Quebec’s Le Vent du Nord (North Wind) has been blowing through the Southern Hemisphere of late. After performing in Chile in mid-February, the francophone roots band headed far south again in early March to play WOMAD festivals in Australia and New Zealand. The prestigious gigs Down Under highlight the global reach of musicians constantly exploring innovation while remaining anchored in the traditional songs and airs of old Quebec.
“We haven’t often been south of the line before,” says Nicolas Boulerice, who plays hurdy-gurdy and keyboards with Le Vent du Nord, reached at his home near Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. “I think something interesting opened up for us in Santiago. We’re starting to realize the huge possibilities of playing in Latin America, where there’s a lot of interest in all kinds of music that’s rhythmic, that gets people dancing. They’re very curious, and there’s a different mentality. People really connect with music from Quebec, which is bright and festive.”
When LVDN heads north again to play at Coquitlam’s Festival du Bois, it will be the first opportunity for long-time local fans to hear the band as a quintet. In December, André Brunet, from the trio De Temps Antan (and previously with La Bottine Souriante), added his lead fiddle and talents as a multi-instrumentalist to LVDN. He joins Boulerice, fiddler and foot percussionist Olivier Demers, guitarist Simon Beaudry, and his own younger brother, accordionist Réjean Brunet.
There have long been family, and musical, ties between LVDN and De Temps Antan, in which Beaudry’s brother Eric also plays, and last year they got much tighter. “We decided to create a show together—Solo—with LVDN and De Temps Antan on the same stage, as a seven-piece,” says Boulerice. “So we played with André then, and it was a great experience for us—not just musically but personally. Each of us in LVDN, unknown to the others, talked to André and said it would be good to get together again, as we have the same way of approaching and thinking about music. He felt likewise.
“As De Temps Antan needed to slow down on touring for family reasons, while André wanted to work more, he proposed joining us,” Boulerice adds. “And we wanted his energy. André is an unbelievable musician—he’s like a locomotive, that guy. And as we’re playing on bigger stages at larger venues, as a five-piece we boost our sound and fill the space more. André would also enable Olivier [who drums his feet on a board while fiddling] to slow down a bit, because his knees have started to suffer from being used so much over the years.”
The addition of such a dynamic and genial musician is shaking up the ways in which LVDN functions as a band. “After 17 years as a quartet we’ve developed our own ways of doing things,” Boulerice says. “Curiously, I find André gives us greater balance. He’s also a fine guitarist, and when he studied music he specialized in percussion, with piano as his second instrument. We already have around 10 pieces we’re working on with him, and will record our next album later in the year. André is a musician who’s open to every possibility, and in some respects, with him it feels like playing in a new band.”
Le Vent du Nord performs Saturday and Sunday (March 24 and 25) at Festival du Bois in Mackin Park, Coquitlam.