Mélanie Venditti Lets Herself Go on ‘Projections’

Photo Credit: Kelly Jacob

Two years after releasing Épitaphes, Mélanie Venditti is back with Projections, a six-track EP that trades in her debut album’s haunting alt-rock for radiant synth-pop. But behind the luminescent disco pop of songs like single “Les contradictions” are a set of lyrics that are no less weighty than those of the Montreal singer-songwriter’s first album, which processed the passing of her mother. CJLO spoke with Venditti about her new sound, resiliency, and feeling grateful to get back on stage.

CJLO: Your 2020 single “L’île de chasse” took your music in a more electronic pop-oriented direction, after the alternative rock found on Épitaphes and your first EP (EP sans titre). What was behind the shift in musical direction that we hear now on Projections?
Mélanie Venditti: I see Projections as the continuation of my first EP, in the energy and the process, my first album Épitaphes was a parenthesis in between the two. I really like to feel free towards all styles, to explore. To me, it’s unfortunate when an artist remains in only one avenue. Our inspirations change, our tastes as well. What we experience also guides the way we create, how we want to express ourselves. At this moment, I want to dance, to let myself go.

Despite the sunny sounds of the new EP, the lyrical subject matter is more heavy, dealing with failing relationships and despicable partners. Did you purposefully try to put a happy face on otherwise sad music by making the songs pop-like?
I love to make contrasts between lyrics and music. It’s part of my approach on this second EP to feel liberated and more relaxed after creating songs. I like that people listen to my music candidly, and that afterwards, they discover that the lyrical nature doesn’t come from the same starting point. It’s like when we want to talk about a deep subject, and we bring it up with humour at first. Humour disarms, and afterwards we find ourselves more touched. I actually worked a lot of that into the direction of my Épitaphes shows with François Bernier, my director.

The last collection of songs you released, Épitaphes, dealt with the passing of your mother and the processing of that grief. After writing such an intensely emotional set of songs, when and how did you allow yourself to begin writing songs again from a new mindset, to begin a new era, so to speak?
It came about on its own, naturally. I didn’t provoke it. I let myself be guided by what life brings me. Of course, I try to remain positive as much as possible. I’m not saying it’s easy but we do the best we can! I’m a very resilient person, I’m often told.

You said you wrote “L’amitié (L’île de chasse)”, off the new EP, for a friend “who felt guilty for not being able to get over their pain. We have to stop comparing ourselves to others, and each go at our own pace when healing.” Was it almost a bit of a relief to write about someone else’s pain, after having focused so much on your own personal life on Épitaphes? Do the other songs on Projections also focus on other people’s experiences, whether fact or fiction?
The songs from Projections are broader when it comes to terms and pronouns. Sometimes I write in the first person but it’s not me, and sometimes the second person is me. It’s a different approach for me. I tried to be less focused on myself, even if the images conveyed are very close to my personal experiences. A lot of people abused my kindness, and it caused me a lot of harm. With the #MeToo movement, I read a lot of testimonies that resembled what I went through and it inspired me.

Projections is the first project that you largely self-produced! How did it feel being in control of how everything sounded and turned out? What was behind your decision to self-produce the EP, and do you think you’ll continue to do so in your future work?
Producing the EP came to me, and not the other way around, having no budget to hire a producer. I also have the ambition to produce other artists in the near future. I said to myself that this EP could be a business card.

Musical progression has been a part of you for a long time – you started off playing the violin and classical music at 6; then going for a guitar at 14-15 to play rock music like Radiohead, Weezer, and King Crimson; and now experimenting with synthesizers and pop sonics. Yet you manage to weave all those influences together in your music without it sounding forced. What’s the common denominator that makes a Mélanie Venditti song?
There are many: versatility, openness, work, and the surroundings. Classical music taught me to be rigorous. My studies in music allowed me to be versatile thanks to skills learned. My openness in what I listen to allows to have an array of ideas and inspirations. And of course my surroundings and entourage. Surrounding yourself well [with good people] is very important.

As a musician, I imagine you can’t wait for the day when you can safely play in front of audiences again. Do you think about what you want your future live performances to be like?
I had the chance to perform on stage already [this year] with Douance and Super Plage as part of the Francouvertes contest. It felt so good to get up there again! I have no expectations really, because I’m so grateful to do shows. I felt a little rusty at times, since I hadn’t performed in a long time. Some small mistakes, here and there, hihi. But hey, as we say, you got to be kind to yourself!

Independent musicians are one of the many groups whose livelihoods are harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As someone who has eloquently spoken on the difficulties of the DIY career path, what worries you most about our current reality, and what gives you hope for the future?
What worries me the most is the talented musicians who will change careers and go into fields other than music. It makes me very sad. On the other hand, I find that this pandemic allows us to reflect on the place that femmes/trans/binary/non-binary people as well as ethnic minorities deserve to have in the Quebec scene. I’ve sensed a change in the last year and that, that gives me hope.

Projections is out now (Independent)

Alex Viger-Collins is the host of Ashes to Ashes, your home for modern pop in all its forms, every Tuesday at 8:00 PM EST.