Methyl Ethel @ La Vitrola – September 28th 2019 – POP Montreal

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Methyl Ethel during POP Montreal

An Australian art-rock band walk into a POP Montreal event and what do you get? Methyl Ethel. With a band name like that, it seems like the right chemical equation of an answer.  

I first saw these guys at a festival at the start of this year and it was one of those unexpected discoveries that make for a happy coincidence. Their synth-driven pop reminds me of their fellow Perth-native, Tame Impala, but it’s the band’s pent-up lyrics that set them apart. 

Methyl Ethel hit the stage at 10:30pm after an angelic performance from Montreal’s own, Emilie Kahn. With less than 100 people packed into the little venue of La Vitrola on a Saturday night, the band members themselves could fit right into the young Mile End crowd they attracted. The space was small, but Methyl Ethel played big. 

Their third studio album, Triage, released at the beginning of this year is much different than their previous two. The record dabbles with ‘80s synth-pop mixed with just the right amount of experimental aspects and their live show is no different. From dance grooves to ominous lullabies, each song has a life of its own. In their short 1-hour set, most of Triage was played. 

It began with frontman, Jake Webb concocting an eccentric intro on a synthesizer in front of him, then using his voice has an instrument with words that sounded like words but I’m not sure if they were really words. 

After long artistic intros and occasionally slipping into lyrical drab, the crowd got into it when they could identify the first few sounds of a popular song like, ‘Trip The Mains’ and then ‘Twilight Driving.’

It was an interesting show to watch as Webb tangled himself with wires, ran behind the back curtain and sung down to the ground. When he focused on long instrumental sounds, some of the band members stood to the side with drinks in hand until they were ready to play the next song. 

The set was played nicely, fading in and out from upbeat jams like ‘Real Tight’ to softer sounds like ‘Post-Blue.’ There was about a 5 person mosh pit during ‘Ruiner’ that the band didn’t seem to love. When someone tried to crowd surf, they announced, “This has to be a chill zone. If it’s not, I don’t think we can continue.” 

I couldn’t tell if they had a specific setlist in mind, as they whispered and nodded to each other in between or during songs to decided which one would be played next. The funky techno disco-like squiggles got everyone’s toes tapping… I think I just wrote my favourite sentence. 

From whispers to war cries, heavy breathing and tossing in auto-tune here and there, Webb created these vast soundscapes unique to only their sound. It would be easy to identify a Methyl Ethel song when you heard one. 

Finally, they played the single off the album ‘Scream Whole’ which doesn’t say much but will forever be stuck in my head with its catchy tune. The guy beside me who screamed, “I love this song!” seemed to think so too. Then, they closed the show off with their biggest hit, ‘Ubu’ and when the crowd chanted for one more song, unfortunately, they called it a night.

The colourless and aromatic compound (Methyl Ethel) came and made their mark on POP Montreal. Short, yet sweet. 

Highlight – ‘Scream Whole’ 

Lowlight – When they left the stage abruptly. 

Crowd Pleaser – Singing along to “Why’d you have to go and cut your hair” x16 during ‘Ubu.’ 

Set List

  • Trip The Mains
  • All The Elements
  • Twilight Driving
  • Sweet Waste
  • Real Tight
  • Hip Horror
  • Post-Blue
  • Ruiner
  • Scream Whole
  • Ubu

Review & photos – Ryley Remedios

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