by Chris Bryson
Dominique Lemoine’s À La Mode is a vibrant melding of indie, synth, and dream pop, old and new, that tows the tradition of light and dark dichotomy. Where brightness and optimism share space within a melancholic embrace, and does so seamlessly, blending styles for a bold, beaming, open and endearing emotional escape.Since its inception, Lemoine says that À La Mode “has gone through a lot of changes,” with “four or five configurations” in the mix. The band started five years ago where Lemoine says they played a few shows but stopped for whatever reason at the time. She then “decided to record some songs kind of for posterity,” in case she wanted to hear her songs when she was older. “And then that ended up leading to some interest,” says Lemoine. “So I was like maybe I should play some live shows, so I got a new band together. And then we played together for about a year. And then after about a year we had a good amount of songs arranged so we decided to record. And that was the band that did Perfection Salad which came out in the fall.”
Lemoine says that when she found that “most of the people in the band couldn’t tour because of their job, their families, or where they lived,” she “put together a new band for the tour.” The new band at this point, Lemoine explains, “was more like hired musicians for the most part,” she then realized that what she needed was collaboration.
“I wanted people a little more invested in the music,” says Lemoine. “It’s nice to play with professional musicians for sure but I prefer the collaborative, people putting the energy in to try to think of ideas together.”
The band has now been pared down to a duo, with Lemoine doing synth, production, preprogrammed elements, and arranging electronic beats, and Ava Glendinning (who’s also played with Bicycle Face, Eagle Lake Owls, and Hearing Trees) on electric guitar, along with vocal harmonies in the mix.
When Lemoine was young she discovered and fell in love with pop music. “When I was younger I got very obsessed with music kind of overnight,” says Lemoine. “I think music is pretty powerful, so I think it probably shaped me as a person and also as my taste at the time. I think that I just fell in love with pop so hard, that I just never really fell out of love with it. I definitely don’t premeditate the genre or anything like that I just kind of do what I like.”
À La Mode’s songs are sung in both French and English, which, at least to this listener, who only understands the latter, gives the sense of an added layer of depth and emotion to the sound. Talking about the inclusion of both languages, Lemoine says “I guess I just worry that people at my shows, our shows, will not understand what I’m saying a lot of the time. So hopefully the emotion can still come through because music is also a language. It’s nice to be able to be involved in both the Francophone and Anglophone communities. Because those communities exist in Winnipeg and they’re kind of separate right now. Hopefully they’ll kind of meld more over time. But it’s nice to be able to experience both.”
With transitioning to being a duo, Lemoine also intends to transition her sound towards being fully electronic, but with a twist. “Once we have enough songs and we’re happy with the arrangement I would actually like to record them myself using a 4-track. So it would be running the electronic stuff onto one track, and then tracking the vocals and guitar and synth, and then getting it mixed from there,” says Lemoine. “But I would love to record it on tape. I think that would suit the sound. Because we use a lot of 80’s synth sounds, like sampled synths.”
Taking the unconventional route of recording to tape will give À La Mode’s sound an idiosyncratic effect. “It would give it a warmer and more lo-fi sound. And I also just want to be able to do it myself,” says Lemoine. “Another thing that’s cool about recording to tape is that you kind of have to get it on your first take so you perform it differently because it’s like, I’ve got to go for it and you probably perform with more abandon because you’ve just got to go for it fully. So you’ve got to be super prepared, and then you have to kind of be in it when you’re playing, which is great.”
In discussing dichotomies in her own music and music in general, Lemoine says, “I sort of want to make music that’s darker. I think a lot of the brightness comes from sort of being afraid of delving into the darkness of things too much even when that’s what originally wants to come out. I always sort of want to add a little bit of humor or brightness because I’m sort of anxious about that. And I actually would like to explore that a bit more and be okay with it.”