When Alex Soria died in front of a train in St-Henri, December 13, Montreal lost one of its greatest songwriters. But Carlos Soria lost his brother. Still, despite the enormity of this family tragedy, older brother Carlos says the torrent of accolades flooding in from Montreal’s artistic community and abroad has lightened the load in the wake of Alex’s death.
"I’ve got my moments, some good, some bad," says Carlos, "but [the tribute gathering at Green Room] last Sunday was great. I think Alex would’ve said that he liked it, even though he didn’t say much – it took a week to get one sentence out of the guy. He would’ve been floored by the level of support."
Alex Soria, who was a very youthful 39, will be remembered and celebrated for many outstanding musical contributions over the years – Chino, Los Pados and Black Sox among them – but it was his first band, The Nils, which he started at the age of 12, that he will be remembered for most.
The Nils were at the forefront of a revolution in pop-punk that included contemporaries like The Replacements and Hüsker Dü. Deceptively simple songs that belied a greater, humble complexity – like the signature Scratches and Needles and Call of the Wild – were The Nils’ calling card, which earned them fans right across the continent. Having a great name probably didn’t hurt either. Nils shows, often a study in contrasting power and subtlety, amply demonstrated Alex’s love of songwriting.
"He did it for love, he didn’t do it for money or anything," says the bass-playing Carlos, who with brother Alex formed the backbone of the The Nils’ during their nearly 16-year existence. "He strived for perfection. Alex had a God-given talent, while I used to struggle to play bass."
In those days the brothers also had another thing in common, a struggle with heroin addiction, which sadly has become a component part of The Nils’ history.
"You know what people always say about the ‘H’ word, and the drugs," says Carlos evenly, "but The Nils were never into that until our dreams were taken away, and I wish people would be a little more fair. Alex wouldn’t want us to be bitter or pass blame, he would just want to remember the good things."
The elder Soria is hoping to shift his focus to a memorial concert for his brother in the new year. "There’ve been some good people offering to help out," says Carlos, noting that support for the endeavour has been heartening. "Alex would have wanted it to have a bit of class, so it has to be done right, so it probably won’t be before the end of January."
The concert will provide a small bit of solace, a show of love that Carlos hopes will ease a bit of the pain.
"Alex thought that nobody loved him, it was an act of desperation," he says quietly. "I just want to hang out with my brother and I know I’m never going to be able to do that again."