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Jean-Paul De Roover has a musical instinct for change

Thunder Bay-based singer-songwriter-producer is clearly not a person satisfied with the status quo. He is bringing his genre-defining approach back to Sault Ste. Marie for a Friday the 13th gig.
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Thunder Bay's Jean-Paul De Roover will be playing Loplops on Friday, March 13. Photo provided.

Despite his natural instinct for change, for the better part of thirteen years, Jean-Paul De Roover made a name for himself on the Canadian music scene as a self-described “live looping, one-man band.”

De Roover’s last two albums have sent him on a different trajectory than his past records.

“The first one was Love [2019] which is an acoustic album. The point was to explore a topic that I never really did before. I am really good at writing melancholic songs, but not so much with the extremely positive, loving songs.”

De Roover describes the making of the 2019 album as a personal challenge to himself to write songs that were indicative of where he was in his life.

“I have a three-year old son now. I got married. I bought a house and life is good. There was no reason for me to not sing about those things. So that’s what that album was about.”

With his latest release, Loss [2020], De Roover decided to record a heavier, more aggressive album.

“I have never really had a chance to do anything in that sphere, so I decided, ‘To hell with it,’ I’m just going to do it.”

Heavy music was something that De Roover listened to, and although it informed some of his previous albums, the influence might not have been obvious.

“You can hear [that side of me] in little samples throughout my work in general, despite some of my past songs being more pop rock. There was always an element of something a little different which was making my pop sound a bit more unique anyways. Now, I just get to go full hog with it and get right to the point.”

And that point being that De Roover is willing to break any perceptions his listeners may have had with his music.

“After a while, certain things started to feel a little stale creatively,” he says. “There are a lot of artists that get trapped and pigeonholed. I wanted something different with each album in my discography. I look up to artists like Bjork. If you look at her discography, every single album is a different theme, style or genre. She put out an a cappella album with only mouth sounds. She put out an electronic album. I love that. I want to be able to look at my own discography and say, ‘that’s the phase I was really into that’.

For those who know De Roover’s history, know that his life experience has given him a wide lens when it comes to music. De Roover grew up internationally in Africa, Asia and South America in countries like Niger, Malawi, Lesotho, Pakistan, Bolivia and Chile.

First inspired to play music after reading a book about a child violinist, he begged his parents to learn to play violin, and shortly after coerced them into piano lessons. After two years, he was given the chance to learn violin in Pakistan. In his early teens, he was gifted a handmade Bolivian guitar from the local market and taught himself how to play. He took lessons with a Brazilian jazz bass player, Dutch singer-songwriter and Chilean vocal coach, who encouraged De Roover to continue pursuing music, but following his own inspirations.

De Roover moved back to Canada in 2001 at the age of 15.

From there he explored everything from concert band to barbershop while forming his first rock and punk bands before studying theory, composition and orchestration at Lakehead University. Despite the changes in style and genre of music, the constant has always been De Roover’s voice.

The second song on his latest album Loss, De Roover utilizes his background in barbershop and a cappella, with a twist.

“I thought, ‘Why not open that second track on that album with an a cappella choir of me screaming?” he laughs. “If you didn’t get it that we are doing something different, now you know.  That track is a little tribute to what it is that I was. Not to say that I won’t ever go back to that world, but I needed to do this for me. Since 2006, I have never really played electric guitar on stage. I have never been the front man of a rock band. So there are a lot of bucket list things for me with this album.”

Loss also forced De Roover to do something else he hadn’t done before.

“It forced me to play with others. The easiest thing for me to do is to do [a show or an album] by myself. I wouldn’t have to worry about recording or rehearsing schedules, hiring players….but now…this album was written as an anti-looping album. Like math rock, there are a lot of time signature changes throughout the album, and within songs, designed specifically to mess me up. I cannot do this with a looper. It is forcing my hand to have to play with others and to do this in a very different way.”

So unlike his previous tours, De Roover is taking this new album out with an actual band, The Bandaid Solution. The touring group is made up of players from Thunder Bay garage, alt-rock band Action Cat (Jared Schaaf and Scott Edwards) and a member of the post-rock, instrumental band Don’t You (,) Mean People? (Mac Davis).

“They are all incredibly competent players,” says De Roover. “Everyone is within the Thunder Bay scene and we have shared bills together”

As a Northern Ontarian, the Sault is a place De Roover has played many times before over the years.

“I’ve played at Loplops four or five times over the years. I played a little Martini bar called Bottom’s Up. I loved playing that place. There was also the laundromat on Gore Street, Gore Street Café.”

De Roover with the Bandaid Solution is looking forward to their upcoming show at Loplops on Friday, March 13 with the Apocalypse After Party as openers.

“I love playing with bands that make me try harder,” he says. “I think it’s going to be a bit of a banger.

Find out more about Jean-Paul De Roover here.

Watch the lyric video for his first single Wreck from the Loss album, here.