Tag: CMJ

Interview: A Q&A with M for Montreal’s Program Director Mikey Rishwain Bernard

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 – while hopefully eating a ton of smoked meat sandwiches and poutine. I have the distinct pleasure and honor of being one of those music industry folks, who will be in Montreal tomorrow. As you can imagine, I’m looking very forward to poutine and smoked meat sandwiches, as well as a wildly eclectic array of music that includes the rapidly rising hometown-based Francophone indie rock act Corridor; acclaimed London, Ontario-based DIY rock collective WHOOP-Szo; British Columbia-based psych folk act Loving; hometown-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Ada Lea; hometown-based shoegazers Bodywash; Vancouver-based dance punk act NOV3L; Cameroonian-French pop artist Blick Bassy; and New York-based dance punk act Operator Music Band;  as well as a showcase featuring Icelandic artists and a two showcases featuring locally-based and Canadian-based hip-hop among a lengthy list of others.

Before heading out to Montreal, I chatted with the festival’s program director Mikey Rishwain Bernard about a wide range of topics including Montreal and Montreal’s music scene, what music fans, music industry professionals and journalists should expect from the city and the festival and more. Check it out below.

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WRH: While JOVM does have readers in Canada, most of my readers are based in the United States. Can you tell me and my readers a couple of things about Montreal and its music scene that we probably wouldn’t know but should know?

Mikey Rishwain Bernard: Most people will identify Montreal with Leonard Cohen, Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and that’s cool as shit. After that Arcade Fire movement, it felt like many creative Canadian musicians started flocking to Montreal for the cheap schools, cheap rent, vast music scene and live venues. All that hype brought a new generation of artists like Grimes, Mac DeMarco, BRAIDS and more. All this to say is that Montreal is one heck of a place for creative space, freedom and affordable rent. Aside all that, there’s an entire francophone music scene that’s considered mainstream and not to forget the top shelf beatmakers and producers, most notably Kaytranada, Kid Koala, and A-Trak. There’s a lot of government funding dedicated in arts and culture and that’s a huge factor.

WRH: This is the 14th edition of M for Montreal. What was the inspiration behind its creation?

MRB: First and foremost, M was created on a whim. It was set up as a showcase to introduce 6 Montreal bands to 12 festival buyers and media from the UK, who happened to be in Montreal, while on their way to NY for CMJ. It helped artists like Patrick Watson and The Besnard Lakes get some action. In short, M is a networking platform for Canadian artists and industry to mingle with international tastemakers. We now recruit over 100 international delegates from 15 different countries to attend in hopes to export these acts into their respective markets. Another inspiration behind M is Martin Elbourne.  He’s our co-founder. A legendary British programmer who books for Glastonbury and co-founded The Great Escape festival in Brighton. He also worked with The Smiths and New Order, and has always had been involved with new wave’s in the making. He saw Montreal as a “sexy city” and wanted to contribute to this festival to help bring Montreal acts to Europe. Since then, M for Montreal has grown into not only a platform for Canadians, but we also make a little room for international acts.

 WRH: What does a program director of a festival do? 

MRB: I curate the music and conference. Lots of listening, making offers, negotiating and waiting. On repeat.

WRH: In your mind, what makes a successful festival? 

MRB: Aside from the talent, it’s the experience. The people you meet and the memories you make. I sound like Hallmark card, eh?

WRH: This is my first time in Montreal – and it’s my first time covering the M for Montreal festival. Besides the cold weather and maybe a little snow, what should I expect as a journalist? What would other music industry professionals expect from the festival?

MRB: You’re gonna feel welcome and our locals treat our guests/delegates with a lot of respect. Quebecers are very welcoming and charming, and they’ll all share their opinions on where to go, who to meet and what to eat. Everyone is going to ask you to try poutine. Just do it, once or twice. Try it sober at least once if you get the chance. Aside from that, don’t be surprised if some women kiss you on both face cheeks.

WRH: As a music fan, why should I check out Montreal? Why M for Montreal?

MRB: Like previously mentioned, the rich music history. It’s always good to see where Leonard Cohen slept & where Win Butler got his coffee, but it’s also a privilege to discover and experience the culture and new music cooking in French Canada.

WRH: I was doing some research and checking out the artists playing this year’s festival. Admittedly, I was very impressed – the bill manages to be very local centric but while being an eclectic and diverse sampling of a number of different styles and genres. There’s also a fair number of Canadian acts from other provinces, at least one American band and so on. How much work went into that? And how do you and the other organizers choose the artists on the bill?

MRB: It’s a mixture of things. We work with a lot of new kids on the block, Canadian export partners and local industry. We book bands and work with people who wanna play ball. Not for the money, but for a chance to play for some interesting people from all over the world. So, like the programming, it’s all over the place.

WRH: So once the festival ends on Saturday night, what happens next for you and the rest of the team?

MRB: The team will close out the festival and close the 2019 file. The week after M, I’m attending a conference in Saskatoon called Very Prairie… From there, I go directly into hibernation, back home, in Stockton/Lodi California (home of Pavement and Chris Isaak). I will start the new year booking another festival taking place in May called Santa Teresa. And the beat goes on.

While in Montreal, I’ll be busy with my social media accounts, live tweeting and Instagramming as much as I can. Keep on the lookout here:

Twitter: @yankee32879 @williamhelms3rd

Instagram: william_ruben_helms

 

For more information on the festival, check out their homepage: https://mpourmontreal.com/en/

 

 

Throughout this site’s nine-plus year history, I’ve written a bit about Dublin, Ireland-born singer/songwriter and guitarist Sorcha Richardson. Relocating to the States to study, Richardson quickly developed relationships within Brooklyn’s underground/indie electro pop/electronic music scene that heavily influenced the sonic direction of some of the early material she had started to write and record. Interestingly, Richardson first caught the attention of the blogosphere with a stint in the hip-hop/electro pop act CON VOS, an act that received praise from Nylon, Pigeons & Planes, Indie Shuffle and others.

Once that project ended, Richardson followed it up with her solo debut, the bedroom recorded debut EP Sleep Will Set Me Free EP, which received 200,000 SoundCloud streams and caught the attention of Crosswalk Records/Delicieuse Musique, who released the follow-up EP Last Train. Adding to a growing profile, the Dublin-born JOVM mainstay played sets at the now-defunct Northside Festival and CMJ, along with several other festivals, as well as a number of headlining shows. 

Now, a couple of years have passed since I’ve personally written about her, but as it turns out, during that same period of time, the Dublin-born singer/songwriter and guitarist has firmly established herself for incredibly relatable yet deeply personal lyrics, heart-aching vocals and pop-minded yet genre-defying songwriting. Interestingly, Richardson’s long-awaited full-length debut First Prize Bravery is slated for a November 8, 2019 release through R&R Digital — and the album’s latest single, album title track “First Prize Bravery” prominently features Richardson’s wistful and aching vocal delivery and a shimmering and twinkling arrangement of guitar and organ. But at its core the song is centered around incredibly novelistic detail about the mundane moments of one’s life that are actually transformative — particularly those in which you gather the courage to take stock in yourself and face your demons. But along with that, there’s the sense of not letting disenchantment and disappointment stop you from your own personal development. The song seems to come from the wisdom earned from real life, lived-in experience.

“This song started out as my attempt to make something that sounded like a track from the latest Feist album, Pleasure,” Richardson says in press notes. “It doesn’t sound anything like that anymore, but it was originally full of really raw acoustic guitars and lo-fi vocals. It sums up a lot of what the album is about for me—the beauty found in life’s ordinary moments and the bravery it takes to not allow disenchantment to cease your best efforts.” 

Over the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Brampton, ON-born, Toronto, ON-based DJ, violinist, singer/songwriter, sync pop artist and JOVM mainstay Maya Killtron. Now, as you may recall, Killtron received national and international attention with the release of her debut EP, 2012’s Hipster/Gangstaand as a result of the surrounding buzz around the EP, Killtron made appearances across the North American festival circuit, including appearances at Miami’s Winter Music ConferencePride TorontoThe Halifax Jazz Festival and CMJ. Adding to a growing profile,  “Back For More,” her collaboration with New York-based production duo Love Taps received praise from Stereogum and Huffington Post for a sound that possessed elements of moomba and R&B. The equally attention-grabbing video showcased a sadly bygone New York. “Back For More” also received the remix treatment from  Smalltown DJs, The Slow WavesEyes Everywhere, Brothers In Arms and City Kid Soul — with the City Kid Soul remix being named in the Top 5 at Toronto’s Bestival.

Killtron’s latest full-length effort, Never Dance Alone is slated for a March 22, 2019 release, and the album reportedly was made specifically for dancing through your problems. The album’s latest single “Red Dress” continues a strong run of 80s synth funk/80s R&B-inspired club bangers as it’s centered around layers of arpeggiated synths, thumping, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, an anthemic hook and Killtron’s sultry pop belter vocals  — and while much like its predecessors, the track will bring I Feel for You-era Chaka Khan to mind, the track features a disco-inspired string arrangement that hints at JOVM mainstays Escort. Interestingly, the song is an uplifting, feminist anthem, complete with a much-needed “go out and get it, girl,” vibe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comprised of duo Mickey and Jesse Pangburn, the Phoenix-based indie electro pop duo MRCH can trace their origins to when the duo met while studying in Prescott, AZ — and as the story, the duo approached a sparsely populated jazz focus from radically different tracks: Jesse came from a technical background and was a fan of the the dense sonic textures of prog rock and metal while Mickey married complex jazz theory with a deep knowledge of 80s TV and pop culture. Initially, the duo, who spent years in the Phoenix rock scene, built up a strong local profile and over he course of a few years, started to receive national attention with praise from major media outlets including CMJThe Guardian and Consequence of Sound, as well as placements on TV series like ShamelessVampire Diaries and Search Party among others.

2017’s full-length effort Reactions touched upon themes of life changes, love and the loss of innocence and found the duo pushing their sound towards much more brooding territory with lead single “My Mistake” being featured on 13 Reasons Why. As Mickey Pangburn explains in press notes, “Last year and 2017 were so hard, personally. Family health issues and things that I thought I would be older for when they happened . . . All of this amidst the political climate we are in. Circumstances haven’t changed, but our outlook has. I feel more optimistic than I have in a long time. These songs are coming from a fun lace — not in a poppy, light way, but in a brighter view of the light guiding our writing processes.”

Centered by shimmering and arpeggiated synths, thumping beats, ethereal vocals, thumping polyrhythm and a soaring hook, the Phoenix duo’s latest single “Some Days” is a hopeful song; the sort of song that reflects narrators, who finally see a sunny day after some painful and dark days — and are actively trying to look forward towards the future. As Mickey Pangburn explains the song “is [a] step into the light. A reigning of some sense of anticipation.  A warm look back on where all our dreams came from and an honest, hopeful look forward. It could be interpreted as an airy love song . . . but it’s really about any deep love we have (be it [a] person, or as in our case — an idea).”

 

 

 

Interview: A Q&A with Mike Bell Co-Founder of New Colossus Festival

Co-founded by three New York music industry vets and longtime friends, Lorimer Beacon‘s founder and head Mike Bell, Kanine Records‘ founder and label head Lio Kanine and Kepler Events and Piano’s Steven Matrick, the inaugural New Colossus Festival, which will take place March 7, 2019 – March 10, 2019, will feature more than 100 handpicked, emerging indie bands and artists from the US, Canada, the UK and the European Union. Interestingly, the new festival takes place the week before SXSW, and that was by design: the festival’s co-founders view the inaugural run of their festival as a stopover that will give these emerging acts an opportunity to play at curated showcases at 6 different venues across Manhattan’s Lower East Side and East Village (Berlin Under A, Coney Island Baby, Pianos, The Bowery Electric, Arlene’s Grocery, and The Delancey for fans and industry professionals alike.

Additionally, the festival will feature a Kick Off Party at Piano’s that features local shoegazers No Swoon, a full kick off day that features afternoon industry panels and an opening happy hour.

As co-founder Steven Matrick told BrooklynVegan last December, the festival’s co-founders are aiming for a CMJ-like vibe. “CMJ left such a vacuum, not only for independent music venues, but for bands all over the world that used it as a way to play New York City every year,” Matrick told BrooklynVegan. “We chose a very convenient weekend to try to bring back that opportunity. We’d also been discussing a way for these venues to work together again and resurrect the collaborative aspect of Manhattan’s music scene.”

I recently got in touch with New Colossus co-founder Mike Bell by email to chat about the  festival, its timing, what makes it different than SXSW and other festivals and more. Check out a playlist featuring the festival’s artists — and then the interview, below.

 

 

 

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WRH: You’re one of the founders of NYC’s newest festival The New Colossus Festival, which begins its inaugural run next week. The timing is interesting because it’s a week before SXSW in Austin. What inspired you and your team to do The New Colossus Festival? How is it different from SXSW or from the countless other festivals that will take place over the course of the calendar year?

Mike Bell: The timing is no accident. I’ve been pretty connected with the international music community for over a decade and felt that NYC could be more “available” to artists as they pass through and head to Austin. Putting international bands together with some great local acts in a showcase set-up seemed to be the best way to be more impactful for the artists vs. booking a show on their own.

The entire idea behind The New Colossus Festival is to present great new music in a live setting. That’s really it. We don’t have brands doing activities or headliners who don’t need to be “discovered”.

WRH: What will the average concertgoer get from the New Colossus Festival and its showcases?

MB: This festival has been fully curated in-house and we truly feel the quality of the handpicked line-ups will speak for themselves.

WRH: From the flyer, there looks to be about 100 bands playing showcases during the festival’s three days.  A lot of those bands are American or Canadian but there’s a fair amount of international representation. How were the participating bands chosen?

MB: We have a lot of Canadian acts! Speaking of which, we are doing an event Thursday night at Coney Island Baby featuring an all Canadian line-up headlined by Dusted (Brian of Holy Fuck).

Mostly, the booking decisions were based on bands we like and had relationships with their teams.

WRH: Everyone who has gotten into music is a fan of someone. As a fan, is there anyone that you’re looking forward to see at New Colossus? Are there any dream bands you’d love to have play the festival, if you had unlimited money, etc. etc.?

MB: There are some bands I’m absolutely planning on catching. In the spirit of creating a level playing field for all the bands who are performing, I’d really rather not call any out by name publicly. Come find me and I’ll tell you who I’m going to see. 🙂

WRH: There are also a number of interesting panels during the afternoon, covering a number of topics including the importance of an indie label, finding your own formula in changing landscape, obtaining a visa to work  and play gigs in the States, and mental health in music. How did you and your fellow founders find the speakers?

MB: We decided to do the panels as a way to offer the bands something more than just a stage to play on. This is for them to learn, network, and grow. The topics were chosen based on input from the industry and the panelists are mostly all friends of ours

WRH: There are a lot of moving parts in a festival, especially one that features as many bands as yours. How long did it take for you and the team to plan, book and promote it? When will you begin work on the 2020 festival?

MB: I teamed up with Lio [Kanine] and Steven [Matrick] fall of 2017 to do a TNC day party at Pianos which happened almost exactly a year ago. This was more or less a soft launch. The event we put together went very well and so we decided to go all in for this year. Planning for 2019 began pretty soon after our 2018 event ended in March. 2020 planning has already begun.

WRH: Venues like Piano’s, Arlene’s Grocery, Berlin Under A and others will be hosting showcases. How did they get involved? With the Sidewalk Café closing, is there an even bigger impetus for keeping the festival in the Lower East Side? Do you foresee participating venues in Brooklyn or elsewhere, like what eventually happened with CMJ?

MB: We started with Pianos and went to venues who were nearby with the idea that we wanted to present great new music from around the world. We do not plan to expand beyond a walkable distance and plan to keep everything as tight as possible.

The idea with doing this on the Lower East Side made the most sense to us. It’s the most music friendly neighborhood in the city even though venue closings have been happening. Historically, this is where many people from around the world came to and lived when starting out the US. There are so many creatives who got their start there from the mid-19th century on the Bowery to today.

WRH: Where do you see the festival going in the 3-5 years?

MB: Hopefully still going! We want to grow and are looking at ways of expanding in ways that make sense while maintaining our goal of putting the music first.

WRH: What’s next for you and your colleagues?

MB: A little rest a little reflection… then onto 2020 planning\

 

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If you’re a rabidly voracious music fan, who wants to brag about catching acts before anyone else heard of them, New Colossus may be for you — festival badges are for the entire 4 day and 3 night run are $50. You can buy a badge here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-new-colossus-festival-tickets-53519054934

I’ll be covering the inaugural New Colossus Festival. Check out the following social media outlets for my coverage, photos and more.

Twitter: @yankee32879

Twitter: @williamhelms3rd

Instagram: @william_ruben_helms