A few years ago, Julie Plouffe-Raymond was asked to perform at a birthday party. For the evocative singer, whose simmering vocals are inspired by jazz and R&B, it should have been a simple request, but shyness had other plans. She asked guitarist David Wade to accompany her “because I was too shy to sing alone,” she explains from Montreal. “We liked playing together so it grew from there.”
In 2018, without fanfare, they began releasing stunning bite-sized EPs under the name TREMENDUM, featuring songs about the binds of lovers, seasons, and freeing oneself in a chaotic, unpredictable world—track “Birds” (from FALL) is a spine-tingling example of their breadth and nuance. The ambiguous nature of nature itself (whether human or seasons) has become a way for the pair to access creative ideas that then make it into their music.
“The idea behind the four seasons started with our song ‘Winter,’ and it inspired us. Something we liked was that it gave us the motivation to release music steadily,” says Plouffe-Raymond. “We learned a lot with that process since it was possible to explore and grow with each season [via each] EP.”
This magical quality is reflected in the name TREMENDUM, which Plouffe-Raymond credits to Wade. “He was studying philosophy, and he liked the concept of Mysterium Tremendum, which represents the feeling that people have in front of the sacred,” she says. “He was brewing beer at the time and wanted to name a beer Tremendum, but it ended up being the name of our band.”
The pair’s influences naturally overlap in countless ways—from Wade’s catch 22, NOFX, D’Angelo and K-OS to Plouffe-Raymond’s Ella Fitzgerald, Amy Winehouse, and Nina Simone, as well as genres like bossa nova, cumbia, salsa, and samba, and the pair have learned to fuse their styles creatively. “David usually writes guitar licks and a little bit of a structure for the song,” Plouffe-Raymond says. “I always write a ton of lyrics. We try to mix it, and we tweak it together, until it works. Sometimes it takes two years to write a song, sometimes two minutes.”
The duo’s recording sessions have not only generated some magnificent work, but have also come with their share of memorable experiences. “When we recorded SUMMER, we were in Guatemala City. We did not speak a word of Spanish, and the sound guy didn’t speak a lot of English, so it was really challenging – and funny – to communicate,” says Plouffe-Raymond. “We were lucky that everyone was so nice and even if we had a language barrier, we still managed to understand and like each other a lot. We were living in his garage, sleeping in a single bed, and the studio was in his house, so we were there 24/7 for a week, but it was a very memorable experience.”
Plouffe-Raymond also fondly recalls the recording session for one of the duo’s favorite tracks, “Love,” from their WINTER EP. “For the ending part, we were using all kinds of different stuff to make sounds: shoes, wood box, our hand,” she recalls. “We were also screaming and jumping – we felt like we were playing like kids! This is what music should be sometimes.”
In 2020, the pair were ready to make the next installment, SPRING, when the pandemic hit. “Every time we wanted to go in the studio, there was another quarantine,” Plouffe-Raymond says. Undeterred, they began work on new music; ironically, the EP’s themes lined up with the global experience – transition through rebirth.
But rather than evoke the brutal loss and despair that spurred that transition, the pair chose to focus on the feeling of rising from the ashes. “Something a little more optimistic, lighter, growth. Hope after winter,” explains Plouffe-Raymond. “When we were in the studio, we played a lot with sound, overdubs, and we wanted to make it sound bigger than the other seasons. The songs are a little more upbeat.”
The pair describe their “soul-alternative” sound as a “melting pot of everything we like: music with emotions, jazz, rock, R&B, bossa nova, hip hop, authenticity and originality.” It’s a perfect description of their deeply unique sound, and an example of how far soul music can stretch.