Interview with Marilyne Lacombe about FME 2020 COVID-19 Edition

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Montreal Rocks:  We are happy to speak to Marilyne Lacombe, part of the programming team for FME, which is the Festival de Musique Émergente (Emerging Music Festival) presented by Sirius XM and Videotron in Rouyn-Noranda (QC) from September 3rd to the 5th, 2020. 

Let’s start at the beginning.  Why was this event created in the first place?

Marilyne Lacombe:  It was created as a music hub for and by the local community.  It evolved into something much bigger, through the years, to become an annual Quebec industry meeting where you get to discover all the talent that will tour in the upcoming year.  We are at the end of the festival season, so you will see the acts that will tour next year.  It’s like a window into the future of music in Quebec.

MR:  It’s exciting because we always remember seeing these bands before they blew up.  I remember Coldplay playing Metropolis, Nirvana played Foufs.  Being at those places, at that time, would be amazing.  

Now you get to go to this festival and who knows…some might become big, and some have, from the past, right?

ML:  Yes.  We can think of a band like Half Moon Run who did their first shows at FME, and see where they are today.  It’s exciting to be part of the story of these bands who become part of the landscape in the Quebec music industry.  

MR:  Something else that is interesting of the festival you are hosting in September:  We know that Austin has its South by Southwest.  This is more like North by Northeast, in Rouyn-Noranda.  Why is that so special?

ML:  This festival becomes a unique opportunity for the city to host international acts that wouldn’t have Rouyn-Noranda on their traditional tour route.  It’s exciting for the town to host these acts from all across the world, which would not happen otherwise.  

Another thing that is special with Rouyn-Noranda is, say you go to a festival in Montreal.  It doesn’t change the landscape or the vibe of the city.  During FME, you really feel the whole city vibing to the same rhythm of the festival.  It creates a temporary community for 4 days that is exciting for both the bands and the audience.  

The surroundings and landscape of the town makes is a perfect excuse to bring shows in all kinds of unexpected locations.  This creates special moments for the bands and the audience.

MR:  It would also keep the guests wrapped up in this festival.  They are all-in.  It’s not like they will drive 8 hours to go home, take a nap, and drive back.  It’s an experience where you are taken out of your daily life, and you get to immerse yourself in the experience.  

ML:  Before I was part of the programming team, I was someone who would do 8 hours to see the festival.  You go there to be immersed in the bubble that is Rouyn-Noranda during the FME.  It’s pretty unique.  

MR:  There is a rumor, that may not be true…that I’m trying to start:  If you can say Rouyn-Noranda, you get 10% off.  

ML:  Oh yeah?  Is it hard to say?  <laughs>

MR:  Maybe if you can’t say it, you pay 10% more.  

Before we talk about the new format for this year, which is obviously different because of COVID, what is the normal format for this event in past years?

ML:  FME has been about eclectic local, national and international programming…some established…some new.  You would then get a multi-venue concept with one big stage outside for many thousands of people and hidden shows all around the town.  

MR:  Obviously, we can’t have thousands of people at a show.  What adjustments are you making now, because of COVID-19 and social distancing rules, to keep your attendees safe.

ML:  It all came together really quickly.  We got the green light from the government about 4 weeks ago.  

MR:  Oh wow!

ML:  Personally, I had lost hope that this was going to happen.  They then announced some changes to the restrictions where we felt we could do something within those parameters.  The programming and lineup were put together in two weeks.

We will follow all the restrictions that the public heath guidelines tell us to do.  We are definitely talking about reduced capacity.  

We will be in an intimate context, so we need to respect social distancing both indoors and outdoors, such as 2 meters distancing and a limit of 250 for the bigger indoor and outdoor shows.  

Another big change, because of international travel restrictions, and because we needed to put this together so quickly, we went with 100% local Quebec lineup.  

MR:  It will make it special as we get to highlight Quebec talent even more.  Speaking about bands, let’s talk about bands!

Montreal Rocks already interviewed Les Shirley.  Great band.  Apparently, I’m a Shirley, according to the definition of the band.  What are some other bands we should be looking out for this year?

ML:  To give context to how we built the lineup this year, we privileged the bands that released an album this year, like in Winter/Spring who saw all their summer plans fall apart.  We looked for who was supposed to tour this summer but didn’t.  

One of the highlights is definitely Corridor, a band that just got signed a couple of months ago on Sub-Pop.  It was supposed to be their summer, so we were pretty excited to get them for their first time at FME.

We have a lot of strong female acts on the lineup this year.  You mentioned Les Shirley who will be playing with Les Deuxluxes.  We have NOBRO, another band that was supposed to tour internationally this year.  

Meggie Lennon is a fresh new act.

Anachnid is another super project that came out this year that we are super excited to present to the public at FME.  

MR:  Is there any band that you personally are looking forward to seeing?

ML:  Yeah.  The act to not miss at FME, but I’m sorry, it’s sold out, so it’s not going to influence anyone’s decision, is Backxwash.  It’s the most exciting project that I’ve discovered last year.  There is nothing like this that has come out of the Quebec Rap and Hip-Hop scene in a long time…refreshing and raw.  You will hear about her in the coming years.  Excited to see Backxwash.

MR:  There is something called Pro Zone La 101.  What is that going to be about?

ML:  Maybe this is not something everyone knows about, but FME usually hosts a 200+ National and International delegation that comes to Rouyn-Noranda to discover new projects, new music, sign deals, bookings and festivals.  Since delegates won’t be able to travel to the festival, we organized an online version for the professional component of the festival.  

We will select artists from the lineup that have the most development potential, especially in the European market, as we get a lot of delegates from France, Belgium and Europe.  They will be there to discover what’s up with the Quebec music scene.  

They will see some of the shows that will be filmed during the festival.  There will be a platform where those industry professionals can meet, see the showcase and discuss potential deals or contracts.  

MR:  So, it’s a great platform for the artists attending to get exposure.  That’s great.

ML:  Exactly.  Traditionally, FME presents new projects that haven’t toured yet, so all the delegates that have come to the festival for the past 15 years, we have seen, create opportunities for the artists.  You see them get signed to a label in Europe, booked on a really big festival in France and even finding a label in Quebec.  We wanted to keep this part of the festival alive, which is really important for the artists.  

We came up with a version that can work with the current parameters caused by COVID.

MR:  So, I guess you could say that FME is a trampoline festival.  You land there and just take off.  

ML:  Exactly.  FME has been an important event in a lot of artist’s careers.

MR:  We look forward to having it come back to its full potential and capacity.  The tickets go from $10 to $25 for this year’s events, which is really not expensive.  There are a lot of sold-out shows already.  

I was going to say which shows are sold-out, but there are too many.  8 shows left, 26 shows sold-out.  That just means that it is already a success.

ML:  Yeah.  We were pretty excited by the response.  This year was really about making something happen for the local community since we won’t have tourists from out of town.  We are super happy with the response from the city for the show we are presenting.

MR:  Looking forward to next year, if the restrictions lift, what will it be like?  Do you have any bands that are already committed?

ML:  It will be special to go back to the full potential of the festival, especially after a year like 2020.  You can expect an eclectic programing with both national and international acts.  

This year, we are trying to make it happen with what we can do, but next year, we can go back to what we can actually do.

MR:  Great!  We want to bring awareness to this event.  It’s very important to the Quebec music community.  Thanks for taking the time to speak with Montreal Rocks.  We wish your event has much success and is safe for your attendees.  

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Interview: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music.  You can follow him on InstagramTwitter and YouTube. His Podcast Rock Star Today helps musicians quit their days jobs. 

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