Since the Winnipeg Folk Festival wrapped up weeks ago in Birds Hill Park, there’s one thing – or should I say four feisty ladies and a well-clad gentleman – that I still can’t seem to shake out of my musical mindset. Chic Gamine, consisting of vocalists Andrina Turenne, Ariane Jean, Alexa Dirks and Annick Bremault as well as drummer Sacha Daoud, brought the soul infused pop to the fest. They didn’t sell themselves short by consisting mainly of vocals and drums. These ladies bring in a number of percussion instruments to their ensemble to compliment the intricate harmonies within each piece, sounding smooth as candy and forcing heads to turn.
One thing that’s important to note here is that Chic Gamine are not an a capella ensemble. “The reason people automatically think that we are a capella is because we are very vocally based,” says Jean, “but the kind of music that we do is more based in soul and pop, and we also have a full time drummer that amps it up. Basically, we do what we do because when we started we were four singers and a drummer, and we wanted to play together … we had songs that we really wanted to play, so we took what we had and we built songs in a way that we could.”
“It wasn’t like we were going to do it in exactly this way from the beginning,” adds Dirks. “These were the people we wanted in the band, and these were our resources.” Sounds like they had just the right resources in the end. The way these ladies’ voices praise each other in just the right way is almost a shock to your ear, but the kind that you can’t get enough of.
Originating from the remnants of Winnipeg-based band Turenne, Jean and Bremault still wanted to form their own band. “It was then that they hooked up with Alexa,” says Daoud, “and then I kind of tagged along. The rest is history.”
The Juno-award-winning group celebrated a solid homecoming at WFF this year, playing a tweener on Main Stage Thursday night before K’naan took the stage, a workshop with fellow Manitoba music acts (such as Dry Bones, Fish & Bird, Sarah & Christian Dugas, and Black Sea Station) on Friday afternoon, and a gospel-inspired workshop on Sunday with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Ruthie Foster. “It’s kind of a coming home for us,” says Jean, “it’s just such a great festival. We are really well taken care of here, and we have so many opportunities to play with so many great artists. It’s so much fun, and it feels really nice to be back.”
Chic Gamine showed up big at their solo concert Friday night on the Big Blue @ Night stage. Setting the tone for the evening with their hit “Butterfly Woman”, the ladies amazed any new listeners with their abilities to create both strong melody and rhythm with vocals alone, and enchanted further with songs like “I Don’t Lie” — the last lines of this one in particular makes you wish you had these ladies to sing you to sleep at night. The sentiment that comes out of their performance almost causes some sort of nostalgia to emerge in each and every listener. The song that really shows the ability of both rhythm and vocals in Chic Gamine however is “Shake Off Your Worries”. The stomping beat and Dirks’s awe-inspiring vocals are enough to make an impression, but the gospel echoes mixed with soul-infused pop will blow any listener away, or at least get them up on their feet.
It might seem unbalanced to the eye when you only see four vocalists and a drummer, but Chic Gamine falls anything but short by providing the listener with voices that range from sultry, to soft, to dreamy, and everything in between. Their approach to a full band may be unexpected or even unconventional, but these ladies and gentleman are a rare gem and a force to be reckoned with. When asked what makes Chic Gamine work so well, Dirks’ summed it up perfectly: “We’re friends. If the band weren’t together, we would still want to have dinner with each other and talk about life. It’s not necessarily just band based — we really enjoy each other’s company. So I think that makes a big difference, it fuses into every rehearsal, every song.”
In the end, all I can say is that these ladies are boss, and I can only hope to hear more from them in the near future.
Photography by Adrienne Toye