Name: Lucas Roger
Instruments: Acoustic and Electric guitar, voice, a little bit of everything
Favorite genres/Music to play: Rock and roll, singer-songwriter, story-lead music, folk roots
Name: Madeleine Roger
Instruments: Guitar, piano, Mandolin, voice
Favorite Genres/Music to play: Rhythm instrumentation, singer-songwriter, folk roots
Roger Roger is a sibling folk/roots duo from Winnipeg, Canada. Twins Lucas and Madeleine Roger are both singer-songwriters who have joined forces, each playing guitar and shamelessly harmonizing all over each others' songs. The offspring of producer/engineer/musician Lloyd Peterson, the twins have a knack for songwriting that must have something to do with growing up in a recording studio.
Before we started the interview, I had the great opportunity to hang out with Madeleine and Lucas over some tea as they shared stories of growing up together and how they got their adorable but temperamental cat "Turtle". I was able to hear the story of the unexpected birth of this charming duo and how their fun and enjoyable music came to be. This adorable and quirky pair are definitely some of the coolest performers in town.
Ashley: You [Lucas] like rock and roll and you [Madeleine] like folk music?
Madeleine: Oh I love rock too! In terms of playing, I’d love to be able to do something like thrash around, but that’s just not where I am right now. We grew up listening to a lot of rock music.
Lucas: The Who, Tom Petty (that’s a big one), the Hold Steady. It sounds nothing like our music, but we like it a lot. Deep purple, country-rock, Jayhawks, Canadian rock like Matt Mays and Joel Plaskett.
Madeleine: People who kind of walk the line between folk and rock. Ron Sexsmith is one of my favorites. I’m typically drawn to is singer-songwriter style music or people who are singing about stories. I ‘m really drawn to the lyrics and melodies.
Lucas: Even if it’s not a unique story; but the performer sings a normal topic in a really interesting, unique way. It’s always fun to hear a songwriter write like that. I think that’s what Ron Sexsmith does so well. He has really cool and interesting stories, like “Strawberry Blonde” and “Pretty Little Cemetery”; and then he has songs like “Clown in broad daylight” which is a song about a clown in broad daylight. You wouldn’t normally think of things like that but he just does it so well. That’s what I like in songwriters.
Madeleine: I think a lot of the art that I like, in many genres and aspects, has some kind of connection to human truth and there are many ways to access that kind of inspiration. I like it when someone puts their finger on something and an audience can listen to it or view it and think “I know exactly what that feels like” or things can just be amazing to listen to. If it’s something that sounds so incredible and imaginative that it’s a new way of hearing something.
Ashley: So you told me earlier you have been playing instruments since you were little, why did you decide to play together?
Lucas: At the time, we were both writing songs on the acoustic guitar. I had been playing in a rock-and-roll band that dissolved in a very healthy way. I took some time to enjoy writing songs on the acoustic guitar and singing them in the kitchen, waiting for the pasta to boil, and Madeleine would walk by and she would add a harmony line to the chorus. Then Madeline went away to the cottage by herself and wrote a bunch or really great songs and started playing them when she was waiting for her pasta to boil and I would hear her.
Madeleine: I would say it was almost accidental. When Lucas was in his rock back, I would hear them rehearsing in the basement and would be sitting at the top of the stairs singing along the entire time. They didn’t know and I probably actually didn’t want them to know that I was making up harmonizing tunes and blasting from my little haven in the kitchen. Then at some point, like Lucas said, I went out of town and started to write more. I had written a couple songs and I knew that I liked songwriting; but I didn’t really like the songs yet. So I thought maybe if I go somewhere and just focus on it for a while so I could figure out how to do it.
Lucas: Did some woodshedding.
Madeleine: Exactly. So when I came back, I remember being a little sneakier that Lucas said. I remember quietly playing the songs I had written in my bedroom. When I thought no one was home I would come down and play them in the living room. Lucas would come in and say “Hey whose song is that?” I would bashfully say, “Oh, it’s my song” and he would ask me to teach him.
Lucas: In the winter, Madeleine works out at this ski hill and pretty much everyone who works there are musicians. They all like to get together and hang out.
Madeleine: The family that owns the resort is so wonderful and generous. They really have gathered this incredible community of artists around this resort and around that area. It brought together a lot of like-minded people.
Lucas: We had a chance to play some tunes out there. It was a lot of fun and then we started thinking we should see if we could play for the Young Performer’s Program at Folk Fest. I think that was the first things we tried to do together as a duo. We were going to need some demos, so we went on the computer and recorded some basic songs. It got to the point were we needed a name. It wasn’t a one day decision.
Madeleine: We maybe wouldn’t have realized it could work if we weren’t living together. We wanted to sing songs with other people and we were both here, so it just kind of made sense.
Ashley: So, how often do you guys practice your instruments, alone and together?
Lucas: Uh.. [laughs] Easy answer: not enough. I don’t spend a lot of time practicing to get better at the guitar. I probably should, I work all day on guitars and then go home and work on some guitars some more in my shop.
Madeleine: I think the nature of the work you do though has you noodling away on the guitar all day.
Lucas: Yeah, I guess so.
Madeleine: There you go, so you practice.
Lucas: Yeah, you could say I practice 12 hours a day [laughs].
Madeleine: I also don’t spend much time sitting downtown to practice the instrument specifically. I try to play each instrument everyday, but most times, what seems to happen is when I sit down to try to learn a new song; I just deviate into songwriting. I can’t find myself actually focused on just the instruments for too long because I start to hear tidbits or lyrics and melodies in my head and I end up wanting to catch that. So I stop practicing and start songwriting. I’m starting to see songwriting as a practice in itself. I can happily spend four hours of an evening, just working on a song. And with the practice of songwriting, sometimes it resolves in nothing and sometimes it resolves in bad verses.
Lucas: That’s such a good thing though!
Madeleine: It’s so great! There’s a song you didn’t have to write.
Lucas: I find it so helpful to get past a song. Not to discard it completely or saying that’s awful.
Madeleine: Just to be able to have the exercise. I’ve written a chorus and I don’t think a verse will come up and that’s okay. I can walk away from this and maybe something will come to me two months later. That’s been happening to me a lot lately. I have this book that collects all the lint and static and madness from my mind. I go through it periodically and see what’s in there from months ago. I might see something I’ll want to work on more. It’s amazing what can happen. I finished a song the other week that had been a couple chords and a couple lines that resurfaced from a year ago.
Ashley: I’m glad I’m not the only one who has a crazy little book of music.
Madeleine: I would go absolutely mental if they were on just little scraps of paper or worse that I’d try to have my mind remember them. My phone is filled with little pieces too and I will often put them on paper. I always feel I have to catch that stuff. If I don’t it’s gone; which is okay too.
Ashley: What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Lucas: Getting along?
Madeleine: Not killing each other. It’s amazing how we live together, we shared a womb, share an Instagram account, a bank account a house and a refrigerator and we don’t hate each other.
Lucas: Or we are really good at pretending! I think our greatest accomplishment is that we are setting a goal for something. Madeleine has been doing a lot of work in terms of preparing for the future and what we are working on. It was so much fun to play together in the Young Performer’s Program because we had been going to see performances there our whole lives and it was important for me to be on the other side of the microphone.
Madeleine: Even the other week, we had opened for Carly Dow’s CD release and played with the Crooked Brothers at the West End Cultural Centre. We had been going there since we were born. Our parents used to pack us up in snowsuits and blankets to haul us there two or three nights a week because our dad was often working or playing there. We would always be going there to see shows. We spent so much of our childhood falling asleep in that building. It was so exciting to play on the same stage where we watched so many of our favorite performers play. A whole bunch of our family and other Canadians musicians I’ve watched on that stage. It was pretty special to play that show with performers and artists that we really respect and love as human beings. It was so amazing.
Ashley: What advice do you have for beginners who are starting out who are nervous about getting out there?
Madeleine: The biggest thing I believe in is to go for it. There is nothing to gain from not trying. You have to just jump in.
Lucas: I would say the same thing. I wish I could tell myself that. I don’t open myself up much to playing with other people. I’m very reserved with how I play and write. I like to do it on my own. But, whenever I play with someone else I learn so much. Just have fun with it.
Madeline: Be nice to people!
Lucas: Write bad songs!
Madeleine: and get over it. Writing a song is an incredible thing. You took something that had nothing there and you turned it into something. That’s amazing! I also really believe it’s important to find other people who are your comrades; we can all help each other. People want to be touring, doing shows in town, recording, they want to be experience new instruments. They are all around us, we just need to find them and drink tea with them!
Ashley: How do you balance work and paying bills with your music.
Lucas: I don’t balance very well.
Ashley: How so?
Lucas: I put work at the top of the list and put everything else at an equal last place priority list. Lately I work eight hours a day and fix guitars then I come home and I work in the shop in our garage until 11:30pm. I’ll give myself time to eat and I can pay the bills; but I just shut everything off.
Madeleine: He’s also been doing fantastic things. Like he’s making me a new acoustic guitar. The guitar he plays is the first one he’s ever built. So we will both have instruments that’s he’s made. They will sound really great because they will have similar qualities.
Lucas: I’m working on making them complement each other well. I think it’s cool that madeleine and I just like making things. She draws, sews, makes kayak paddles, and whatever else she’s making.
Madeleine: And the moccasins I’m wearing!
Lucas: Yeah, it’s apart of who we are, so why not play on guitars I have made.
Madeleine: In terms of balancing, we are both trying to do a lot at once, sometimes it can be hard to focus, or figure out what we want to focus on. I’ve been having an easier time with it because I’m not working full-time. I’ve been able to put a lot of my efforts on navigating learning more about the music industry. I’m learning how to make grant applications, and what’s the best order or operations for releasing an album. That’s what I was talking about before with knowing other people in the industry. Those people are so helpful. Every time I have a question, I feel like I have a couple people I can call up and ask about pieces of advice. Like booking a show or whatever the case may be.
Lucas: Madeleine is able to just tell me when something needs to be done. I’ll be doing something in the shop and she’ll come up to me and tell me that on Thursday we are going to the studio. If there isn’t a second party making that call, I won’t even be able to do it.
Madeleine: I’m making a lot of my work the administrative side of the music making process. I’ve actually found I quite enjoy it because it’s a lot of logistics and a puzzle needed to be put together. I’ve never really been okay planning two years in the future, Lucas can attest to this, I’m more of a traveler and a wanderer. I usually don’t stick around too often. It’s nice to have found something that I feel really solid and safe in planning two years in advance. This strange feeling of peace comes up when doing all this paperwork for planning, recording, releasing and marketing an album. I need to figure out audiences and what kind of playing we want to be doing for the next couple of years.
Ashley: What is your writing process?
Lucas: I hide away where no one can hear me and I don’t come out until it’s done. That’s probably a very basic answer. I often come up with the entire structure of the song on the guitar and then piece in words. I’ve only ever done the opposite once. I wrote the words down and then the music. It actually went really well so I maybe I should do that more often but; most of the time I hum along to a few chord progressions until something comes up. I don’t co-write. Again, I’m very reserved. I don’t really do that.
Madeline: I love this question because it perfectly highlights the difference between Lucas and I. Lucas will write a song all at once or the same way every time, and always alone. Where as for more, it’s a choose your own adventure. I honestly have no set steadfast way of writing. Sometimes I write the lyrics first; sometimes I’ll write a melody and plug in the words later. Or I’ll be thinking about a topic a lot and I’ll decide to write a song about that story. One time I decided that I wanted to write a two-chord song and I sat down for a day. It really depends, I don think there are two songs that I’ve written that have been approached the same way. Maybe the first couple songs I wrote, but they were really directionless. I think I decided that I want to write a song and sat down at a guitar and plugged some meaningless words; but I quickly moved away from that to a completely scattered but intentional writing process. A couple times, I’ve had dreams where I’ll hear a song so I keep a journal beside my bed. There have been a couple times where I’ve gotten tidbits of songs from dreams and that’s really cool. When that happens it feels like magic.
Ashley: What made you decide to make this upcoming album?
Madeleine: It’s time.
Lucas: It just came from looking forward to what we want; what we want to do. Like when we were talking earlier about the accomplishment of thinking of the future.
Madeleine: We have so many songs collectively. We have probably 50 finished songs between the two of us. That doesn’t include the bits and pieces that could turn into songs and those that are still brewing. When we play live we only play originals and we can play several sets of exclusively original songs. After most shows we have people coming up to us asking if we have an album for sale and we have to keep telling them no. We really want to start going on tour and see that it would be best to go with an album.
Lucas: Also venues want to see what kind of product you have. In terms of needing some kind of representation of what we are, we could have thrown up a couple microphones and done a demo but what we agreed upon was to make an album as best as it can possibly be. We realized this is the first one, and it we will be all over the place with ideas of what we want to do with it with how it should sound; but we want it to be done properly, in terms of how its produced and engineered and who else plays on it. We wanted all those aspects to be done professionally, not DIY.
Madeleine: Even thought so much of what we do in the rest of our lives is DIY, we decided to take the opposite approach.
Lucas: we wanted to start with something we are proud of rather than worry that we don’t have representation online. We hear it all the time, people can’t find our music online.
Madeleine: We made the conscious decision to not put music online until we have something we feel is really good quality, so the first time people hear our music, it’s something we are proud of and a true representation of our work.
Lucas: And until then, you can see us play live!
Madeleine: Something else is, I want to make this first album so we can hurrying up and start making the second one. We have only been working on demos right now and it’s the most fun we have ever had. It’s so awesome.
Lucas: Recording is so great. We decided to, with our album, that we are going to have other people play with us. When we perform, we usually just have the two of us: two guitars and two voices.
Madeleine: Believing that the art of recording is different than the art of performing live or song writing is a whole other entity. You have so many options available to you in a recording studio. It’s more opportunity to play with the songs you have created. Our songs have been growing and developing through the recording process, we have been changing things.
Lucas: When you hear it so many times, and you hear something you don’t like that you’re forced to fix it. It’s good to sit back and hear what you do. Although I’m very critical of myself when I record.
Madeleine: But who isn’t though?
Lucas: I just find doing vocal recordings to be so stressful because someone’s voice sounds slightly different then it does in their head. Or you’ll sing a take and you’ll think it sounds great but when you listen to it you’ll hear it wasn’t actually very good and you have so many things you need to fix and where to breathe and what to stress.
Madeleine: We love that human quality of recordings though. We decided that we don’t want to make an immaculate album.
Lucas: That was another mutual decision.
Madeleine: We want to make an album that’s us: the real people. With all the flaws and all the moderate mis-chords that may occur.
Lucas: Maybe not so much mis-chords, but making a decision on vocal harmonies. Some people want them to be bang on that it sounds great and match each other perfectly. There is a song we did the other night that with the feel of the song, even though the vocals didn’t line up it sounds kind of cool. It sounded like we were singing together than rounding off every corner and make it really comfortable.
Madeleine: A lot of our favorite recordings, the older stuff, when the recording style was more analogue, you weren’t able to take as many takes as the digital world is able to offer. Those albums are filled with all kinds of things that now you wouldn’t often find.
Those moments, where you hear something unintentional can turn into your favorite part of the song. That’s the part you remember and you can picture the human in the room recording that part.
Ashley: Do you guys have any upcoming performances?
Lucas: We are playing at the Real Love Summer Festival, this summer in Gimli. It’s a good time.
Madeleine: We’ll be hosting some morning singer-songwriter workshops.
Lucas: some good friends of ours put on the festival and they do a really good job of making that happen; it’s a really cool thing. It’s good to be around people like that too, they said they were going to do something, and they did it. We are also performing at Folk Fest. We are doing the Young Performers again.
Support Winnipeg Musicians Madeleine and Lucas Roger!
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