M for Montreal: A Q&A with Vince the Messenger

M for Montreal (French – M pour Montreal) is an annual music festival and conference, which takes place during four days in late November. Since its founding 14 years ago, the music festival and conference has rapidly expanded to feature over 100 local and international buzzworthy and breakout bands in showcases across 15 of Montreal’s top venues.

300 music industry movers and shakers, heavyweights and tastemakers from over 20 different countries make the trek to Montreal to seek out new, emerging artists and new business opportunities  Last month, I had the distinct honor and pleasure to be one of those 300 music industry movers and shakers, heavyweights and tastemakers, who made the trek to Montreal for the four-day festival. (And yes, I had some amazing poutine and a smoked meat sandwich. After all, when in Rome, right?)

Friday, November 22, 2019 marked M for Montreal’s third day and night of the festival’s four days and for me, it was the busiest and most exhausting one of my time in Montreal, as I made several stops in completely different parts of the city, including a Music PEI (Prince Edward Island)-sponsored brunch showcase early that morning, which featured three of the Eastern Canadian province’s hottest, up-and-coming artists – Vince The Messenger, Russell Louder and Dylan Menzie.

By any music festival’s third or fourth day, you’re most likely a hungover, sweaty, sleep-deprived mess with aching feet and knees and maybe even a sore back. You have business cards from people you can’t remember meeting or having a conversation with – and those people you do remember, their names and faces have blurred. And despite being overstimulated and in complete discomfort, you’d do it over and over and over again because – well, you’re having the best possible life and you might be a bit of a sadomasochist. As for me, I was a bit sleep deprived and somehow managed to enter the wrong address into Google Maps for the brunch showcase. Naturally, this resulted in somehow walking almost three blocks past the venue and missing what seemed to be at least two songs of the opener, Vince The Messenger’s set. D’oh! But I was so impressed by him that I knew I wanted to interview him as part of my festival coverage.

The up-and-coming Etobicoke, Ontario-born, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island-based emcee Vince The Messenger’s solo career started in earnest with the release of last year’s full-length debut Self Sabotage, an effort that led to the Etobicoke-born, Charlottetown-based emcee being nominated for a New Artist of the Year Award and the album receiving an Urban Recording of the Year at this year’s Music PEI Awards. After catching the 22-year old Canadian emcee’s set last month, I can see why: his work is an effortless and seamless synthesis of golden era hip-hop boom bap, introspective and thoughtful lyricism based on personal experience and feelings and slick, modern production. And it’s all done in a way that – to my ears, at least – seems perfectly suited for Hot 97 and Power 105.1.

Vince the Messenger Press Photo

I recently chatted with the rapidly rising Canadian artist via email about a wide range of topics including Prince Edward Island’s music scene, being an emcee and hip-hop artist on the small Eastern Canadian province, his influences, M for Montreal and more. He’ll strike you as a thoughtful and interesting young talent – and I hope that we’ll be hearing more about him in the States. Check out the interview below. And then feel free to check out some of the Canadian artist’s work, too.

Self Sabotage Cover ArtAndroid Cover Art

 

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William Ruben Helms: While I have a number of Canadian readers, the bulk of my readers are from the States – primarily in and around the New York Metropolitan area. As you can imagine, many of us won’t know much about Prince Edward Island, let alone Charlottetown. Can you tell us something about the province that we should know but somehow don’t know? What’s the music scene like? Is it unusual to be an emcee out there?

Vince The Messenger: PEI is a province that moves at a comfortable pace. The island thrives off of its tourist industry, with a beach in literally any direction and an abundance of east coast cuisine, the island really booms in the summer months. The music scene is small and tightknit. The music scene is home to singer/songwriters, indie rock, pop-punk, blues, classical, jazz and everything in between. Being an emcee is most definitely a little unusual out here. PEI is definitely not known for its hip-hop, but with artists like myself and others, we’re working to change that narrative.

WRH: Besides yourself, are there any other artists from your province that listeners and fans should know about outside the province?

VTM: Absolutely, PEI is small, but it’s concentrated with bubbling talent. Niimo, Slime Da Garbage Mane, The Lxvndr Effect are a few of the artists that make up the current hip-hop scene in Charlottetown.

 WRH: How did you get into music?

 VTM: I got into music at a relatively young age. The idea of interacting with music creatively was first introduced by my father when I was young, maybe five or so. He used to play in a few bands during his younger adulthood in Toronto, so it wasn’t uncommon for him to have instruments around the house. We’d write songs together and record them on cassette, he’d play guitar and I’d sing. This foundation of interacting with music led me to take songwriting more seriously in my later school years. By junior-high I was recording and releasing my own music and performing at all-ages events around my city. Things really didn’t pick up for me until recent years when I developed a close working relationship with my DJ and producer Niimo. From that point on I put out my first album, began playing shows and festivals frequently and have tapped into my artistry on a higher level.

WRH: There’s quite a bit of that old school boom bap in your sound and work. How much has that influenced your work? Who are your influences?

VTM: The music coming out of the boom-bap era was incredibly real and raw. Hip-hop coming out in the following eras saw more commercialization and at some fault lost some elements of what made it genuine. I’ve always reached towards the golden age due to its rich substance, that’s always something I’ve strived to provide with my own music. Hip-hop being the most popular genre today a lot of what you see on the surface is heavily commercialized and can lack substance. Luckily with streaming and the power of the internet artists with alternative approaches to hip-hop are still alive and well and are able to get their music and message out to the masses. My influences range from artists like The Fugees, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Das Efx, Biggie to more modern acts like Mick Jenkins, Earl Sweatshirt, Joey Badass and Kendrick Lamar.

WRH: How would you describe your work? 

VTM: My work is an expressive take on my life, my experiences and my aspirations. I try to blend a sound that’s easily digestible with lyrics containing deeper meaning for those who seek it.

WRH: I managed to miss a song or two of your set during the Prince Edward Island-sponsored M for Montreal brunch showcase. I was sleep-deprived and managed to enter the wrong address for the venue and walked two and a half blocks past the place. D’oh! Thankfully, I still managed to catch most of the set. I saw a fair amount of rappers during the festival, including a late-night showcase at Le Belmont later that night. But out of the rappers I saw you were among my favorites. How did it feel to represent Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island in front of a bunch of national and internationally-based music industry types?

VTM: It felt great representing Charlottetown in front of a bunch of music industry types and delegates. It’s always been interesting representing Charlottetown as a rap artist mostly because when outsiders or even insiders for that matter think of the PEI music scene hip-hop/rap is not a genre that comes to mind. That’s slowly changing as myself and other Charlottetown artists bring more life to the genre and art style in the city. It presents a unique opportunity to showcase my music with minimal preconceptions of what rap music from my city should sound like, and when it’s received as positively as it is it feels even better.

WRH: Did you get a chance to see any music during M for Montreal? And if so, was there anyone you enjoyed?

Luckily, I was able to catch a few shows during the festival. I saw Montreal’s Maky Lavender open for Toronto artists Charlie Noir, Tremayne, and Sydanie at Bar Le Ritz. The energy in the room was high, I was hoping to catch some other rap acts during the festival so I’m glad I managed to see that show. I also saw the Libson Lux Records showcase featuring Paupière, Russell Louder and Radiant Baby at Casa Del Popolo. This was another highly energetic showcase with some powerful performances.

WRH: Your solo career started last year, and you’ve been really busy. You released your solo debut Self Sabotage last year. You’ve released a handful of singles this year – and you’ve had a bunch of collaborations and guest spots. I listened to some of your work before I landed in Montreal and again for research for this interview. “Mr. Sun” and “Menace” are two of my favorite tracks of Self-Sabotage. Those songs much like the rest of your material captures your innermost thoughts, experiences, and feelings in a profoundly intimate and personal fashion – that’s somewhat uncommon with hip hop. How much of your work is influenced by your own personal experiences?

VTM: The majority of my work is influenced by my own personal experiences in some form. Whether that be a report of first-hand events or observations I make from things happening around me. A lot of what I write comes from an emotive space – I write how I feel and use these lyrics as a method of journaling.

WRH: You released “Android” a few weeks before M for Montreal. To me, it’s an interesting track because it features you rhyming over a production that’s both atmospheric and glitchy. So what’s the track about?

 VTM: “Android” is a track that definitely sits differently in my discography. When Niimo sent me the beat I was skeptical about rapping on it initially just because of how different of a sound it was for me, but there was something about it that had me captured. The song doesn’t necessarily follow a strict theme from beginning to end, instead, it runs as a series of thoughts in a stream of consciousness style. What starts off as a braggadocious ballad turns into me airing out a list of concerns, but ending on the same braggadocious high note.

WRH: This isn’t really a question but that “Azucar Freestyle” you’ve got up on Spotify is fucking fire.

 VTM: I appreciate that. That song came out of my fandom of Earl Sweatshirt. I recorded over the instrumental of his song “Azucar” off of Some Rap Songs and instead of putting that up on its own Niimo flipped the same sample and recreated the beat under my acapella.

WRH: Who are you listening to right now? 

VTM: Right now, it’s been a lot of MAVI, Medhane, Frank Ocean and FKA Twigs.

WRH: What’s next for you?

VTM: Since releasing Self Sabotage I’ve been working closely with Niimo on my next album Trustfall. That’ll be out early in the new year accompanied by visuals and a series of other materials to complement it. Outside of the new music, you can expect to see me showcasing within North America and put out more and more content for my audience.

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The People Versus is an Oxford, UK-based chamber pop quintet — currently comprised of Alice, Benedict, Danny, Jack and Sean — that can trace its origins to a spontaneously combination of each of its members previous collaborations and projects. Essentially, the project features four singer/songwriters and former lead singers, whose combined vocals and instrumental parts form a perfect vehicle for their lead singer, Alice’s vocals.

Interestingly, while centered on narrative songwriting, the band’s material thematically focuses on love, loss and dreams while drawing from Greek myths and Shakespeare. The up-and-coming British act’s latest single, the hauntingly gorgeous “Ground Opening” features Alice’s beguiling vocals, a shimmering arrangement of acoustic guitar, soaring strings,  a stunning multi-part harmony and a rousing hook that gives the song a cinematic air. To my ears, their latest single reminds me quite a bit of The Cranberries‘ smash hit “Linger” but with a folksy yet classical leaning. As the band explains, the song is a re-telling of the ancient Greek myth of Hades and Persephone, which explains the turn of the seasons but while touching upon love and power dynamics in romantic relationships.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Sofi Tukker Releases a Wild Party Themed Visual for “Purple Hat”

Acclaimed New York-based electronic duo and longtime JOVM mainstays Sofi Tukker — Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern — have been widely celebrated for an inclusive, global take on electronic music that’s thematically centered around self-empowerment, unity and liberation. 

“Drinkee,” the duo’s debut single received a Grammy Award-nomination for Best Dance Recording — and they continued an extraordinary run of early successes with their full-length debut Treehouse receiving  a Grammy Award-nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album. Adding to a growing profile of success, the New York electro pop duo’s releases have gone gold or platinum on every continent on the planet — with the exception of Antarctica. They’ve also played sold out shows and festival stops across the planet, and performed on some of the world’s most popular late night talk shows, including Italy’s X-Factor, the UK’s Sunday Brunch, Russia’s Late Show and Japan’s BuzzRhythm, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and most recently Good Morning America.

Released earlier this year, Dancing on the People is Sofi Tukker’s much-anticipated follow up to their highly-successful full-length debut. “Purple Hat,” the EP’s latest single is a joyous and ebullient track with a breezy Brazilian/Tropicalia-like intro that quickly turns into a thumping banger centered around tweeter and woofer rocking low-end, a funky Nile Rodgers-like guitar line, Bhangra-inspired percussion and a rousing and enormous hook while Hawley-Weld and Halpern trade vocal lines about a wild party in which the attendees let go of all pretense and facades and let their freak flags proudly fly. And as long as no one is getting hurt, be yourself, “shake that ass and show ’em what you’re working with!” Considering the hatred, opposition, thievery and bullshit we’ve been inundated with during this current administration, the song is absolutely necessary. 

“We wrote ‘Purple Hat’ the day after our first Animal Talk party,” the duo explains. “We started throwing these parties to bring back the wild and inclusive dancing vibe to the nightclub experience. Tuck was literally wearing a purple hat and a cheetah print shirt, people were climbing on top o people, it was over-sold and sweaty, our favorite people were packed in the booth, everyone was loose AF and feeling themselves. It was wild. Every Animal Talk party since then has been like that, and we wanted to capture that raw feeling in a song. If there was a song that included everything we are about, this would be the one.”

Directed by Charles Todd, a frequent Sofi Tukker collaborator, who also filmed the videos for “Fantasy” and “Swing,” the recently released video for “Purple Hat” was filmed during the duo’s sold out, homecoming show at Avant Gardner earlier this fall. Naturally, the video is split between excited Sofi Tukker fans arriving in cheetah print and purple hat gear, live performance shots and the concert crowd getting sweaty and wild, which further emphasizes the song’s spirit and feel. “This song was literally written about the energy of the crowds at our shows so we wanted to literally capture that energy for the video too,” the duo says of the video.  “It’s always so special playing back in New York, where everything started for us and we thought it would be the perfect show to film the video at. We didn’t want to get actors and have a fake party to recreate the energy — we wanted to do it in real life with real people, like we do most nights of the year. Really happy to relive that night over and over again.”

Initially starting their careers as founding members of long-defunct genre-bending indie act Wildcat! Wildcat!, an act, which crafted the score of the motion picture  Fallen Stars, the latest musical collaboration between Michael Wilson and Jesse Carmichael, Kid Nobody, can trace its origins to when the duo reconnected during a chance encounter in Iceland, several years after the breakup of Wildcat! Wildcat! Interestingly, this particular chance encounter found the duo recognizing that they had a special creative connection — and that there was much more music they needed to make together.

With a sharpened point of view and a hard drive full of musical ideas, the duo’s latest project together Kid Nobody recently emerged with a string ambient-leaning yet hook-driven pop tracks, which will be followed by their debut effort as Kid Nobody, the forthcoming EP discretion. The EP’s material reportedly finds the duo pushing the boundaries of bedroom pop while exploring an aesthetic that’s not quite happy, not quite sad, not quite chill or upbeat — but attempts to find a place between indulgence and restraint.

discretion‘s latest single “ms. stress” is a radio friendly pop confection  centered around shimmering synth and piano arpeggios, hip-hop influenced swagger, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, an enormous hook, and plaintive vocals. And while bearing an uncanny resemblance to St. Lucia, Midnight Juggernauts and a growing list of contemporaries, the song is a slickly produced and swooning balance between earnestness and ambitious songwriting seemingly rooted in lived-in experience.

 

 

 

 

Belau is a Budapest, Hungary-based electronic music production and artist act, comprised of core duo Peter Kedves and Krisztian Buzas. Their debut single was one of Deezer Hungary’s top hits — and as a result, the song appeared in a number of HBO Hungary series and in commercials. The video for the single amassed over 500,000 views while winning the Hungarian Music Video Festival.

The Hungarian electronic act’s debut album, which featured their attention-grabbing debut single won a Hungarian Grammy for Best Electronic Music Album. But since its release, the act’s profile has expanded internationally: a single off their latest remix EP received airplay on BBC Radio 1 — and over an 18 month period, the act (which expands to a quartet featuring Kedves, Buzas and touring members Benji Kiss and Bobe Szesci) played over 120 shows in 19 countries across the European Union, including stops at Eurosonic Nooderslag, Reeperbahn, Sziget Festival, Untold Festival and even SXSW. 

The duo’s latest single “Natural Pool” is centered around stuttering beats, tweeter and woofer rocking low end, shimmering guitars, atmospheric electronics and chopped up vocal samples. And while seemingly inspired by 90s trip hop — in particular Massive Attack— the song manages to possess a cinematic quality.

 

 

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Sophie Nicole Ellison is a London-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and studio engineer, who has spent the past few years playing drums for a number of local bands and working as as studio engineer. During that same period of time, Ellison began writing material for her solo, dream pop recording project HUSSY.

Since October, Ellison has released three singles that have received praise from the likes of DIY Magazine, So Young Magazine, The Line of Best Fit and Clash Magazine. Adding to a growing reputation as one of the UK’s most exciting and promising alt pop/indie rock acts, Ellison has opened for the likes of FEELS and Lala Lala — and she will be playing the second annual New Colossus Festival in March 2020.

Interestingly, Ellison’s latest HUSSY single “YLMD” is a moody. decidedly hook-driven, New Wave-inspired, shimmering take on dream pop that — to my ears — brings JOVM mainstays Amber Arcades, Gothic Tropic, and Too True-era Dum Dum Girls to mind. And much like those acts, “YLMD” finds Ellison pairing earnest and ambitious songwriting with a slick, radio friendly,  studio sheen. “I really wanted to up what I’ve been doing sonically,” Ellison explains in press notes. “Before now I’d been recording nearly everything at home but went to a proper studio to redo some elements from the original home demo.

“I could almost say at this stage it has become a love letter to self-empowerment and things going wrong,” the rising British singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and studio engineer says of her latest single. “You can guess once you hear the lyrics, YLMD stands for You Let Me Down. I wrote it a few years ago and feels like it’s almost taken on a new meaning for me now than when I wrote it.

“Originally it was the frustration over seeing loved one’s self-destruction. Ultimately though, it’s a journey of reflection and self-empowerment.”

Adds Ellison, “This song has become a remind of how important trusting yourself is to me.”

 

New Audio: Les Flâneurs’ Trip Hop Inspired Debut

Alessando “Alex” Marchetti is a multi-instrumentalist and producer, best known for his work in Italian indie band Il Disordine delle Cose, an act which has released three albums through Quite Please and Warner Chappell Music.

Marchetti’s solo side project Les Flâneurs — Les Flâneurs  in French means “stroller,” “lounger” “saunterer” or “loafer” — can trace its origins to when the Italian multi-instrumentalist began writing and recording material with a different vibe and feel from his primary gig; but with artists he had met while as a member of Il Disordine delle Cose. Sonically, the project’s sound features elements of indie electro pop, indie electro folk, complete with synths, drum machines and orchestral sections.

Interestingly, Marchetti views his work with Les Flâneurs as part director, part producer, in which everyone brings their talents to create — or improve upon the material. So far, the Italian producer and multi-instrumentalist has collaborated with an array of up-and-coming internationally based artists including Italy’s Carlot-ta, Sweden’s Hanna Turi and Brazil’s Priscila Ribas among others.

Marchetti’s Les Flâneurs debut single, the slow-burning and contemplative  “Dark Souls,” is centered around a sparse and atmospheric production featuring twinkling piano, stuttering beats and Alice Greco’s haunting and expressive vocals. Indebted to 90s trip hop — in particular Dummy-era Portishead and Massive Attack, the song manages to possess a chilly and air,  evoking a walk in a brisk and clear night. 

New Video: Kill Your Boyfriend’s Horror Movie-Inspired Visuals for “Elizabeth”

Since their formation back in 2011, the Venice, Italy-based industrial psych act Kill Your Boyfriend, comprised of Matteo Scarpa (vocals, guitar) and Antonio Angeli (drums), have developed a cold and sinister sound that manages to be simultaneously atmospheric and pummeling. Or as the Italian duo described in an interview, their sound is “a killer that came in the night, violent and cold.”

Over the past few years, the Venice-based industrial psych act has released a handful of singles and an album, which allowed them to tour across the European Union with the likes of Zola Jesus, The KVB, Civil Civic and Zu among others. Adding to a growing profile, the members of Kill Your Boyfriend have shared a stage with JOVM mainstays Preoccupations and they played Manchester‘s The Psych Rising Festival alongside Gnod and The Telescopes.

Officially released today through Depths Records, the duo’s latest single “Elizabeth” is a chilly track that finds them further honing their sound as it features elements of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails-like industrial rock, A Place to Bury Strangers and Sisters of Mercy-like noisey shoegaze centered around a motorik groove, Angeli’s mathematically precise four-on-the-floor drumming and Scarpa’s desperate and anguish-filled howls. 

Hot on the heels of the single’s release, the recently released classic Italian horror movie-inspired, Blau!-directed video follows a woman whose obsession with her lover gradually leads her to a world of madness and feverish hallucinations, which feature the members of Kill Your Boyfriend menacing her. The woman’s obsession and hallucinations eventually creates an ironic and horrifyingly tragic ending — of which she can never escape. 

Earlier this year, I wrote about Charleston, SC-born, New York-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Kyle Lacy, and with the release of the Squeeze meets Daptone Records-like “Hangin On,” the up-and-coming Charleston-born, New York-based singer/songwriter and guitarist established a sound that draws from vintage rock and soul. Interestingly, Lacy’s latest single, the first official single off his forthcoming debut full-length debut Bad Days is the uplifting “Believe In Tomorrow” finds Lacy digging deep into the rock and soul sounds of his previous Dala Records single, but while finding his song leaning heavily towards Mavis Staples/The Staple Singers-like spirituals. Produced by Dala Records founder Billy Austik, best known for his work with Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones, Mark Ronson, Lacy’s latest single was written and recorded in just one day, while utilizing the old school, analog production approach the label has developed a reputation for.

Interestingly, the forthcoming full-length album reportedly finds Lacy delving deeply into soul and gospel — while affording the up-and-coming singer/songwriter much more freedom. “Now, I don’t have to think in terms of, ‘will people dance to this in a bar’, but I can actually say to myself, ‘would I listen to this song?’” Lacy says in press notes. Along  with that came a great deal of artistic and creative growth — in particular, the sessions that produced “Believe In Tomorrow” were the most formative for him. “It felt like we were all stepping out of the shadow of our fears, and collectively trying to tell a story of hope.”