Patrick Watson is a musical mad scientist. He’s an internationally acclaimed singer, composer, songwriter, and producer. Patrick Watson is also the name of this mad genius’ band, fleshed-out like Frankenstein by Robbie Kuster, Mishka Stein, and Simon Angell.
Both the man and his monster have received international acclaim since the September 2006 release of Close to Paradise in Canada. The first-ever release on Secret City Records (based out of the band’s native Montreal), Close to Paradise propelled Patrick Watson quickly into stardom; it went gold in Canada, and won numerous awards, including Canada’s prestigious Polaris Prize. The album saw international release in September 2007, and the band hasn’t looked back, selling over 100,000 copies worldwide. Since then Patrick Watson’s fanbase seems to have grown exponentially, with the live show now commanding huge audiences across the world, from Paris, to Reykjavik, Amsterdam, London, New York, and of course, Montreal, where Watson and most of the band still resides.
Despite the internationally demanding schedule, Watson himself also found time to contribute to Cinematic Orchestra’s 2007 album, Ma Fleur, and to compose scores and songs for a number of films—something he has always had a passion for. It should come as no surprise then, that the band’s music is often described as cinematic and wildly eclectic. In fact, this aspect of their sound can be traced back to Watson’s earliest musical days. While he was honing his angelic voice at age seven singing in local churches on the West Island of Montreal, he also grew up studying classical and jazz piano performance, arrangement, and composition. His first recording project was an experimental suite of music set to a series of photographs by Quebec artist, Brigitte Henry. To this day you can still hear a composer’s ear behind even the band’s most accessible pop songs.
Watson met guitarist Simon Angell in their hometown of Hudson, Quebec while they were barely teenagers, and the two have collaborated ever since—Angell’s soundscapes and noise-influences having developed into the perfect complement to Watson’s colourful melodic compositions and gut-wrenching falsetto. Then, while studying music at Vanier College in the late-nineties, Patrick had met Ukrainian-born Mishka Stein, and Swiss/British Columbia ex-pat Robbie Kuster, who were increasingly invited to fill out his rhythm section when performing live shows (with Angell having long-since become a permanent fixture). Though still Watson’s project, an informal residency at the legendary Café Sarajevo and an eerie live chemistry between the four musicians quickly led to more group writing and a growing word-of-mouth fanbase.
Just Another Ordinary Day was self-released in 2003 as a result, and stands as a kind of snapshot of a band in formation, highlighting the bands penchant for dreamy soundscapes (echoing Sigur Ros, Bjork and Radiohead), with Watson’s voice as the centerpiece. Through 2004 and 2005 buzz on the band’s live shows lead to performances with an impressively diverse group of artists, from Phillip Glass and Steve Reich, to Feist. In the summer of 2006, they even invited on a European tour with the late James Brown, a fitting last leg to the first chapter of their story. Close to Paradise was released immediately after, in September 2006.
Patrick Watson and his bandmates spent most of the latter half of 2008 in Montreal recording the follow-up to Close to Paradise—Wooden Arms, which will be released in spring 2009.