By Nick Fonda
La Petite Boîte Noire is a small concert venue that brings in well-established musicians but also books new groups. Chaloupe, a bluegrass trio that will be launching their first album there on April 15, is an example of the latter category.
“Perhaps bluegrass-inspired describes us best,” says Félix Michaud Duhamel, who along with Benoit Converset and Simon Boucass (stage name of Simon Godbout-Castonguay) features on the group’s self-titled compilation, Chaloupe.
“As a name, Chaloupe was a stroke of luck,” says Benoit. “It’s hard to find a good name for a band, especially for one that plays acoustic music.”
Chaloupe, which means rowboat, is evocative of an earlier age, before mechanization and electrification. “A wooden rowboat is almost an archetype that defines us,” says Félix. “It’s a handmade craft that carries people along. All three of us are manual and like to work with wood. We all see music as a way to bring people together. All three of us live on rural properties and follow an ‘organic’ lifestyle.”
(Benoit is a carpenter and cabinetmaker who settled in Racine after arriving from Switzerland about 15 years ago. He lives on a property that was once part of a commune and although he didn’t build his house, he has renovated it extensively. Félix now lives on a 3-acre property in North Hatley, but in his late teens, he built two off-grid houses on his father’s Ulverton property, one of which was a replica of Henry David Thoreau’s house on Walden Pond. Simon built his ecologically-designed, timber-framed cob house in St-Adrien-de-Ham as well as the studio—Le Merle—in which Chaloupe (the album) was recorded.)