Soft underbelly of song


Montréal’s Snailhouse encases slow-crawling fiction

Sat, Oct 8 (8 pm)
With Zachary Lucky, the Collective West
Haven Social Club, $10 – $12

Mike Feuerstack's wary of generalities. The Montréal-based artist peppers conversation with cautious qualifiers (“tends to” being a favourite) and sharply distinguishes the private from the universal. He seems hyper-aware of exception, plurality, the hermetic nature of the self and the effort it takes to muster connection.

This scrupulousness is present in his songwriting, in the precision and concerns of his lyrics and the elegant structures and textures in his unhurried, soul-inflected beauty rock. Sentimental Gentleman, Feuerstack's sixth Snailhouse outing, is elaborate but without ostentation, and, as his moniker suggests, a world in miniature, intimately drawn, worried-over, crafted in heedful, earthy strokes.
“Snailhouse tends to be, at its conception, an inner, introspective thing that turns outwards later on,” Feuerstack says. “Something inside that ends up on the outside. I think of songs as collages taken from many incidents in life, put into stories. One piece may be about a romantic relationship, another may be about a coworker, and then I roll all these different things together. They tend to come from an autobiographical self but are turned into fiction.”

He elaborates, “I think of an album as a book of short stories, with individual songs having roles and forming relationships with each other. As in books of short stories, the order of placement to one another gives it meaning.”

Feuerstack's analogy is thorough and sincere. “People seem to think songwriters are more direct, somehow, that we're less diverse or spectral in our literary voice then any other literary voice. People tend to interpret it as conversational, in a way.” He tidies up the distinction: “I think I often use a narrative voice speaking to people in general, on an intimate topic.”

Feuerstack may worry that his creative breadth and labour could be overlooked if his work was to be perceived as simply a regurgitation of his being. Yet Snailhouse songs are so emotionally faithful to reality, with nuances in relationships of all kinds discerned with such acuity and sensitivity, that, with the addition of craft and the synthesis of a range of musical influences, they're a persuasive likeness of intimacy.

And that odd likeness of intimacy, the one between creator and receiver, is fascinatingly potent. Fiction elevates fragments of existence—our profusion of roles, shuffling perspectives, nattering thoughts, collections of references—beyond pastiche, locating the self in the maelstrom. Fiction closes the gap between us walking islands of selfness, even if only for three minutes in a song.

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