The life and death of Quebec's most celebrated punk band, The Sainte Catherines
Thirteen odd years ago this local punk rock crew started, named after the (in)famous Montreal street. The Sainte Catherines went on to get on the roster of one of the genre’s biggest labels, NOFX’s Fat Wreck Chords. Then sometime towards the end of 2011, the band dropped a bomb online: They would be hanging up their skates the next spring.
Singer Hugo Mudie and guitarists Fred Jacques, Louis Valiquette and Marc-André Beaudet spoke to Hour about the punk rock way of life and their upcoming professional death. Since this writer couldn’t attend their press event (in a fancy Old Montreal hotel, no less!), the interview took place at their jam space, fittingly located on the east end of Sainte-Catherine Street.
Growing up, Hugo Mudie’s dream job wasn’t to play music for a living – he wanted to be a professional hockey player. "As soon as I stopped being good, we started Sainte Cath," remembers the singer, who also studied visual arts and has done some exhibits with silkscreen artist Jason Cantoro.
Back in the day, Fred Jacques tried a bunch of different programs at school, while Marc-André Beaudet did a bit of urbanism before getting into music production. "Louis and I went to Musitechnic," says Beaudet, referring to the school founded by Gilles Valiquette, Louis’ well-known singer-songwriter father. Louis knew he wanted "to have a band and tour but never had big expectations to make big money out of it. Just doing it was already pretty good."
According to these Lanaudière guys (all young dads or soon to be), their music career has always had a fair amount of luck and fate involved. "Like that first time we went to Europe, we got a message from some dude who said he heard our cassette in his touring truck and wanted us to come play in Germany," says Mudie. Beaudet adds that from the get-go, "we knew we wouldn’t play on mainstream radio here, but we also knew that we had to sing in English ’cause we didn’t want to have to stay in Quebec."
And it paid off: Since their very first show at L’X (as Concrete Fongus, their short-lived original moniker), they have played about 700 shows. In 2000, they got signed by NYC’s Eyeball Records, and then there was that well-mediatized Fat Wreck Chords deal. According to Jacques, it didn’t hurt either that "we always had the support of the old punk uncles, like Subhumans."
Even though there were these great faith-boosters, sometimes shit hit the fan pretty hard: broken tour vans, underattended shows, money and lodging issues, band members leaving or getting kicked out… Such ups and downs make awesome stories to tell, though, and the boys have unforgettable memories that money can’t buy.
In addition to playing a farewell concert at Club Soda this Friday, the band is putting out a photo book, which includes a deluxe edition of their final album, 2010′s Fire Works. But is there life after The Sainte Catherines? These days, Fred Jacques and Hugo Mudie are doing acoustic shows à la Yesterday’s Ring (their defunct country side-project). And since Mudie was always their booker – he also happens to have co-founded Dare to Care Records – it was more than logical for him to use the vast network he built during all those years and put together booking agency L’Écurie, as well as the Pouzza Fest.
As for Louis Valiquette and Marc-André Beaudet, they don’t know what’s next yet. "While I need that break," reflects Beaudet, "it’s been so much a part of my identity that I’m sort of wondering, ‘Who am I now? What do I do?’"
Regarding the end of The Sainte Catherines, they all agree it’s kind of bittersweet. Even though, according to Valiquette, "a lot of people think the band’s already dead!" Adds Mudie, "It’s been our life for so long… I try not to think too much of it, just have the most fun until the end."
The Sainte Catherines
w/ The Hunters
At Club Soda