It was December 20th, 2012, and everyone was waiting for the world to end. Instead of savoring our last moments on earth in the company of family, Hugo and I went West to spend our remaining hours frolicking on the beaches of Bretagne with the ten members of Mermonte, a joyous entourage of melodic geniuses from Rennes. We had the good fortune of spending the entire day with the group, and the anecdotes we came back with evoked the sessions shot during the ‘good old days’ at the Blogothèque, when Vincent Moon would spend a whole day with a band filming not just the music, but the personalities behind it. Here’s what we saw, what we heard, and what we felt.
It’s six in the morning, and I am standing in the Paris métro with my two excessively heavy travel bags. Only four hours later do I find the various members of Mermonte and we orient ourselves towards Saint Malo. We would have planned on filming in Paris, since they were playing with Efterklang, but Mermonte is an unusually large band and their gig was canceled––that’s why we instead find ourselves en route to a big family house, a house so old it witnessed my great grandmother’s childhood. For a few summers now I’ve dreamed of kidnapping a band at the Route du Rock festival and bringing them here to play; Mermonte are my lucky victims… too bad for those bands from Route du Rock, they’ll be missing out.
At first we considered shooting the band in the dusty nooks of the ancient dwelling, but the weather was too beautiful to ignore. So we turned the group loose outside. We opened the windows wide and Ghislain, the mastermind of the project, decided to settle on the patio facing the jade waters of le Havre de Rothéneuf, situated on the aptly-named Côte d’Émeraude. The Emerald Coast.
While we readied the equipment and mapped out the session the band warmed up inside, screwing around with metal or folk tunes on the tiny amplifiers we’d brought, changing the ambience of the place as they pleased. That’s the thing about Ghislain: he’s able to bring so many talented people together in one place, pulling buddies from other bands to realize his orchestral visions…
Everyone on the terrace looks to Ghislain, who leads off “We’re On The Same Way”. Even the waves’ stifling crashing relents a bit as if the ocean itself were pausing to listen, soothed by these guitars and the violin’s long notes. Their voices rise in tandem with the rushing of the waves, and in a moment of gravity, you remain silent and listen. Each musician pulls from his or her throat a precise note to expertly weave with the others in a shimmering textile of sound that hangs above them. Everyone knows what to do; it’s a happy conspiracy that evidences itself in the glances they exchange as mischievous smiles spread across their faces.
Later, after a lunch typical of the Breton region, the congenial atmosphere perseveres despite the rain. In the warmth of the old salon that, in all its years, has never borne witness to a concert quite like this one, we enjoy a moment of rest. The dusk has chased off the storm and we head towards the beach. The waters are gone, all signs of life have disappeared, and in these final moments on Earth Mermonte is present in the middle of the haven, surrounded by beached ships, catching the last shafts of sunlight before the fatal winter solstice to come.
The clock is ticking and in a violent gust of salt air, Mathieu counts the tempo for “Monte”, a shaker clasped tight in his frozen hand. Decidedly, the group sings as a choir before the ground splits open and the earth collapses… but the world is not going to end. And I like to think we owe it to Mermonte, who serenaded this desolate landscape and this old house.