Lisbon Lux Records Celebrates Five Years of Local Electronic Pop

When trying to get a record label off the ground, patience really is a virtue.

That’s the belief at least of Julien Manaud, co-founder of local independent label Lisbon Lux Records, which has made a name for itself in Montreal for the past five years, serving up some of the best in electronic pop in both of Canada’s official languages.

Patience is such a hallmark for Manaud that albums delivered by the label’s artists require months of preparation for choreographing their launch to ensure maximum exposure. Quite a few album release dates have been pushed back to achieve this goal.

“I think patience is what I learned in the last five years,” says Manaud with a laugh when reminiscing about the label’s slow but sure evolution. “If a journalist or an agent or someone you want to work with is not ready to work with you or with your project, well, don’t be frustrated about that; it means it’s not the right time, and just don’t be discouraged, and continue what you like and what you put trust in.”

But times have changed since the label’s inception, which Manaud co-founded after unsuccessfully trying to shop around the demo of the label’s first act, Le Couleur (whose Steeven Chouinard is the label’s other co-founder). Lisbon Lux’s roster has garnered much success in its hometown, and has even managed to gain a small yet growing international presence.

That success has not gone to Manaud’s head, as he has to constantly be on the lookout and adapt to the never-ending fluctuations experienced by the music industry.

“When I’m going to conferences and I see even big labels, they say every year the strategy changes, the new media changes,” says Manaud. “Now it’s Spotify, but it was not the case five years ago. What about in five years? We don’t know.”

Even as platforms like Spotify and Bandcamp have given artists easier ways to bypass the label system to promote their creations, Manaud is skeptical of the long-term success that can be gained from an artist going at it alone. A label’s team can focus on the less glamorous but vital administrative tasks involved in promoting an artist’s work, which Manaud contends is the best way for an artist to make the leap to greater heights.

“It’s very rare and hard to develop everything by yourself, because you can’t do everything by yourself,” Manaud reasons. “You can’t be your own booker, your own producer, own manager, own publisher. It takes a lot of people to organize everything.

“It’s something I like to say, but every time I meet an artist who pretends to do everything, the music is rarely good [laughs].”

As proof of both his perspective on the value of labels and Lisbon Lux’s own increasing reputation as a hub for electronic pop, Manaud notes the label receives 50 demos per week, with Manaud trying as much as possible to listen and respond to each request even if they’re ultimately passed on.

“I hate the situation when a band is waiting for the answer from the label and they never heard [back] about it, because I was an artist for 15 years, and I used to send my music and I really like when people took the time to answer,” Manaud elaborates. “I’m trying to answer every time, and even if I don’t like it, I explain ‘this is not my jam, it’s not close enough [to] the Lisbon Lux sound, but maybe you should contact this label or this label, or you can do that or do that.’ Even if I say no I can see they appreciate that I took the time to listen to the music.”

In terms of what has set Lisbon Lux apart from other Montreal labels, Manaud credits fostering an identity based on musical style rather than traditional linguistic divisions. That disregard for pursuing support from only one linguistic network has lead Manaud to seek out attention from anyone who would listen.

“I just decided to go everywhere, and I was knocking in Toronto, knocking everywhere and saying ‘Hey guys, we have a cool label. It’s not a language label; it’s more about the sound.’”

Manaud even described it as his “mission actually, I’m really trying to put my artists, French or [English] to the global market.”

While his goal of breaking down language barriers is becoming increasingly fruitful, there are still challenges to keep an eye on crossing into the halfway point of a decade’s existence. In particular, Manaud seeks to maintain a slice of the streaming pie for Lisbon Lux amid the subsuming co-option of services like Spotify by major labels.

 “It’s a bit sad in a way, [...] at one time they were not fighting for digital, so we were happy to play in this court between small labels,” says Manaud.

However, running a label does have its joys. Having previously thrown parties for Lisbon Lux’s anniversaries, it’ll be no different this year, with the label’s fifth birthday being celebrated at the recently opened Station F-MR. The summer public square, decked out with repurposed metro cars, will serve as a stage for four artists on the label’s roster, and Manaud figured June festivities would be an attractive alternative to past anniversaries.

“The party was in February and March in the past years, which was a bit sad because it was winter,” says Manaud. For this year, it was decided that “we’re going to wait until the summer and do something more summery.”

However, Manaud’s original idea for the anniversary involved paying tribute to the French duo that was the inspiration for the label’s ethos.

“We wanted to play live the Moon Safari album from Air, with every musician from Lisbon Lux,” Manaud says excitedly. But the sheer logistics of the concept, not to mention raising a baby, proved to be a bit too much to pull off. “We kind of [said] ‘okay, let’s forget this project, maybe for the 10 years [laughs].’”

Lisbon Lux Records celebrates its fifth anniversary with performances by Beat Market, Le Couleur, Paupière, and Radiant Baby on Saturday, June 30 at Station F-MR (Allée des Barges) at 6:00 PM, $20.