At first, Vincent Vallières presents no distinctive trait: he does not have a particularly charming voice, stunning good looks, or an unusual background. In fact, his friendly and somewhat careless demeanor on stage make him eligible for the anti-star status. Nevertheless, his songs show a precocious talent for intelligent lyrics and sensible delivery.
Vallières was born in Sherbrooke, Québec, in 1978. He learned to play the guitar and started singing the songs of Harmonium, Robert Charlebois, and Paul Piché at parties like so many other young Quebecers. At age 15 he was already writing his own songs though and won second place at a regional chapter of the competition Cégeps en Spectacle in 1996 with his group Trente Arpents (from the title of a novel by Ringuet, requisite reading for Quebec college students). With the prize money, the quartet recorded a demo CD, Le Vent du Nord (now a collector's item).
In late 1997, Bernard Y. Caza, a concert hall owner and record producer, signed the group. Saxophonist Martin Pruneau was showed the door, bassist Michel-Olivier Gasse and drummer Claude Lacroix were relegated to the status of backup band. Guitarist Sylvain Lussier was hired to put flesh around the singer's strumming and a first official album, titled Trente Arpents and produced by ex-Octobre Mario Légaré came out on Productions BYC (Caza's label) in 1999. Despite two minor hit singles on commercial radios, positive reviews, and steady performances throughout the province, Montréal remained off-limits. The young singer/songwriting was served a taste of the metropolis' legendary disdain for artists stemming from the back country. Still, he participated to the Francofolies festival and was nominated in 1999 and 2000 for the Félix Leclerc award (most promising newcomer).
As the group was gaining experience touring the province and even making a trip to the Canadian Prairies with Marie-Jo Thério, it became obvious that Trente Arpents did not meet Vallières' artistic vision. While his manager was trying to market him as the nice boy next door, the singer was turning more raw and more rock on stage. Lussier was dropped and for a while Vallières performed as a trio, giving him much-needed confidence. A much stronger CD, Bordel Ambiant, was recorded at that time and came out in October 2001. Produced by Les Chiens' Éric Goulet, it inscribed Vallières in the wake of Quebec rock artists like Daniel Boucher and the roaster of the label La Tribu (Fred Fortin, Martin Lapalme). ~ François Couture, Rovi