To move forward, Jay Malinowski needed to look back. Not long before the Bedouin Soundclash frontman began working on Martel—the 18-track album that his current project, Jay Malinowski & The Deadcoast, releases today—the idea of such an ambitious venture seemed inconceivable based on his trajectory at the time.
“I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t sure if I was going to play music again,” Malinowski tells me somberly. “I just was not in a state of mind to do it anymore. That was about two-and-a-half, three years ago; I went back to Vancouver where my family lives, bought a place there, and sort of started to refigure my life.”
Moving closer to his family proved to be the the thing that helped suspend Malinowski’s musical hiatus, but it was an ancestor—not a living relative—that provided the spark he needed.
“All the choices that I’ve made in my life,” Malinowski begins. “Were they based on a grand set of historic circumstances and patterns that we have? [….] That’s when I started to think about the past, and to think about Charles Martel.”
Charles Martel isn’t your average family ancestor. As Malinowski family archives reveal, the young Huguenot witnessed the gruesome death of his mother in Lyon, which arose over religious differences. Later, he would escape France and fight alongside British General James Wolfe during the battle of Louisbourg in 1758. His most important legacy, however, is his patriarchal position as the first of a long line of globetrotting sailors.
That’s the impetus for Martel’s nautical theme. Malinowski divides the album into two nine-song halves titled “Pacific” and “Atlantic” and each track corresponds to a different port around the world, making the record a journey just as much as a collection of songs. Malinowski also has plans to release an accompanying novella called Skulls and Bones (Letters From A Sailor To A Long Lost Granddaughter) that he’s currently in the process of completing, though two chapters have already been pre-released.
The unique album format also lends itself well to experimentation with global and classical musical styles; this was something Malinowski had been hoping to do for a while when he recruited the Vancouver strings trio The End Tree to form The Deadcoast.
“I wanted to work with classical musicians because they have such a different background than what I was used to,” he explains. “[The End Tree] were aware of Bedouin but they were like ‘That’s not really what we do; we don’t do pop music.’ Then I told them ‘It’s not going to be pop music, it’ll just be this more dissonant stuff.’ And that really fit well with what the character of Martel is about; sort of old-world, but really rough around the edges.”
For many people—myself included—there’s a very different Martel that comes to mind in conjunction with the ocean.
“It’s funny, I think that must be a Montreal thing,” responds Malinowski when I bring up the coincidence. “Because I’ve heard it twice today and [Life of Pi author] Yann Martel is from Montreal.”
Although he grew up in Vancouver, Malinowski is originally from Montreal, and feels a definite attachment to the city. As it turns out, his birthplace happens to be the same place that Bedouin Soundclash’s biggest record was born.
“A lot of my history is based in Montreal personally,” he says. “The first label [Bedouin Soundclash was] ever on, Stomp Records, was here [….] “We recorded “When the Night Feels My Song” just down on Rachel and St. Laurent.”
Given the way that Malinowski has branched out musically, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he didn’t plan on returning to Bedouin Soundclash after Martel—but he quickly assured me otherwise.
“I always go back because it’s my first love, you know, Bedouin,” Malinowski says. “We just wanted to take a break for a bit and recalibrate, but we’ll definitely be doing something.”
Hello cousin 🙂 This is so cool. was just looking up information about my 6th Great Grandfather Charles Martel and came across this. I’ve heard of Bedouin Soundclash but not sure if I’ve heard anything by the band. I live in Glacé Bay Cape Breton and I am also a musician ( drummer ).. I’m going to try and check out some of your work.