An interview with Megative and Geoffroy
All that Jazz: A quick chat with Montreal Jazz Fest's hometown heroes
Words— Dave Jaffer
In the so-called City of Festivals, one festival reigns supreme: The Montreal International Jazz Festival, which has delighted millions of people and helped launch countless careers since its inaugural edition in 1980. That year, the fledgling fest featured legends like Ray Charles, Vic Vogel, and Chick Corea, and drew around 12,000 people. By the late 1980s, that number had swollen to around a million. These days, the numbers are even higher.
The enduring success of the Jazz Fest has been a boon for culture, tourism, and cultural tourism in the city and the province. Perhaps just as importantly, the Jazz Fest continues to be a place where local performers can get exposed to international audiences, and vice-versa.
On Geoffroy’s first full-length release, Coastline, the singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist went down-tempo and played with an irresistible, calmly dramatic, trip-hop-influenced sound and vibe. Critics liked it a whole lot; Coastline was long-listed for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize in 2017.
Megative is led by two prominent Montreal musicians — Tim Fletcher (The Stills) and Gus Van Go (Me, Mom, & Morgentaler) — and complemented by Biltmore Era dancehall veteran Screechy Dan and Brooklyn-based team LIKEMINDS (Jesse Singer and Chris Soper). The band’s sound nods to late-1970s British punk and reggae and bursts with a familiar, easygoing energy. It’s music perfectly suited to languid Montreal summer days (and nights).
Geoffroy and Megative’s Gus Van Go recently took some time to answer our questions about life, style, music, and the thrill of coming home.
The following interviews have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Do you have any particular feelings about performing at the Jazz Fest, and in your hometown?
GEOFFROY: Every show has its appeal and its moments, though I can’t say this one isn’t extra special. We’ll be trying out a few new songs from the upcoming record for the first time live. For us, the last shows in Montreal have been mental. Montrealers give back a lot. It’s very rewarding considering all the effort we all put into this.
GUS VAN GO: It’s an honour and a privilege to play our hometown at a festival that is world-renowned, on a nice big stage. Some of us have seen some amazing Jazz Fest shows over the years. It’s nice to be part of that lineage.
Montreal is well-known as a very creative city. Has being a Montrealer influenced your approach to music?
GEOFFROY: As much as I love to travel, I love this city, its diversity, its accessibility, its people. Very early on, growing up in Montreal, you develop acceptance and tolerance and a social conscience. You quickly become curious of what’s around you.
Language is a hot topic in Montreal. How do you navigate the politics and potential pressure to sing in French as well as English?
GEOFFROY: Language was a hot topic a few decades ago. J’veux pas de beef, on est en 2018.
Megative was breathed into existence by Montreal music scene veterans. What was it that brought you together?
GUS VAN GO: A love of ‘70s British punk, reggae, and old NYC hip-hop. The desire to bridge worlds and bring good people together in dark times.
What’s with the name Megative?
GUS VAN GO: The bigger space that contains negative and positive is the MEGATIVE space. Bigger than a spaceship made of subwoofers floating above the earth pumping Dub.
When creativity becomes your job, it's easy to lose yourself in the business of it all. How do you stay inspired?
GEOFFROY: You don’t resist temptation.
How do you stay balanced and healthy on the road?
GUS VAN GO: Planning. Also, starting a band with only good people helps. We all respect each other’s needs. Staying balanced is really hard on tour. It can magnify any [imbalances] you have. Eat your vegetables, get your sleep, don’t drink too much every night, get your exercise and stretching, and remember to breathe. Remember to respect yourself and you will end up respecting your art and your music, and everyone else around you.
Music and style have always been inseparable, for better or worse. Are fashion and style important to you? Describe your relationship with style.
GEOFFROY: I think to have style is to feel comfortable and confident in what you’re wearing, whatever it is. Fashion on the other hand allows people to develop a sense of belonging to certain groups. I like it in the way that it can help you express your identity without explaining it, but for me it’s nothing to take too seriously.
GUS VAN GO: We really have always been the type of guys [who] believe that music and fashion culture are closely interlinked. Our favourite bands were always aware of this fact. We as a band tend to veer pretty strongly towards the aesthetics of British subcultures of the late ‘70s: the rude boy/mod culture, British punk and reggae scene looks. We ask ourselves, “What would Don Letts or Paul Simonon wear?” No casual bullshit on stage for Megative!
What's your definition of the Good Life?
GUS VAN GO: Appreciation of your every moment and not taking for granted the fact you are alive, here, and now. Using your life to cultivate an open heart, an open mind, and lessening self-absorption so you can live in service to others, to help relieve the enormous suffering in [your] own [life] and in the lives of all beings around [you]. Living aware of the need in this world for true compassion and healing. This world is calling each of us in our ways towards that. Heeding that call breeds happiness.
GEOFFROY: You don’t resist temptation. Then you have kids.
If you enjoyed our sit down with Geoffroy & Gus Van Go, check out some of our other interviews.