Yves Jarvis: Jean-Sebastien Audet Refuses to Sit Still

Maya Fuhr

In the six years Jean-Sebastien Audet has been releasing music, his persona has constantly evolved.

Performing now as Yves Jarvis, the 22-year-old Calgary-born, Montreal-based songwriter writes ethereal compositions that occupy a space between folk and R&B, only because there’s no other place for them to go. Defying conventions of both structure and genre, his songs wander and explore; sometimes sounding like a mad-man D’Angelo, at other times a twisted, space-age Harry Nilsson. Yves Jarvis is always Jean-Sebastien Audet, and both refuse to sit still.

Often saturated with grain and samples of rain or street noise, Audet’s music feels like something expressed in confidence, a conversation with a friend you didn’t know you had. Endless, seamless vocal layerings and swelling organs make his expressions feel as huge and significant as gospel while his whispered vocals and candid lyrics offer a level of intimacy comparable to singer-songwriters like Judee Sill and Nick Drake.

The disjointed post-punk of Tenet, Audet’s first full-length album released as Un Blonde, reflects the young songwriter as he was at 16, too avant-garde to be fully appreciated by the population of the Calgary streets he was busking on.

“I listen to absolutely everything. I won’t even say I have taste.”

Its follow-up, Water the Next Day, is a sonic chronicle of his relocation to Montreal in his late teens. It picks up that same experimental spirit and drops it into mellow, contemplative territory. Breaking away from Un Blonde and adopting the name Yves Jarvis with his latest release, The Same but by Different Means, Audet doesn’t seek to reinvent his sound so much as to richen it. Here and there, a lyric or melody will break through the blanket of seemingly infinite piano, organ, vocal harmonies, and textural sounds. In such swirling, transitory soundscapes, it’s the slight moments of rupture and subtle ascensions that hold the music together.

“It’s very ungrounded, unhinged, and impulsive,” says Audet. “I guess at the centre, it’s like fire or electricity. Something brilliant. The only thing I think I could liken it to is chipping away at wood. I’m working with one core, and that’s what I’m trying to get at.”

When Audet speaks, it’s equal parts thought and vocalization. Speaking of his own music, his voice contains a palpable consideration and hesitation, as if not entirely sure what to make of it yet. When talking about the work of others, Joni Mitchell in particular, his speech quickens, his voice softens and the conversation takes a tone of warm familiarity. But regardless of who made it, Jarvis speaks about music poetically, using colours, textures and experiences to paint a picture.

His appetite for listening to music is just as insatiable as his drive to make it, Audet draws inspiration from sources old and new.

“I listen to absolutely everything,” says Audet. “I won’t even say I have taste. Of course I’m offended by music sometimes, but I try to take in everything.”

The enigma of his ever-changing yet unmistakable musical identity is something Audet has been earning for years. He’s been growing alongside it and documenting it all the while, as if writing his music like one would note their height on the doorframe of the world.

Whichever direction he takes and whichever colour he explores, one thing is certain: each entry to come will be written a little higher up than the last.