Tag: music festivals

Interview: A Q&A with The Wild Honey Pie and Welcome Campers Founder Eric Weiner

Eric Weiner was a University of Colorado student, studying in London when he created The Wild Honey Pie (which of course, derives its name from a Beatles’ tune) in 2009 as a way to turn his personal music blog into an accessible destination to find the best emerging music. By the next year, Weiner had relocated to New York where the previously solo project expanded into a collection of music loving creatives, who had a shared passion for and mission of discovering emerging acts and sharing those discoveries with larger audiences. Initially employing humble, DIY methods of covering artists – Flip video cameras and Zoom audio recorders – the Wild Honey Pie team began shooting live music performances with any artists they liked, who would be willing to give them the time. Starting with Freelance Whales, they eventually began filming local and touring artists. And by the end of their first year in New York, the site hosted their first event.

Within the first few years of their founding, Weiner and company began to see that the blogosphere was rapidly shifting: the widespread appeal of heading to your favorite blogs to download free MP3s was quickly supplanted by streaming platforms. To adapt, The Wild Honey Pie began producing more video content, made audio recordings available and refined their events strategy to focus on events that built genuine relationships between artists and fans. Over the past couple of years, The Wild Honey Pie has hosted a curated, monthly Dinner Party series in a handful of cities including New York, Los Angeles and Austin. The Dinner Party series has been specifically designed to change the rock and pop concert experience by offering attendees an opportunity to have a curated three course meal, specialty cocktails and Brooklyn Brewery beers — while enjoying an intimate performance from a buzzworthy artist. Since they started the series, they’ve hosted the likes of Computer Magic, Henry JamisonPlastic PicnicMipsoZuliTorres, JOVM mainstays Caveman and a growing list of others.

Additionally, over the past few years, The Wild Honey Pie has hosted their own music festival Welcome Campers. Typically taking place during Memorial Day Weekend at Camp Lenox in the bucolic Berkshires, Welcome Campers is an adult summer camp meets music festival that brings together 400 people for three days and two nights of summertime nostalgia with food, drinks, communal accommodations and live music.

 

WC_20_poster_WEB_v02

 

 

Late last month, I had interviewed the Wild Honey Pie and Welcome Campers founder Eric Weiner about this year’s festival with the intention of posting the interview after I had finished my coverage of this year’s New Colossus Festival.  When the World Health Organization declared COVID 19 a pandemic, the world was turned on its head: New York State, California, Illinois, the UK and The European Union have forced bars, clubs, restaurants, theaters to closed to help prevent COVID-19’s spread. Naturally, this has had a devastating impact on the music industry: festivals have been canceled or postponed, and the same goes for tour dates for artists of all stripes. The first part of interview Weiner talks about the inspiration behind Welcome Campers, how it differs from the prototypical festival experience, the other activities they offer – it’s an adult summer camp after all! – and more.

The other day, I followed up with Weiner. Because he runs a company with a significant focus on live events, I asked him how COVID-19 will impact his business, his thoughts on how the virus will impact live music and events and the immediate future of Welcome Campers.

Let’s not pretend that things are rainbows and flowers. Admittedly, things are dire – and they will be for some time. But we will get through this. In the meantime, we can all dream of our childhoods when things seemed so much simpler, so much more certain. Hopefully, we can get some of the back.

Check out the interview below.

WRH: What inspired the creation of Welcome Campers?

Eric Weiner: I’m a camp kid! I went to summer camp growing up and then went back as a counselor and even through the homesickness found myself absolutely in the love with the community I was surrounded by. I played baseball, I was Snoopy in a musical, I competed in color war, I went all out as a camper. The carefree love of that energy is what we always hope to harness with Welcome Campers.

WRH: How did The Wild Honey Pie find Camp Lenox?

EW: One of our team members at the time went there as a kid and the rest is history. We hosted Welcome Campers there in 2014 then went to Camp Champions near Austin, Texas in 2015 and have been at Camp Lenox again ever since. They are like family at this point.

WRH: The Wild Honey Pie can trace its origins back to being a humble blog. Over the years, it still retains elements of the blog, through curated playlists and live sessions, and curated events – like your ongoing dinner party series and the aforementioned Welcome Campers. From hosting and sponsoring your own events, this will may be an obvious question: How does Welcome Campers differ from the countless other festivals on the packed calendar year?

EW: A humble blog! We love the fact that we were not founded as a business but as a passion project that has grown to mean so much to so many people. Welcome Campers is an adult summer camp music festival and the order of those words means a lot. We offer a combo of activities that no other festival does. We bring together an incredibly unique community of music lovers for a weekend that incubates love and positive energy. You can party if you want at camp, but that’s not what the weekend is about. We have the curation of the music to thank for that—artists who embody the sort of vibe we want to spread throughout the weekend.

You watch from just feet away from the performer instead of hundreds of yards. It’s not about the spectacle, it’s about the community and people you meet, artists included. It’s about feeling comfortable and safe and not being surrounded by tens of thousands of people. We cannot say it enough, we look to break down the barrier between artist and fan—and that impossible at cookie cutter music festivals as we know them. We have created an inclusive weekend where the nostalgia of summer camp collides with emerging artists who we love.

WRH: How does this year’s Welcome Campers differ from last year’s and its predecessors?

EW: We are pretty damn happy with the model we’ve worked on for the last 8 years but have a few tweaks we’re making. We are expecting more people this year than any other year, so we do need to prepare for that to avoid any lines at the bar or for food. Lines suck! We are making sure the check-in process is more seamless than ever, that everyone has camp maps anytime they need them. We’re coming up with some wild and creative food upgrades with our grilled cheese food truck partner, vegan options included of course. Speaking of which we will have more plant-based options than ever before.

We have a special focus this year on mindfulness and will have a sound bath, mediations, yoga and tarot card readings. Welcome Campers is meant to be a vacation, not a festival you need a vacation after. The same cannot be said for most large-scale music experiences.

WRH: I went to one of the Wild Honey Pie Dinner Parties and I know that you’re quite the foodie. I happen to enjoy food as much as I enjoy music. So, two related questions: How did you come up with this year’s music lineup? What’s the food situation like? What would attendees expect in terms of food and drink?

EW: We go with artists who truly inspire us. Artists like Vagabon and SASAMI as well as Ayoni and Sir Woman. We try to work with artists we’ve collaborated with before and have a bunch of artists on the bill that have been involved with us multiple times in the past.

Food and drink are complimentary all weekend long with the exception of the food truck. It is camp food so expect fries and a massive salad bar, burgers, pasta dishes and more. Our campers are always satisfied but we are striving to make some major upgrades here this year. We are excited to announce that it will be a fully vegetarian festival as well. We have White Claw as a partner so there is that to be excited about. Beer and other spirits will be on the house as well.

WRH: Besides live music, there are other campground activities like kayaking, swimming, basketball, ping pong, dodgeball, volleyball, a nature hike, trivia and yoga among others. There’s also meditation this year, which seems to be a first. How did yoga and meditation wind up being included with the more nostalgic and playful activities?

EW: I started doing TM this year after years of my dad trying to get me into it. Meditation and mindfulness in general are so key to the future of what we plan to do and we think Welcome Campers is a great place to see if our community is into it. We did a sound bath at our office the other day and it was incredible. People are gonna freak out. These activities are also found at more and more summer camps for kids too. Meditation is for everyone!

WRH: When the festival ends, what will be next for you and The Wild Honey Pie? 

EW: We have some big plans for the summer and will continue to expand our dinner party series to more cities. We are also working on a music podcast about food. Honestly once Welcome Campers is over, we will start working on Campers 2021 and talking to companies who believe in our mission and vision and want to support us into the future. We have a ton of video products in the works as well coming off the heels of our collaboration with Eric Clapton last December. Stay tuned.

WRH: I was covering The New Colossus Festival last weekend when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Understandably, that announcement had a major impact on attendance. Festivals have rescheduled or cancelled. Shortly after that, several states — including New York – have forced bars, clubs and restaurants to close. How has this impacted you and the events end of Wild Honey Pie’s business?

EW: Like everyone in the world, we have been affected. Luckily our team can work remotely, as they largely already do, but we’ve had to cancel all our upcoming dinner party concerts. We are putting more of an emphasis than ever on our Buzzsession videos, which artists across the world are self-producing, and we have a podcast in the works. We will also be relaunching our website next month. We’re being very precautious about Welcome Campers.

WRH: Do you anticipate COVID-19 changing how people enjoy and consume live music?

EW: We’re seeing a huge explosion in live streams which is amazing. So many concerts you can see from your couch! I’m expecting artists will be releasing more video content than ever and doing more interviews. Merch sales will hopefully go up as artists are in dire need to support themselves and a huge chunk of their revenue has been wiped out with the cancellation of tours.

WRH: In light of everything, what are your plans with Welcome Campers? When things get back to normal, what would the festival do to alleviate people’s fears of contracting virus like COVID-19?

EW: We’re absolutely still planning on hosting Welcome Campers this summer but are considering all our options. It’s about as intimate of a festival as they come with only 300 attendees and from my perspective seems like a safer bet than a 100,000 person festival. That’s up to attendees to decide. We will take every precaution to make sure camp is as safe as possible with endless sanitation stations, cleaning crews constantly wiping down surfaces, not allowing self-serving of food, less campers per bunk and more. If we can’t make it safe, we won’t do it. The safety of our campers, team and the artists is our top priority. Right now, it’s just too early to say with everything going on and, to be frank, hard to think about with the severity of everything going on. We’re deeply concerned about the state of the world and what this means for musicians and the arts more specifically. If you have the means, please consider donating to an artists’ fund or your local food bank.

 

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

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 Lola Live’s Steven Matrick, the second annual The New Colossus Festival, which will take place on March 11, 2020 – March 15, 2020 will feature more than 100 handpicked, emerging indie bands and artists from the US, Canada, the UK, the European Union, Australia, and Singapore. By design, the festival takes place just before SXSW: the festival’s co-founders view the festival as a pre-SXSW stopover that will give its emerging acts an opportunity to organically gain exposure – while filling a critical void in the festival circuit.

The festival’s second year finds the festival expanding by leaps and bounds: while still featuring showcases at venues across the East Village and Lower East Side including Berlin Under A, Lola NYC, Pianos, The Bowery Electric, Arlene’s Grocery and The Delancey, the festival has expanded to feature showcases at two beloved New York institutions – The Bowery Ballroom and the recently added MOSCOT Eyewear, as well as Ludlow House.

TNC20-SchedulePoster-R18-WebMockup-4x5

Of course, New Colossus offers adventurous fans and music industry insiders alike an opportunity to catch many of these emerging and buzzworthy bands before SXSW – and in many cases, the festival will offer the unique opportunity of catching some of these acts playing their first Stateside shows ever. Personally, I’m looking forward to catching JOVM mainstays The Orielles, Summer Heart and A Place to Bury Strangers, along with Beverly Kills, Hanya, Bodywash (who I caught at M for Montreal last year) and Jackie – but I’m also looking forward to some serendipitous discovery of new acts and the opportunity run into old friends, and to network and meet new friends and colleagues. And much like its inaugural year, the second New Colossus Festival will also feature panels and talks that will be of interest to the music community.

I got in touch with New Colossus Festival co-founder Mike Bell by email to chat about the second edition of the festival – primarily its rapid expansion, the founders hope for the future and more. Check it out below.

__

WRH: This year is the second New Colossus Festival. In terms of the festival, what makes this year’s edition different than last year?

Mike Bell: We’re thrilled to be back!  This year we’ve grown from 6 venues to 9 venues while still keeping everything within walking distance on the Lower East Side.  We added MOSCOT Eyewear on Orchard Street as a venue, which will host shows all day Friday. It’s pretty exciting to be teaming up with a wonderful Lower East Side institution.   We also added an after-party at Ludlow House on Thursday and a late show featuring our friends A Place To Bury Strangers at Bowery Ballroom on Friday.

WRH: The second edition of New Colossus features a packed lineup of over 100 bands. Much like last year, there’s a big representation of Canadian acts. But I also see a few Norwegian acts, a few Spanish acts, a fair number of British acts, an Irish act or two, a couple of Austrian acts, an Irish act or two, an Australian act and even an act from Singapore on the bill. Was there anything specifically that changed in how acts were chosen and booked this year?

MB: Our prime motive is always the quality of the music and how it makes us feel. We’re booking bands who play music that we love.  We aren’t targeting a band from Djibouti because they’re from Djibouti. If there’s a great band from anywhere in the world that is able to make it to NYC and are serious about their careers as professional musicians, we’ll certainly consider them.   I will say that there are great festivals and conferences like Halifax Pop Explosion, Focus Wales, The Great Escape and Music Finland that have flown us out to find talent because their governments support exporting their music and art.

WRH: Who comes up with the festival playlist?

MB: That’s all Steven [Matrick]! He’s really good at it and puts a lot of thought into song placement. He’s been sending out playlists to his friends for many years.  You can hear his “Best of 2019” here:

WRH: This year’s festival sees the addition of two new venues – Ludlow House and the biggest venue in the festival’s history to date, Bowery Ballroom, which will host arguably the most talked about showcase of the entire festival. Does this give you and the organizers a sense of an even bigger future for New Colossus?

MB: By the time your readers see this, we’ll have announced MOSCOT as another venue that will be hosting bands all day Friday, March 13, with our friends from AdHoc. As mentioned previously, MOSCOT has been part of the Lower East Side community for over 100 years. They’re also a huge supporter of music so it made a lot of sense to team up with them.

The Bowery Ballroom show is a big deal and we’re super excited about it. However, we really don’t see this as a showcase nor as a “headline” show. We definitely don’t want to be the kind of festival that makes fans choose between seeing a more established band versus a smaller one. A Place to Bury Strangers are part of our TNC family and we see their show as another awesome band for festival attendees to see after the other showcases have ended.  That said, Bowery Ballroom is a great venue and we hope to expand and do more shows with them next year.

WRH: Festivals like Winter Jazz Fest, New Colossus, SXSW and other festivals with a conference segment have featured talks covering a variety of subjects of importance to their audiences, which will predominantly be musicians, music industry professionals and journalists. How did you and the organizing team come up with the subjects for the various talks that will happen this year?

MB: The topics we chose were the ones that we felt were most useful and interesting to the bands playing the festival. We feel it is important to include speakers who would be the most likely to connect with the artists in a meaningful way.  In the age of declining record sales, Indie labels, sync and touring have become vital to survive as a musician.  The other panels are on activism, mental health and the history of music in NYC, all very relevant to the bands playing our festival.

WRH: Besides making a living off your art and passion, and how to survive the touring life, one of the biggest issues that concern musicians, music industry types and those who love them is their mental health and wellness. A portion of my readers aren’t music industry insiders. Can you talk a bit about why having discussions on the subject of mental health and wellness is so important for the music community as a whole?

MB: Mental health and wellness is something we need to talk about as much as possible. Professional artists’ lives and livelihoods are dependent on maintaining their wellbeing. We are here are for the artist and want to help them with their careers, which includes making sure that issues like mental health are not stigmatized and that they addressed in an open form.  Most touring musicians spend a huge percentage of their lives in bars at music venues and it is a struggle for everyone single one of them to be healthy and sane while touring.

WRH: Simon Raymonde and The Charlatans UK’s Tim Burgess DJ’ing a New Colossus After Party? Holy shit, dude. So, how did that happen?  

MB: It’s pretty amazing! Tim is also playing his first US solo shows at the festival. Lio has been friends with Simon and his wife Abbey for years and we all love their label Bella Union. In the end it really all came down to them believing and understanding what this festival is all about.  Bella Union also sent us two of our favorite bands Penelope Isles and Lowly last year, and Pom Poko and Dog In the Snow this year, as well as the legendary Tim Burgess of the Charlatans.

WRH: Where do you see the direction of the festival next year?

MB: We are already thinking about what we’ll do for 2021 and have some plans that involve integrating more with the community and the neighborhood as a whole. We’d love too partner with a backline company and do more pop up shows in art galleries and stores.

For more information on the festival, including badge and ticket information, check out the Festival’s home page: https://www.newcolossusfestival.com

I’ll be covering New Colossus’ second edition. You can check out festival coverage here:

Twitter: @yankee32879

@williamhelms3rd

Instagram: @william_ruben_helms

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

 

__

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.

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.

__

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/