Twin power reigns in The Muscadettes ‘Side A’

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Siblings are climbing to the top of the music scene from Haim to Tegan and Sara, and the Muscadettes, a band fronted by twin sisters Chantal and Kathleen Ambridge, are no exception. They’ve taken Canada, and — after this next stint of touring — the United States, by storm with their twin-ly charms and positive punk aura. Their latest EP, Side A, is an intoxicating mix of lo-fi garage rock and beachy psychedelia tinged with ‘90s girl rock.

Despite being born in the Silicon Valley, the Ambridge sisters grew up in Montreal, ultimately resulting in a unique dichotomy that can only come from being raised in two very diverse scenes of music. The EP embodies this duality by invoking a sense of ’60s Beach Boys-esque surf rock but also ‘90s girl grunge. Recorded in Montreal’s Breakglass studio with Ryan Batistuzzi (Malajube), and mixed in Los Angeles with Lewis Pesacov (Best Coast, FIDLAR), the twins’ Montreal culture is taken back to their Californian roots, causing the EP to embody who the Ambridge sisters are as creative artists and people.

Their name, coming from the French white wine Muscadet, fully epitomizes this dichotomy of culture and upbringing, embracing their French heritage with an added twist. And this duality is present even within the sisters themselves.

The two began writing music at an early age, beginning with the cello and piano, then created bands in high school after Chantal Ambridge picked up the guitar and Kathleen Ambridge started to play the bass. Joined by Joe Gagne (Les Breastfeeders) and Thomas Augustin (Malajube), they then formed the Muscadettes.

“Most of the time it’ll be my sister Chantal on the guitar because she’ll come up with a part of the song like the chorus then we’ll work together finish it and then bring it back to the boys to get a keyboard arrangement and drums,” said Kathleen Ambridge in an interview with The Daily Californian. The centrality of the guitar is evident throughout Side A, with the catchy tendrils of ‘60s surf guitar dragging you beachside and cementing the looping and turning ambiance of each track together.

Their lead single, “I’m In Love,” which also happens to be featured in T-Mobile’s Valentine’s ad campaign, is a catchy beach tune featuring Chantal Ambridge’s signature hazy yet powerful vocals. It evokes early Best Coast in production and the chorus’s hooks embed themselves in every part of your brain. It’s the embodiment of the summer aesthetic, taking you down a nostalgic highway of youth and untapped wonder.

“Musically we were listening to a lot of ‘90s rock in high school like Riot Grrrl and Hole,” says Kathleen Ambridge of the major influences behind Side A. “My mom had a Beatles album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which we listened to a lot,” she continues. The Beatles’ influence is certainly most evident on “Growing Pains,” a track blending beach psychadelia with punk rock while the keyboard spirals and turns a la Flaming Lips.

Each track features the washed-out and grunge-y vocals of Chantal Ambridge, driven by surf guitar and psychedelic synths. Side A is a cohesively a “beach album” that is mildly reminiscent of Southern California punk. “Pearl and Oyster” takes you directly under the ocean as Chantal Ambridge sings, “I’m a seashell living in the ocean,” and with a glorious keyboard interlude that is reminiscent of the B-52’s, “Rock Lobster.”

“Honey Let Go,” the grungiest track, sounds like it’s directly influenced by Hole and is filled with an aggressive Courtney Love-esque yelping and yelling, ending the first half of the EP series with a massive bang. The Muscadettes embrace an “I don’t really care” attitude on Side A, jamming with fervor and passion that only youthful energy can harness.

They’re staunch players in the garage rock and punk revival that’s quite literally encompassing all of North America. They’re bold and they’re fresh. They’re part of the new breed of garage rock that’s taking over the universe. And they’re poised to be at the center of it all.

Kayla Oldenburg covers music. Contact her at [email protected].