Remaking Retrograde

  • Groenland
  • 2015-11-25

Montreal-based indie pop group Groenland are in the ascent. Following the release of debut album The Chase, nominations for Pop Album of the Year at the Independent Music Awards and Pop Group of the Year at SiriusXM Indie Awards, plus an extensive tour, they’ve recorded a cover of James Blake song ‘Retrograde’. We caught up with lead singer Sabrina Halde to find out why the band chose ‘Retorgrade’ to cover.

There’s an esoteric kind of vibe that I love.

Why did you choose to cover James Blake’s ‘Retrograde’? What do you particularly like about the original?
First of all Blake has a fascinating universe. Listening to his music is like diving in a pool of pure, loving energy. “Retrograde” caught my attention because of its mesmerizing vocals and its synthesizer epicness. There’s also an esoteric kind of vibe that I love.

How did you go about stamping your own musical style on the song?
We knew that having me singing would already make a totally different statement. And of course strings would bring an interesting, organic element to the song. The whole thing came together pretty naturally. We never tend to overthink something if it doesn’t feel right. We just go for it and see what happens. In this case it worked out well, the original song being so freaking good, we tried to keep it simple.

Do you have any other songs you’d like to cover?
We listen to a huge variety of musical genres. We once covered a song from a French-canadian hip hop band called Alaclair Ensemble. We also covered “Oblivion” from Grimes. I would like to cover a Little Dragon song, probably “Ritual Unions”, or Lykke Li or Jessie Ware or Jamie Lidell or The Dodos or Joni Mitchell or Kendrick Lamarr or Fleetwood Mac or music from tv shows from our youth or The Beatles or anyone really. There’s always something fun to do with anything. Oh I know ! Any 90’s R&B song.. TLC, Destiny’s Child, Whitney Houston, Lauryn Hill.

It’s fun to try completely different arrangments, to take a banjo song and make it electro, or replace a brass section by strings or a choir or even percussions.

What makes a good cover version?
I think that if you know what you can bring personally, you’re off to a great start. I feel that if your energy shines through, you’ve done a good job. But I guess if you cover something very close to what you do, there won’t be this feeling of making it your own. And you probably need to be in love with the song from the start. It’s also fun to try completely different arrangments, to take a banjo song and make it electro, or replace a brass section by strings or a choir or even percussions. However you feel it.

What’s your favourite cover version?
Off the top of my head, I’m thinking about Johnny Cash’s last album. I thought it was brillant. He made the only version of “One” from U2 I can listen to. “Hurt” from NIN was great too.

What’s the worst cover you’ve ever heard?
Anyone making exactly the same version as the original but with their own, auto-tuned vocals. I don’t see the point but if it makes them happy, it’s still awesome. There are also a couple of sad covers from reality shows stars. Or anything turned into reggae. Haha!

What’s next for Groenland?
We are currently writing the second album that should be released at the end of next summer. We are recording in the winter. So the next months should be very busy!

Find out more about Groenland at groenland.com.

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