By Phillipe Roberts
Photography by Julia Leiby
Digging through the sprawl of YouTube thumbnails, I decode a video title using the shriveled remains of my high school French, and see myself in the crowd watching Corridor as they tear through a blistering set closer at Montreal’s L’Escogriffe. Somewhat. Darker skin in a dark room isn’t the best for video resolution, but through the sticky heat, I can make out the exact spot in the crowd where my melted mind took in the rush of the still-unreleased Corridor song rolling over us. Where, at 3:35 in the video, I helped lift a gentleman in his 70s up and over the front row, hurling him back into the waiting arms of the cheering bodies behind me. The green glow of the strobe flickers, and he’s swept away - frolicking in the waves of strong hands as the music spirals overhead.
“That’s my roommate’s father,” bassist and vocalist Dominic Berthiaume explains. I’m sitting with Corridor in First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia, where Corridor are unwinding in the sanctuary green room before the final show of a short tour with rising indie upstarts Crumb. We sit scattered in the pews after their soundcheck, and Dominic gives me a brief lesson in Montréal scene mythology. “He produces our albums and is famous in the scene. He goes to the shows of every band that his son worked with, takes photos, and gets wild. And once he gets wild, everyone in the room goes off.” Guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Robert tucks a curl back under his hat and chimes in. “That was our fifth anniversary show, so he really went for it; he took the mic and started screaming into it, just rocking harder than anyone,” he says, “But we played our first show ever at L’Esco and we’re happy the celebration there was something special.”
Alongside L’Escogriffe, which has tripled in size from the small 100 capacity venue that nurtured the band, Corridor has blossomed into a staple of Montreal’s music scene. While the scene may face the same demographic challenges that plague all burgeoning DIY communities - Dominic briefly laments the shift away from house shows due to gentrification and the accompanying noise complaints - Jonathan focuses on the continued inspiration of seeing “waves of young people moving to Montreal to make loud art,” much as they did six years ago.
For these new arrivals, Corridor’s sound is a warm - if not entirely familiar - welcome home, a lesson on generating novel returns from a time-tested formula. The quartet, rounded out by Julian Perreault’s razor sharp lead guitar and Julien Bakvis’s metronomic swagger behind the drum kit, play an unusually bright take on post-punk, leaning heavy on the treble as the two guitarists weave hypnotic arpeggiations over an effortlessly punchy rhythm section. Corridor’s music is flooded with lyrical themes of transcendence, awakening, and escape, tucked away inside songs of almost traditionalist devotion to the all-consuming power of the chiming, nostalgic guitar riff. On 2017’s Supermercado, there’s the ecstatic six-string buildup of mid-album stunner “Data Fontaine,” and the sugary New Wave lead on the effortlessly romantic “L’espoir sans fin.” Or how “Demain déjà” slides seamlessly from the jagged bravado of its slashing opening chords into twinkling notes that gradually wink out into the night, sounding like a twisted collaboration between the Byrds and Joy Division. This is a band that knows and loves the power of the instrumental outro, who can rock out with the best of them without ever lapsing into prog-rock silliness.
Wedged between Camp Howard’s 90s slacker pop wanderings and Crumb’s chilled-out psychedelia, Corridor’s live intensity would feel out of place if the unsuspecting crowd wasn’t fully enthralled by the second song, a particularly rowdy take on Supermercado single “Coup d’épée.” Cheers from the room egg on Dominic, who asks if there are any French speakers on the audience. A few excited folks howl in approval, contrasted with a few half-hearted “Oui”s and some nervous laughter as burgeoning fans snap into awareness that, no, the PA wasn’t acting up. The band laughs, tunes, and carries on.
This is a regular occurrence for Corridor, who are used to smashing through the language barrier night after night. But this particular tour has been full of new milestones and highlights for the band, not the least of which is managing to sleep on beds for every night of the tour. “That was a first,” Jonathan laughs, “We still have to share beds, but we’ve gotten way better at planning it out.” All credit to Dominic’s vastly expanded AirBnb game, which also netted them a pair of new fans along the way. “We were staying in Richmond and booked two nights in one spot. We told the guy we were staying with that we were in a band and he was really excited,” he explains. “His daughter had a pair of tickets to our show, and ended up taking him with her when her friend cancelled. He didn’t realize it was us playing until we talked about playing a second show, and he ran up to the merch table raving to buy a shirt right after.” Corridor is for the family.
Mixing on the band’s third album is slated to begin as soon as they return to Montreal, and you can feel a renewed energy coursing through them as they discuss the still-untitled record. “It was kind of a rushed recording,” Dominic says, the pew squeaking beneath him as he adjusts his posture. “We were in the studio for 30 days, with one day off per week.” I ask them to describe the new sound in a word or two. The band puzzles over the question. Chins are stroked. Glasses are cleaned. Jonathan gives it a shot. “Wacky?” A chuckle of agreement from Julian and Julien. Jonathan elaborates, “We had a few days to work on arrangements and we ended up putting in lots of samples.” Dominic cuts in, “Car crashes. F1 racing. Bottles breaking on the ground. Sampling from Felix the Cat.” He’s giddy at how much this clearly leaves unsaid, a wild look in his eye at how ridiculous this sounds given their tightly focused rock sound. I admit that I’m surprised, and, as a fan, even a bit nervous. “Don’t worry,” says Jonathan, with the quickest of smirks, “You'll recognize us.”
Second-hand anxiety be damned; the strongest crowd reactions of the night come from a pair of new tunes with no samples to be found. The first takes their fixation on mantra-like incantations to new heights, bending a repetitive phrase around two clashing chords to the effect of a grittier Panda Bear tune. The second hones their signature twin-guitar attack to its sharpest point, an explosive melody that calls to mind Deerhunter’s spaced out jams, taken at a breakneck pace. Both are absolutely thrilling, and left the crowd in awed disarray. Throw down on all the Felix the Cat samples you want, Corridor. We might be shoveling sweat out of our eyes from dancing, but we’ll recognize you.