Getting to know Jacques de Varennes, or “Jack” as he’s known to friends, is like reading a rock star’s biography – or maybe more like watching a movie with a killer soundtrack.
It’s a story of a young boy who draws pictures to pass the time, picks up a bass on a whim and shreds it, then pours his love for design into everything he does. But unlike a movie, the life of LG2’s Vice-President of Branding and Design at the Quebec City office is anything but fictional. And as he approaches retirement, he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Jack inherited a love of hockey from his father, who once played professionally. From an early age, he would draw goalies on cardboard crates from the Imperial Tobacco plant in Quebec City, where his aunt worked. As he refined his skills and his canvases evolved, he eventually discovered airbrushing and turned his hand to more professional ambitions.
His talent soon got noticed, and he started getting small contracts here and there. He painted pieces on the hoods of cars, one time he even decked out a motorcycle – and when its owner couldn’t afford to pay him, he offered up a bass and amp as compensation, altering the course of Jack’s life.
Jack didn’t know anyone who could teach him to play, but his natural curiosity stepped in and he started strumming on his own. Soon he was practicing three to four hours a day while listening to Supertramp, Black Sabbath and Yes, feeling a sense of accomplishment when he could reproduce a riff. He even started a band with a friend, Handful of Snowdrops, which tore up the stage at Montreal’s legendary bar Foufounes Électriques on more than one occasion.
And so a new persona was born: designer by day, bassist by night. After Handful of Snowdrops, he formed 21Grams (the apparent weight of the soul) then Mal Fantôme in 2010 with three friends, two of whom were trusted musical collaborators. What started as a fun side-project turned into a professional passion. As a longtime fan of English rock, particularly from Manchester’s music scene, Jack draws inspiration from bands such as Joy Division, New Order, Stone Roses and Doves.
Mal Fantôme may have a French name but its music transcends borders with over two million streams on major platforms. The band is currently recording a third album featuring renowned artists who’ve influenced each member, including Charles Imbeau, Roger Manning, Trent Williamson and Bruce Kaphan. The music seems to have struck a chord – especially with the BBC who’ve played one of their songs! Jack says he’s living a childhood dream.
The Mal Fantôme studio is tucked away under Jack’s house in a concrete bunker designed as part of an ambitious personal project. During the pandemic, Jack bought a commercial building in the Limoilou district with a plan to demolish it and build his dream home. Entirely designed and imagined by Jack and his partner, the house is the fulfillment of yet another childhood dream: to be an architect. Proof positive that despite Jack’s musical talent and a demanding career, drawing is still a constant in his life.
Whether he’s in his basement or on stage, music is Jack’s playground. But it’s not just about performing – on top of playing bass for Mal Fantôme, he designed its brand platform and various merchandise, including two beers brewed in collaboration with Microbrasserie de la Madawaska. Featuring exclusive hops, the beers come in cans emblazoned with the Mal Fantôme logo and an integrated QR code that redirects to the band’s site and streaming platform – a first in the music world. Yet another way that Jack manages to find his own tune and leave his mark wherever he goes.
Despite his impressive accomplishments, Jack remains firmly grounded ... and full of surprises! We could have mentioned that he’s one of the founding members of LG2’s Quebec City office or that he’s mentored numerous people throughout his career, but there’s only so much we can fit in. We will share, however, that his secret for staying inspired (and being inspiring!) is to spin some tunes from his impressive vinyl collection every morning.
And retirement? Doesn’t look like Jack will let it slow him down. He wants to get back to airbrushing, travelling, drawing up plans for another house (and building it!), playing golf and finishing the third Mal Fantôme album. He may not be a Rolling Stone, but he never lets any moss grow under his feet.
Jack, everyone at LG2 thanks you for your hard work and support. We wish you all the best in the future. Cheers!