Corridor: “The whole concept of the album came from buying a leaf blower”

Bassist and vocalist Dominic Berthiaume on life in Montreal, new album Mimi and heading to The Great Escape festival

For the past ten years Montreal’s Corridor have been honing their sound – jangly and jagged, motorik and melodic – but found their breakthrough in 2019 with their mighty third album Junior. It’s been a long five years since then, with the band’s fanbase left wondering of a return, but the (now) five-piece are finally back with their fourth full-length Mimi, released 26 April via Sub Pop.

Ahead of Mimi‘s release, we get to know the band a little better as bassist and vocalist Dominic Berthiaume talks us through Corridor’s influences, getting to work on the new album and heading to The Great Escape for the first time in May.

Corridor - Mourir Demain (Official Music Video)

Dominic, Montreal seems to have a reputation over here for its special music scene, what’s life like for a band over there?

As time as time goes on, I’d say it’s less and less easy than what it used to be. Montreal, since forever, since the Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade years, has always been known for being a Canadian hub for bands, for many reasons. One of the main reasons was because the rent was super cheap, but now in 2024, that’s less than the case. We’ve had crazy rent increases for the past five years. So I’d say starting a band here in 2024 versus starting a band in 2013 must be quite different.

Before, it used to be that you could be an artist in Montreal just working a part time job, like a 16-hour week, and you could pay rent and have a rehearsal studio and be okay, but that’s not the case anymore. You have to work way more to earn money to pay all of your bills, so that changes this reality.

You balance the sharp, angular guitar work of post-punk with a super dreamy vocal style – what were some of the influences that shaped this sound?

When we started the band, Jonathan and I both felt like we weren’t singers, so we just decided to both sing instead of putting the task on only one member of the band. It just felt natural. We’re big fans of melodies and, for vocals, the inspiration would have been The Beach Boys and stuff like that. Also the Canadian band Women were a big inspiration. They were doing the same; they had a post punk sound but still there was something bright about the vocals, like it sounded like 60s pop.

There was another band in Montreal too called Each Other, they were kind of doing the same thing; this kind of sound but with those vocal melodies. We thought it was more interesting than just the the normal talking post-punk delivery.

Your last album Junior felt like a big stride forwards for Corridor, but it has been five years ago since its release. Did you feel any pressure during that time to keep up the momentum?

We were mostly relaxed. When all of our plans in 2020 and 2021 got cancelled, I can’t say it was a happy time but still… it was what we had to do. The good thing is that people surrounding us, the management and label, they didn’t pressure us at all to deliver an album, so we really took our time to do it. We didn’t even have access to our rehearsing space, so we couldn’t really write together during those two years. I think we wrote together as a band maybe three or four times. So it was a very, very slow process. And at the same time, it was a time where Jonathan just had a daughter, so yeah, things were pretty slow. We didn’t have much pressure, except when it was actually time to do it. You know, you always put pressure on yourself, especially as this album was the first time we were producing it.

Was there a point or a specific song when you knew something was coming together that you could refine into an album? As a listener, ‘Jump Cut’ feels like one of those exciting moments.

It’s funny you mention that because for a while we were just writing a bunch of songs, and if I’m not mistaken ‘Jump Cut’ was the first one we actually completed. We were like, ‘this song has something’. To be honest though, it’s our fourth album and every album we make, we try not to repeat ourselves and try to do things differently, but at the same time, we don’t want to drastically change the sound of the band. I think with ‘Jump Cut’ we felt like we should definitely write a bunch of songs that have those kinds of textures and, I don’t know, it felt like this was going to be the new Corridor sound.

Corridor - Mon Argent (Official Visualizer)

Did inviting Samuel to join the band permanently help sculpt this new sound?

Absolutely. Sam is just a super creative guy. He’s also way younger than most of the guys in the band; he’s at least 10 years younger than me. He’s also part of at least five or six other different bands, so he’s a super, super musician. He’s from a more experimental and left-field scene, so he brought that to the band, especially for the electronic textures and, like, the intro of ‘Mon Argent’ and ‘Camréra’. This all comes from his mind. While we were rehearsing for touring Junior, we realised we actually needed someone on synthesiser and all of those things we’d put on the album. So Sam joined the band as a hired gun, but he quickly became a part of us.

From musing about the perfect way to go on ‘Mourir Demain’ to the financial realities of being in a band on ‘Mon Argent’, Mimi feels quite existential. What were some of the themes driving the writing?

It’s mainly about time passing and getting old, being an adult and having adult responsibilities. It’s mainly centred around this. So for ‘Mourir Demain’, the idea came when, like I mentioned, Jonathan had just had a daughter, so he had to shop for life insurance. He just thought, ‘oh, from now on, I have to start planning my death because I have a daughter and when I leave I don’t want to leave her a bunch of debt’ and stuff like that. So this is what adult life is like, you have to start to plan your death. Jonathan writes all of the lyrics and this is, I think, the most personal album. The whole concept and idea of the album came when he went to the hardware store and he bought a leaf blower… He came back to his home, he unboxed his leaf blower and at this moment he felt, ‘wow, I’m becoming one of those guys’. 15 years ago he would look at his dad and and be like, ‘he is really excited about buying a leaf blower’. He couldn’t imagine getting to this point but now he’s there.

‘Mon Argent’ is about having a random income when you’re a musician. Sometimes you don’t make money for months, and then randomly, unexpectedly and unannounced, you could receive a check from royalties in the mail for 5000 bucks, but you never know how much it’s gonna be. You never know when it’s gonna arrive. So it’s super random. And it’s hard to plan stuff when you don’t know when you’re gonna make money.

There’s something funny about writing songs about the reality of adult life and then naming the album after a cat…

The whole idea of titling the album Mimi came before everything. I think this also happened for our second album, Supermercado. Our former drummer, the first drummer in the band, had this flash. We were just in the van together and he just said, “I think the next album should be called Supermercado. Sounds great”. We just kept the idea, and I think it was pretty much the same for Mimi this time. It was a Jonathan’s idea because Mimi is his cat’s name, but he had this in mind before writing any of the lyrics. Once the album was finished, we couldn’t find anything better than Mimi.

You played South by Southwest earlier this year, and are coming to The Great Escape in the UK in May. Do you enjoy these showcase festivals?

It’s funny, it really depends. Our last South by was super fun; all the shows were super cool. It’ll be our first time at The Great Escape, but at South by there’s still a bunch of people just there for the music, so it feels like a real show. We played seven or eight shows, but there was one in a convention centre, in front of people sitting on plastic chairs… These kind of moments are like, ‘oh yeah, this is a corporate showcase’. But I still have fun playing them. I remember there was one day when we played four shows, in four different venues. It’s quite something. But I think for the band, the sh*ttiest thing is having to set up in like 10-15 minutes. Now we’re looking forward to The Great Escape, I heard the vibe is quite different, less of a spring, like you don’t play eight times in three days, for example. It’s a more relaxed pace, from what I’ve heard.

It might be a relaxed pace for Corridor, but you’ll want to get to their Saturday 18 May show early – limited tickets for The Great Escape festival are available here

Corridor also play Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds on 15 May