On stage with Les Soliloques

By Isabelle Bourgeault-Tassé

It is to shatter the fourth wall of the stage that Les Soliloques write their songs. To “face the mirror, the clear and lucid image of their experience.” To daydream dans la lune – and share their creation in perfect communion with their spectator.

“Your song is your moment on stage, when you cross the bridge of this fourth wall to share your monologues – your soliloquy – with your audience,” explain Erika Lamon and Max Nolet, the Franco-Ontarian duo who give body and soul to Les Soliloques.

Formed in Kingston in 2016, but originally from southern and eastern Ontario, Les Soliloques are at home in the Limestone City, a musical haven that fuels their creative spirit.

“The scene here is impressive!” exclaims Max. “Kingston loves its artists very much – the city has had a lot of funding and energy to encourage its artists. And we want to make this city a vibrant artistic community,” continues Erika.

It was on the scene that Max and Erika first set eyes on each other. In 2014, both young artists took part in JAM on TFO, a series featuring the next generation of Franco-Ontarian talent on the eve of a performance at the FrancoFolies de Montréal, the largest Francophone music scene in North America.

But before the follies of l’amour, the imperative of creation!

“We met for the first time in this creative universe. Everyone who took part in JAM had put their life aside for a week to prepare the show together,” explains Erika.

“We could relate in many ways, even though we are very different,” says Max. “The more we talked about music, the more we discovered what we had in common. We shared our universes with each other, giving rise to our own creative universe.”

A two-person paysage, this creative universe has blossomed, also serving as a sacred refuge for the couple, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when the duo had to briefly bow out of the scene.

“It’s funny, all of a sudden, we couldn’t perform anymore. We went virtual like everyone else, but the impact wasn’t there,” says Max. Erika continues, “Sometimes we allowed ourselves to neglect our creation, but the pandemic allowed us to really say, “We’re creating.” It reminds you that this is why you’re an artist.”

Or as Max wrote on Les Soliloques’ compelling blog, “when the artist does not create, he dies slowly, à petit feu (by small fire – or as is said in English, “he dies slowly like a boiled frog.”).” And abandoning the flame is out of the question, ensuring instead a creative flambée for the couple.

“We’re both artists living together – we have a rule: if someone has a song idea, they can drop everything and then go write. These ideas can just disappear, and you never know if you’re going to get them back!” explains Erika.

Les Soliloques create much in the same way as many artists in Francophone Ontario have done before them – in French, in English – claiming and defending their bilingualism as a tongue of creation. Inhabited by their cultural experience, their music and parlé (speak) rooted in the uniqueness of a linguistic duality, Les Soliloques are a testimonial to the realities of the Franco-Ontarian community.

“It’s part of who we are,” says Erika. “I had my project in English, but I always felt there was something missing – French. You have to live what resonates with you. For us, it’s really the two languages blending together.”

“It happens pretty often after a show, where someone will say “I didn’t understand anything but I liked listening to you,” she continues, quickly succeeded by Max, who adds: “Often we’ll play a tune or two in French, and people will take an interest in our shows – they come to us even if they don’t understand a word!”

With the reopening of communities in Ontario, Les Soliloques have reinvented themselves as bêtes de scène eager for the limelight in Kingston and beyond, wandering from the Musiikki Cafe and the Centre culturel Frontenac to the scène at Contact ontarois, a Franco-Ontarian cultural rendez-vous for artists and their fans.

Les Soliloques have their gaze trained on their promising future. Erika reaped the fruits of her labour during the pandemic, releasing her next album, Hues (Side A), which touches on the different nuances of relationships with others and with oneself. This album reflects on the struggle for clarity whilst tainted by one’s own hues; to be both the painter and the painted.

Max, meanwhile, is working on Les Soliloques’ album: “We had several songs that existed only on stage, and to these are added several compositions we developed during the lockdowns. Each is very personal in its own way without being autobiographical. But in a world where everything was out of our control, the issue of free will haunted me a lot.”

The quest for Les Soliloques’ perfect communion with their spectator on the stage in Kingston and throughout French Ontario continues: “It is through poetry, through beat, through harmony that we invite the spectator to cross the threshold of the fourth wall. To add their voice to ours – in French, in English – and to lose themselves in our music. So that we might find ourselves again.”