By Steven Farkas on May 2014 at Via Phone
Former vocalist for The Saint Catherines and founder of Montréal’s première punk festival Pouzza Fest kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about running Pouzza, who he’s looking forward to seeing the most this time around and why children and punk rock go together.
So this year is Pouzza Fest IV, when did the idea of it first start forming in your head..ie was it something you had thought about for a long time before it actually became a reality?
Yeah, the idea really came from going to the Fest in Gainsville, I was still with my band The Sainte Catherines went for the 2nd and 3rd editions and then later on but we thought it was a super cool idea we likes that it was just over a weekend with venues close to each other and people partying everywhere and then we took that idea and wanted to do it in Montreal, you know the punk scene is pretty strong here and there are good venues in the downtown area but at the time I was still doing my band and wasn’t really working in the ‘music business’ per se. Then about 5 years ago we stopped touring so much and it was one of the things that we really wanted to do so that was kind of based on the Fest in Gainsville and then 4 years ago we just decided to do it, so yeah it was basically based on that, kind of our version of it.
Its interesting though, Gainsville is obviously a city in its own right, but its not Montreal sized so are there logistical challenges to get that same type of atmosphere that is related to the fest?
That’s the big difference with us, its obviously based on the Fest but it’s a totally different experience (in Montreal), being in the downtown area, in a real city of 2 million people and yeah it has a city feel to it and obviously its not in states, its here in Canada which makes it different but especially in Quebec with the French culture mixed with the English culture, you know? And that’s what makes it cool, I think it’s a different setup. That’s why we tried to do something based on it, but with the added atmosphere Montreal adds.
I read in a previous interview that using bikes is the easiest way to get around from venue to venue, and is that something you guys champion?
I actually think walking is the best way to get around, the furthest venues are probably no more than 15 minute walk apart, so a bike is a super cool idea especially if you need fast transport to another venue but I think the best way to get around is definitely to walk.
I noticed too on the Pouzza Fest website that Pabst Blue Ribbon is a partner and too much of that mixed with cycling is never a good combination!
Yeah, definitely! But we were happy when Pabst got involved, it just makes sense as everybody involved, that’s the kind of beer they drink. You know you have to .see this as a party so you drink, you eat and you see good bands
So just going back to the beginning of Pouzza for a second, obviously you were still involved with the Saint Catherines, but how did you go about getting bands and the lineup arranged for the first time, was it just about finding you liked and building the dream lineup and working down the list from there or was it getting bands that you know from the scene, so how did that first lineup come together?
Yeah, the first year was more about the connections I had built up over the years with The Sainte Catherines so the first year we went more for bands that we knew and we didn’t have to explain everything and they knew and trusted us not to do a shitty job or try and steal money from them or something.
And then pretty fast after that, even the 2nd year bands started contacting us directly about playing and that was down to us doing a good job the first time and having a good reputation and then that spread through word of mouth and now we pretty much do have a dream list and work down from there based on who’s available.
The lineup this year has got to be pretty close to a dream lineup, its so eclectic and you guys cover so much of the spectrum within the punk scene, was that a deliberate or did it just come together like that?
Yeah it was always the goal for us, but like I said there’s a lot of luck involved on who’s available but every year what we want to do is cover as much ground as possible as far as the spectrym of the punk genre. Me personally I don’t really mind about the sub genres and shit like that, I like bands that play music I don’t care if they’re considered a post hardcore or indie or whatever it just pretty much what we want to do. I like some crust bands, I like some pop punk bands, I like some folk/country dudes so we try and incorporate all those into the festival and try to be open minded about it and we want the fans coming to be open minded about it as well. That was pretty much our goal as we’ve always been against the divisions in the punk scene so its one of our ways to go against that.
Just in terms of the fans and audience, there’s a lot of people that travel down to the fest, do you find the same with Pouzza?
Its actually more out of town fans than the locals, more than 50% of the audience comes from outside Quebec, a lot of people from Ontario, New York, Jersey and Philly as well as people from Europe, Japan, Australia. Its been like that since the first year, we’ve had people travel from everywhere to come to Pouzza, which is really cool. Its cool for us to know that people get to know the city too.
Like you say, if you build up such a solid reputation from the first iteration of Pouzza to where you are now the groundswell of support will only grow which is absolutely fantastic. One of the other things I read was that there’s a real child friendly vibe about Pouzza, was that a personal mission based on your own family experiences and an attempt to make it as inclusive as possible?
Yeah definitely, its really from my own family and my friends who also have kids, you know you want to take your kids to cool stuff, but there’s not a lot of them that are child friendly so we really thought we could do something. At first it was just one show in a venue for the kids, but last year we had this big outdoor thing, and this year its even bigger, more games and other stuff for them and yeah it was just something that we really wanted to incorporate and it makes Pouzza unique as you don’t necessarily associate punk rock with families but it was definitely something we wanted to try and its worked out, especially for the local fans!
With so many festivals popping up and then often not happening again as they struggle financially, how do you strike that balance between the financial side of running a festival and the more fun, musical and social aspects?
Its definitely harder, the financial side isn’t fun but is necessary and you know we’ve been running it for some time now and you just expect people to buy tickets! We did get into some trouble financially one year just because we tried some things that didn’t work, but people don’t see that because the festival still goes on, but ultimately it is a business and has to make money. And that’s one of, well I don’t want to say bad things but its just not something that you like to think about. But every year we get better partners, this year like you said with Pabst Blue Ribbon and Sailor Jerry and we try and get grants from the government and its getting better and better but its definitely not an ideal situation, but its something you always have to keep in mind as you don’t want to stop after the first year.
So just a couple of final questions then, so who is the one band that you are most looking forward to seeing, and secondly, who is the one ‘do not miss’ band of Pouzza Fest IV?
I think one of the bands that I am most looking forward to, personally that I like the most are a band called the So So Glos. I didn’t really know them until probably last year when I heard their new record and really liked it. We then asked them if they were interest in playing Pouzza and they said yes which was really great. And the one do not miss show I would say is Dillinger Four, they are the perfect Pouzza band. They don’t play a lot anymore, so hoping it will be the highlight.
Ok, great – last question, where does the name come from?
Well it’s a combination of Poutine and Pizza that I created maybe 15 years ago and now you can buy it in like local Burger King and stuff!
Hugo, its been a pleasure speaking to you thanks for taking the time and good luck with Pouzza Fest IV