Bob & Bill – Album Producers
“Third Times a Charm”

The release of the CD for the latest Cirque du Soleil touring tent show Amaluna (2012, Cirque du Soleil Musique CDSMCD-10046) marks the third time the production team of Bob & Bill (Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard, www.bobandbill.net) have shepherded a Cirque du Soleil soundtrack. From production duties on Kooza (2008, CDS Musique CDSMCD-10028), they graduated to composing the music and producing the CD for Totem (2010, CDS Musique CDSMC-10034). And with Amaluna they again compose and produce. We had the chance to check back in with them around the time of the CDs release late last year. (See our other interview with them here http://www.cirquefascination.com/?p=2370 )

The call to compose the music came, Marc explained, in the usual way. “As usual, we received a call to write the music for the show. This was more of a challenge this time, because Guy (Laliberté) had very specific demands for the music, he wanted us to go somewhere else and push our barriers. So that was a big challenge for us.” Guy added, “And the timing was very good for us, in that we have been composing in a more rock direction lately. So we were already there creatively.” That they were already composing in a “rock place” was fortuitous, as they were only given four months notice.

From other conversations with Cirque composers we know that René Dupéré comes to a project with several melodies already in his head while Benoit Jutras won’t write a note of music until he sees the act. When it comes to composing for Bob & Bill, “Sometimes we start from scratch,” says Guy. Marc followed on, “We had different approaches, because sometimes we would write the number first. Sometimes we would start from a picture or just an idea, of course after that we have to put music to the number. We have different ways of writing music. Sometimes it’s just a color we find that we show to the producers. And when we know we’re going in the right direction then we start putting music to the number.” And composing involves consistent input from the director and production team. “If we have an idea, whether it’s for (Amaluna director) Diane (Paulus) or (Totem director) Robert (Lepage), we can take it to them for feedback. We are very close to the producers – you have to be when you write music.” “And we use feedback from them as well,” Guy said. “They were here a lot in our studio to listen to music. They would give their input and we would go back and rework it.”

The directive for the show was to showcase women, and use a more rock-influenced style of music. It also involved finding and auditioning an all-women band, which fortunately wasn’t much of a challenge. “During the casting they showed us so many good musicians from all over the world,” Marc commented. “There were a lot of really good musicians we were able to find.” The assembled band was immediately able to have an effect, according to Guy. “Without taking it in a completely different direction, they took ownership of the music. They added their energy to it. They really respected the writing, adding their energy. [It] really turned out to be a blessing.”

The band that appears on the CD (and in the show) includes:

  • Jenifer Aubry – Vocals
  • Marie-Michelle Faber – Hoops performer, vocals on “Hope”
  • Mireille Marchal – Percussion
  • Julie McInnes – Prospera, vocals, cello, sax
  • Teresa Morini – Bass
  • Didi Negron – Drums
  • Angie Swan – Guitars
  • Rachael Wood – Guitars

Making Progress(ive)

According to Marc, they found out they would be producing the CD soon after getting the composing assignment, in January or February, which meant they could be more prepared. “With Amaluna we knew we were going to do the CD early on and were more organized in our sessions [this time]. [With] Totem we’d composed the music, but we also had a number of [instrumental] tracks [already pre-recorded].”

Once again, Cirque’s Musical Director Alain Vinet would prove to be a close collaborator, co-producing the album with the pair. “Since we are producers we [believed] that Alain would give us the chance to produce the album again, so we worked as if we were going to do [the CD]. We produced [the CD] with Alain Vinet again, and we knew that Alain would do certain stuff and we would do certain stuff. So it was a bit easier, more organized.” Added Guy, “[We were] more prepared because while we were [creating] the show we knew we were going to do the CD afterward.”

The Amaluna CD follows the Totem formula, taking the sound and arrangements from the show and using the creation musicians, a conscious decision according to Guy. “Actually the CD is really close to the show, like Totem. We used the creation musicians like we did with Totem. And it’s an all-girl band and we wanted that to shine through on the CD. We took the same approach because for us it was really important that the artists like their music and the CD. And Alain Vinet did some remixing and rearranging of the songs as well. He has another point of view, that’s why we really enjoyed working with him.”

One distinction to this CD is the use of English lyrics on the songs “All Come Together,” “Hope,” “Run,” and “Burn Me Up.” In an interesting twist, the version of “All Come Together” on the Alain Vinet-produced Cirque Musique Compilation CD “Le Best of, Volume Two” (2012, CDS Musique CDSMCD-10045), where the track is titled, “Magic Ceremony One,” is a Cirquish-language version of “All Come Together.” “The idea was to have both versions,” Guy explained. “Alain wanted the Cirquish version, like it is in the show, for his Le Best of Two album. For the [Amaluna] CD the idea was to try and do some English lyrics. It doesn’t make a huge difference; it’s only a few songs. But the show is only [sung in] the Cirquish language.”

When complimented on the rock-ish direction of the CD (a direction they are justly proud of), Guy is quick to point out, “That was the approach we took, that was the idea. It was [important to] Guy Laliberté, too. He pushed us a lot to go in that direction.” Alain Vinet also notes in the album liner that the album was, “created in the spirit of a musical voyage from start to finish, the same approach as some of the great progressive rock albums.” “[Sometimes] we were switching, going from a progressive style of music to changing the mood, or changing tempo from one song to another,” Marc elaborated. “[But] not doing 8-minute songs like Pink Floyd or Genesis though.” “It’s a way of working on things more than thinking of a specific style,” added Guy. “[And] Alain was a big part of it, assembling everything to make the voyage happen.”

Marc talked about when the CD was recorded. “It was done right away after the premiere of the show, with the band in the studio. It took about two weeks. We couldn’t do it every day – the girls had the show going on – so we were doing a few days a week for two or three weeks in May and June.” They used Studio Fast Forward for some of the sessions, with others recorded at Studio Bob & Bill, all in Montréal. All of the musicians played together on all of the tracks. “We wanted the band to all play together, like a real band, a good jam. [And] Everything we recorded is there this time. The clown act is also there as part of the ending of two songs; at the end of “Run” there is one part, and at the end of “Running On The Edge” there is a sax part of the clown act.”

The sessions also involved a man(!), Sebastien Laurendeau, as bandleader. He had been called in to play in the show when original bandleader & keyboard player Janine de Lorenzo (who has since returned) was out with an injury occurring outside of the performances. “He was the leader,” said Marc. “On the album he directed all the sessions in the studio. During the show the girls are always following his call.”

The CD features several appearances on their acts songs from the artists who perform the manipulation, juggling, and uneven bars acts. This was quite intentional, per Marc. “[These] are so much their songs that we wanted them to be part of the CD. Which is a really cool thing for them too, it’s really nice for them to have their voices on the CD.” Another of the guests is Aerial Hoop artist Marie–Michelle Faber who sings background vocals on several tracks, has a part at the end of the opening track, “All Come Together,” and sings the main vocal on her acts song, “Hope,” as she also does in the show.

We were curious as to what “Additional Recordings” Productions Pierre De Lune, Jean-François Côté and Yves Drolet supplied. It turns out they produced various sounds, tracks, and some sequencing for the show. And we also had to ask if the duo appeared anywhere on the Amaluna CD (they are present throughout the Totem & Kooza CDs). “Not at all,” Guy initially claimed. “Because it was a [requirement] from Guy to only utilize the women of the show.” It was when we asked about the sources of the male yelling on the track, “Fly Around,” that the truth came out. “The men are us, and the girls are from the show.” Ah-ha – so they are there! “Oh my God – you caught us! (Laughter) But in that context it’s like a sound effect from the show.”

The Future Visible

When not involved in composing for Cirque tent shows, the duo is also involved in another Cirque-related project, Les Chemins Invisibles, (http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/events/chemins-invisibles/show.aspx )the one-hour summer show produced by Cirque for Québec City. Marc was happy to announce, “As a matter of fact we’re doing the next chapter of Les Chemins Invisibles for this year. We just started yesterday, that’s what we’re working on right now. It’s the same concept as a Cirque show, we have a producer and we need to write one hour of music. It’s a nice show, too.” “It’s a nice challenge, too,” added Guy.

All this composing for hire has left little time to work on Bob & Bill-specific projects, including the follow-up to their first album, “Crime Report”. “We’re still working on it!” laughed Guy. “We haven’t had much time. When you have a big show like Amaluna there isn’t much time to work on much else. So we had to put it on ice for a while, but it’s still there.”

As we concluded our time together, we asked the duo what they would like people to know about them. Marc answered, “We’d like people to know about us and what we are doing,” which this article certainly hopes to do! With their flexibility, willingness to compose quickly and to deadline, and experience with a variety of styles this won’t be the last you hear from Bob & Bill!

Our Amaluna-focus continues next issue, when we have a follow-up interview with Cirque Musical Director and Amaluna CD co-producer Alain Vinet. Several interesting revelations to be had – next month!

My sincere thanks go to: Mr’s. Dubuc and Lessard for so graciously spending time with us, Chantal Côte, Corporate PR Manager, And my wife LouAnna for putting up with my sometimes obsessive hobby.