PHOTOS BY ARIANA MOLLY
INTERVIEW BY ROXANNE LEMIEUX
Radiant Baby is the musical moniker of Montreal’s Felix Gauthier Mongeon – a breath of fresh air in the solo electro-pop game. Interview by Roxanne Lemieux.
When did you first start making music? Are you self-taught?
I wanted to study music in college so I entered a double major in classical music and social sciences but quit the music portion after the first day because I realized that classical wasn’t for me. I played guitar in a classic rock cover band and would always find a way for us to play extended live versions of songs that had 3-minute guitar solos. I had long hair and we would play Pink Floyd covers, it was super cheesy. It kind of stressed me out to not be following an academic path so I think subconsciously I wasn’t completely sure. I only started producing electronic music three years ago. I learned Ableton through trial and error and YouTube tutorials. Gradually, I obtained more plugins (I won’t say how…) and shifted away from those sounds. It takes energy to do it, but the information is definitely accessible if you put your mind to it.
Your most recent music video is for the synth-induced beat driven pop song ‘You Can Dance’, which is filled with colourful and captivating geometrical patterns reminiscent of the ‘80s. Where do you get your inspiration from and what are your major musical and visual influences?
There are some Disco influences, a bit of David Bowie, but also more contemporary electro stuff like big dance beats in the style of Robyn. In terms of visuals, Spectrum Productions made the video for ‘You Can Dance.’ Cameron Mitchell, who also recently made a U.S. Girls music video, and Christopher Hegenberg are behind it. [My girlfriend] Lara is a set designer and is good at coming up with visual concepts, which helps a lot. We came up with a mood board. Memphis Group and ‘80s Pop Art we’re a big part of it. I really wanted it to be an all friends collective on set where everyone is dancing and equally visible. Anyone can dance. That’s really what the message comes down to.
Radiant Baby’s beginnings coincide with the completion of a seemingly long journey of study in Psychology. Was the music a reaction to your academia? Do you feel that this has contributed to a certain work ethic that spills over creatively?
It’s been a long time coming. I did three years of a Bachelor’s degree, one year in my Master’s and just completed the fourth year of my PhD. I’ve never taken a break. Let’s just say that I don’t have the typical profile of a Mile End artist. And in school I don’t have the typical academic profile either, in the sense that I have this whole other aspect of my life where I’m involved in music and the people I hang out with on weekends have a very different mode of life than the people in my classes. For a lot of students in my program it doesn’t give room to go to after parties. It’s like I live in two completely different universes. I’m getting more used to it. It used to be hard to not be able to work more on my music during the school year, as I always have to limit the energy I put towards my art in order to succeed in my studies. I was unsatisfied while I wasn’t playing shows and had no recognition, but now that the project is more concrete, I don’t mind having to buckle down for school. My music is not a secret anymore though and I think that my classmates think I’m a little unusual or strange sometimes.
Do you feel any relation between the music you make and your area of study? Do they intersect in any way?
Both things are very different but the discipline I’ve developed from my studies has definitely allowed me to find time for my art. If I’m not productive on a given day I get really stressed out, it’s just part of my personality. I made an unreleased song about it actually; it’s called ‘Space For Everything.’ There’s a set space for music, a space for school and the feeling that I am stuck in the middle, separated between the two. I’ve often felt like an outsider in every school group or music scene that I’ve interacted with. The sentiment of not being able to be a part of it all, all at once can be frustrating. My feelings changed though in the last year so I reworked the song and the lyrics and the message became more positive and now it’s mostly about being able to be yourself in one space where everyone is together and there’s a lot of love and acceptance.
The name ‘Radiant Baby’ carries deep religious connotations due to Keith Haring’s famous piece also known as ‘Radiant Child’ or ‘Radiant Christ’, which you’ve included in your live set as an onstage flashing LED prop. What is your relationship to this and what influenced you to name your project after it?
I was extremely undecided when it came to choosing a name. Lara pitched way more ideas than I did. For a while I thought the project would be called ‘Boy Obedience’ until we called a Facebook survey to action. Radiant Baby came in first. It was kind of like a psychology research assignment. I looked up Haring’s image to remind myself of it and immediately had a spontaneous intuitive connection with it. What the image represents for me is what my music represents: it’s direct, simple, positive, and has the energetic lines radiating from it. It’s naive, cheerful and playful. I wanted to bring the image into my live shows so I created a Lite-Brite. There are six patterns on-stage with me that are controlled by Ableton and synced with the music.
There seems to be a touch of humour and light-heartedness in all your songs. ‘Snail on TV’ and ‘Tiger Beats’, a piece you describe as a “very deep and serious song about a magazine for teenage girls”, are good examples. What are your intentions?
The vibe has to be fun. In terms of performance, Mozart’s Sister was always a big inspiration for me and made me want to play live. Whenever I would go see her live it always made me really happy. I want to bring people together with that same energy.
I think I’m doing something different than what’s seen as cool lately – serious techno and cold wave seems more distanced, but at the same time I really respect and love those genres a lot (see Prince Innocence). The first song I made three years ago was called Looping Child and sampled baby sounds, so this kind of brought me back to the source. Modern Lovers are a big influence in terms of vocals. They have a song called Pablo Picasso that talks about how he was a player but if he were alive today he would be considered an asshole. I was also listening to a lot of Talking Heads and New Order at the time and thought “that’s really what I want to do.” I wanted the project to be funny and flashy, sort of theatrical while being juicy and emotional. I was ready to really assume myself. There’s more of me coming through than ever before and I’m not afraid to be vulnerable or put myself on display. I’m all there.
© 2019 The Editorial Magazine