Festival 2.0 : An Interview with AIM's François Lebaron

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What does it take to for a new festival to stand out from the crowd? With the city of Montréal already hosting the likes of Mutek, Osheaga, Ile Soniq and the weekly Piknic Electronik events, a new venture was always going to be a risk but as François Lebaron, artistic director of AIM (Art - Innovation Mouvement), detailed to us recently, the AIM family have set out to create an unique and exhilarating offering.

On June 26th, the three day event will kick off at the ancient battle ground of Parc Carillon, combining among other things 32 hours of non-stop electronic music from some of the biggest names in the underground along with camping, workshops, MTL's renowned food trucks and, of course, a down-to-earth approach.

With festival-goers more demanding than ever, we sat down to learn a little more about AIM, the concept behind the festival and what it takes to succeed in the modern festival environment.

Hi François, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! As a little introduction, tell us a little bit about yourself and how your career to date has led you to AIM Festival?

François Lebaron: "My background is very diversified. I used to organize huge rave parties in the 90's here in Montreal, then, in 2000, I launched a record label called Trigger Recording, which was on license with Warner Music Canada for 6 years. From 2007 to 2013, I started working with some established independent record companies (Audiogram and Bonsound). Meanwhile, I was producing and booking artists here and there and in 2008/2009, I been chosen to be the new Black & Blue Festival Artistic Director which is the biggest indoor AIDS electronic Music festival raising funds in the world. In 2013 I left Bonsound to start my own business and that's how AIM came along. Throughout all of this I always had my DJ and producer career. Right now I am working 100% on AIM Festival."

Before we get into the thick of things, can you give us an insight into your role at the organisation?

François Lebaron: "I'm the artistic director, head booker and partner."

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There’s no lack of electronic music events and festivals across North America in recent times, the launch of AIM indicates to us a lack of satisfaction with what’s currently on offer. What exactly influenced the decision for you guys to launch AIM?

François Lebaron: "Actually, we thought there was a lack. No festival offers the real non-stop festival experience with camping on site and an international and established non commercial but still famous artist line-up. Our non-pretentious approach featuring workshops, cool food trucks and activities is made to create an immersive experience where everybody is welcome to learn or discover the roots of electronic music and to have a great time."

Is there any elements of the current festival format which you think are outdated or that we could do without?

François Lebaron: "We are not criticizing what others are doing but focusing on our own vision of things."

What are AIM bringing to the table that makes for a more unique festival experience?

François Lebaron: "AIM is unique because it's authentic and non-commercial, but yet accessible."

Has the idea for the festival been long in the pipeline? Montreal as a city seems very open to artistic and cultural events, did that affect the process of getting the festival set up?

François Lebaron: "100% but there is a lot of work to do still. Montreal is a small city with lots of people with a huge open mind that needs to be fed with the right elements."

What was it about the site at Parc Carillon / St-André d’Argenteuil that made you say yes this is the location for AIM Festival?

François Lebaron: "The monoliths, which represent the historic battle of Long Sault and bring a Berlin and techno side to the event and Aim's branding and, also, the dreamy river side. This site is amazing and just perfect."

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In your own opinion, what is the one most important ingredient for a successful music festival?

The concept, the marketing approach, the line-up.

The line-up is well and truly stacked but we’d love to know, big names aside, who are your “most underrated” & must-see artists?

François Lebaron:I would say Bedouin, Edu Imbernon, Nature Of Music, and not to mention, for those who don't know them yet, Paranoid London Live and Pachanga Boys ... THE BOMBS!"

On a personal note, you’re a seasoned spinner and producer yourself, will we catch you behind the decks at all over the weekend?

François Lebaron: "No unfortunately, I have gigs all the time, so I am giving the chance to other artists."

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