Interview wih Michael P. Falk of Les Jupes on the Modern Myths.

Les Jupes are an awfully interesting bunch. Their first album, Modern Myths dropped Stateside in August and instantly turned heads. From the clandestine lyrics to lead singer Michael Falk’s commanding baritone, Modern Myths was a record that captured the imagination and demanded attention. We got in touch with Michael Falk to discuss the album, along with the band’s recent tour.

What specifically do you hold to be “Modern Myths”, and what inspired you to write about them?

The album title ‘Modern Myths’ was the last thing to come together on this record.  It took a long time, but like some of the lyrics, I had to clear away the cobwebs to realise what a lot of the content was speaking to.  As in – it wasn’t till I was able to take a step back from the album that I was able to see what the songs were trying to say, and that’s when the album title came.

To me, the modern myths are the little half-truths we tell ourselves to prop up or justify the little worlds we’ve all created for ourselves.  The obsessions, the social structures, the habits, the ways we relate to others, the ‘wants’ that we now call ‘needs’, the way we mask our insecurities or lack of confidence … It’s like sometimes we live in little make-believe worlds inside of reality.

You told Vue that lyrics usually come last. Did you find any song particularly difficult to apply lyrics to?

My songwriting has changed as I’ve gotten older – I used to have books of poetry I’d written and would apply it to music I was writing, and when things married nicely, I’d have a good song.

Now the words are harder to come by, likely because I write a lot less than I used to, and I have higher demands of them.  Lyrics are tremendously important to me, and I want them to be honest, insightful, and meaningful.  I don’t want to just say things for the sake of saying them; the world is too full of clutter as it is. I want the words to be an extension of the mood of the music, and in turn work with the music to create their own little world.

Were there any songs where the lyrics came first?

‘One Solemn Oath’ was written around the lyrics – which is likely why it feels different than most of the songs on the record.

“One Solem Oath” has described as the albums centre. Can you talk about what that song means to Modern Myths, or, on a larger scale, what it means to the band?

It’s the ‘hopeful’ song on the album.  It’s the song that kickstarted the phase of my songwriting that created ‘Modern Myths’, and it is a song about getting over yourself and getting past the ‘little myths’ that we tell ourselves, and trying to live more honestly with ourselves and our relationships.

Where did the avant-garde saxophone/noise rock at the end of “A Caveman Returns Home…” come from?

That section went through a few incarnations.  It was once a guitar solo, then a feedback/synth glitch noise section. Neither felt right.

Then we thought of our sax-playing friend Heather.  Funnily, I even wrote a rough melody for her to riff off of, sort of like some of the keyboard melodies elsewhere on the record.  But after a few takes she said … Y’know, I had this other idea while I was listening to this … Mind if I try something?  And that’s it.  One take.  It was perfect.

How do you guys find touring the UK compared to playing in Canada?

Canada is a tough nut sometimes – we don’t sound like most of the bands in Canada at the moment, and the Canadian music industry doesn’t take a lot of chances unless there’s some strong buzz going on elsewhere.  But there are some people who quite like us and come to our shows and we’re finding some strong supporters.  Given the nature of the music we play, we don’t expect huge things quickly, and we like the slow and steady, convert-by-convert approach.  Not sure we could do it a different way.

The UK kinda feels like touring the USA, actually – people have seen a lot of bands, and you’ve gotta be really good to catch their attention.  But if they like you, they’ll support you.  And that honesty of opinion and willfulness to support something they like and believe in is pretty awesome.

You have a very distinctive baritone. What influences, if any, had an effect on your vocal style?

The main thing for me was to learn how to use my voice as its own instrument, and not try to be something I’m not.  I’ll never be a tenor, I won’t have an easy, floating falsetto.  It has been a process of gaining confidence, and learning how to find and use my voice’s strengths.

Can you talk about the structure of the album a bit? For instance, was there a reason you chose the Apricot Rail-reminiscent “Awake, My Ghost!” for the albums closing song?

‘Awake, My ghost!’ is such a sprawling beast and is also our biggest collective release of energy, so it made sense to let that expulsion cap things off.  It’s also a gentle nod to Yo La Tengo, who ended a few records with 10 minute noise songs.

My wife actually picked the order of the record.  I wanted to start it with ‘Myth #7 (Honour)’ and do my characteristic long-slow-build thing, but she was a bit more clear-headed and did a good job of intuiting what mood should follow what mood with the songs.  She’s a smart woman.  This record wouldn’t have been made without her, actually.

Were there any topics or ideas that you wanted to cover on Modern Myths that didn’t make the cut, and might we see any of those ideas come to fruition on a future release?

There were a couple songs that got chopped in pre-production, and one that we even started recording and then scrapped.  One or two of them may show up on an acoustic record I’m making with my friend Dave Quanbury from Austin.  But the next wave of Les Jupes material will all be written newly.  We’ve got three new ones done and a pile more demo’s to work through this fall. It likely won’t be till spring that we have a grasp on what the next one will be about though!

Modern Myths is available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon. Les Jupes are currently on tour.

We're looking for writers and editors to join the team. Interested? Apply today!