Interview: Toronto/Chicago musician, Deanna Devore

Toronto/Chicago electronic R&B songstress, Deanna Devore, began writing music at a young age and is making waves with her sound. Her latest EP, half and half, released September of this year is a smooth mixture of down-tempo electronic and R&B. Below we discuss her musical beginnings, concert highlights and much more.

 

 

MFL: I see you are based out of Chicago and Toronto. What pulls you to each location and how do the music scenes in each place differ?

Deanna Devore (DD): They’re both such great cities – and also quite similar. I love Toronto’s diversity and Chicago’s architecture. The music scenes definitely feel different – I think Toronto may have more of the “Drake” sound happening and Chicago has a lot of folk/americana. With that said, both cities definitely have other genres going on too.

 

MFL: You have been releasing music since 2007/2008. How has your music evolved and changed since your first releases?

DD: I would say that all 3 of my albums have a similar mix of electronic and acoustic elements, but my most recent album, “half and half” has a little more of a RnB/jazz influence. 

 

MFL: On a similar note, how do you think access to music (streaming etc) has changed your experience as an artist over the last 10 years?

DD: The music business has definitely changed over the years! You just have to adjust accordingly. Social media has been a great way to connect, and that didn’t exist in the same way 10 years ago. 

 

MFL: Tell me about your musical beginnings. How and when did music become part of your life and when did you know that you wanted it to be a career?

DD: Music has been a huge part of my life since I was a little kid. I have a musical family. I started playing instruments and writing at a young age and always felt like I needed to do it professionally. 

 

MFL: What are you doing when you’re not writing, recording or performing your own music?

DD: I’m also a teacher at a music school, so I teach a lot of classes including guitar and songwriting. But when I’m not doing anything music related, I like to cook and check out new bars and restaurants in the city. 

 

MFL: What is the order of events for your songwriting process and is there a particular time of day or night that inspiration seems to strike most naturally?

DD: Time of the day doesn’t matter. It happens when I sit down with an instrument, likely guitar. I start with the music. So a song will start when I am playing around with the guitar and find something I like, a chord progression that inspires me to continue. From there, I write a vocal melody. And then do the same thing for all the sections of the song – verse, chorus, bridge etc. The lyrics usually come last. 

 

MFL: Who inspires you musically and how do you use that inspiration in your music or your intentions to write/release music?

DD: I’ve been listening to a lot of downtempo electronic Rnb/neo soul, so I would say that inspires my production and sound overall. 

 

MFL: It looks like you’ve gotten to share the stage with some big names at some fabulous festivals! Touch on some highlights of these experiences.  

DD: Yeah I’ve had some great shows! One that stands out in particular was opening for Jamie Cullum. This wasn’t at a festival, but at a venue, playing in front of 900 attentive listeners, solo. It was a surreal experience having that many people quiet and listening. 

 

MFL: Where do you see your music taking you in 2019 and what do we have to look forward to?

DD: I just got back from tour and have switched gears by going into the studio. I started recording a new single that I’m really excited about. So I’ll be releasing that in 2019! 

Playlist: Winter 2018 Vol. I

Interview: Danish duo, ARES

Line Mortensen and Louise Andersen are based out of Copenhagen, a place in my opinion that is absolutely bursting at the seams with fresh musical talent. The duo releases their music under the name ARES and have slowly been releasing bits and pieces from their debut EP. We discussed their music, upcoming EP due out November 30th and much more in the interview below! Their excitement and passion for creating music is palpable!

 

MFL: Who is in ARES and when did you come together to form this project?

ARES: We are duo that consists of Line Mortensen and Louise Andersen. We met when we attended a music school some years back, where we lived in the rooms next to each other and quickly became friends. After we finished the courses at the school, we both moved to Copenhagen, and after some time of writing songs for fun, we decided that we wanted to start a band. After trying out some different things, writing a lot of songs and playing some concerts, we wanted to release our debut EP as ARES, and now it’s finally ready.

 

MFL: I know it can be difficult to pinpoint your “genre” of music but if you were to try, what genre would you call your music?

ARES: It seems that a lot of artist sometimes are afraid to be labelled as “pop artists”, but we most certainly are not. We love pop music, and we write pop music. Each song has its own specific sound, but overall we call it pop, and definitely with a big electronic influence.

 

MFL: You mentioned that “All I See” was showing a new side of ARES. What is it about “All I See” that feels or sounds different than your previous releases?

ARES: Before “All I See” we had already released the two singles “Strangers” and “Lost My Mind” which was both kind of dark and heavy. Both of those singles circled around the subjects of heartbreak and darkness, and with “All I See” we took a chance and released a light, catchy and romantic song about love. We don’t write a lot of “positive” songs, but we really had fun with this one, and wanted to show that ARES is not just about heartbreak and sadness, haha!

 

MFL: Where in Denmark are you based out of and how does your location/local music scene influence your sound?

ARES: None of us are from Copenhagen, but we both moved here about five years ago, and we love it here. There’s a big upcoming music scene with lots of opportunities for bands like us. Right now a lot of artists who are writing in Danish are becoming popular, but writing in Danish just does not come that easily to us (yet!), so we will stick to English for now. We try to stand out from the rest of the upcoming bands and do not have a fear of sounding too “pop”-ish.

 

MFL: What can we expect from your forthcoming EP?

ARES: You can expect an emotional ride in our lyrical universe and soundscape. We strive to be very honest in our songs and in our musical vision in general, and we hope our listeners can hear how much time and love we poured into this EP.

 

 

 

 

MFL: Who are some of the most influential Danish musicians out there for you right now?

ARES: Uh, there’s so many! Right now we’re very inspired by the crazy talented Kwamie Liv, who just released her debut-album. Her voice and songs always delivers so much nerve and her musical universe is so simple yet at the same time extremely powerful and we love that!

 

MFL: Who do you go to for recording/mixing and why did you choose them for your sound?

ARES: We are working with the amazing danish producer Frederik Falk, who not only loves the same music as we do, but also has a gift of translating the sounds we describe from inside our heads. He really just gets our sound universe and always listens to us even though we sometimes might be a bit hard to work with because we’re both extreme perfectionists.

 

MFL: Finally, what does 2019 hold for ARES?

ARES: Uhh, so many plans. we’re very excited about 2019. We are ready to work our asses off to share our music and project with as many as possible. We’re gonna play a lot of concerts and probably work on both visuals and more releases. We’re both filled with so many ambitious ideas for the project and we can’t wait to get started on creating more!

 

You can follow ARES on Facebook and Spotify.

PHOTO CREDIT: Louise Mortensen

Interview: For Esmé

Toronto singer/songwriter, Mar Meredith (AKA For Esmé), and I have been emailing back and forth for the last couple of years. The music she shares with me always highlights a sense of female empowerment and self-awareness that was relevant when our musical relationship began and is even more relevant now. Mar’s music is steeped in meaning, her lyrics deep in thought. She recently released the music video for her latest single, “Modern Love.” Together with director Nick Tiringer, they captured the essence of “Modern Love” in a visual form. The video and single were greatly inspired by Joan Didion’s 1961 essay, “On Self Respect.” Mar discussed this and much more with me in detail. Enjoy the video and read all about it below:

 

 

MFL: When did music become an integral part of your life and when was For Esme born?

Music has been pretty central for as long as I can remember. I grew up on a farm outside a small town, so music always made me feel connected to a broader world and big ideas that I craved having more access to.

For Esmé came into being in 2013 and has had a rotating cast depending on what I’m making and working on. It was inspired by J.D. Salinger’s ‘For Esme with Love and Squalor’. I’ve recently learned some troubling stuff about Salinger, which has called the band name into question in a new light. The character Esmé is this very precocious thirteen-year-old girl though, who is sharp as a tack and wants to be a jazz singer. She’s very outspoken — arguably rude — while trying to sound sophisticated. Regardless of my thoughts on Salinger I still feel very beholden to the character Esmé and like to imagine now writing these songs of empowerment for her, or a modern version of her.

 

MFL: You mention the essay, “On Self Respcet”, by Joan Didion as a “bible/map” for you. How did Joan Didion’s essay find you or rather, how did you find it?

I seem to remember first reading it soon after moving into the first apartment I ever had to myself. I remember scrawling “Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs” on a post-it note and sticking it right on the front face of my desktop. It stayed there for years until I switched over to a laptop full time. It felt really important to remember that. I think social connectedness/social media makes it especially hard for us to center ourselves in our own character, to be true to ourselves and not fret over everyone else’s opinions of us. But like Joan Didion says “the dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others—who are, after all, deceived easily enough”. It’s easy to fool other people, but the person you have to face at the end of the day is yourself — and whether or not YOU like what you see is what determines your own sense of fulfillment.

 

MFL: It seems like you have spent a lot of time thinking about self-care and self-respect. When did you know that you wanted to write a song about it?

My interest in song writing has almost always been about self-discovery. About knowing myself, speaking through my truest voice. I find that society makes doing that hard — truth telling is not ultimately encouraged or appreciated in our glossy Instagram world. I read a fascinating and rather heartbreaking report in the Atlantic called “The Confidence Gap” that described in a lot of detail the way women in our culture are brought up to be less sure of themselves, to be less outspoken. I also read a lot about female anger and the ways that it is treated very differently from male anger. I think the emotional display by Brett Kavanaugh the week before last is an interesting (and frustrating) example. If a woman had behaved that way she would have been ripped to shreds for being overly emotional, defensive, shrill. It’s such a double standard. Anyway, I read a lot of psychology studies about these things when writing the record and it really enforced the importance of self-care and self-respect. Of believing in yourself, listening to yourself, speaking your truth. A lot of the songs on the record wrestle with frustration, so Modern Love is a nice break from that: it’s a big affirmation.

 

MFL: Do you feel a certain level of release/relief when you write, record and share a song about something that has occupied this much space in your mind? Explain.

Absolutely. To be honest, turning a deeply internalized feeling, or a realization about myself into a song that feels so right and true is the greatest high I probably ever experience in life. It’s euphoric, it’s a huge sense of emotional release and relief, like a puzzle solved at last. That high is a rare occurrence, and one that I find I’m always chasing. It can be such a long stretch between those emotional/musical victories. Releasing the song can also bring relief, in the sense of getting some validation, but I find public validation doesn’t have the same longevity or substance as the personal creative victory does.

 

MFL: How did you and Nick Tiringer, the director of the music video for “Modern Love”, come to work together?

 Nick reached out to me about making a video and had a few ideas. As soon as I read the one about women singing the song to themselves in the mirror it was just “BINGO.” In writing the song I’d thought a lot about it being like a post-it note you’d stick to your mirror, to remind you to love yourself, to practice self-respect. Kind of like the Joan Didion post-it I had for myself. It just fit the intention of the song perfectly.

 

MFL: What was it about the collection of women you chose for your music video that spoke to the idea behind the song?

Nick and I, and our producer Amanda Foates all reached out to different women in our circles to be in the video, and we were thrilled with the response. It was important to me that the video show that women of all ages, backgrounds and aesthetics need daily affirmations from themselves. It was so special for me to watch all these different folks interpret my words in their own way in that little bathroom. It made my heart swell.

 

MFL: Why is the track called “Modern Love?” Is there something new about this kind of self-respect or perhaps it’s something that has gotten lost and needs to be regained in society?

I got engaged not too long before writing this song, and I was surprised and frustrated with how I felt people were treating the event as ‘the biggest accomplishment of my life’. I didn’t feel like my now husband was treated that same way at all. It felt like women’s lives are so often defined by their relationships to men. The hardest part was realizing that in my past I had sometimes defined myself by my ability to attract and maintain relationships with men I was infatuated with and I hated that. So I wanted to send a message to myself and to contemporary women at large that we are enough, we are complete on our own, that rather than obsessing about finding love from someone else, we have to focus on loving ourselves.

 

MFL: How has your music changed or developed over time since the beginnings of For Esme?

If you hear anything from my first (self-titled) record in 2013 you’ll hear a pretty drastic change from that to the next two. At the time I was writing all my songs at the piano and they were accompanied by electric guitar. I hadn’t started writing and producing my work electronically yet then — I don’t think I had even considered that I was capable! Starting to demo songs in logic and create the soundscapes myself with arpeggiators, plugins, delays, it all opened up a whole new world. Suddenly I had the tools to make a kind of music I had always enjoyed consuming. Now my knowledge about electronic production has grown immensely, and I feel the need to actually hone it in again. To make my next collection with a more narrowed scope and focus and really develop a specific new sound palette.

 

MFL: What is in store for the remainder of 2018 and next year?

Coming up right away we have shows in Quebec City, Ottawa, Toronto, Peterborough and Kingston that we’re really looking forward to. Once that wraps up I am really looking forward to spending November furthering the new songs I’ve been working on. I also have a great video collaboration with Laura Lynn Petrick to release in the near future! In January we are excited to be heading out to the east coast for the first time to play In The Dead Of Winter Festival in Halifax. We are working now on routing more tour dates around that. It is my hope to travel to the West Coast early next year, too. We have a lot of listeners out there and have yet to go.

 

Big thanks to Mar Meredith for continuing our musical friendship and taking the time to share her thoughts with MFL and all its readers. You can follow her on Facebook, her official website, and Spotify. Her latest record, Righteous Woman, is out now.

Featured Image PC: Vanessa Heins

Album Review: “Keep Your Batteries Warm” by Josa Barck

The space-time that Danish musician, Josa Barck, lives, breathes and creates within is one of vibrant sound and color. Thankfully for us, he is willing to share that universe and invites us to find a place for ourselves within it. Josa Barck is the anagram for musician/producer, Jacob Rask, who following nearly a decade of working with other Danish musicians like Alphabeat and The Broken Beats, has sought out a new niche. For him, creating music is not only his passion but a need/void he must fill.

 

Jacob Rask: “To me, it is about taking responsibility to create the world I demand to live in, and taking control over the culture. I make the music that I feel is missing and that I wish to hear. It wasn’t there before, so I had to make it myself.”

 

The classically trained musician spent five of his 15-year career with his saxophone at the Royal Danish Academy of music and in 2015, Rask released his debut record, Eurkea, in which he swapped out his saxophone for a guitar. Eureka is a collection of eight subdued and thoughtfully created tracks with gentle vocals and introspective lyrics. Race forward to 2018 where we all anxiously await the release of his sophomore full length, Keep Your Batteries Warm. This record is built from the same scaffolding of Eureka but is reinforced, decorated and draped in new rich, exciting and decadent colors that celebrate this life we live within despite the trying times we all face. When Rask was asked about the title of this new record, he gave both a short and a long answer. The short answer was simple, he liked the way those words fit and flowed together. On the contrary, the title also goes below the surface.

 

Jacob Rask: “’Keep Your Batteries Warm’ is really just my own little 2018 updated version of the old saying ‘Keep Your Powder Dry’. To be prepared for battles ahead. But to me it’s a bit more two sided. I definitely believe there is battles ahead of us, if we hope to create a better world. Not necessarily fighting in the street and such, but one way or the other…At the same time, ‘Keep Your Batteries Warm’ is about optimism and hope. And that something good is on its way. Like: ‘Hang in there, everything will be all right.’”

 

Earlier this year, he released the second single off the album, “Everybody Everywhere.” It’s a fast-paced rolling track that features a completely different vocal quality from Rask compared to Eureka. His voice demands your attention not only to the sounds he’s creating but also the lyrics and the message he is conveying to you. Over and over again he says:

“That’s what everybody wants,

That’s what everybody hunts.”

 

 

The single is the second track on the record, following “Pattern Pageantry”, a pulsing instrumental introduction. It is about the lifelong search we all endure for love and how we all feel that we need to be everywhere at once, experiencing everything all at once in order to succeed. In the words of Rask, “I recognize the search for love as a driving force behind everything I do, but I am beginning to learn, that the search of love, is not so much about chasing something I lack in my life, as it is about perceiving the love that I am slowly realizing, is everywhere all the time too.”

 

Following “Everybody Everywhere” is “Salute”, which was the first single Rask released after Eureka. These two tracks give listeners who know Josa Barck’s music something familiar to suck them into the record before he launches them unforgivingly into the rest of the album. “Clandestine” is a celebratory and trilling track, while “Everywhere at Once” is a nod back to the single, “Everyone Everywhere.” It has overlap in mood, lyricism and concept but it is a slightly more restrained iteration. It is a reminder to the listeners of the message Josa Barck is trying to convey: keep looking for love, everywhere and you will find it because it is already there.

Other tracks like “Neverhours” and “Bantam” are adventurous, dream-like works of art that pull you deep into this effervescent universe that Rask has created on Keeping Your Batteries Warm. Repetitive lyrics, chants sung in harmonies and rounds, and whimsical sound effects bring a childlike sense of joy and revel to the record. Rask really taps into that sense of wonder on “People Reflect the Weather.” The track builds slowly to a most glorious place where it hovers, and gently returns to where it started.

Keep Your Batteries Warm is due out October 19th through Tangleville Records in cooperation with Wonderwhy Music Company and Pop-Up Records. You can follow Josa Barck on Facebook, Spotify, and his official website.

Interview: Synthedelic rockers, Eldren

Pysch-pop synthedelic rockers, Eldren, are back with their sophomore record, Miss Information Aged. The record was released on September 21st of this year following an eventful few years since the release of their debut, Welcome to Deathville, and an exciting season of sharing the stage with the likes of Cold War Kids, The Black Angels, Imagine Dragons, Dr. Dog and others. Get a glimpse into who the band Eldren is, their creative process and much more below! Have a listen to the new record while you read:

 

MFL: Who makes up Eldren?

 Eldren: Eldren is a collective of musicians, composed of:

Nasir Malik
Tyler Imbrogno
Josh Lee
Mason Shelmire
Trey Tafoya

 

 MFL: What or who is the band named after and why are you named after it/them/they?

 Eldren: We made up the name. It is a portmanteau of the words ‘elders’ and ‘children’. This reflects our desire to create music that is futuristic but rooted in the past in a way. 

 

MFL: Miss Information Aged seems to be a play on words in multiple ways and the record has a fabulously futuristic feel to it. Tell me about how you came to name the record and if it influenced the sound of the record or the other way around!

 Eldren: There is sort of a three-fold meaning in the title. The first referring to the difficulty in finding truth in our internet-driven “age of misinformation.” The second entendre imagines life after our goddess (“Miss Information”) “ages”-or we are forced to start over without the information technologies to which we have grown accustomed. The third meaning would be the abbreviation M.I.A. (Missing in Action). This points to the sentiment of feeling personally and socially lost or missing within the context of today’s world. The sounds used on the record as well as the recording and songwriting techniques both influenced and were influenced by the title. We wanted to create an album reminiscent of classic/progressive rock albums that used both modern and traditional instruments and sounds.

MFL: How do you all go about writing songs and who did you record/produce the record with?

 Eldren: We produced and recorded the entire album ourselves in various basements. Tyler and Nasir are the songwriters. We write the songs both individually and as a collective on a song-by-song basis.

 

Eldren (PC Amanda Piela, 2018)

 

MFL: When listening to your new record, I hear hints of Empire of Suns, Tame Impala, Pond, Temples and even a tiny bit of Daft Punk. Who are your big influences out there right now and is there anyone in particular you feel you share some common sounds with?

 Eldren: Our musical influences are pretty varied. Tyler and Nasir came together over a shared love for Elliott Smith and The Beatles years ago (I think we met 8 years ago). We definitely have elements of synth pop and electronica from bands like the ones you mentioned, but we don’t feel our sound is limited to that world. We have a pretty strong foundation in all types of rock, and want to keep evolving our sound by pushing the boundaries of the genre.


MFL: What are the biggest differences between your previous record, Welcome to Deathville, and your new record, in both a sonic and conceptual sense?

 Eldren: Welcome to Deathville was less of a cohesive concept than Miss Information Aged, it ended up fitting together pretty well, it just wasn’t created as an album, more of a compilation of the songs we were playing at the time. The new album was more of a re-imagining of the sonic and artistic direction of the band whilst keeping a cohesive idea as an album.

 

MFL: Where were you all and what were you up to between the release of Welcome to Deathville in 2015 and the release of Miss Information Aged last week?

 Eldren: Since the time we released Welcome to Deathville, we have been touring regularly, and writing and recording the album, along with a plethora of material that wasn’t the right fit for Miss Information Aged. We have gone through a lot of hardships in that time. From the passing of our founding bass player Steve Holloway, along with the tragic loss of Tyler’s father, to band members coming and going and our van constantly breaking down across the country. It’s been a journey to say the least, but throughout all of these trials and tribulations, we have learned a lot about ourselves, and about how the world around us impacts our art.

 

Eldren (PC Amanda Piela 2018)

 

 

MFL: What is on the schedule for Eldren with the release of the new record now and what is coming in 2019?

Eldren: We are going to be releasing new music videos, new music, a spring tour and more!

 Follow the band on Facebook and Spotify to see what they are up to next and hopefully catch them on tour. 

Featured image by Jake Mulhern

Other photos by Amanda Piela

Thanks to Jeremy Theall for coordinating and the band for taking time to answer my questions ❤

Playlist: Fall Vol I

The colors are changing and the temps are dropping! Cozy up to some new tunes: