Interview: 2010 RBMA Participant Poirier

Each year, the Red Bull Music Academy brings together a potpourri of some of the most innovative producers, vocalists, DJs and instrumentalists from all around the world—and one of them was Montreal's very own Poirier. LOOKOUT recently got the goods on the DJ/producer's experience during the RBMA in London, just before an exciting weekend for Poirier: Karnival v.9 at Le Belmont on Friday, JunoFest at Toronto's Wrongbar on Saturday, and the Juno Awards on Sunday. Cheer for him on March 27th, as he is up for his second Juno; this time around his album Running High is nominated for Electronic Album of the Year. Despite all that activity, this particular interview focused on one place and one moment in history: the 2010 Red Bull Music Academy in London. To apply for this year's Red Bull Music Academy in Tokyo, or for more information, click here.

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London is a unique place as home to many immigrants from around the world, and more specifically, as having a strong Jamaican diaspora. How did the RBMA's two-week-long session, and especially that exposure to the London scene, affect your music?

It had already been an influence for a long time. Since 1991, London, the UK, has deeply influenced my love of the bass coming from the sound system culture that Jamaicans brought into the UK back in the '50s and '60s (I highly recommend watching the BBC documentary Reggae Britannia about that specific subject). The UK urban scene, from ragga jungle to UK Garage, from Hip-Hop to UK Funky, has deep roots in the Jamaican sound system culture. Being part of the RBMA in 2010 gave me the opportunity to see that scene and be part of it. It also gave me a spot to DJ with Face-T at the Notting Hill Carnival in August 2010 at the RBMA x Major Lazer stage. Playing soca in that context was SO nice.

What RBMA lecture did you find the most inspiring?

The gold medal goes to Gabriel Roth from Daptone Records who was super honest and direct. I’ve been following what he's been doing since day one and I really respect what he has achieved. I remember buying The Daktaris CD a long time ago. It was discounted at Archambault probably because at that time nobody knew what the hell that afrobeat CD with lions on the cover was. I love when stores don't know when they have gold.

Mark Ronson was quite interesting, sharing some stories from the inside.

As well, seeing Steve Reich in person was something I was looking forward to.

I read that out of the sixty artists chosen for 2010's RBMA, there were four Canadians and three of those four were from Montreal. This can’t be a coincidence, if you ask me. What is it about Montreal artists?!

What is it about Montreal, we might even say. I think Montreal gives people a nice context to think, elaborate, meet and create. The city size is perfect. Big enough to be a big city, but not too big so people have time to chill and have a quality of life. These ingredients all together give artists fresh air to expand their thoughts into reality.

I was looking through this year’s RBMA application and it was extensive, but also really thought-provoking (for instance, one question made me recall the records that bring me to tears). Do you remember the funniest or most interesting answer you gave when you applied?

I still have the scans, let me check. To the question: "Which technical set-up do you usually utilize for your musical activities?" I answered: "The best plug-ins are IDEAS.”

And later to the question: "What's the things you can live without and why?"  I answered: "Food. Water. It's pretty obvious."

Do you have any advice for this year’s applicants?

Do it. Be honest. No need to brag. It's about music. It's about the love of music. Making it, discovering it, sharing it. You don't need to pretend you're somebody else and if you're trying to be somebody else for any reason, please save yourself some time and go play outside with the kids.

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Interview: 2010 RBMA Participant Amenta

Amenta, a Toronto-born vocalist with an electro-soul sound, was one of the sixty participants in 2010’s Red Bull Music Academy in London. She has collaborated with Portformat, fLako and more recently, Mau’lin on a funky project dubbed “Deeper Than The Sun.” LOOKOUT recently interviewed her by email and got a glimpse into her overflowing memories of her time in London and what her musical career is like post-RBMA. To apply for this year's Red Bull Music Academy in Tokyo, or for more information, click here. The application phase ends April 4, 2011.

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LOOKOUT: How did you decide to apply to RBMA?

Amenta: I heard about RBMA in 2007 when it was being held in Toronto. I saw Muhsinah perform and a friend Jesse Ohtake encouraged me to apply. By the end of 2008, I was reminded by another friend, My Man Henri, and thought I really need to do it this year. I attended the info session where Flying Lotus was speaking at RBMA Toronto and was further inspired by his account of his experience.

Do you have a hunch as to why you were picked over all the other applicants?

You mean they didn't pick me for my amazing hula-hoop skills?? Well then I don't know.

What's your most profound memory from your time at the Academy?

There are sooo many to choose from. But the show I did with Hasan at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) comes to mind. I remember telling myself: "do not **** up." I recall seeing my classmates at the very front screaming and cheering and I got all choked up. The audience was sooo amazing and I received a lot of love and support afterwards. It was a memorable night.

How has your experience with RBMA affected your musical career? Has it affected your sound or musical style?

It has helped me meet wonderful fellow artists. Who you know and who you vibe with is VERY important. The power of partnerships and friendships is not to be underestimated as a strong force that can drive and influence your career. I'm so thankful to know the people I have met through RBMA. There were a lot of instrumentalists in my term – this has influenced me greatly and allowed me to really dig deeper vocally and find new approaches with melodies and much more. One man in particular who helped me discover my potential is Hasan Hujairi - Oud Master. As I touched on before, our performance at the Institute of Contemporary Arts really taught me a lot about myself. As well, being a participant of RBMA looks damn good on your resume. Upon hearing that you were a participant, people who know you give you major points and people who don't are inclined to learn more – and that's worldwide. It's pretty amazing.

You recently collaborated with another class of 2010 participant, Mau’lin. What’s life like post-Academy in terms of sustaining relationships?

Life is good! Most of us are pretty tight. A week will not pass without me talking to at least 5 or 6 of my 2010 classmates or term 2 homies. We roll deep ;). We hit each other up for vocals or drums or relationship advice. Not to give away our class secrets, but we still use our group email to connect. It's a beautiful thing. We continue to collaborate and share ideas and/or goals for the future or simply make faces at each other on Skype. We really support each other. They are definitely family.

Do you have any advice for this year’s RBMA applicants?

Be yourself. Put as much of yourself into your application as possible. Leave an imprint. By the time you’re finished your application, RBMA people should be able to tell what you smell like. I'm not joking ;). Let your funk shine.

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Machete Designs Valentine’s Day Collection

Montreal-based Machete Designs has recently released their 2011 Valentine's Day collection. I know what you're thinking. Most "his and hers" jewelry designs, especially Valentine's Day collections, tend to be packed with frills, hearts, cupids and other tacky clichés, but don't expect any of that from Machete Designs. Each matching set is one-of-a-kind and includes nonpareil trinkets like vintage keys and gorilla pendants. For more photos, check out Machete Design's website. Spread the love.

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Interview: Aloe Blacc

To the masses, Aloe Blacc is best-known as the singer of the opening theme song for HBO's TV series "How to Make It in America." In part thanks to that, "I Need a Dollar" is considered the unofficial anthem for twenty-somethings on the grind. Having spent about sixteen years in the business, Aloe Blacc certainly knows something about the hustle. Blacc's years as an emcee has expanded into creating conscious music that spans the sounds of rap, soul, hip hop, jazz, and R&B, culminating in his most recent soul album, Good Things. In many ways, his stirring music is reminiscent of sounds from the sixties, but the lyrics are decidedly current, and tinged with a political slant. A graduate from the University of Southern California, Blacc and his distinct sound are quick to be described by music journalists and bloggers alike as smart, but his music is more than that, as Blacc straddles the worlds of art and life. Check out LOOKOUT's interview with Aloe Blacc and don't miss him live with his band The Grand Scheme on November 16, 2010 at Le Belmont.

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You describe your music as "brand-new-old-soul." How is your music in dialogue with the past and how do you see yourself fitting in with "neo-soul" (if at all)?

I am a disciple of great and classic soul artists and my goal with this new album is to carry on an important tradition in soul music of making songs with social and political commentary. In my music, there are elements of some of my heroes like Al Green, Bill Withers, and Curtis Mayfield. These are just a few of the artists who have informed my style on Good Things. Quincy Jones gave some very important advice at an ASCAP conference I attended. He said that an aspiring artists should study the greats to learn all that they have done, and from this knowledge and understanding create something unique. I agree. I want to create something that is unique that has a quality of its own. I am sure that I will make soul music of all brands in the future from neo-soul to future soul and my very own brand-new-old-soul.

As a musician, do you feel like you have a responsibility to address political and social issues?

I think every adult with a conscience has a responsibility to address political and social issues. Whether you are a day labourer or a filmmaker, it is important to be aware of the issues that affect your life and have a constant dialogue about the problems and solutions. I feel like all public figures have a responsibility to address issues that affect their communities. It's important that people with access to speak loudly do so, to be a voice for the people who can not. I really appreciate someone like Michael Moore who, right or wrong, uses his access and visibility to start conversations about social, economic, and political ills. The first step is to be aware and start talking.

How did your do-it-yourself approach impact the final outcome of Good Things and your musical vision as a whole?

My first album, Shine Through, was one I wrote and produced all myself with the exception of a couple of beats from OHNO and Madlib. I worked with outside producers and musicians on Good Things and played a more hands-off role in the post-production aspect of the songs, which is much different from how I usually work, but I figured it was worth a try. I think that the beauty of working in this way is that I get to take these recordings to the next level in my live performance. It's fun to rework the songs with my band, The Grand Scheme, and produce the tracks in my own way with just the instruments we have on stage.

You've been getting quite a bit of mainstream success, especially thanks to "I Need a Dollar." As an indie artist, how do you negotiate between the industry (and the potential profits that come along with it) and your personal values and goals?

I will let you know the real answer when I get my first check for profits on the sale of the album. Album sales aren't what they used to be but I am extremely grateful for the popularity of the song. It's helping me to reach more people with my music and ultimately bring happiness to folks all over the world. I get emails and messages from fans who say that my music has helped them through hard times or brightened their day. This makes it all worth it, more than the money, or lack thereof. I look up to artists like Bono, Michael Jackson, and George Clooney who use their influence and money to make positive change in the world. I think this is the best way to deal with potential profits that come along with success.

How did focusing more exclusively on soul music in Good Things (as opposed to the multi-genre Shine Through) transform your artistry?

Focus is a good thing but I don't feel like it has transformed my artistry as much as it has transformed my growing audience's perception of me. I am still making songs in every genre because my muse has no stylistic filter. I am going to release another EMANON album with DJ Exile, which is all hip hop as usual, and every day I am coming up with new song ideas in all different genres. From a business perspective, focusing on one genre is helpful because it offers listeners the chance to develop a simple idea about me as an artist. The soul artist is an archetype that exists and is well-understood. Fortunately, a new music lover is born everyday and the tastes of music fans are broadening, so I imagine artists will not have to be so strict with genre-centrality.

Referring to the title of your album, what are the good things going on in your life right now?

Right now, I am able to travel the world with my friends who are all talented musicians. I get to write and create songs and deliver performances that make people happy. Things are quite good.

Aloe Blacc LIVE  in Montreal, with full band Grand Scheme, Maya Jupiter, Effusion A Cappella, DJs Scott C + Rilly Guilty.  November 16, 2010: More info
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Machete Designs Contest

Machete Designs is a Montreal-based custom jewelry company that takes old trinkets and random objects – think broken antique chandeliers and nostalgic Jurassic Park figurines – and transforms them into fresh-to-death accessories. They're currently running a Facebook contest called "Rock What You Got" that invites users to upload a photograph of an object from their own treasure chest, and the person with the most votes gets a custom-made necklace by Machete designer Avril-Maud herself that incorporates the creative pendant into the designs. For more about the contest visit the Machete Designs Facebook page.

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Cherry Chapstick – “The Line” & “Precious Necklace (Remix)”

Cherry Chapstick is a Montreal-based band that has recently released a remix of Silly Kisser's track "Precious Necklace," along with their single dubbed "The Line." Cherry Chapstick is made up of artists Nigel Ward (on vocals and guitar), Evan Mullen (on bass) and Julian Flavin (on vocals, synth and percussion), who got all together in the quaint town of Kingston, Ontario. Silly Kissers are also Montreal's own, so if you're from the Québécois hub, revel in this mega-Montreal collaboration. A summer synth tune at its finest, these two tracks from Cherry Chapstick are part indie rock beach jam, part electro-disco slam, and I really wouldn't have it any other way.

Download "The Line" and the "Precious Necklace" remix here.

Q&A: Montreal’s Fluxus

LOOKOUT caught up with Mark Sandford of the Montreal dance group, Fluxus. Fluxus' five members (Mark Sandford, Chris Ploss, Scott Nelson, Phil Gordon, Matthew Kolaitis) all play their own instruments and bring about a thrash-filled dance rock blowout. Mark is also involved with the netlabel and music community, Sixteen Sixteen. Oh, and he’s got a side project, Master Tone. Oh, and a blog. When we chatted, Mark had just made a bisque for the first time and was, to say the least, uber-impressed with himself. And I was, to say the least, uber-impressed with his engaging interview.

To download Fluxus' latest release, Navy Blue (free), click here.

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LOOKOUT: For those who don’t know, can you tell us a little bit about your record collective Sixteen Sixteen?

Mark Sandford: Basically, when we started Fluxus, we needed a place to put our music. You know how every single person and every single band has a MySpace? Typically, it’s like “Oh, go check out my MySpace.” That doesn’t carry any weight anymore. So, we thought why not build our own little website and put all our music and our friends' music up there. Myself, Chris Ploss, and Scott Nelson started the website. Scott, who’s a computer science major, built the most insane website and application to stream music. It ended up being a warehouse for our music. So we could record something and then send it out on the internet. We were recording other bands here at our apartment, and it was like, “Hey, why don’t you put this stuff on the website?”

I noticed a distinct change in sound from Cargoes of Empire to Navy Blue. How did that musical change in Fluxus end up happening?

When we recorded Cargoes of Empire, we had a different group of people than we do now. Fluxus itself was a project between Chris and I and so it was whatever we were working on at the time. When we recorded Cargoes of Empire, there were six of us. When you have six people in a band, it seems like the biggest group of people ever…  Just so many people in a band. We have five people in the band now and it seems so much lighter. I don’t know what one person changes, but it made a big difference in sound. The sound that you hear on Cargoes of Empire came out of the people that were working in the band and these people moved away and moved to different projects. Chris and I wanted to make what we really liked: dance groove, dance music. We got two new members and they were totally down with that and it started taking shape from there. We’ve taken some of our Cargoes of Empire songs and made some of our own remixes, kind of in the vain of Duran Duran or Soulwax. So, it's like a weird evolution and it seems like a right fit.

What do you think is special about Montreal in terms of making music and playing shows?

Montreal is such a creative place and people who are creative here are very serious about their creativity and that’s a really excellent environment to be in. Montreal’s not a big city and that’s what makes it good because we hang out with people that are in so many incredible bands and they’re just our friends. It’s such a rich network of people. I can’t speak for other people in other cities, but the creative network is so big within a small city and that’s really powerful because you can go to a show and chances are, a lot of people in the crowd are friends of the people up there, which is really encouraging and special.

Have you ever been playing a show and everyone’s standing around no one’s really dancing? What do you do? How do you keep the energy up?

That’s one of the reasons I wanted to make dance music. In Montreal, we did a show at this really weird venue, it was packed but everyone was sitting at tables. So we played forty-five minutes of nonstop dance music, and people really enjoyed it, but in a weird way, in a “I’m-gonna-sit-here-with-my-beer-way.” That’s a challenge for me, like how will I make people start feeling what life is?

We’ve talked about this as a band. If we’re going to play dance music, music that is somewhat repetitive and upbeat, it’s our job to look enthused or at least pretend that we’re into it. That’s what you have to do. Montreal’s kind of a weird city for that, maybe it’s part of the European thing. I lived in Detroit for a while and people go crazy. It could be a folk song and it’s like a rave.

What’s next for Fluxus?

We’re taking a little break right now. The next thing that’s up for us is that we’re possibly shooting a music video. We’re trying to secure money for that, which is, you know, kind of difficult. Les Appendices, a franco-comedy show, were at one of our shows and dug what we were doing and we’ve been in a conversation with them about shooting a music video. We’re all waiting on government funding.

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Q&A with The Pop Winds

Yesterday, LOOKOUT caught up with Devon of the Pop Winds, a Montreal-based band signed to Arbutus Records that have been making music together for just over a year. When I called, Devon was in the midst of putting together CDs for their Ontario tour with other Arbutus bands Sean Nicholas Savage and the Silly Kissers. The Pop Winds (Kyle Bennett, Austin Milne, and Devon Welsh) fuse vocals, guitar, sax (yes, a saxophone), with electronic instruments like synth and drum machines. The dreamy, almost despairing vocals are propped up by poppy electronic sounds and the unexpected rich wail of the saxophone. They've followed up their 2009 self-released EP, Understory, with their recently released full-length album, The Turquoise.
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LOOKOUT: How did The Pop Winds get started?

Devon: Austin and myself were roommates at school when we first came to Montreal. Kyle and I knew each other from Uxbridge, Ontario,  and he moved to Montreal, liked playing music and then we all got together.

Where does the band name the Pop Winds come from?

It’s the name of a song that Kyle had written the summer we started playing music together, the summer of 2008. I’m not sure the significance of it… I don’t think it was meant to have any specific meaning.

You’re all originally from Ontario. Do you think the Montreal vibe has influenced how you make music or how you approach making music? Would you have made the same music anywhere in the world?

We probably would’ve made the same music anywhere. How we approach music has more to do with interest and various technologies and what we were good at initially. And what we could contribute in terms of what instruments we played. The city affected the way we would approach how or where we would play or music, and how we would release it and stuff like that. The ability to put something out yourself, I guess, was probably an idea from people who were playing music in Montreal.

What are some of your musical influences?

I would say, I don’t know… When I think about that question, it’s as if it implies some conscious decision to make music in a certain way. We’re not trying to do music a certain way, and we all listen to music in different ways. Maybe any kind of music that uses the same approach.

What kind of approach?

Maybe say, like using electronic equipment, writing music that doesn’t necessarily always have a pop song structure. I don't know, that’s really broad.

Is it important to you to give out free music? Or is it something you had to do because that’s the way music is heading these days?

We sort of had to do this. After a certain point, it’s going to be easier and more effective to get people to hear your music if you give it to them for free. And it’s pretty easy to do that nowadays. I expect music to be out there for free sometime or another. A couple weeks after an album comes out, it’s everywhere on the Internet. It seems like the natural thing to do.

How has the band grown over the last year, from the release of Understory to The Turquoise? First as bandmates, but also musically?

What you would expect, we’ve gotten a lot better at writing cooperatively. We make a song less and less based off of ideas that were fully developed by one of us. Now it’s much more cooperative and more of a mutual writing experience. Musically, we’ve made more interesting songs that we’re more excited about playing.

What can readers/listeners expect from a live Pop Winds show?

We will always focus on doing the best we can for a set. And have at least some new things, new ideas, and new ways of playing specific songs. We would hope to do a performance that is engaging and makes people want to pay attention and listen attentively.

Download The Turquoise here.

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Want Agency Press Show

Last week, Want Agency's Montreal office hosted a press show at Salon Sweet William showcasing their brands Filippa K, Nudie and Acne. For some photos of the event (including the picture perfect leather jacket), click here. Duvall deejayed for the press event and the after party and handpicked some tracks for your listening pleasure.

Black Van - Yearning (DFA Records)

Mark E - RnB Drunkie (Golf Channel Recordings)

Interview: 2007 RBMA Participant Sarah Linhares

Sarah Linhares is a songwriter and vocalist from Montreal whose influences range from electronic music to gospel choirs and Afro-Brazilian samba. Sarah Linhares’ time at the Red Bull Music Academy in 2007 seemed to have really changed her—musically at least. At the time, she was struggling to decide whether or not she wanted to keep pushing her musical career, so in a way, RBMA saved her music. Since then, she’s been collaborating with a swarm of RBMA grads and keeping herself mad busy. Expect her debut solo full-length album, Messages from the Future, to drop sometime later this year, an album branded as “future soul” by her label, Public Transit Recordings.

To apply for this year's Red Bull Music Academy, which will now be held in Madrid, Spain (!!!), or for more information, click here. The application deadline has been extended until April 26, 2011.

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LOOKOUT: It’s been four years since you attended the Academy. Do you ever still think about it?

SL: Each year around this time, RBMA contacts me to speak at the info session or to do an interview, etc. So this season ends up being a time when I reminisce about my experience. Usually when people find out that I attended RBMA they ask me to tell them about it. I also think about the academy every time RB [Red Bull] throws an event in town 'cause I end up seeing all the Canadian RB guys, which is always great!

Why did you decide to apply?

It's funny, I wasn't going to apply 'cause I thought I wouldn't get in. I was actually contemplating letting go of my musical aspirations at the time. However one of my close friends, Scott C aka The Incubator, who was a RB Mr. X at the time, pushed me to apply. It's really thanks to him for being so encouraging!

What was the most challenging part of RBMA?

The challenging parts for me were allowing myself to enjoy the experience without doubting my talent and feeling scattered by wanting to do everything all at once. At that time, I was still unsure of myself and wasn't fully able to assert myself in the way I would now. I knew that I had something interesting to offer musically, but I wasn't able to fully embrace the depth of my ability and uniqueness. I was still discovering my own voice. I also felt this strange pressure to do too many things at once. I wanted to write and sing on so many collaborations that I think my efforts were slightly scattered. In retrospect, I would have chosen only a couple songs to work on and would have enjoyed just being there more.

You've since collaborated with other RBMA grads, like David Ryshpan, Aklimatize, Camplaix, and Sikh Knowledge, on Messages from the Future. What is it like doing collaborations with other Academy participants?

Honestly, I love working with RBMA participants 'cause they are mad talented producers, musicians, and DJs with really unique musical worldviews. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to have met and collaborated with all of them. I’m still look forward to working with more of them!

David Ryshpan and I became friends because we both live in Montreal and did radio together before the academy. Now, he's my go-to pianist in town. We continue to enjoy working together as he's part of the band that is currently reinterpreting my upcoming album in a live setting. I had the pleasure of meeting Aklimatize in Montreal when he was on tour and we hit it off right away. We spent a very fun day in the studio recording together. Camplaix is my Portuguese brother that I connected with at the Academy. He's amazing to work with. He sends me these incredible beats that instantly inspire me and then we go back and forth sharing ideas and building the tracks. We have two songs together on my upcoming release and I think they are very strong songs. Sikh Knowledge is another talented Montreal friend that I love working with. We get along like a house on fire. We have a couple tracks together on the album and we are working on building a live show together using our laptops, drum machines, percussion, and a loop pedal. We are going to work on an EP together in the summer.

Aside from collaborations, how did the experience help your musical career?

The experience marked a major turning point in my musical career. I think if I hadn't gotten accepted I might have given up on my musical dreams. It was a big confidence boost at a time when I really needed one. Being there inspired me to keep on dreaming and allowed me to begin envisioning my future album project. It also allowed me to meet and be inspired by all kinds of people in the business. It encouraged me to tap into an extensive group of amazing music people that are forever to be a part of my network. It continues to allow me to connect instantly with these folks whenever I meet them. Being a part of the RBMA family allows me to share my projects with a massive international audience that I wouldn't have had contact with otherwise.

Do you have any advice for this year’s RBMA applicants?

All I can say is make sure you apply! The application is long, challenging, and can be daunting 'cause it asks you to really examine yourself and express things that aren't often asked of you. However, it is one of the most incredible musical experiences you can have.  When applying, just be honest about who you are musically and personally. Don't waste your time trying to prove something or trying to be something that you think will please them. The application is an opportunity to get to know yourself better—so enjoy it!

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