All Dressed

Hold You Within: in conversation with Everly Lux

The Montreal musician Everly Lux’s launch for her first full-length recording, entitled Selfhood, takes place on a brisk October evening under the domed stone vault beneath the Chapel Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours on rue Saint-Paul.

It’s an historically significant site — the oldest church on the island — dedicated to Marguerite Bourgeoys, who founded the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal in 1658, and in 1982 was canonized as Canada’s first female saint.

The promontory was a gathering place before that for the Kanyen’kehà:ka, Nipissing, and Algonquin, among numerous other First Nations. Now, Everly Lux’s album release celebration gathers together an entirely different crowd, a group of artsy and culturally aware young Montrealers who have come to hear Lux, seated at an electric piano, and cellist Audréanne Fillion perform a set of delicate, sincere, and sophisticated singer-songwriter compositions.

The mood is featherlight, almost fragile, the assembled audience barely emitting a murmur when the horsehair bow of Fillion’s cello suddenly snaps with a startling twang. Fortunately, a backup bow exists and the duo calmly begin again. It’s a spontaneous occurrence that could only happen in the susceptibility and magic of the moment.

“For me, it’s really about performing live,” Lux says as we sip tea one afternoon a few weeks later in the atrium of the Montreal World Trade Centre. “Making music is about sharing it and touching people, feeling like I’ve done something to them. That’s just something that makes me feel useful. Sharing that vulnerability has a purpose.”

Lux, whose given name is Laurie Sévigny-Couture, arrived in Montreal at age 17 to study music — first, Jazz piano at Cégep de Saint-Laurent, and then at Concordia for Contemporary Music Composition. Lux recorded under various other names, moved to Berlin in 2018, and returned the following year intent upon pursuing music full-time.

She re-emerged in 2021 with fresh grant funding and one year to produce an album. Selfhood is the culmination of that year and reveals Lux, now 26, re-defining herself as an artist. “It took me a long time to actually consider myself part of the Montreal scene,” Lux says, “to do shows, to feel like I’m part of the community. The pandemic was slowing me down a bit.”

But there is an undeniable momentum behind Lux’s music, its extended harmonies and odd inflections a strange and appealing conjuring of counterintuitive influences — from Post-Punk to Kate Tempest to Rihanna. “I like Poppy stuff,” admits Lux. “But good Pop. I love Pop music, but with a twist on it.”

For Lux, the music takes shape around her poetry and lyrics. “The words always come first,” she explains, “before I start humming a melody or finding chords. I start with titles a lot, or with one phrase that’s going to be the chorus, and that inspires the whole song. With the album, it was clear to me that I needed some concepts for song titles, and then I built the whole thing. ‘Selfhood’ was the first idea that came in.”

There’s a modern, coming-of-age theme that underpins the recording, but it also possesses a depth that resonates with Pre-Christian ritual.

“It took me a long time to figure out that my mom is a witch,” Lux divulges. “She doesn’t say she’s a witch, but there’s this hypersensitivity, and this weird relationship to fear. We like it. It’s a very powerful thing. But also it’s a terrible thing. It’s terrible to put yourself out there.”

Femininity is central to Lux’s work, and she consciously pushes beyond traditional notions of gender and societal expectation. “This project has been really feminist,” Lux tells me.

“It was a requirement that I only hire women and non-binary people. I was very frustrated with the fact that most albums made in Quebec — most of the time, all of the musicians, all of the engineers, and their agents, are men. I was just wondering why. I told myself that if I get a grant and I have money to hire people, I will give it to women and I will make women visible. Even for me, it was a whole exercise, because everyone’s talking about hiring more women, everyone has this intention, but not everyone knows how to do it, knows how to even start. They just don’t know women. This industry is based on contacts. And I think it’s important to make albums with women and have their credits somewhere. I think that’s why a lot of people don’t hire them: they don’t know they exist. It’s really simple. It’s just making them visible.”

Poised and confident, Lux commands attention when she occupies a space, and Montreal is central to that artistic self-assurance. “I’m a big fan of this place,” Lux says. “It’s seen me grow. I’ve been here since 17. I took a one-way bus ticket. I was clueless. I was never in a subway before. Montreal has allowed me to be the Bohemian artist. I feel like it’s tied to the fact that it’s easy to live here compared to a lot of other places. There’s a sense of understanding of part-time jobs and the artist’s life. Everyone has a band. There’s electronic DJs, there’s the Indie Rock artists, there’s singer-songwriters. It’s all okay.”

The competing qualities of chastity and maturity characterize Selfhood, and as much as Lux speaks from retrospective experience, there is something eternally innocent to her project.

“I’m just doing what I was doing when I was five,” Lux laughs, “but at a more professional level. I’m just making my costumes, and hiring musicians, and putting on shows, and putting my little décor on the stage. I’ve always been trying to gather people and organize events and making art. I think it’s really important to stay a child. I used to think it was a flaw, but it’s a privilege.”

What new wisdom has Lux gleaned? “It’s a lot easier to make myself understood on stage,” she replies. “It’s a lot about presence. My music is about being there.”◼︎

Everly Lux performs 13 November 2023 with guests William Duval and Holly McLachlan at Ursa, 5589 Park Ave.