The 2013 Frye Festival: Spotlight on Words & Music

Leif Vollebekk
Leif Vollebekk

As Atlantic Canada’s largest literary happening, the Frye Festival celebrates words through books and music. The Greater Moncton community will discover the folk americana sounds of Leif Vollebekk, a Montreal-based up-and-comer who’s making waves across the country and in the United States. Les Hay Babies, The Olympic Symphonium, Science Friction, Les Païens, Caroline Savoie, John Jerome and VJ Kvn Mac will also bring their own artistic talents to the Festival’s evening events.

The complete schedule of events of the 14th annual Frye Festival, which will take place April 22 to 28 in Greater Moncton, is available at

Soirée Frye

The Frye Festival’s signature event, Soirée Frye, will bring to the stage the indie-folk musical stylings of Les Hay Babies, together with the folk pop group The Olympic Symphonium, on Thursday, April 25 at the Capitol Theatre. The musical performances will follow readings by Peter Behrens, Anne Compton, Perrine Leblanc and Jocelyne Saucier. The event will also feature a tribute to 40 years of literary publishing in l’Acadie with a reading by Raymond-Guy LeBlanc, as well as a singing performance of France Daigle’s Gymnopédies by Riversong. Soirée Frye starts at 7 pm, and tickets are on sale at the Capitol Theatre box office (811 Main Street or (506) 856-4379) for $12 plus applicable fees.

Later that same night, Les Hay Babies and The Olympic Symphonium will play the Night Howl, at the Empress. Authors Sonia Cotten and Ian Hamilton will read from their books. Admission is Pay What You Can.

The Olympic Symphonium
The Olympic Symphonium

Friday Night After Party

With loop-based dance music and focus on being visually and audibly stimulating, Science Friction will play with our senses at the Friday Night After Party. Group members Jonah Haché, Denis Surette, Glen Deveau and Kevin McIntyre will not disappoint as authors, volunteers and Frye fans gather at the Empress on Friday, April 26 at 10 pm at the Empress. Free admission.

Frye Jam

Hosted by the jazz-fusion group Les Païens, the Frye Jam is always a perfect way to close off a week of festivities. This year will not be different. A colourful evening of music and readings, the Frye Jam is the perfect opportunity to relax while listening to great authors (Allan Cooper, Joséphine Bacon, Dominic Langlois and Miranda Hill) and great music by local favourites Caroline Savoie and John Jerome. Headlining the event is Leif Vollebekk and his band from Montreal.

Norwegian by descent, born in Ottawa and based in Montreal, Leif Vollebekk is an up-and-coming artist on the Canadian music scene, and the Frye Festival is happy to introduce him to our Greater Moncton audience. The singer-songwriter will present his new record, North Americana, which was released in March. The record represents more than two years’ work in studios in Montreal, Manhattan, Woodstock (NY) and Paris, in search of perfect recordings, resonant of Bob Dylan’s pre-Newport 1965 and the beginning of the James Taylor era.

VJ Kvn Mac will provide multimedia projections during the performances, a first for the Frye Festival. As usual, Les Païens will accompany the authors’ readings. Frye Jam takes place on Saturday, April 27 at 10 pm at the Empress. Tickets on sale at the door (doors open at 9:30 pm) for $14.

About the Frye Festival

The Frye Festival is Atlantic Canada’s largest literary happening. The Frye Festival presents events year-round, culminating in a week of festivities at the end of April. The 14th annual Frye Festival will take place April 22 to 28, 2013, in the Greater Moncton area and will feature 30 local, Canadian, and international authors taking part in various events. Details at

Les Paiens
Les Paiens (photo by Louis Philippe Chiasson)

On Leif Vollebekk’s North Americana

Leif Vollebekk spent two years searching for perfect takes. This search took him from his home in Montreal to a studio in Manhattan, from a farmhouse in Woodstock, NY to a mansion outside Paris, and the result is a dusty, polished, new, old record called North Americana.

“I wrote the songs, I found the best band in the world, and then all I had to do was find the right studio, for the right take,” he says. “And it took forever.”

After his 2010 debut, Vollebekk knew the kind of album he wanted to make next: a record like the ones he loves by Gillian Welch or Ryan Adams, that feel old and familiar even when they’re new. But also a record that speaks to the listener through its lyrics, with songs “that can hold up in a storm,” that are packed full of perfect little mistakes.

So he started writing. Ten new songs, the best he had ever written, with lines about love and the end of love, about journeys and homecoming, about the death of friends and drinking yourself dry. Now Vollebekk laughs: “I thought the record was done when I was finished writing the songs. ‘All we need to do is record it!’”

But when you’re searching for the perfect take, recording is no small task. It happened only piece by piece, session by session, song by song, over the course of seasons.

The players were these: Vollebekk, singing, playing guitar and piano, harmonica, rusty fiddle on “When the Subway Comes Above the Ground”; the jazz musicians Hans Bernhard (bass) and Philippe Melanson (drums). “I wanted to be able to roam with them wherever I go,” Vollebekk says. Arcade Fire’s Sarah Neufeld played violin, arranging her own parts. Joe Grass played pedal steel. And Adam Kinner played tenor sax.

The heart of the songs was always recorded live, to tape. Old school, spontaneous, one real captured moment. To find these moments, they travelled. To Montreal’s legendary Hotel 2 Tango studio, working with Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire, Coeur de Pirate, Godspeed You! Black Emperor). To New York City, working with Tom Gloady (Ryan Adams, Sigur Rós, Patti Smith). To La Frette studios, in La Frette-sur-Seine, France. And then back to Montreal, for one song at Breakglass studios. Vollebekk even tried recording with John Simon, the producer whose credits include Music from Big Pink and Songs of Leonard Cohen. At his home in upstate New York, Simon listened to “Cairo Blues,” then travelled up to Montreal to record it. “There was just not a good take,” Vollebekk says. “I ended up doing it a few months later, again at the Hotel, between takes of something else – and that’s just how it went.”

North Americana took years. “All this time,” Vollebekk says, “trying to get one take.” But the result is a beautiful, alive, human – shambling ballads, noisy folk songs, vivid portraits of a 27-year-old’s watercolour life. “I feel like I created a record from 1970something that no one’s heard before,” Vollebekk says. “I’m haggard and this record is all I got.”

Les Hay Babies

Just looking at them, the fresh-faced Les Hay Babies might seem just that, babies. They are just 19 to 21 years old. But one listen to any of their songs, and you’ll hear that they are old souls, too.The indie-folk trio hail from three small Acadian villages in New Brunswick. They’ve been crafting a colourful folky music with only a guitar, a banjo, a ukulele, powerful lyrics, and of course, warm harmonies that could melt anyone’s heart. July of 2012 saw the release of their first EP, Folio, a bilingual disc featuring six group originals. They have performed all over the Maritimes, Quebec, France, Switzerland, and Germany. A full-length album is set to be released in 2014.

Olympic Symphonium

Crafting delicately arranged folk-pop that drips with bittersweet melodies, soaring harmonies, and an awful lot of passion, The Olympic Symphonium have been sharing their quiet world with us since 2005. They are and always have been a collaborative effort between three multi-instrumentalists, songwriters, and friends: Nick Cobham, Kyle Cunjak, and Graeme Walker. They released their debut album, Chapter One, in 2007, and followed up with More in Sorrow Than in Anger in 2008 and with The City Won’t Have Time to Fight in 2011

Science Friction

Science Friction is a loopbased dance group focused on being visually and audibly stimulating. The band is comprised of Les Païens members Jonah Haché on guitar/bass/vocals/keys/DJ’ing and Denis Surette on guitar/space sounds, Les Improbables member Glen Deveau on drums and Kevin McIntyre on projections/keys.

Jonah Haché – Messy Messages (Live at Plan B 13-02-28) from Jonah Haché on Vimeo.

Les Païens

Les Païens arguably put Moncton on the jazz/rock map in Canada. 2012 brings a new set of tones and sounds to the band. Adding to the original sound of guitar, bass, drums and winds, we can now add loops, laptops and synth and a new member to the canvas. Founded in 1994 and four albums to date, the quintet has shared gigs with artists including Charlie Hunter, Slowcoaster, Big Sugar, Kermit Ruffins, Kyle Eastwood and Jean Leloup.

Caroline Savoie
Caroline Savoie

Caroline Savoie

Caroline Savoie is an 18 year old singer-songwriter-composer with over 80 original songs to her credit. Inspired by everyday life and mostly composed on her acoustic guitar, she brings the same crisp, inventive phrasing and soulful tone to each individual song, regardless of genre, making it distinctively her own. She sang for the first time in front of an audience in 2008. Since that time, singing and playing guitar has been her passion. Caroline sings in French and in English.

John Jerome

Moncton’s John Jerome has been an active part of the Hub City’s music for the past decades. Whether it’s as part of bands such as Heimlich, John Jerome and the Great 88 or one of the dudes behind the webseries The McDons House, this singer songwriter / filmmaker is definitely leaving his mark. He is currently leading the quintet John Jerome and the Congregation who are concluding a cross-Canadian tour after releasing Ask Not What We Can Do For You But What We Can Do Together in March 2012.