Cut From Steel http://cutfromsteel.com Music Blog Wed, 11 Jul 2018 17:39:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://i0.wp.com/cutfromsteel.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/cropped-cfs_bloglogo.jpg?fit=32%2C32 Cut From Steel http://cutfromsteel.com 32 32 45325159 Studying the Human Psyche with Wax Mannequin http://cutfromsteel.com/studying-the-human-psyche-with-wax-mannequin/ Thu, 21 Jun 2018 19:22:03 +0000 http://cutfromsteel.com/?p=8750 Wax Mannequin (Christopher Adeney) is a Hamilton institution, a Canadian treasure and a world class artist. Making music for over two decades, Wax Mannequin has created quite the reputation for himself; he is known as an incredible showman and performer, a gifted songwriter and something of a modern day troubadour. He has traversed the country […]

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Wax Mannequin (Christopher Adeney) is a Hamilton institution, a Canadian treasure and a world class artist. Making music for over two decades, Wax Mannequin has created quite the reputation for himself; he is known as an incredible showman and performer, a gifted songwriter and something of a modern day troubadour. He has traversed the country many times and gone to many places across the world with his funky, sometimes silly and always compelling songs. Wax Mannequin is releasing a brand new album, Have A New Name, and is about to embark on a lengthy tour to promote this record. One thing you should know right away is that this record is incredible. The songwriting is tender and nuanced and incredibly evocative. Its the kind of record that will make you close your eyes and spend an hour daydreaming. This record also features the work of other notable Hamilton musical masterminds: Edwin Burnett, Mark Raymond, Annie Shaw, and the full Earth Wind and Choir group. That’s a lot of talent on one album.

A note before the interview is that I texted Chris to set up a time to meet at The Brain in Hamilton (where else would we possibly meet?) and I made reference to getting his phone number off a truck stop bathroom wall. Hilarious joke, I know. Chris did not respond acknowledging this joke but instead in person said: “I suppose I should have LOL’d”, which was a lot funnier than whatever joke I was trying to make. The interview went swimmingly and Chris is a gem.

Q – How did this record come together?
A lot of the interesting sounds on the album are because of the collaboration between myself and Edwin Burnett. I met him when he lived in London studying music production and we recorded my first record together back in 2001. Edwin now lives in Hamilton and we worked on this album. It originally started as a collaboration between Mark Raymond and me. Mark always has had a hand in whatever I record and I oft play live. I play with him as much as I can. I like to think we get each in some unique way, but lots of people must think this about him because he is amicable and grumpy and brilliant. We were making this record and Mark didn’t want to play bass this time, which surprised me. He said he wanted to play drums and I thought whatever he does is gonna be great. His magic drums are all over the record. He did some of the early recording — some demoing — and then we decided to get Edwin in to produce. Edwin was more ambitious about the production so it has his rich, nuanced sound. Then Andy Magoffin mastered. Andy is another tasteful idea guy who I love working with. It was magical meeting between garagey rough-and readiness that Mark and I were planning and the nice production that Edwin brought.

Q – I saw something describe you as a ‘student of the human psyche’, is this accurate?
Not in any formal way. Unless first year psych at McMaster counts.

Well in that case I’m a student of the human psyche because I took that Dr. Dick Day course too.
I think that qualifies us both as students of the human psyche. They are still watching the same VHS tapes in some dungeon.Q – You touch on so much nuanced human emotion and abstract feelings in your songs. How do you convey these complicated things in songs?
I’m always striving for something really personal when writing a song. And I think the most interesting subject matter are the things I try not to think about. It’s an exorcism of an idea or a thought and that’s why some people have a reaction to my music where they think ‘is he ok?”. It’s because I take an idea (selfishness, self-loathing etc) to the absolute extreme and see if I can find humour or tragedy by doing that and then fitting that into a song. Which is maybe asking a lot from people who want to engage with something simple and dancy, but it’s just what interests me in song writing. Maybe I’m less a student of the human psyche and more… trying to expel my own psyche until there is nothing but purity left.

Maybe I’m less a student of the human psyche and more … trying to expel my own psyche until there is nothing but purity left.

Q – How do your songs typically come together?
These days I usually get tunes in my head, especially if I’m doing something around the house; cleaning or cutting the grass or something else repetitive. Then the melodies come and I will usually have words or at least vowel sounds that come out. From that I’m able to decipher words that will fit the sounds. Usually the chorus comes to me first and this gives me the neurotic little seed that I can elaborate on and tell a story about. Sometimes it’s not so organic–I do sit down and write too, and I have a little notebook of ideas for songs I want to complete. Sometimes I get around to those. So these are the two ways. One is organic and automatic and the other is more laboured. Both modes of writing produce results that I like. It’s nice when the songs come to me fully formed, though, because it’s less work.

Q – Do you do other types of writing?
I used to write short stories incessantly on a regular basis and kind of got out of it. But I have grand plans to get that part rolling again. Other people in my family write more prolifically – I guess I got burned out. I used to send out a story every week or two through my mailing list — magic realism tellings of my touring experiences. Then I drifted into more surreal stories and I’d build a mythology out of it. At a certain point it got terrifying to do that and to see people’s confused reactions. I try to avoid suffering if at all possible and writing can be pretty painful. I mean the whole thing is suffering but you know, I pick and choose my battles.

Q – Can you tell us about the song ‘Boring’?
This started off as… like a call-and-answer with the audience. Like a heckling song. It’s a ridiculous story about people who become musicians and throw away their ordinary lives to dubious ends. It is a celebration of a wayward lifestyle. The moral of the story isn’t that it’s necessarily a good idea to give up on the straight and narrow but it’s certainly a lot more interesting to live life pursuing a passion… and I think that’s true — any of us who have passion are somewhat inoculated against some of the terror of life and the jail of the routine. Some people don’t realize how trapped they become because they can’t imagine breaking away from conventional comforts, luxuries, monotonies. Early on in my touring career, my 20s, I had this fear of not being able to go back if I traveled. The idea of falling off the track permanently and not knowing where that would lead was compelling and scary – the idea of falling off the track and putting faith in my scattered brain and the kindness of strangers. I don’t regret doing it at all and I think any of us who has an interest or a passion and finds fulfillment in strange things like music and art and stories are lucky because we can pursue as far and as long as we want. It can be treacherous and dangerous and anything but boring. There are things to be afraid of when you leave the comforts behind, but there is a lot less to be afraid of than one might expect.

Some people don’t realize how trapped they become because they haven’t broken away from conventional comforts and luxuries.

Q – What do you make of that old phrase “Only Boring People Are Bored”?
I think being bored is probably healthy but at a certain point it stops being boredom and becomes misplaced, undefinable anxiety that needs to find an outlet. Sometimes people criticize other people or criticize their hobbies or pursuits because they lack an internal life. I see people finding fault in others as their hobby – small people do that and I think they can be cured through music and danger.

Q – Can you tell me a little about the last song on your record, The Longest Hour? It is beautiful and also kind of heartbreaking. Where did that song come from?
It’s supposed to be pretty bleak. I wrote when I felt trapped on tour. It’s not autobiographical, but but a storied song about someone who wanders endlessly for no particular good reason and that’s what touring feels like at the darker times. I wandered about Germany and thought about getting home to my family.

Q – You are known for your captivating live shows. How much consideration do you give to playing live and what do you think about the trends in lower show attendance these days?
I think its asking a lot for people to leave their house and attend a show. And I’m incredibly grateful when it happens but, at the same time, I think that there are always ebbs and flows in show attendance. There is more to keep us at home these days but I’m convinced that live performance is rare, valuable and life-changing at its best – things like live theater or music or art… all that. It is easy to forget that if you spend a lot of time at home with devices. When I’m home with my video games it’s hard to remember the particular magic of being part of something real — it can be hard to remember the excitement and impossible to explain.

I’m convinced that live performance is rare and is valuable and is life changing at its best.

Q – What bands do you like to see live?
I could name lots of close friends but it would seem like nepotism… B.A. Rae Spoon, Jenny Mitchell, Geoff Berner. I’m a superfan and feel fortunate when I get to become friends with them. I like the New Pornographers – they are such good song writers and so mysterious. Bands like that keep me going.

Q – What do your kids think about your music?
They like it and they are the best judges of my music. I know which songs are my best because they will tell me. They are very supportive but they will tell me what’s best for sure,and which ones aren’t as interesting. They don’t want to be rude but I can tell.

Q – How does it feel to be a working artist in Hamilton these days, what do you make of our changing city?
I was born in Burlington, grew up in Caledonia and moved to Hamilton when I was 19. I don’t think it has changed as much as people say. It’s great, fine, and there are more interesting things happening, boring and concerning things still happening. Still a right-size city for me — not too big and not too small and I still know a lot of people when I walk down the street. That’s good. It is a paradoxically tough and amazing town for music and it always has been. I always knew I’d stay — when I first moved here. As a Caledonian, Hamilton was the big city for me where we’d watch movies and go to the arcade.

Q – You have toured extensively across Canada – are there any cities besides the obvious big ones that you think more young bands should visit?
The drives are long and I wouldn’t blame anyone for flying. There are many great spots to play along the way though. Saskatoon always has a really neat scene. It took me a few years to realize how great that city is. There are so many communities throughout BC — like small mountain towns that put on events and festivals. My friends Sean and Carla run the Tiny Lights festival out of YMIR in BC — a town of 500 or so people. It’s wonderful. Sudbury reminds me of old Hamilton. Whitehorse and Dawson City is as far north as I’ve gone. I’ve toured a lot but I still think of myself as just getting revved up. Best of both worlds.

WAX MANNEQUIN TOUR DATES
Sat. July 14 :: The Rivoli :: Toronto ON (TBC)
Wed. July 18 :: The Townehouse :: Sudbury ON
Thurs. July 19 :: Downtown Street Fest :: Sault Sainte Marie ON
Fri. July 20 :: The Foundry :: Thunder Bay ON
Sat. July 21 :: Brandon Folk Fest :: Brandon, MB (TBC)
Sun. July 22 :: Johnnie’s Social Club :: Flin Flon MB
Mon. July 23 :: Regina SK (TBC)
Tue. July 24 :: Cafe Koi :: Calgary AB
Wed. July 25 :: Royal On Baker :: Nelson BC
Thurs. July 26 :: The Wise Hall (Lounge) :: Vancouver BC
Fri. July 27 :: Hootstock :: Forest Grove BC
Mon. July 30 :: Caetani House Studio :: Vernon BC
Tue, July 31 :: Williams Lake BC (TBC)
Wed. August 1 :: Remedies Lounge :: Fort St. John BC
August 3-6 :: Artswells :: Wells BC
Wed. August 8 :: Nancy O’s :: Prince George BC
Thurs. August 9 :: Vanderhoof BC (TBC)
August 10-12 :: MOM Festival :: Fort St James, BC
Tues. August 14 :: The Aviary :: Edmonton AB
Wed. August 15 :: Black Cat Tavern :: Saskatoon, SK
Thurs. August 16 :: The Windsor Hotel :: Winnipeg MB
Fri. August 17 :: The Foundry :: Thunder Bay ON
Sat. August 18 :: Lop Lops :: Sault Ste Marie, ON

*banner photo by Peter Michael Wilson

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The Importance of Remaining Authentic with Kimmortal http://cutfromsteel.com/the-importance-of-remaining-authentic-with-kimmortal/ Fri, 08 Jun 2018 17:57:06 +0000 http://cutfromsteel.com/?p=8737 The theme on Cut From Steel recently seems to be artists who are using their voices to tell authentic stories. This theme is so clearly expressed through the work of West Coast Canadian’ rapper and visual artist Kimmortal. With an education in visual arts and a gift for storytelling, Kimmortal is one of the most […]

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The theme on Cut From Steel recently seems to be artists who are using their voices to tell authentic stories. This theme is so clearly expressed through the work of West Coast Canadian’ rapper and visual artist Kimmortal. With an education in visual arts and a gift for storytelling, Kimmortal is one of the most focused and lyrically effective MCs working in Canada today. The lyrics go in – all in. There is room for wishy washy sentiments. Kimmortal is here to tell it like it needs to be told and we are here for it.

You know how sometimes when you’re speaking to someone they take 10 minutes to tell you a 1 minute story and sort of meander here and there to the point where the original point is totally dead and gone? Yeah, that’s the worst. Kimmortal is the opposite of that; the lyrics and the sharp cadence get the message across clearly. What’s the message? The range of issues that Kimmortal takes up through song involve everything from dismantling the grip that male cisgendered MCs have over hip hop music to make room for POC, queer and indigenous artists – to issues of personal growth and self-care. In the excellent single 88 & Beyond there is a line that says “If you’re looking for a thread hold these lines for survival” that really sums up Kimmortal well, in my opinion. There is a nod to struggles of different kinds and the idea that this music can be used as a tool for unity and support. Oppression and marginalization are complicated issues that involve a range of people and an intersectionality that can be hard to tease apart. You may be marginalized in several different and complicated ways at once. Kimmortal’s music gets at this through lyrics that unify.  Something else that’s important to highlight is the fact that Kimmortal is a really great MC with a flow that is super impressive and a sharp and powerful delivery.

Q – How are the shows going?
This run of shows came about organically from meeting friends in my last trip out east here. I was last here on the east coast area cos I was acting in a theater production at the National arts centre in Ottawa. I was able to get a pop up show in Toronto. I met Cadence Weapon at the Junofest who put me on the bill for a NXNE set he’s curating in Toronto. And Lal connected me with Max & Eyeda, a sister-brother duo also based in Toronto who are producing this show I’m gonna be a part of. Setting up shows by just reaching out to friends in other cities has been going really smoothly I find.

Q – When was the last time you played in Hamilton?
The last time I played in Hamilton was two years ago. I travelled solo from Toronto to do a show my friend Tarek Funk organized. There was where I saw Mother Tareka, Kojo and Ziboya Nhun perform and it was tight.

Q – You are from Vancouver where the housing situation is notoriously terrible. I believe the housing value watch groups have listed Hamilton and Toronto just below Vancouver in terms of dangerous housing markets. What’s it like being a creative person and living in a city that is so impossible housing wise?
I am currently living in an overpriced shoebox in a central part of East Vancouver. It’s not enough space to dance or move in. My oven is at the foot of my bed but I can get the privacy I require to get solitude and a quiet space. I’m not living with roommates which would be cheaper. A lot of my friends who are struggling financially live with partners or friends who split rent. A lot of the venues that hosted queer/trans-inclusive/activist/bipoc events have closed down in the city. Gentrification is ridiculous and people are always hustling for the next paycheque where a good fraction goes towards rent. It becomes more significant for us to show up for each other’s shows because we all know the labour that goes into making a show or anything happen in this city. Collaborative work becomes miraculous to witness but also essential to getting through all the bullshit.

Q – Can you tell us how the video for “I’m Blue” came about?
I’m Blue was directed and produced by Entertainment forever, a young film production company based in Vancouver that I collaborated with. The room in the film was an actual built set. Those walls were built, that bed is from ikea, that creature is a puppet that Patrick Macht created where you can manipulate the tongue from the back. I contributed my art, my grad thesis project is in it – which is the book I flip through, the trees were built by the team and my art/symbols were painted on it. The idea of living in my head and sorting through my thoughts in solitude and trying to find myself and lift myself is what I’m getting at in the film.

Q – Is there a point where the visual art creation stops and the music begins? Do these things happen simultaneously?
My dad was a stay at home artist/father while my mom worked a number of jobs when I was growing up. My dad would always be singing gospel songs while washing dishes and I’d sit on his lap and watch him paint charcoal portraits that people would commission him to do. My dad eventually stopped doing art and became the custodian at the private school my siblings and I went to. I went to school for visual art and art history and would sing at a lot of open mics with my guitar. My parents were never 100% on me pursuing art and music. Art was my dad’s means of survival and making money in this country. In contrast, my art is for self-actualization and making sense of shit. It’s a clear privilege connected to my parents’ sacrifice. At the same time, my art is offering and a channel to my bloodline, spirit, and ancestry in a system that’s made to disconnect us.  

Q – Do you have any thoughts about the relationship between immigrants / settlers / first nations people as it pertains to being oppressed and searching for belonging?
My understanding of myself as Filipino has changed in relation to how I’m a first generation settler on unceded coast salish land. It shifts my understanding as being part of a marginalized racialised community but also part of this ongoing occupation on indigenous land. There is both the experience of privilege and oppression when I acknowledge intersections. As first generation, my parents spoke to us in Tagalog but it wasn’t encouraged for us to speak our language. I am privileged in comparison to other Filipinos because I don’t have a beautiful accent. I have a Canadian education and am technically well integrated and assimilated. Being queer, non-binary and brown as well as non-black and a non-indigenous settler on stolen land are facts to keep in mind when framing my story in a system that consciously disenfranchises certain communities. Basically, we’re all connected in this process. I have experiences of privilege and oppression but it’s all in relation. 

There is that quote byLila Watson: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us walk together”. This is a grounding compass for me.

A pressing issue right now in my communities is the Kinder Morgan pipeline which was just bought out by Trudeau’s administration. They’re planning to push the toxic pipeline through indigenous land and waters without consent. This is an “everybody” issue, as the water, earth, and generations are at stake. My friend Megang, who is a musician-activist shared their thoughts at a show recently saying how we all need to step into our healing gifts and we all need each other through this. One of my friends Ostwelve, Coast salish multimedia hip hop artist who is an outspoken anti-imperialist decolonial activist always reinforces how we all need to be part of the process of healing through “totemization”: sing it, dance it, write it, rap it, draw it, etc.  

Photo by Eros Taylor | @erostayoQ – I get the sense that you have such a distilled and firm hold on who you are as a person and an artist. You have genuine confidence and authenticity that comes through in your music. How do you nurture that in this business which can be so brutal?
Staying authentic for me has looked like staying self managed, keeping tuned in to what’s going on in the world, and showing up for my friends who are qtibipoc artists and healers, people who have nurtured the words I have been creating before I got more known as Kimmortal. I have been vulnerable in my music lately because I have fears and doubts around pursuing music as business or as activism. I have chosen activism but at the same time non-grassroots shows have been paying my bills… inevitably, this music stuff has become my business and so now I need to run things with integrity and in alignment with my values. We as multilayered people are navigating different worlds at once so it becomes more about staying anchored in my heart. A hard thing to do indeed.


Q – Who are some artists that inspire you?
Currently I am really into: Ostwelve, Megang, Future Star, Snotty Nose Rez kids, Leanne Simpson and her poetry+music project, Princess Nokia, Ruby Ibarra, Ziibiwan, Sango, Huali, Witch Prophet, Lido Pimienta, Missy D, and JB the First Lady.

Q – How did you learn to rap?
I listened to a lot of Ian Kamau, Gabriel Teodros, blue scholars, lauryn hill, the fugees, def jam poetry, rogue pinay, Bambu, Khingz, Rocky Rivera, Nitty Scott mc, eternia and the roots a lot when I first started to try rapping. I have always been someone who needed to write in order to feel like I could hear and sense my own thoughts. If I don’t write and hear my own words, I am very lost.

Thank you!

Follow Kimmortal on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Everywhere.

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Creativity and Doubt with L Con http://cutfromsteel.com/creativity-and-doubt-with-l-con/ Wed, 30 May 2018 19:23:41 +0000 http://cutfromsteel.com/?p=8722 L Con (Lisa Conway) is an artist that works with intention and purpose. She’s the busiest and most creatively diverse musician we’ve featured on Cut From Steel. Besides sharing her time musically among a few projects – she’s a producer, engineer, multi-instrumentalist, studio owner and more. Lisa also writes for stage and screen and she’s […]

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L Con (Lisa Conway) is an artist that works with intention and purpose. She’s the busiest and most creatively diverse musician we’ve featured on Cut From Steel. Besides sharing her time musically among a few projects – she’s a producer, engineer, multi-instrumentalist, studio owner and more. Lisa also writes for stage and screen and she’s been involved in several music residency programs. If music was a tool in her tool-belt it would be kept sharp and well used.

Moon Milk was released in 2016 and went on to become one of my favourite albums of the year. It was a concept futuristic sci-fi album (read a lot more about it here). Lisa’s latest release, Insecurities in Being, could not be more different. It is a wonderful album that I’ve already listened to front to back several times, but in a different way. Gone is anything tethered to a concept or a theme. What we have is genuine and nuanced song writing that shines through; coupled with Lisa’s tender and heartfelt vocals. This album features an artist working through her insecurities of being a busy musician and a person about to turn 30. The songs are beautifully written and would relate to anyone going through a transition or a slump of some kind. There are no pretenses with L Con and she lays it all out with this album. All of the anxieties and worries about being a working creative person,  and just a person period, are there.  The songs are brilliantly created and performed in such a way that it seems casual and easy. Anyone who has tired to craft a song that sounds casual and easy while referencing heart-revealing truths will know how hard that actually is. Insecurities in Being is a fantastic album and you should listen to it.

Q – Congratulations on the new album. Can you tell us how Insecurities in Being came together?
My previous album, Moon Milk, was a specific process. It was a concept album. I wrote all the songs in Sackville New Brunswick during a short time and then I sat with them for a long time and thought about them.  This new record has definitely been a faster and more solitary process. I was feeling not too hot about making things in general at the time I got started. I was actually trying to make an instrumental EP. I was involved in this wonderful music program (EQ) where I was matched with a female electronic musician mentor. We had to make music to show and that’s eventually what turned into fully fleshed out songs.

I was going through a difficult creative time. I did a lot of writing the year before for Moon Milk and working with Del Bel and doing this intense residency at the Canadian Film Center. I didn’t feel like I should be making music at all; I was questioning it. I’m turning 30 this November and I think It’s not that I’m scared to turn 30 but when you get older you re-evaluate what you’re doing and what your life is. It was a time I reconsidered if I was doing the wrong things and if that was true.. then what do I do? Who am I if I’m not doing this music thing? It’s way more enjoyable to have help on an album, and I think the next record will involve a lot more people on different levels.

It was a time I reconsidered if I was doing the wrong things and if that was true.. then what do I do?

Q – How are you feeling about those things now?
Up and down – like a human. I’m more driven now I think. The fact that there is a lot of discussion in the media about how what a male dominated industry music is has been a big drive for me. I’ve realized how important it is to be more explicit about the recording and production I do. I haven’t been as explicit about stating that as much; I assume that people will figure it out themselves, but it’s important to say it. The reason I started recording and producing when I was 12 was when I saw someone on stage say that she did her recording and mixing herself and through her own label. I thought ‘I could do that’. Doing this is important for other women or anyone who is feeling insecure about their place. If there’s is a chance this could help them in their journey – that’s all that matters.

The fact that there is a lot of discussion in the media about how what a male dominated industry music is has been a big drive for me.

Q – Can you tell us a bit about your approach to songwriting – how did you get so good?
First of all – thank you. I’ve been writing songs for a long time – since I was 12. I think after you do it a lot you kind of get better at it, it’s like a muscle. I feel like I’m always trying to break out of habits and writing clutches and patterns. I have safe things that I do. I try to mix it up and write on different instruments and different starting points. I’ve been doing it for a long time and a lot of the songs I’ve written for film projects more casually people end up liking more than my other songs. So I’m jealous of my own work. Other things that have helped are just doing it a lot and listening to lyrics when you listen to songs. A lot of people don’t listen to lyrics when they listen to music.

Q – Who are some songwriters that you think are great?
That’s a really hard questions. There are a lot. Jennifer Castle; she just put out an incredible record. She’s so poetic and honest and forthright. The new Feist record was a bit part of my last year. Same with the new Angel Olson. I also like Juana Molina’s new record – I saw her at Pop Montreal and was blown away.

Q – Can you tell us about your first single, Try? Is this about anyone in particular?
(The community thinks you’re wasting your time, not doing anything..)
It’s not about a person. The line came about as I was revisiting a Cat Power record and she has an album called ‘What Would the Community Think’ – I was just reflecting on that line and feeling very frustrated and I was working really hard but nothing was happening and I was feeling fruitless. I was thinking like ‘the community would think nothing because you’re just in the woods having a panic attack.’ I guess the song is  just a lot of reflection on effort and output. We live in a weird time where, with instagram and social media, it’s extra easy to feel alone and like you’re not as doing as beautifully curated activities.

I wrote the song with my partner Andrew. So, Andrew and I work together and he plays for L Con but we don’t write together very often because of life. But we jammed for the first time in a long time and the first little chord sequence started there.  It ended up on a voice memo and I took that and developed the words.

Q – What was it like working with Casey MQ?
I really like writing songs and I like letting other people sing my songs – so it was a forced cover that I imposed (laughs). Casey is a remarkable musician and singer and songwriter and producer. He’s so talented. Sometimes when you write songs you hear someone else’s voice. I am honoured and grateful that he wanted to be a part of it. I’ve been performing it in a different way – a more electronic version which is neat.

Q – Congratulations on being accepted to the Red Bull music academy! You seem to always be doing interesting musical things.
It’s crazy – Red Bull every year has this residency with a bunch of workshops and performances and lectures. 60 people from around the world are flown and it is a long application process. I filled it out and thought ‘no way i’ll get into this’. So, I’m super excited. I constantly apply to a lot but don’t get into a lot of things. Any opportunity for learning and growth is wonderful and i welcome that. Music is a practice – you’re never done never arrived in your artistic journey.

Q – What have you been listening to recently?
A loud fridge! Honestly.  So many awesome records came out this month. I’ve been listening to new the Bonjay, Bernice, Jennifer Castle, and more.

Q – Any mainstream radio favourites?
The song ‘Maroon 5 with SZA’ is really catching and in my head a lot. I might sing it at karaoke.

Thank you, Lisa!

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King Princess: Talia http://cutfromsteel.com/king-princess-talia/ Mon, 28 May 2018 15:31:29 +0000 http://cutfromsteel.com/?p=8681 Bursting on the scene with the smash hit single “1950” back in February, King Princess, made people fall in love with her quickly. A favourite of the ‘20gayteen‘ music vibe – it’s not hard to see why: she’s got a very sexy and casual vibe, a devil-may-care attitude and damn good music. King Princess keeps […]

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Bursting on the scene with the smash hit single “1950” back in February, King Princess, made people fall in love with her quickly. A favourite of the ‘20gayteen‘ music vibe – it’s not hard to see why: she’s got a very sexy and casual vibe, a devil-may-care attitude and damn good music. King Princess keeps her pronouns feminine and makes no explanations about it. Nor should she.

King Princess (Mikaela Straus) recently put out the much anticipated video for her single ‘Talia’. This video features Mikaela rolling around in bed with a doll reminiscing about heartbreak and aching for a past lover. This video also features: smoking! This is a hotly debated issue in the comments on twitter. Is smoking cool again? Is it terrible? Have we done a full loop on the smoking issue and come back to have it be sexy again? It certainly seems pretty sexy in this video.

The video is great and the song is even better. Mikaela’s vocals are so strong and so wonderful. Can’t wait to see what she releases next.

Make My Bed, the debut EP from rising artist, King Princess, is out June 15 on Mark Ronson’s Zelig Records — the label’s first release.

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Real Talk and Real Vibes with Bonjay http://cutfromsteel.com/real-talk-and-real-vibes-with-bonjay/ Thu, 24 May 2018 17:14:45 +0000 http://cutfromsteel.com/?p=8707 Many of the greatest songs were written a bout a particular moment in time. If you go back and listen to timeless musical classics they are all about a specific time. That detail and nuance is what translates over to a truly universally relatable song. Vague songs about nothing will always be about, well, vague […]

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Many of the greatest songs were written a bout a particular moment in time. If you go back and listen to timeless musical classics they are all about a specific time. That detail and nuance is what translates over to a truly universally relatable song. Vague songs about nothing will always be about, well, vague and about nothing. This is the philosophy that Alanna Stuart and Ian Swain of Bonjay have about their music. The Toronto based duo have recently released a well received album, Lush Life, that is all about life in cities as it is right now – in 2018. Their musical approach blends intricate dancehall inspired production with real and honest lyrics. The combination sounds like it shouldn’t work. How can raw emotional lyrics ever work with a club banger? I don’t know – but it really really does work. Bonjay’s music is fresh, exciting and real. The best example of this is their latest single Medicine for Melancholy which is like an anthem for anyone who has ever felt ‘in-between’ not enough of that or too much of this. I feel it deeply as an immigrants anthem but it is also a song for anyone who feels trapped between places.

There is no pretense or thing you have to get. Every song on Lush Life is perfectly constructed to make you feel something and to also make you move. The music succeeds on both levels. It is incredibly refreshing to hear R&B music that doesn’t sound like something The Weeknd would have cast off (as so much of it does these days), or something that sounds like a church hymn. Bonjay are in their own lane and are crafting their own sound.

I had a chance to speak to Ian and Alanna about this fantastic new album and more.

Q – Lush Life is your first release in 7 or 8 years. Can you tell us how this album came together?
Ian: It doesn’t seem like a long time from the inside; when you’re in it. We had to teach ourselves a lot of new skills to create this album and for it to live up to what we imagined. We had to find a way to merge dancehall with songwriting. A lot of trial and error was involved until we got it done the way we liked it.

You know the slow-food movement? Well we think of this as the slow music movement, sort of. As in, we intentionally made it this certain way and we think it was worth it.  So much music these days is like sonic wallpaper – background music in a way. Lush Life is purposely NOT like that. We want people to actively listen to this, to feel something, and to move their bodies.

Alanna: We wanted to capture stories of how people live in cities today.  I wrote about human stories that I’ve heard and stories from my life. There are a lot of nostalgic or futuristic R&B records – but we wanted to go a different way and capture this present moment. I wanted to share the more personal side of societal issues.

Q – Medicine for Melancholy and the accompanying Medium essay tell a story of you, Alanna, struggling to find belonging between a suburban Ottawa town and an urban Toronto neighbourhood. This tale sounded very familiar to me as a first generation immigrant even though that’s clearly not what the song is about. What’s your approach to sharing personal stories? 
Alanna: I really wanted to be real and convey rawness of emotion with these songs. I want to always present nuance and the human side of these issues. I’m glad to hear the song resonated with you – that’s all I was hoping for. Medicine for Melancholy is definitely the most personal I’ve gotten lyrically. The specifics are taken from my life but I think the song speaks to a universal need for belonging.

At the end of the day we’re not out here trying to make people sad. The lyrics are backed by a dancehall beat which is hard to miss growing up in Canada and especially in Toronto. We want people to catch a vibe.


Q – Can you tell us a bit about Ingenue?
This is another song that is about a specific person’s story that relates to a larger issue. Ingenue is about a girl that moves out of her small town to a bit city to explore who she’s always wanted to be, her sexuality and everything else. It’s a specific story but it relates to a broader issue of wanting to push yourself and see who you might become. We’re all more connected and more similar than we think. I try to keep this connection in mind but also tell nuanced stories.

Q – How does a typical Bonjay song come together?
Ian: They usually start on a piano with Alanna and then move on from there. I handle the production and orchestration and Alanna handles the song writing and vocal production, although we have a lot of crossover.
Alanna: When you’re a duo it can be really hard to break a tie and decide democratically. (laughs). We figure it out and we both tinker in each others work quite a bit. We had to learn how to speak eachothers languages to make this album work.
Ian: I taught myself about orchestration to make this work but I also wrote a few lyrics. Similarly, Alanna would jump on the synth to create the exact sound that she was imagining.
Alanna: A lot of collaborative work is just working through insecurities and that can be a hard thing. We were two people in a tiny studio with no AC. Swimming in a pool of uncertainty. It was a difficult but incredibly fulfilling process. It can be hard but is totally worth it.

We were two people in a tiny studio with no AC. Swimming in a pool of uncertainty.

Q – How did you guys meet and start making music as Bonjay?
Alanna: We met at a party in Ottawa. Ian was DJing above an Italian restaurant in Chinatown. The place was packed.
Ian: Alanna came right up to me and interrupted me and started talking about how she’s an R&B singer but she doesn’t want to be a typical R&B singer and wants to do something different (laughs). We ended up seeing each other at monthly parties and she would eventually get up on the pool table and sing over instrumentals. She sang things like Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Maps’ over a dancehall beat.

Q – Alanna, how did you learn to sing so well?
Alanna: I started singing in church when I was young. I went to a Jamaican Pentecostal church that had a youth gospel that would travel and compete. Those summers especially were like 30hrs/week musical bootcamps. I learned so much about music and touring at that time. We trained how to walk on stage, hold our hands, present ourselves and of course sing. I spent many long days on the bus driving between Ottawa and Toronto to perform and that prepared me for touring. It was a great experience and it taught me so much.

Q – How did you end up working with Hamilton-based legend Jeremy Greenspan?
Alanna: It was Caribou that brought us together, actually. I love Caribou’s album Swim and I looked up on Discogs.com to see who worked on it and saw that it was Jeremy Greenspan. We ended up working a lot in his studio in Hamilton and it was an amazing process. Jer loves Hamilton so much and he took us everywhere and showed us a lot of cool spots – everything from the Brain to the waterfront. This was a few years ago back when things were just kicking off in Hamilton. It was an exciting time to be spending a lot of time there and on James Street. We felt a sense of freedom being there. I actually made a documentary about Hamilton because I was so moved by it.
Ian: I’d love to know what you, as a local, think about what’s happening in Hamilton. Certainly a lot of the stores and chocolate shops popping up seem to cater to a certain kind of person and a certain kind of lifestyle.

[ I go off on a bit of a tangent here which I won’t reprint but if you’re interested in my views on Hamilton and gentrification you can find some here and here. ]

Ian: The thing about gentrification is that the places get so boring that even the rich people want to leave eventually and the cycle just repeats itself. The thing (art) that drew people in in the first place gets tossed aside.

Q – Can you recommend a song or two that you’ve been really into that we can check out?
Alanna: The whole Frank Ocean Blond album. I didn’t listen to it when it came out and I waited for some of the hype to die down before I heard it. It’s amazing. He’s so interesting and talented and sexy.  Anything by William Onyeabor – a funky Nigerian pre-disco artist who only made a few albums.
Ian: “Nature Boy” by Nat King Cole. This song was actually written by these pre-health proto-hippies called ‘nature boys‘ and was given to Nat King Cole. It’s a weird song that I’ve recently discovered and I’m obsessed.

Thank you both!

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Get to Know Too Attached http://cutfromsteel.com/get-to-know-too-attached/ Wed, 23 May 2018 19:06:35 +0000 http://cutfromsteel.com/?p=8701 Gone are the days of the irresponsible and tacky rock star. In 2018 the dreamiest musicians are the ones making statements with their music and doing more than they have to. Enter Too Attached, the brother-sister duo educating the world one pop song at a time. The dynamic sibling duo comprised of producer/photographer/beat boxer, Shamik Bilgi […]

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Gone are the days of the irresponsible and tacky rock star. In 2018 the dreamiest musicians are the ones making statements with their music and doing more than they have to. Enter Too Attached, the brother-sister duo educating the world one pop song at a time.

The dynamic sibling duo comprised of producer/photographer/beat boxer, Shamik Bilgi and writer/artist/assistant professor, Vivek Shraya are headed to Hamilton for the first time and they are bringing their addictively smooth beats and thought provoking lyrics with them.  They’re also bringing the Dancehally, Souly, powerballady, what you can only describe as ‘fusion’ band Bonjay along for the stretch that will also hit Guelph, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto.

After and incredible year for Too Attached (being placed on IN Magazines Canadian Artists to Watch list, reaching new levels in their various fields, and creating their critically acclaimed album Angry)  the pair is on fire – especially musically. Angry is packed with raw emotion, passionate poetics and body stirring sounds. It’s the perfect mix of pop meets politics. Producer Bilgi, who has toured with the likes of Method Man & Redman, Bassnectar, and Tanya Tagaq brings his style of hypnotically engaging beats while Vivek adds, as her brother describes, her “genius” with lyrics about her life experience as a Trans woman of colour that are witty, heartbreaking and cunning all at the same time. You have not heard pop music like this.

The Diversity Tour was a collaborative brainchild of Too Attached and Bonjay, both groups who aren’t afraid to shy away from controversy or comedy; “It’s anti-tokenism – a celebration of real Canada in all its queer, racialized, genre-blurring, fist-pumping glory” said Shraya on its release.  She explains more on an Instagram post promoting the tour, “after working in a diversity office in Toronto for 10 years, and being immersed in various Canadian art industries, I have observed that institutional championing of diversity is often less about fighting white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, and ableism and more about suppression, profiteering and/or self-aggrandizement. So I have a personal agenda against the proliferation of the current, empty usage of ‘diversity’.

We talked with the brother and sister duo about partnering up with Bonjay on their upcoming tour, the poster that has everyone talking, the power of pop music and why buying records is important.

Too Attached and Bonjay perform at Mills Hardware in Hamilton on Sunday, May 27th.  $12 door | 7pm doors, 8pm show | All-Ages (See our interview with Bonjay)

Can you tell me more about the tour poster (designed by Stephanie Cheng)?
We had been chatting with Bonjay about the possibility of touring together for a year or so and in one of these conversations Alanna mentioned that she wanted to call the tour “The Ethnic Tour.” Vivek mentioned to her that she had a similar idea—”The Diversity Tour”—based on one of the new Too Attached song titles “Diversity.” Both of these potential tour names partially emerged from wanting to satirize this current superficial fixation on diversity. Designing our tour poster based on old Government of Canada multicultural posters was an extension of this idea. The response to the poster has been anywhere to people reading the poster as literal, and therefore being angry, and to others laughing, understanding the implied humour.

Angry is filled with songs that have such heavy messages and yet it’s pure pop music gold that makes you want to dance and sing – is wrapping an important message in an engaging package intentional?
It was important for us to have an album that is cohesive and that tells a story. We had a bunch of demos and after sending music back and forth for months, we were noticing Vivek was tackling a lot of political issues in her lyrics. “Bare Minimum,” for example, is about people patting themselves on the back for doing just that—the bare minimum. We also felt that people of colour often don’t have songs dedicated to them or songs to celebrate with each other. Another track, “Grateful,” features the line come into your power, which repeats over and over. It’s been powerful to having POC’s sing that line with us during our live shows. We are proud of the decisions we made while making this record. As much as pop music is an escape from the hard times we face in life, we want to make music that also challenges others and ourselves to push things forward. We knew ahead of time that we would make some people uncomfortable, but since we are both in the second decades of our professional careers playing it safe is boring.

What inspired this tour with Bonjay?
Vivek and Alanna from Bonjay know each other from being in similar circles in Toronto and from Alanna singing backup for Vivek for her Part-Time Woman shows with Queer Songbook Orchestra. We were fortunate to have a powerhouse choir of 7 women of colour vocalists on two songs on our album, “Grateful” and “Love Is Not Love.” Alanna was one of the vocalists, and they were all in the music video for “Grateful” as well. Bonjay brings a dancehall and electronic vibe to their show and we bring the pop and Indian flavour to our show so it will be a fun, “diverse” combination of sounds on this bill. We are promoting our new record, Angry, and Bonjay’s new album, Lush Life, drops the week of the tour. We are both vocalist/producer duos, and we expect the flow to be dancy, political, and also soulful.

What’s next for Too Attached?
We have collaboration with Peaches which will be out very soon, plus a couple remixes. After this tour we are performing at several festivals in Canada: Sled Island in Calgary, Indian Summer Festival in Vancouver, and Hillside in Guelph. We will continue to tour our new record for the rest of 2018. In addition, we balance our band life with our individual artistic careers. Vivek has her new book; I’m Afraid of Men, which will be out by Penguin Canada this fall. Shamik is working on a new album Channeling India vol 3.

I recently saw a speaker who urged the audience to not edit their dreams – you both are so successful in multiple fields – is that a result of shooting for the stars or do you “edit” your dreams ?
Music has always been a primary focus in our individual careers but I think over time, we have both adapted into broader artists. I think some of this is about “editing our dreams”—understanding that dissonance between our ambitions and the reality of being brown musicians in a still very white-dominated industry. So branching into other arenas has not only been a means to explore other interests and grow as artists, but also a necessity to create multiple entry points into our work for audiences.

What stifles your creativity?
So far, staying in the same place creatively is the only real issue we’ve had. The exciting thing about being in a duo is that usually when one of us hits a wall, the other has ideas. As a result, trying new approaches, being open to each other’s feedback, and brainstorming is how we manage to leap over the tough hurdles. Our first record, Bronze, was all sample-based, and for Angry we challenged ourselves to not use any samples and have strong compositions. In the beginning it felt like it would be hard to repeat the magic of Bronze but in the end we feel our vision levelled up quite a lot. Some of our songs on Angry went through several transformations or took six months to a year of evolving. It definitely helped that we had a lot of rage to get out of our system! Getting feedback from your sibling isn’t always the easiest, but we both agree that our common goal is to do whatever it takes to make great music.

How can fans best support Too Attached?
The best way to support us at our shows is to buy the vinyl. We are thankful for all the streaming sites that help spread our music like Spotify and Soundcloud, but it means the world to us for our fans to have a physical copy of a record we worked so hard to create. The record features cover artwork by Hatecopy, red vinyl, and a lyric booklet. Alternatively, following us on social media (@tooattachedpop) is super appreciated as well.

*** This is a special guest post from Sarah Hanlon. Find her on Twitter.

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Run Maggie Run: Endlessly http://cutfromsteel.com/run-maggie-run-endlessly/ Tue, 22 May 2018 13:00:21 +0000 http://cutfromsteel.com/?p=8669 Hamilton based indie rock band, Run Maggie Run, have recently put out a new video for their single “Endlessly”. This is a great video to accompany a fantastic track. Run Maggie Run have carved out a great sound for themselves in a sea of Indie Rock that can tend to all sound the same after […]

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Hamilton based indie rock band, Run Maggie Run, have recently put out a new video for their single “Endlessly”. This is a great video to accompany a fantastic track. Run Maggie Run have carved out a great sound for themselves in a sea of Indie Rock that can tend to all sound the same after you’ve heard enough of it.

Run Maggie Run’s writing has been consistently solid and impressive and Gavin Rees vocals are wonderful. In addition they have interesting musical arrangements and the production quality of the videos and the music has been excellent so far.

Keep an eye out on this band.

See Run Maggie Run live:
May 31 – Kingston, ON @ Bar 53
June 1 – Waterloo, ON @ Harmony Lunch
June 2 – St. Catharines @ The Green Room
June 3 – Toronto, ON @ Bovine Sex Club

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The Wolfe: Strange Words http://cutfromsteel.com/the-wolfe-strange-words/ Mon, 21 May 2018 02:50:11 +0000 http://cutfromsteel.com/?p=8675 Saskatchewan’s, The Wolfe, have recently put out an EP called “Strange Words”. The whole EP is pretty good and I especially like the first track “Tip of My Tongue”. Something about this band sounds like a ’90s alt-rock throwback. They have a great sound and it will be interesting to see where this band goes […]

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Saskatchewan’s, The Wolfe, have recently put out an EP called “Strange Words”. The whole EP is pretty good and I especially like the first track “Tip of My Tongue”. Something about this band sounds like a ’90s alt-rock throwback. They have a great sound and it will be interesting to see where this band goes from here.

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The Due Diligence: Life Is Hard http://cutfromsteel.com/due-diligence-life-is-hard/ Mon, 21 May 2018 02:38:26 +0000 http://cutfromsteel.com/?p=8672 Brooklyn’s The Due Diligence are releasing a new album on June 22nd 2018 and the first single and album is called Life is Hard. This whole album is full of jams and is worth a spin and the first single is awesome. You know why? Because life is hard. It’s true. This song drops some […]

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Brooklyn’s The Due Diligence are releasing a new album on June 22nd 2018 and the first single and album is called Life is Hard. This whole album is full of jams and is worth a spin and the first single is awesome. You know why? Because life is hard. It’s true. This song drops some knowledge while being whimsical and fun.

Life Is Hard is largely inspired by songwriter Isaac Gillespie’s grandmother’s passing, and her perseverance through the many challenges of being a single mother and a child of immigrants in the 1950s.

 

See The Due Diligence:

• SUNDAY MAY 20 BROOKLYN NY @ CRYSTAL LAKE (WORKERS UNITE FILM FESTIVAL)
• WEDNESDAY MAY 23 NEW YORK NY @ MERCURY LOUNGE
• SUNDAY JUNE 24 BROOKLYN NY @ RUBULAD (ALBUM RELEASE FESTIVAL 4-10 PM, 2 STAGES, W/SPACE CAPTAIN, TOTH, BEARS, LARKIN GRIMM, RELATIVES, ALENA SPANGER

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The Sorority – SRTY http://cutfromsteel.com/the-sorority-srty/ Thu, 08 Mar 2018 19:19:53 +0000 http://cutfromsteel.com/?p=8660 Well, hot damn, this is a good one. If you mix female empowerment, great delivery and flow, a cool beat, and a really fun house party you get SRTY from Toronto’s hip hop group, The Sorority. The group is made up of Toronto based MCs  pHoenix Pagliacci, Keysha Freshh, Lex Leosis and Haviah Mighty. This song is […]

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Well, hot damn, this is a good one. If you mix female empowerment, great delivery and flow, a cool beat, and a really fun house party you get SRTY from Toronto’s hip hop group, The Sorority. The group is made up of Toronto based MCs  pHoenix Pagliacci, Keysha Freshh, Lex Leosis and Haviah Mighty.

This song is crazy good. The lyrical flow of each MC is fantastic and each artist is featured long enough in the track for their style to come across.  This song has some elements that throw back to that classic hip hop sound that’s been sorely missed from the hip hop landscape but in a way that doesn’t seem dated or ‘tribute’. Maybe it’s the amount of lyricism in this song that gives it that vibe? As a further breath of fresh air this song sounds distinct from the male-made popular rap coming out of Toronto and that’s a good thing. Diversity in all things – including hip hop beats – is a blessing and the ‘all OVO all the time’ rap is due for a break.

The group first collaborated at a cypher in 2016 on International Women’s Day – they’ve since released singles and played shows alongside The Internet, Jidenna, Miguel, Joey Bada$$, and A-Trak.  SRTY is the first single, released today on International Women’s Day, off their upcoming album “Pledge” (Out April 13th).

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