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ATP! Interview: Sébastien Lefebvre

As an artist who was undoubtedly born to play, Sébastien Lefebvre has a rare combination: an uncontrollable urge to create, and the work ethic necessary to sustain the creative flow. The most recent result of this combination is his latest release, solo EP More Sake Por Favor. It’s a long way down and a far cry from the upbeat alternative rock of Simple Plan, for which he plays guitar, or even from the gentle acoustics of his last two solo releases, Les Robots in 2011 and You Are You/Vous Etes Ici in 2009.

More Sake.. is a darker development in Sébastien’s musical career, and it’s only somewhere in the middle of it all, a representation of his songwriting, performing and producing skills often executed in his personal Man of the Hour Studio – which also happens to be the name of the podcast he produces with friend Patrick Langlois. There are also the collaborations, charity work, music video directions, and acting gigs.

Yet for everything he has going on, Sébastien took time to speak with ATP about how he continues to keep a list of lofty aspirations. Many of which he’ll accomplish – new collaborations and more solo EPs – and others, like becoming a ninja, maybe not so much. But hey, the way Sébastien’s been working lately, you never know.

Alter The Press: Obviously I’d like to talk about your new EP, More Sake Por Favor. There has to be a story behind that name.
Sébastien Lefebvre: There is, there is. It’s sort of a phrase I’ve been toying around with for a while. I always felt one day I’ll have an album out called More Sake Por Favor. It sounds hilarious, but if you sort of dissect it it’s totally lost, too. You can just picture the album cover: obviously different languages, there’s sake which is drunk, it’s just completely lost. It really reflects the mood of the album. The songs on this one are a bit darker, and the production behind it’s got kind of a dry, moody vibe to it, except for ‘My Dear’ which is a bit more upbeat. A lot of the songs are very introspective and I just thought the name totally worked. At the same time, it’s a light funny title. But really it can just be somebody that’s completely lost and it’s like, ‘Hey, what am I doing here?’

ATP: Does that reflect the mood you were in when you were writing the album?
Sébastien: Maybe not the mood I was in, but it definitely reflects what I was talking about. There’s a lot of, sort of, making peace with a lot of bad situations that I finally came to terms with. I’m just like, ‘Alright, I’m over this.’ This shitty breakup that happened two, three years ago, I figured out that I don’t have to worry about it, like most things. Like this friend who really I don’t think has ever been my friend – it’s time wasted but that’s all it is, moving on. That’s definitely kind of the – yeah, that is the mood I was in then.

ATP: Your professional career seems to have two sides to it; your solo work, and your work with Simple Plan. There are different sounds, different processes, working with different labels. Do you ever feel pulled in two different directions?
Sébastien: I wouldn’t say ‘pulled,’ but there are definitely different sides to the artist side of me. I love what we do with Simple Plan. It takes me around the world and it’s awesome. But I also like to write these types of songs, or to listen to this type of music. So ‘limit’ is such a bad word, and it sounds bad, but I wouldn’t want to limit myself to just being one type of artist forever. When I write these songs, it’s like, ‘OK, this one’s going to be a song for me.’ And when you write a different type of song it’s like, ‘Alright, I’ll bring this one to the guys and try to turn it into a Simple Plan song.’ I wouldn’t say that I’m pulled in two directions because I’ve tried – and I can’t say that I loved it – being on stage on my own trying to play my own stuff. I do much prefer being on stage with the four other guys. That’s when I really have a good time being on stage. This is not the kind of album that I’m going to try to tour the world with at all. This is more for the listening experience, for the fans, for myself. I’m not going to try to tour and try to sell out venues and stuff. But I do that with Simple Plan and I love it that way.

ATP: So you kind of get both sides to it all.
Sébastien: Absolutely.

ATP: Back to talking about ‘My Dear,’ which you mentioned earlier. You just released a video for it which is very cool. You actually got a fan, Jacob Drake, off Twitter to animate it for you. How excited was he that he got to make a video for one of his favorite musicians?

Sébastien: I bet he was [excited] but I have to say I probably was even more! I don’t think the character in the video is me but I can pretend it was me, or pretend that it was animated for me which, actually, it kind of was. I’m kind of a nerd. I love animation, I do watch cartoons. I love the style that Jacob had and that’s why I was really excited going through his stuff and saw that he was interested to work with me and I’m very happy with the way it came out. And I’m very happy I didn’t have to go on a video shoot! He did such a good job – all the little movements, the lasso around the moon, what a beautiful touch. It’s a fun video and it definitely reflects the song and it definitely reflects another side of me. It could have been a really dark video. The EP’s kind of sad, but this is just fun, it’s cartoon.

ATP: What cartoons are you a fan of?

Sébastien: I watch the obvious comedies like Family Guy, American Dad, and all that. I do like to read comics, I’ve always seemed to be attracted to that kind of art. If I could be better at three things, one of them would be drawing. And then it would be piano and being a ninja. I mean, I would love to have my own comic. I don’t think I would have time, or the will to actually fulfill it, but I would just love to draw better. It’s something I’m attracted to. It probably comes from the fact that I used to go to Disney World every year when I was a kid.

ATP: So how long have you had this dream of being a ninja?
Sébastien: Oh, that’s just something that comes up in random conversation.

ATP: I think you should totally work on that
.
Sébastien: Yeah, I’m too lazy at this point! But one day I’m going to put in a ninja class for sure.

ATP: You don’t seem very lazy! You write, you produce, you record, you produce the Man of the Hour podcast, you do a ton of charity work. Is there anything else you’re working on?

Sébastien: No, that’s pretty much it. I’m writing for other artists. I have the radio show Man of the Hour, that’s going to start up again soon, and then this album’s coming out. I’ll probably have another EP next year because I have the songs for it, and more Simple Plan stuff. So I do keep pretty busy, this is true. It’s better like that, I guess.

ATP: Back to More Sake Por Favor. From what I can tell you are constantly writing your own material, and you’ve been doing so for years. For the songs that ended up on this EP did you write them all at once, or were they written over a wider span of time?
Sébastien: It’s sort of over a short period. It seems that the songs that come out closer together always fit better together. Obviously I wrote this before we left for this tour [at the time of this interview, Sébastien was on tour with Simple Plan], so they’re a little bit over a year old. Maybe there were about 10 songs that came out in about a month, or a few weeks, and I was like, ‘These ones fit well together.’ There turned out to be a nice flow. And some songs don’t really have a point. When you hear the EP there’s a song that’s mostly just sounds and cryptic lyrics. It’s just made to make you feel something. It’s not made to make you relate to it, necessarily. I just thought it had its place on the album because it’s that type of album. You’ll understand it more when you hear it.

ATP: Did you record it at your studio again?
Sébastien: Yes, I did, at the self-proclaimed Man of the Hour studio. It’s fun. I do enjoy that part, too. I love the writing, thinking up melodies, and also the producing, sitting down and figuring out one guitar, add a guitar here, piano, drum beats here, harmonies, okay no that’s too much take it back. That’s something I also enjoy very much. That was all done in my studio.

ATP: Aside from having complete freedom in your studio, what’s the best part about doing it all on your own? Is there less pressure on you?

Sébastien: Less and more. I feel that when you’re five people you can definitely take something to a vote and then figure out the best ideas if more people think it’s better. When you’re alone I think the pressure comes from not having that feedback and still trying to make sure you’re making the right decisions, and that the words you’re using are the right words and you’re not over-arranging or under-arranging a song. But it is very relaxed because it’s on your own time and you can work on it until you’re satisfied, and that’s a good feeling. Instead of satisfying five people you just have to satisfy one.

ATP: So you’re really not going to tour solo to promote this EP?
Sébastien: [laughs] There are just too many places to go! Maybe I’ll do an internet show, you know? One day. I will leave it up hanging as, one day I’ll do it. But I do tour a lot already. I apologize for that, that’s just the way it is!

ATP: I don’t blame you! Thanks Sébastien, is there anything else you would like to add?
Sébastien: No, just stay tuned! This EP comes out, and then we package it and it’s going to be all nice with bonus tracks later this summer. Then more Simple Plan stuff coming before the end of the year. Then more Sébastien stuff next year for sure. I’ve got more songs that I’m just finishing up right now for my future release, so there will be more of that stuff, too. It’s all about having fun, you know?

ATP: Yeah, and apparently about being insanely busy, too.
Sébastien: Yeah, that’s the thing about having part of your work be your hobby as well. When I do want to relax, I sit and grab a guitar and sit in my studio. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and eventually it comes out.

‘More Sake Por Favor’ is out now digitally through Coalition Entertainment Records.

Carolyn Vallejo