With Roadmap To Redemption, Mobile displays the same undeniable chemistry and deft songwriting chops that propelled them to prominence in the early 2000s. This time out, however, the original four-piece band (frontman Mat Joly, guitarists Christian Brais and Frank Williamson, and drummer Pierre-Marc Hamelin) has an entirely new perspective on their partnership and the music industry.
“I’ve played with many people,” Joly says, referencing his time as a solo artist following Mobile’s breakup in 2011, adding that while the split caused ill feelings, the rush they get from playing together is irreplaceable and deeply rooted in their lifelong friendship.
“First and foremost, we’re friends,” says guitarist Christian Brais. “Mat and I, we’ve known each other since we were two years old. Our families know each other. And the other guys in the band all lived on the same street in Montreal. That’s one of the reasons we started playing together again, but the mentality we have now is totally different from before.”
By that, Brais means the disillusionment they felt after touring in support of their 2008 sophomore effort, Tales from the City. When they found themselves under unrelenting pressure – from each other and their label – to capitalize on the success of their Platinum-selling 2006 debut, Tomorrow Starts Today, rather than do what comes naturally. “Now, it’s just about having fun – no stress.”
On tracks like ‘In My Heart’ and ‘Modern Lovers’, it sounds as if the Montreal-based alt. rock outfit is picking up right where they left off. Their knack for creating powerfully hooky anthems that blend guitar fuelled alternative rock and pop is on full display on Roadmap To Redemption; a tight set of songs that pay homage to longtime influences like The Cult and U2 and more recent artists such as MGMT and Metronomy, all with a thrashy, loose, but tight feel akin to The Clash.
Nowhere is that more evident than on ‘The Saboteur’ – with its Ska-tinged guitars, freewheeling vocals, and deep keyboard textures. Across the board, there’s a feeling of creative abandon that’s immediately evident when players who know each other inside out – personally and creatively – turn it up again without any intention other than to make the music they love.
The result is a record that captures the urgency of their earlier material but finds Mobile growing into a more focused style; a seamless blend of modern pop and the signature sound they developed over countless hours of practice and performance. Produced by Gauthier Marinoff, Roadmap To Redemption is equally as compelling and vital as Mobile’s early work. But getting back together wasn’t about reliving their past or chasing a hit; it was about chasing something even more intangible.
“With Roadmap To Redemption, we’ve come full circle,” Joly explains, “moving back to the area we grew up, hanging out with our kids where we used to hang out when we were kids. I was writing about our youthful desires, struggles, sadness, and joy. But we didn’t force ourselves to write radio singles. We’ve done that in the past, which wasn’t a good thing.”
Instead, on tracks like ‘Hard Luck,’ Joly finds himself looking back, reflecting on good times and bad while expressing gratitude for the joy he finds in music now. “That’s why it’s called Roadmap To Redemption. It’s about the long road to where I am now – happier than before.”
Mobile first found success in the early 2000s, winning CHOM’s L’Esprit competition in 2001, relocating to Toronto in 2003, and constantly honing their performance and songwriting chops before landing a deal with Universal/Interscope. On the strength of hits like ‘Out of My Head (which was nominated for a MuchMusic Video Award and reached the top spot on the Canadian Billboard Chart) and the placement of ‘Montreal Calling’ and ‘New York Minute’ in a variety of TV shows, films, and video games (among them One Tree Hill, Bon Cop, Bad Cop, NHL 07, and FIFA 07), the band found their profile growing nationally. In 2007 Mobile were nominated for two JUNO Awards (Rock Album and New Group of the year) and took home the JUNO Award for New Group.
Sonically, they were a rarity at the time, with a lush sound fuelled by deep keyboard and guitar textures that was both cutting-edge current but impossible to pigeonhole – a product of their shared influences and a collaboration that dates back to when they started their first band together as teenagers. Soon they became a mainstay on Canadian Radio with their signature blend of alt. rock and pop.
Following the release of Tales from the City, the band headed stateside on a plum opening slot for Chris Cornell’s Scream solo tour. Unfortunately, the rigors of the road, creative differences, and pressure from their label derailed the songwriting process for their third record.
The band parted ways professionally but stayed in touch, healed the rifts the breakup caused and hit the stage again at a one-off show in Montreal in 2016 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their debut. “When we did our first rehearsal, I started singing, and it felt natural, better than before for some reason. It’s like we hadn’t missed a beat.”
That led to more writing sessions that, Joly says, felt just as natural as their return to live performance; “Writing without expectations, purely for the joy of it, as friends.”
“Our main objective was to write the best songs possible,” Brais puts in. “Songs that are honest, real, and capture the energy we feel when we’re playing live.”
Job done and then some: That energy comes across fiercely on every track, and nowhere more so than on ‘Turn It Upside Down’ – which reads like a mission statement for what they hope to achieve with Roadmap To Redemption.
Forthright and hooky as all get out, Roadmap To Redemption represents an entirely new chapter in Mobile’s story – one that finds the band bridging the gap between their past and present, playing and writing simply for themselves. Not only recapturing the energy they brought to the studio and stage early on, but also upping their game substantially by just doing what comes naturally.