When Malajube frontman Julien Mineau speaks of his band's music, he's forced to discuss the Anglophiles and Francophiles of the world as if that's the only way he and his bandmates can see it. In every city the Canadian band travels to, they're visited by some of each—those who are used to their indie rock 'n' roll being given to them in English, the language they dream in, and those who still dream in English, but wish to sprinkle their rêves with some French as well. Malajube, a band of considerable blog and print magazine chatter, sings all of the songs on its spectacular sophomore album, Trompe-l'Oeil, in French and the appeal for its quickly growing Anglophile fan base just might be the same appeal as the one attracting the Francophiles. No one knows what he's singing about. He's created mystery, and from mystery some form of natural beauty that can't be spoken in any language.
"My lyrics are pretty vague and fucked up. Maybe that's not the right word—fucked up—but they're like that," Mineau said Thursday night from Cleveland. "They're not straightforward. A song could be about love or it could be about the doctor when he's performing an operation on you."
The group, which started in 2004, began playing songs that incorporated both English and French (at a time when Mineau said that the consensus was that it was nasty to sing in French and it was an act that was spat upon) and then it started feeling like treason to not sing everything in French.
"I've always preferred singing in French," Mineau said in his choppy English. "I don't think one language can own indie music. When we started singing only in French, we realized that we were the only ones. It made us more apart from other bands. I think singing in English at CMJ in New York, we would have been one in so many bands. We fill the shows with language barrier jokes. And there's no language for energy and loudness, I don't think. We make jokes about Rocky. We played a 10-minute song about cream cheese in Philadelphia even though cream cheese isn't even made in Philadelphia. People seemed to like it. [Thursday in Cleveland], I was impersonating my guitar and I told people that they should buy a T-shirt because they look ugly. I was saying things that since I was saying them in English, they were funny."
The songs on Trompe-l'Oeil could be about anything. They're mostly dreamlike and yet, larger than dreams. They soar loud like the French band Phoenix, contain elements of the Beta Band and Grandaddy, and refuse to tread the same worn path. It's not just the French that sets this group apart. They help coax feelings and real, live breathing sentiments from bosoms.
"For a majority of people that we're playing for every night, there's a language barrier," Mineau said. "But I think young people are more open to this. I think with us, there can be more of a focus on the emotions and the rhythm and creation. That's what I think about music."