Chillwave? Shoegaze? Pfft, so over. Are you ready for psalmgaze?
Arbutus Records has a lot to answer for. The Montreal label behind Grimes and Doldrums has created something of an aural movement that’s attracted its fair share of global attention.
Enter production duo Solar Year – aka David Ertel and Ben Borden – and their self-patented genre, ‘psalmgaze’. (Think fluid vocals blended with collaged production that draws inspiration from Gregorian chants, new age electro and pop.) They even managed to borrow Arbutus labelmate Grimes for vocals on their track ‘Brotherhood’.
Now signed to Splendour in the UK, the boys talk to us about sealing (psalming?) the deal on their debut album ‘Waverly’, out June 24th.
Tell us a little bit about your beginnings? When did you all fall in love with the idea of creating music?
My friend Trevor was premiering his play at Lab Synthèse, an art space in Montreal created by some of the people at Arbutus Records. Even though I hadn’t made any music before, he asked me to create something and perform it as the opening act. This ended up being my first project, which involved cello and live electronics. It gave me a lot of inspiration when later collaborating with Ben for Solar Year. It’s amazing what happens when someone simply asks you, “Hey make something and play it at my concert”.
What influences or inspires the sounds that you produce?
There’s a lot of “automatic writing” in our music, in the sense that a lot of our sounds come from semi-conscious experimentation and improvisation. During this phase of the process we aren’t necessarily consciously influenced by anything, but the influences must be there subconsciously. But we love artists like Journey, Queen, Seal, Sinead O’Conner, Juno Reactor. Juno Reactor is an interesting one for incorporating acoustic “world” music into a high energy rave production.
You guys come from Montreal. How does the scene compare there to other major cities?
Montreal is a magical place where all your dreams can come true. The first ingredient is the very low cost of living, which allows you to work extremely part time and focus most of your day on creative projects that don’t immediately make any money. Also in the music scene there is a tight knit community of people making music that inevitably supports each other.
Are there any other emerging bands from the city that you’re really championing right now?
Our friend Lydia Ainsworth has been secretly making amazing tracks that will soon be unleashed in a firestorm to the world. It’s somewhere between Final Fantasy, Philip Glass and Kate Bush; it’s a magical sound. Imagine the music she did for a Christian Dior commercial but with amazing vocals. We’re also very excited about the latest release our friend Dresden Dresses. He mentioned Nina Hagen as an influence once, which is amazing. I definitely hear a kind of butch Nina Hagen delightfully mixed with happy hardcore techno.
Your album ‘Waverly’ is released at the end of June. How does it feel for you to have finally completed the project?
We love finally putting the cap on a big project like a full length album. It gives us the license to commit fully to working on new tracks which is a great feeling. Starting songs is always fun; finishing them can be more arduous.
If you had to describe the record, what five words would you choose?
Earth, wind, water, fire, heart.
How did the collaboration with Grimes happen on ‘Brotherhood’?
It was a very casual thing. We were hanging out with her in the studio and she heard the track. Someone thought it’d be cool if she accompanied the existing vocals. so she came over and we recorded her vocals in less than an hour. We then edited them into a sort of round with the existing vocal melodies.
Would you consider future collaborations and guest vocalists?
Of course! I’d love to make a love ballad duet with Antony Hegarty or Mekele.
Words: Shane Hawkins (Follow Shane on Twitter @piccadilly_boy)