Wednesday, April 6th, Canadian indie folk singer/songwriter Leif Vollebekk will be returning to The Music Hall at World Café Live, and tickets are selling fast. However, opening the evening is equally noteworthy Canadian artist La Force, AKA Ariel Engle, best known as a recent-ish addition (2017) to Canadian indie collective Broken Social Scene (where Engle’s husband, Andrew Whiteman, has been a member for more than two decades.) La Force initially began as what was supposed to be the sophomore LP from AroarA, a project of Engle and Whiteman’s whose 2014 debut, In The Pines, was based on poet Alice Notley’s book of the same name. However, Engle decided to make the work all her own. La Force’s self-titled debut album was released in September of 2018 on Arts & Crafts Productions (also home to BSS). The sound of the album is whimsically mystical, while also firmly rooted in Engle’s simultaneous experiences becoming a first-time mother and losing her father at the time the album was being conceived. It has been characterized by its profound soulfulness, but also its utilization of electro-pop. I recently got a chance to chat with Ariel Engle, who tells me that there’s been a lot of new noise from La Force in the works, and that you can certainly expect to hear it on her dates alongside Vollebekk.
Izzy Cihak: Before I get to the new stuff, I have to say that I was a huge fan of AroarA’s album and I even interviewed Andrew about it back in 2014. So, I have to ask what are your thoughts on that album and that project currently?
Ariel Engle: I love that you love AroarA. It remains one of my favorite collaborations. The “collaborator” is Andrew Whiteman and most importantly the poems of Alice Notley’s whose book, In The Pines, is the basis for each song on the album. We’re hoping to find the right distro or small poetry enthused label to take it on so we can properly release it in the US or abroad. If the record gets some fresh ears, I’d be great to plan a tour to support it.
Izzy: You’ve been doing La Force for a few years now, with your self-titled album dropping in 2018. What was the original thinking behind this project? Has it enabled you to work on sounds or styles that you hadn’t previously?
Ariel: Initially the first La Force album was an AroarA record, but then it morphed, and La Force was born. I think I started to want more artistic control which led to it being my record and not collaborative.
Izzy: Have you had any favorite reactions to La Force, whether things critics said, things fans have told you, or responses you’ve gotten from live audiences?
Ariel: I once spoke to a woman who told me she realized after watching me perform that she had to break up with her boyfriend. I took it to mean she had to live her life as genuinely as she could.
Izzy: Do you currently have a favorite La Force song?
Ariel: “Mama Papa” is my favorite recorded La Force song to date. I have another one that has yet to be released that lives in that same special place. They both surprised me when they arrived and felt bigger than me.
Izzy: This isn’t necessarily related to La Force specifically, but it’s just something I like to ask musicians. What are some of your favorite albums, whether things that you grew up with, or records that you’ve fallen for more recently?
Ariel: When I was very young my mother worked in a used book and record store here in Montreal. My parents played records constantly. I grew up listening to a lot of Bob Dylan, but I didn’t like it until I moved out as a teenager. My parents didn’t play much from the classical section. I asserted my independence by falling in love with Bach and must have listened to Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater hundreds of times, along with anything by Aretha Franklin and 70s era Bonnie Raitt. Recently Sault has caught my heart and I’ve loved Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Art Feynman for a while now too. Check out Art’s “Slow Down”.
Izzy: You have a number of upcoming dates with Leif Vollebekk and Frazey Ford, respectively. How excited are you to spend some time on the road with them? I’m assuming they’re friends of yours, but that may just be because we assume all cool Canadian musicians know each other.
Ariel: Yes, Leif and I are friends it’s true. Frazey and I are not yet friends but I know it’s just because we haven’t met yet. We speak on Instagram and admire one another. Her voice fucks me up (in the right way). I remember the first time I saw her play, The Be Good Tanyas were opening for Martha Wainwright in Montreal and I caught the last song. It was a watershed moment for me. It’d be years before I dared try.
Izzy: What can be expected of your live show when you’re here at World Café Live early next month, both in terms of the setlist and just the general vibe? Is it mostly going to be material from your self-titled album, or do you have some new music?
Ariel: I’ve just finished my second record so I’m going to be using the shows as a chance to try out new songs. I may play a couple from the last record, but it’ll be mostly new. I’ll be alone on stage with a guitar and sampler… I think.
Izzy: Finally, what’s next for La Force, after these dates? Or are you just playing it by ear?
Ariel: we’re releasing my second record, so there’s going to be shows announced. I’ve also collaborated with Patrick Watson, shows there too…
*Get your tickets here.