. I have the impression that the offer in Toronto is much more “folk” or “Americana” or “Roots” while Montreal offers a lot of modern sounds. Maybe it’s just my impression, but this is why while I’m out of town and in Toronto I try to go and see a show at the Dakota Tavern, a good old fashion saloon presenting Country, R’N’B, Blues or old Rock bands. I wish we had more “old school” bands in here too, but at the same time, I feel lucky to be in a city offering a lot of emerging new sounds like Montreal. It’s quite inspiring.                                                    (Photo: Endrick Tremblay)

"My views of the world are deeply connected to what music taught me. The bandmates, musicians, audiences and lovers I have met are really the best part of what I get out of a countercultural life."

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

The sense of community is what I feel is disappearing, but there will always be new music that worth being heard. From the books I read about the history of the blues to the experience I had back in high school in a country town, the exchange in between bands of the same scene has always been essential. Now, learning a new lick on YouTube instead of meeting an elderly person who could teach you stuff about music, but also about life doesn’t have the same value. Old cats have fascinated me when I was young with their crazy, half lies, stories and I’m still craving for that.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I wish we could destroy the generation gap. I never understood why youngsters don’t care about the blues. Also, I feel like older people tend to prefer the music of their young days because it’s associated with good memories, but what if they would still go out and listen to a new garage band? I Saw Buckwheat Zydeco playing in front of an audience of every age in an outdoor festival. It was pouring rain, young and old folks were all dancing under it as if the beat had to go on and on no matter what. I thought, you just can’t beat that! That’s what music means to me.

What are the lines that connect the Blues with Punk Rock?

The rejection of superfluous. The first era of punk rock was an attempt to bring back something raw, get rid of the glitter of stadium rock. It’s working class music. I see blues and punk rock as similar genres because the persona of the artist and his unicity is often more important than the song itself. Both styles are all about having a good time and heal what hurts you by strumming it out.

What touched you from your late-night radio show?

I’m such a «gang» kind of dude, that the radio show was an intense meeting with myself: talking to myself for an hour every week! Also, it made me listen to music more fully than ever and made me do a lot of research about the history of the genre and it’s protagonists. What’s unique with the tales of the blues is that it’s all gossiping and myths. You can’t figure out what’s true and what’s not, and, being a romantic, I love that.

"The New-York beat era of the 50’s. Listen to a show at the Savoy, smoke some weed with Ginsberg, have a few drinks with Kerouac while listening to some bop… That would be a blast… Why? Because, even if it’s naïve, I love to hear people’s thoughts about love, life, death and art. Most of the time, inhibition gets in the way…" (Endrick Tremblay, Canada 2019 / Photo Thierry Gervais)

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in music paths?

Through the years playing in small bars, venues and festivals, I have learned to read a crowd, understand where their vibe is going and then lead the band efficiently so that we adapt to that instantly. I think that’s what sets apart average cover bands to professionals entertainers. After all these years, I feel I can finally write a set list of songs in an order that’s like a plot. Most of the time, the problem, is not the song, but the timing for it.

What is the impact of Blues and Rock on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

I think that the impact of blues rock is year after year less powerful, because it’s been mainly a man type of music. It even became a white man type of music through the years. I think that society has a craving for new types of models and if the blues rock genre isn’t able to reinvent itself, people will look someplace else. The social impact that I think it could still offer is a «We’re all in this together» and a «might as well have a good time» kind of message. Blues, to me, is a collective healing: the crowd, the waitress and the doormen are part of the act as much as the band. It’s important to let loose once in a while and just rock the house, shake them hips and have a ball. Otherwise, we’ll all end up insane, or worse: dreary.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?  

The New-York beat era of the 50’s. Listen to a show at the Savoy, smoke some weed with Allen Ginsberg, have a few drinks with Jack Kerouac while listening to some bop… That would be a blast… Why? Because, even if it’s naïve, I love to hear people’s thoughts about love, life, death and art. Most of the time, inhibition gets in the way…

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