It was loud. We were doing that thing where you talk to the sides of each other’s faces. He was holding a beer and a shot. Excellent, I thought. Looking into his ear, I told him the name of my column, “Musiciens je veux frencher.” He turned and looked me in the face, “Do you know what that means?” he asked in English. “Oui,” I blinked back at him. I explained the column will explore how sexual energy on stage translates to real life encounters. His eyes searched my face for a hint of sarcasm. “That’s a lot of pressure.” I laughed too loudly. I bumped into his beer hand. Don’t use that line again, I thought.
As I watched Youyourself&i perform, I couldn’t stop fidgeting. I rubbed my eyes a few times, sat up straighter, adjusted my skirt around thighs, nibbled at my nails… I couldn’t help it. As Daniel Gélinas sang, I became more aware of his hands, his mouth, his subtle hip thrusts. And it wasn’t just Daniel; the whole band emitted this crazy sexual energy that had me leaning forward across the table until it cut into my ribcage. The drummer clearly derived masturbatory pleasure from each kick of the bass drum. He played hunched over his kit, his shoulders, knees, and ribs rebounding with each strike of his drum sticks, breathing in deep gulps. At times he held the tip of his tongue against his upper lip, eyelids fluttering with concentration. I sat back after the second song ended and looked around self consciously. I hadn’t noticed the room fill. The applause broke the focused quiet. I readjusted my legs.
“This one’s called Factory,” Daniel said. He struck his guitar strings hard, then repeated, “It’s called Factory.” He wore his t-shirt inside out. His pants were a few sizes too big. The legs were cut off at the bottom and fraying, rolled up to reveal mismatched argyle socks. He pulled his face into a grimace as he bent the metal strings of his guitar. Certain chords made his eyes pop open and dart around the room. His dark brow lifted and furrowed. Was he staring intensely at the opposite wall, or glaring at the people talking at the back of the room? At times his serious expression broke into a radiant smile, as if he too was surprised by a particularly melodic riff. I sat in awe as his hobo quirk transformed into a palpable sexual attraction. He paused to introduce the next song. “This story is really too long to tell on stage,” he stopped and scratched the scruff on the back of his neck. “But this is the part of the set where I’m supposed to talk…” He looked back at his band and chuckled. “If you want to hear the whole story, you should just ask me after the show I guess…” Ask after the show, I note feverishly.
Later, in the bar lounge, we sit awkwardly on the same sagging couch cushion. He is so cute and well mannered and searches in his knapsack with lurching movements. He’s got terrible posture and a soft voice, and asks me more questions than I ask him. I feel the pressure of the impending kiss is distracting us both. Should I buy him another drink, loosen him up, or just grab his face and apologize later? Thankfully his philosophy about music is so fascinating that I stop silently strategizing. He describes choosing his band mates. I take notes on a napkin. When he partners with other musicians he asks they not play their habitual instrument. “That way the musician relies more on their ear rather than technique. We’re learning together,” he says. The drummer’s instrument of choice is normally the saxophone. Fitting? “It’s less about recording music, and more about capturing the moment. I want to record the essence of the song rather than just the sound.”
He tells me he’s been collecting voicemail messages over the last ten years. “I think it’s an interesting record of my life,” he says. What else do you collect? Broken hearts? “Songs,” he says. He rummages through his bag again. He’s carrying a letter from New Zealand, loose sheets of paper scrawled with lyrics, a tube of toothpaste, a black sock, a microphone. “I used to write so many songs that I would lose them or forget them.” He flattens the yellow piece of notebook paper on the table, “Now I write fewer songs, but I take better care of them.” Even so, Daniel has been incredibly prolific, releasing three solo albums while simultaneously producing and mixing for other bands at his personal studio: Studio Chocolat Chaud (Hot Chocolate Studios). “I eat a lot of chocolate,” he says, pulling a half eaten bar from his back pocket. You played with that on stage? He nods. I take the melty chocolate square he offers and decide against an aphrodisiac joke. As he recounts the organic quality of his musical approach I start to understand my bodily response to his performance. For him, it’s about the musicality in the ear, how the vibrations and rhythms affect us emotionally and physically. He captivates the audience; convincing us the performance is inimitable, made in that moment just for us.
Finally, I scoot closer to him on the couch. He smiles with downturned eyes. I offer, “I can just give you a kiss on the cheek?” He nods vigorously, “I’m very shy,” he apologizes. His adorable uneasiness gives me that neurotic eat-a-baby urge, almost prompting an unsexy bear hug rather than a kiss. Instead, I daintily plant my lips on his bearded cheek. Feeling us both blush, I get up from the couch and rush to change the subject. “It was so great meeting…” He stands too, “I have a few CDs at the –” Another awkward laugh. We head back to the merch table while the remaining bar patrons, all of whom are understandably confused by us, watch us pass. Daniel introduces me to the other band members, who smirk at me sideways. Hey! I didn’t french him, okay? I feel like I pussied out at a game of spin the bottle. After a few more air kisses and pleasantries, I say my goodbyes and turn to leave. Then, with a surprisingly swiftness, Daniel grabs my shoulder and spins me, planting a wet kiss on my cheekbone. He murmurs, “A kiss for you too.” He grins and quickly walks away. Heart breaker indeed.
—Emily Hill, Music Editor and Columnist for Vesper Magazine
Listen to YouYourself&i’s full length album Leap Year here.
Keep up with Emily on Twitter
Band photos by Mohamed Hamad.
Headshot by Jenna Scott.