Back Onstage and it Feels Great

A Review of Local Rock Band NAVIR

  • Felix Brassard onstage. Photo Simon New

When I sat down to have a talk with the Montreal-based rock band NAVIR, their lead singer Felix Brassard had made an offhand comment about all of them touring together. “We’re like a family,” he said. That’s when I felt the band click with me.

After hearing the band tell me stories about things that they’d done together for their music, I knew that I’d met a group of long-time friends kicking it. Things like being cooped up in the studio, recording in a haunted church, or going to Bonnaroo together and staying up for two days on ecstasy and mystery pills.

The bond they all share and the way they interact with one another is displayed in their music. It’s just the right amount of nostalgia, accompanied by the confidence that comes from playing in a band full of your closest friends.

NAVIR is made up of frontman and guitarist Felix Brassard, drummer Sarah Dion, bassist Donald O’Brien and Jeremie Corriveau handling the keys. Their debut album “Opposite Natures,”—released April 8, 2016—craftily combines their indie-folk roots with alt-rock, bluegrass, and funk throughout the tracklist. The result: a clean and solid 12-song tracklist where each song stands on its own, feeling like every note and phrase is calculated. However, as an album altogether, is somewhat unfocused.

“I do not like it when bands purposely sound like shit on their albums, I hate it,” Corriveau explained, referring to the current climate of lo-fi, off-kilter indie-folk.

However song-to song, cuts on “Opposite Natures” are stylistically different from each other. You hear funk-styled bass riffs on their song “The Blast” and get thrown into blazing guitar solos in “Lion’s Dance.” From that point on, I wasn’t sure what to expect going into their show at La Vitrola on March 10. I was curious to find out how their grab-bag of styles would transfer to a live setting.

Sarah Dion on drums. Photo Simon New

What I came to learn was that the razor-sharp coordination and attention to detail in the album is very present in their live performance. NAVIR seemed so comfortable with their material and with each other on stage, that when the band took you in a new musical direction, you trusted them.

While fans of the band knew what to expect, those who were unfamiliar with them quickly came to appreciate their seamless transitions between styles. The four looked at each other onstage, and smiled like they were at home.

Having talked with them in a dingy stairway before the show, I could tell that they were tight-knit friends. Although it was their first show together in months, they had no trouble picking up where they left off. Scanning the crowd, NAVIR had everyone in a trance. The bond between them was palpable up on the stage, and it was awesome to watch.

NAVIR plans to head in a more focused direction with the music that they’re working on. “A little more roots-y, is that a word?” said Corriveau.

“We want to find that sound that’s not too preppy, too pop, too compressed, but still manage to get a quality sound, without losing the 70’s style, grainy textures on the acoustics,” he said. The band agreed that they’re narrowing their style down. “Simpler stuff, groovier stuff” says Dion. “Focused more on the texture than on the speed,” O’Brien added.

However, when all was said and done, they all seemed to appreciate the simple fact that they were together onstage again. Brossard summed it up perfectly when he said, “We just want to play, man.”

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