Earlier this fall, we sent No Joy’s Jasamine White-Gluz a disposable camera with the vague instructions of documenting whatever she felt inspired to. She returned 19 colourful snapshots filled with props, cats, and instruments. Turn on Motherhoodand take a peek into how the musician is passing pandemic life in Montréal.
“As fall was quickly becoming winter, I started documenting my daily “get-outside-while-you-still can” walks through Montréal, always aiming to find locations that I wouldn’t likely encounter another person. That included Montréal construction sites covered in trash and the hills around a man-made pond. The rest are mostly photos of my cats and I at home and some of my attempts at being a musician during lockdown. BYE 2020!”
Inner Touch 100% Gone Cosmic Resonance Toronto, ON RIYL: Four Tet; CFCF; staring into space
Operating under the Inner Touch moniker, Toronto-based musician Nicolas Field delivers their debut electronic album in a departure from their punk background with five contemplative dance tracks dedicated to “transformation and relinquishment.”
Opener “Dripping” elicits the come-up of dancefloor sweat, layering notes that also offer a level of sadness and reflection. The mystery of a title like “Gone” is supported by the owl-like samples and late-night bass tones that simulate a late walk alone, imagining for a short second that you’ve disappeared forever. “Persona” presents a complexity of sounds, from metronomic to meandering, and plays with the concept of identity through the splicing of indecipherable vocal samples.
The pulsing beauty of album standout ‘Aries’ recalls some of my greatest associations with the star sign – optimism and exploration. I have always wondered how artists choose titles for lyric-less works. Labels can often elude the listener, which is not to say that they appear arbitrary, but more like a secret held by the producer. 100% Gone hands these titles over with context and care.
In early March, a tweet did the rounds: “Just a reminder that when Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague, he wrote King Lear.” As most posts getting the viral treatment do, people responded with a mix of humor and criticism, highlighting the absurdity of the suggestion that a global pandemic would catalyze their own version of producing a seminal text.
And as with the ‘memeification’ of every idea, debates over productivity have since skyrocketed. Whether straightforward or tongue-in-cheek, the question of what we’re supposed to be doing when the world as we know it drastically changes has remained central to the COVID-19 discourse. Industry and government suggest that we do what we’ve always done, albeit on a smaller, safer scale (that is, if you’re privileged enough to benefit off the labour of those without the opportunity to stay home, or have housing to begin with). Do your job, create, pivot – how inspiring!
This suggestion hasn’t sat right with many – this group tends to appeal to the concept of wellness, individual or collective. The concept of self-care is not novel but has definitely experienced a renaissance among friends, internet acquaintances, and brands alike. Others argue for the imperative of community care, pointing to our failures to prevent – and our roles in exacerbating – disparities across race, class, and gender. These responses centre on economies of affect rather than economies of output, and ask us to take a look inward at our shared experience as humans.
Except it is not always so clear-cut. Wellness is not only a concept or lifestyle but an industry that can capitalize on personal vulnerabilities and traditional, cultural healing practices. Further, it’s not often clear what wellness actually entails for you. Catch-all remedies, suggestions and products are not always sensitive to the personal aspects of hurt and healing, and often minimize the importance of community care.
With the end of 2020 in sight, we’d like to thank everyone for their continued support since our launch in September. This will be our last issue for the next little while – we’ll be taking a step back to build out our practices as a cooperative organization and contemplate how to best achieve our goal of supporting Canadian music communities. You can read more about this decision and our reasoning here.
HOW LIVING AMONG SCULPTURES AT THE TREE MUSEUM KEEPS THE ARTIST ‘GREEN’
By: Katerina Stamadianos | Photo by: Yves Jarvis
As with most online discoveries, I can’t pinpoint the pathway of taps that brought me to the Tree Museum’s Instagram account. There, I saw a skeleton carved into a pre-Cambrian shield. A mirrored outhouse. A wreck of cars stacked upon themselves, with grass and thin branches grown over and through their windows and tires – all somewhere in Gravenhurst, Ontario. I wanted to go, but I was as motionless as the wreck – not only did I lack the wheels, I wasn’t allowed to rent any, either, given a long-held (and recently squashed) resolve to never get my driver’s license. But my friend Harrison had a car and the legal authority to operate it, and we ended up making the trip in early September.
Hiking through the Tree Museum was a highlight of 2020’s warmer months. Founded by EJ Lightman and Anne O’Callaghan over 20 years ago, the Tree Museum’s open air gallery holds a history of sculptural works by Canadian and international artists, interspersed and integrated within Gravenhurst’s foliage, wildflowers and towering rock formations. The Museum is a year-round home to “projects [that] explore concepts of identity, memory, and territory in respect to nature and natural processes, while underscoring the imbalance that characterizes our current relationship to the environment.” Visitors not only view, but touch, climb next to, and place themselves within these structures.
Close to the end of my visit, I noticed the unmistakable likeness of Yves Jarvis setting up a drum kit in front of Badanna Zack’sMound of Cars,filming what would become the video for “In Every Mountain”, a single from his most recent release, Sundry Rock Song Stock. Jarvis has become a mainstay of the Tree Museum, having lived in the site’s solitary cabin for the last three summers with his partner, musician Romy Lightman. I didn’t expect to see Jarvis there, but he seemed to fit right in as a human embodiment of the space’s off-kilter artworks and their desire to communicate a message.
As with Mound of Cars, Jarvis has wholly integrated the Tree Museum’s natural and manmade landmarks into his visual output. His Instagram is rife with images of the museum’s exhibits, clips of outdoor sessions, and photos of himself looking up at the camera, grounded in the site’s porous earth. Sundry Rock Song Stock is, unsurprisingly, full of nods to the natural world, due in no small part to the Museum’s impact on the artist.
Curious to know more about both the space and his experience within it, I chatted with Yves Jarvis over the phone as he entered Toronto for a couple days in the city.
Katerina Stamadianos: What is the Tree Museum, and what is the Tree Museum to you?
Yves Jarvis: It was founded by EJ Lightman and Anne O’Callaghan in 1998. They were, until recently, having site-specific sculpture events once a year centred around a particular artist or group, and hiking trails to view them. It’s all public and free, open year-round except for when it’s snowing. Up to just three years ago, they were doing that yearly – and [the Tree Museum] is still active, there are more people coming now than there ever was – but they don’t really have shows anymore.
My partner and I did do a show there last year, which was supposed to be its last event, but I think that [the Tree Museum] is being a bit revitalized by the fact that we’ve been spending the last three summers there. It basically maintains itself because it’s so open. I’m glad to hear you came across it on Instagram, because that was an initiative of ours… because it wasn’t on that platform.
KS: It does seem like it used to be this really insular thing, reading a lot of the descriptions of the artworks, a lot of artists almost referencing it as some sort of pilgrimage.
YJ: I think it’s always been like a haven for Ontario artists. International artists have worked there a few times, but for a pretty fundamental group of Ontario artists, it’s been a haven for them to go back to and work with nature.
KS: You came to just spend the summers there…
YJ: I’ve been able to do that because EJ Lightman is my partner’s aunt. Since it’s been inactive the cabin is vacant. I feel like it’s very symbiotic to be there; we’re able to keep stock of things, lightly maintain things, and keep the vitality of it. I’ve got like three albums that I’ve made there, so it’s still very active now.I feel lucky and like the Tree Museum is benefitting from it too.
YJ: There isn’t much documentation of that show in particular, but on my Instagram, I’ve posted a lot of the sessions that I’ve had outside. I’ll bring my own studio outside and record a lot of those sessions, and a lot of those are the bare bones of basically what we did. All we did was set up outside and experiment all day, recording and processing the nature sounds and working with all that.
KS: Are there natural sounds on the record? “Notch” sounds very outdoor to me. Are there outdoor elements that are incorporated across the album?
YJ: In the past, in order to broaden the sonic spectrum, or just open it up, I’ve always been drawn to field recordings. Since I’ve been in Montreal I’ve worked in apartments, so it feels so constrained, and while I’ve always been able to express whatever in that context, it was important to open it up to the reality of sound and add the textural things – the traffic, the birds.
On this record, I didn’t do that, I basically recorded all of it outside. A lot of the sounds from outside I was trying to hide, which is like the opposite – being at the whim of the wind is so disruptive to a recording. The fact that I was in open air influenced the playing a lot, but a lot of those sounds are still present. Like you said, I think the open air worked its way into the production.
KS: I went back and listened to “Notch” and couldn’t even pinpoint where I was getting that impression from, which was cool.
YJ: Yeah, because I was recording outside and playing the sounds back into the open air without the reflection of the walls, the reverb, no room sounds. I was really kind of working with that openness, for lack of a better word, trying to make sounds that fit into the sonic landscape of not being in a dead, controlled studio.
KS: I read this one essay from the first Tree Museum Catalogue – it spoke about how you leave the city and think you’re exposed to silence, but nature is actually quite loud. But I also read this other quote in it by Bill Viola: “Contemporary urban spaces talk to you incessantly… removing all cues from outside, the voices of the inner state become louder, clearer.” Has being at the Tree Museum changed your internal voice at all?
YJ: I started my life in the country but all my foundational experiences were in the city, so I’ve always had a tendency to close off and build walls in order to keep a consistent sense of self. Being removed from the city, it allows me to be more meditative… coming into the city today, I was complaining a lot … the imposition of everybody else, when I’m not used to it, I’m very critical. That ability to get out of the space and get to a place where I’m healthier and I actually love society… in the city I often hate society, but when I’m out there I can see it for what it is, and not be at the whims of it.
A lot of what came out of working in this context is the confrontation of ego and the acknowledgement of being one consciousness with the universe, one with all life. So that’s a really important practice for me out there, being with the trees and really communicating in a way that allows me to feel grounded with all being.
KS: Is “Fact Almighty” about this? “Every reckless view decreed; I depend on you and you on me; from insular growth one will bloom.”
YJ: That definitely hits the nail on the head. And that’s how I work lyrically. I like to have lines picked out, because the song as a whole tries to evoke something that I can’t really articulate. But when you pick out a line, that is really what I was getting across.
KS: Bringing it back to the Tree Museum, which pieces are your favourites?
That line… it’s one of the few times where the line was floating around much before. I must have written “In Every Mountain” five years ago before I ever went to the Tree Museum. It’s one of the few songs where I was like: this is relevant to my life now, this line… that really did come up because of that one universe idea of just feeling like nature is a mirror. And wanting to express that.
KS: You must feel somewhat protective of the space now. Opening up the space, do you ever worry about people engaging incorrectly – people not finding value in the way you do? I can see how that would mirror with your artistic output as well.
YJ: It’s such a common thing for me to see. I feel like a lot of the time, when people bring kids along, you see it go over a lot of people’s heads. It’s a long walk, and there’s not much infrastructure, there’s no shop or anything like that. A lot of people who expect an infrastructure that’s not there are disappointed in that. But a lot of people are obsessed, they come all the time. There’s a good balance to where I don’t think it’s being overlooked by the right people. I think that being so public and being so open of a space, it’s bound to have a bit of both.
KS: I visited at a point in time, and you over a period. Have your ideas surrounding the artworks changed, or have you developed any sort of apathy?
YJ: I’m very adaptable… where I usually would have gone up there in the spring, I was in Montreal because of the pandemic. I was in a room that was so small I couldn’t even stand up straight for four months, and I can make myself comfortable anywhere. But being there, it felt like a bit of both. I don’t really take it for granted because everyday I try to acknowledge it, just actively be with the life there and really appreciate it.
KS: What does that look like for you in a day?
YJ: Well for me, I started taking my shoes off and starting to ground to the earth.
KS: There’s so much great moss!
YJ: Being barefoot in the moss feels amazing. Really, it’s just breathing exercises with the trees and mindfulness. The only way for me to really connect is through music, so that’s my focal point, what I spend most of the day doing. I don’t spend as much time outside as you’d think, unless the studio is outside, I’m kind of over it – I’ve destroyed my back setting up outside every day.
KS: You’re clearly feeding off of the environment. A lot of the literature/descriptions there relate to this idea of reliance and exploitation, and I’m curious how you see it with regards to your life. Do you ever see it as a pernicious relationship? You’re not like… extracting resources from the earth, but sometimes it’s interesting to think a bit more about what you’re really doing.
YJ: This crossed my mind yesterday because the power went out, and I was thinking about the impact of the network of power and having to rely on that so heavily. But in terms of the experience and trying to funnel that experience, it definitely does feel like a kind of extraction, but maybe it’s not depleting. It’s beneficial to both of us in the same way that I would call the relationship symbiotic… I guess it’s a bit more metaphysical, the energy I’m feeding off of.
KS: One of the Tree Museum’s policies is as follows: “Some of the works are permanent and others are of a transitory nature with the elements and nature determining their lifespan. We tread very lightly on the land.” You’ve featured much of the Tree Museum in your visual work, especially Mound of Cars, but you’re transcending that rule. You’re actually rewriting its lifespan in a different way than the average person taking a picture on the phone could, because you just have a way wider reach. So I’m curious about whether you think about that idea of permanence and impermanence.
YJ: That’s very relevant to a conversation I was having today related to this notion of legacy when one is creating a body of work. And this doesn’t just go for me, but obviously, the Tree Museum is being documented in a way that, as long as there isn’t a permanent collapse of society, will be permanent until then. I feel lucky that I have the opportunity to document the space in that way and through those formats because I feel like it hasn’t been really explored by the Tree Museum in particular. And, you shouldn’t have to go there to experience it.
KS: It’s two hours away by car. There’s a huge accessibility issue.
YJ: In the city I feel so restricted by all the red tape. I don’t know if I can shoot anywhere because of private property, etc. I’ve never felt like I had the energy to go down those roads, whereas being at the Tree Museum, any time I get an idea, I am confident to try and get some traction on it. I’m lucky that I can have an outside shot in my mind and I don’t have to go to a park to do it. Documenting it in that way, for photos or just outside of the energy exchange we’re talking about, being able to just document the space for people is important to my time there.
KS: I read in an interview that colour is like a language to you, and obviously Sundry Rock Song Stock is centred on the greenness of it all.
YJ: For me, the natural element of green being so prevalent in nature was an afterthought for me. For me it was a personal thing, and maybe this ties into being mirrored in nature, and that oneness with everything. For me, I feel green, I’ve always felt green, I’ve always said this and identified with it.
This record was supposed to be an exploration of self in a way that my other records have been more situational and more directional, and this was more of a confrontation of self. The green was more initially that. The idea of going back, syphoning energy of being in the open air, feeding off of that and working with that, I feel like it really bookended the project for me really well, because I could really one-to-one directly work on a sound that blends with the elements as much as possible. After the foundational beds were laid down, I was given a good direction of where to go because of this meeting with nature itself. So that pastoral [feeling], the breeze, the smell of grass or flowers, all of that being a beacon to put a lid on this project when it really began as a personal confrontation.
KS: It feels really green to me.
YJ: I’m glad it evokes that.
KS: I read in an interview that nights can be very difficult for you, and they’re difficult for me as well. I’m curious whether the transition from summer to fall impacts you too. Has living at the Tree Museum changed your routine or your feelings at all, or maybe amplified them?
YJ: I feel like I’m almost more negatively affected by it out there. I’ve never been a very social guy, but I had plans every night – I never put myself socially out there like that, but when I lived in Montreal, there were shows every week, almost every day, so I would find myself with people every night and then you get home and just crash. But now, at night, it’s a question of – do I work? If I don’t, I feel restless, and if I don’t, do I entertain myself? There’s just a lot of existential dread in the night, I’m always trying to stay awake in case I get an idea, because that will be the most fulfilling way to end my night, but I’m also trying to relax…
It’s been happening again really recently, now that Sundry Rock Song Stock is out… I want to keep working, but I feel like I deserve to relax, these days I’ve just felt like… more troubled by that. But I do feel rejuvenated by the fall personally. While I say that, it’s a personal sense of invigoration, but I’m met with that same feeling…
KS: I’m curious if the external has influenced your internal environment.
YJ: I’m such a control freak about space, it never gets away from me. Even the fact that I could go outside and roll around and feel like everything is perfect… when I go inside, I’m still very concerned with the cleanliness and the flow, and I’ve always been that way. It’s exhausting to be in such a picturesque environment and still concerned about dust.
KS: Would you be what they call a minimalist?
YJ: No, organized chaos.
KS: I want to get on your level of cleaning.
YJ: No, you don’t. I feel like that’ll be my one regret on my deathbed, how much time I spent fucking cleaning.
KS: I assume you’re there a lot of the time with one person. I’m curious, without asking for any details, if this changed your experience with companionship.
YJ: It didn’t really cross my mind about what that would do to our dynamic and how we relate to the rest of the world, but after doing it for six months at a time over the last three years, it definitely changes the dynamic. A lot of people feel like it’s you and your partner against the world, but it really gets to be that way, and that can be good and straining. I’m getting to a place where I realize how important it is to balance that, outsource some of that energy and not impose it on who you’re living with. We go weeks at a time just seeing each other.
KS: And she’s working on stuff too?
YJ: She’s a musician as well, and she’s a perfumist.
KS: Woah – can I get a Tree Museum fragrance?
YJ: We’re not that big of foragers yet, despite being surrounded by all that mushroom and moss.
KS: What’s next for the Tree Museum? I saw on your Instagram that when things get safer, you want to reclaim the space for BIPOC and financially undervalued artists.
YJ:This was a huge priority for us in taking the reins. Of course, the land itself makes certain elements of the hike inaccessible physically. But in terms of just being welcoming and really encouraging that exposure to everybody… These things are so niche and precious, and a lot of people see something like it and think they don’t belong there. Even me – a lot of people see me and think I don’t belong there. You know. So, having to confront myself and realizing how it may make other people feel left out, it’s important – not that there’s an overwhelmingly active initiative here – it’s important to paint the picture that it’s somewhere people can go.
Shabason, Krgovich & Harris Philadelphia Idée Fixe Toronto, ON RIYL: Bill Callahan; Japanese New Age; mindfulness
Philadelphia is both timely and timeless. Shababson, Krgovich & Harris lazer in on daily life and the mundane, turning inward back when it seemed like more of a choice to do so – the album was created pre-quar, between 2018 and 2019. Its opening song, “Osouji”, walks the listener through a deep-clean of the home not too unlike a mindfulness meditation exercise you may have turned to when you realized you were going to be inside for several months: “wiping baseboards / the radio on / and seeing things / that have been here / and considering them.”
Philadelphia’s carefully placed instrumentals soothe, achieving the group’s aspirations of paying homage to Japanese New Age music. The trio’s soft sounds meld perfectly with Krgovich’s vocal register and gentle lyric delivery, devolving into meandering loops on “I Don’t See the Moon” and “Friday Afternoon” that are reminiscent of Shababson’s solo saxophone work. A personal favourite from the collection, “Tuesday Afternoon,” comically yet earnestly documents a walk down the street set to Boards of Canada-esque synth leads. Philadelphia awards the concentrated listener, who may otherwise miss Krgovich’s subtle description of a man “Sippin’ on / Gatorade / exhaling.”
It is these observations – the ones nobody usually writes home about – that make the album so special. While we’re all paying attention now, Shababson, Krgovich and Harris knew that we should have been all along.
Pansy Boys Seasons of Doubt Independent Toronto, ON RIYL: Fleetwood Mac; Blood Orange; harmonizing
I want to shake every person and tell them to listen to Seasons of Doubt. In a healthier, pre-COVID world, my hands would (consensually) grab a stranger’s shoulders as I, out of breath, whisper out the album’s Bandcamp tags – “alternative pop…. folk… lush… queer…”, and faint into a bed of roses.
Pansy Boys – twins Joel and Kyle Curry – simply have the range, extolling the minor tragedies of youthful infatuation across a seven-track EP that sonically elicits the colours and feeling of the sweeping sunset on the record’s cover. Beautiful, streamlined harmonies swirl around soft percussion, piano notes and Eliza Niemi’s cello bows to build the band’s self-described “lush” sound.
Seasons of Doubt’s lyrics are equal parts gut-wrenching (“I want you to dance/without holding my tears in your hands”) and melodramatic (“Never felt like I belonged to anywhere/except maybe Montreal”), but what really ties the album together is its instructiveness. When you realize “We’re not each other’s property”, you’re likely well-graduated from the way you thought about love in your early 20s.
Seasons of Doubt wants us to move on, mindfully. Yet it also gives us the opportunity to put on a song and remember it all over again.
Marie Davidson & L’Œil Nu Renegade Breakdown Ninja Tune / Bonsound Montréal, QC RIYL: Charlotte Gainsbourg; Euro Pop; power moves
Renegade Breakdown is a breakup album. Marie Davidson’s well-publicized step away from the electronic music scene is also a retirement from her treatment as techno darling, and she knows it. “There are no money makers on this record / This time, I’m exploring the loser’s point of view,” Davidson sings on the album’s clear moneymaker, “Renegade Breakdown.”
Davidson is confident. Just as confident as she was on Working Class Woman, except now she really gets to put her unflappability to work. Here, Davidson tests the bounds of her signature magnetic, commanding sing-talk across genres and through collaboration – the singer is backed by L’Œil Nu (comprised of her husband, Pierre Guerineau, and Asaël Robitaille). From the cabaret-inspired “Just in My Head” to the haunting pop of “Lead Sister” and the drama of “Back to Rock,” Davidson traverses style and mode, invoking the various identities we find her in on the record’s cover.
Even still, there are moments where it is hard to square Davidson’s unique vocal performance with Guerineau and Robitaille’s instrumentals. But Renegade Breakdown’s highs are high, eclectic, and captivating. “Center of the World (Kotti Blues)” is one of the most accurate dedications to Berlin I’ve ever heard, a tender and heartbreaking ode to the city that made and broke Davidson. Berlin, like its various subcultures and lifestyles, can be self-contained and all-consuming. Davidson’s seen that world, got bored of it, and is onto the next one.
In late June, New Feeling launched its first Reader Survey. The earliest iterations of New Feeling’s organizing membership had convened two months prior, and the team was looking to confirm some of the motivating assumptions that had brought the group together in the first place:that people value music made in so-called Canada; that people find importance in independent and representative music journalism; and that, as it stands, the wider music media apparatus in Canada is falling short.
The Reader Survey was also intended as an extension of the very principles that led to New Feeling’s conception as a cooperative organization. We believe that a successful publication is one that is both responsive and accountable to the community. The Reader Survey is a small (and imperfect!) way of kick-starting the process of collective ownership over New Feeling’s direction and dream.
The Reader Survey was completed by 144 individualsover a two-week period. The survey was shared on New Feeling’s Twitter and Instagram accounts and each question was answered voluntarily. I am one woman. While this analysis is not entirely scientific, it is still based on a careful reading of each response. The survey incorporated a mix of qualitatively and quantitatively measured questions – sometimes, readers were asked to provide numerical rankings, and in othercases, they were asked to offer their thoughts. 7 major themes emerged from the survey, which will individually be explored below.
DEMOGRAPHIC NOTE: Just under 50% of respondents called Toronto home, 57%of respondents identified as male, and the majority of respondents identified as English speakers.This raises a challenge to not only the survey responses, but our reach and accessibility. These numbers bring awareness to our network as writers, since the survey was distributed on social media before the launch of our first issue (and subsequent increase in audience attention). Further, the survey was only available in English, potentially limiting our capacity to engage with French (and other language) speakers.
As noted by Dusty Lee in an interview below, Canadian music journalism is predominantly white and male (in readership and writership). The coverage of francophone artists in anglophone Canada is inadequate. We hope and intend to do our part to shift this landscape.
People care about music made in Canada, but aren’t given enough meaningful opportunities to engage with it.
DOES CANADIAN MUSIC MATTER TO YOU?
72% – Yes
17% – Unsure
11% – No
When asked whether “Canadian music” matters to them,72% of respondents answered in the affirmative. However, only 29% of respondents found Canadian media coverage important to their enjoyment of new music. Further, 53% of respondentsdid not consider the amount of coverage Canadian music and artists receive through the music media to be substantive(while 36% of respondents remained unsure).
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE AMOUNT OF COVERAGE CANADIAN MUSIC AND ARTISTS RECEIVE THROUGH THE MUSIC MEDIA IS SUBSTANTIVE?
53% – No
36% – Unsure
10% – Yes
Even more telling, 82%of respondentsdid not believe that the coverage of Canadian music and artists through the music media is representative of the country’s diversity.
Do you BELIEVE THAT COVERAGE OF CANADIAN MUSIC AND ARTISTS IS REPRESENTATIVE OF THE COUNTRY’S DIVERSITY?
This data, considered in tandem with the survey’s various qualitative and anecdotal responses, suggests that while listeners value music made in Canada, they are not given substantive opportunities to engage with it in a manner that aligns with their preferences, interests, and values. We explore this observation below.
A Note As with the following “reader insight,” we do not want to overstate the importance of “Canadian-ness.” New Feeling is not interested in reporting for reporting’s sake, but rather, finding new ways to engage with the country’s immeasurable talent.
READER INSIGHT “I feel too much of Canadian music journalism still has this underdog voice to it. There’s this weird feeling I get reading it that it’s attempting to legitimize itself through conspicuous celebrations of Canadians that have “made it” and Canadian achievements (the JUNO especially). I’d far sooner read about what’s interesting about artists and not reasons why I should be pleased Canadians are gaining success.”
Readers want regional coverage – outside of major cities.
READER INSIGHTS “Less Toronto, More Canada.”
“Explore the other provinces please.”
You probably didn’t need a survey to tell you that Canadian music media is biased towards Toronto and Montreal. While the Big City has historically benefitted from an influx of artists and music-related infrastructure, the internet has effectively obscured what was once a regional reality into something more akin to preferential treatment. One of the most prominent trends to emerge from survey responses wasa keen interest in learning about the music being made outside of major cities.
NF: When it comes to Canada, the east/west, urban/rural divides are palpable. What do we miss when we focus on urban centres, and in particular, the Toronto and Montreal corridor?
PC: In only giving serious consideration or coverage to major city centres, or specifically what we consider cultural hubs or places with the “cool” factor, we lose out on opportunities to discover an immense wealth of interesting flavours of music. With every smaller city or region that produces a local scene, there exists music that you simply can’t find anywhere else.
And as for the east/west and urban/rural divides, I think that makes it much harder to allow an even focus, as the codification can create a sense of things being inherently better or worse, which is not necessarily the case. For example, just because a city has more to offer does not necessarily mean that there inherently exists more support for artists in the scene. In a smaller scene, there can be fierce and loyal devotion to particular artists that you might not be able to find in a big city.
NF: What would equitable, meaningful coverage of the music made across Canada look like?
PC: I would love to see greater emphasis put on celebrating small scenes across Canada as I think it would mean fans get greater access to a treasure trove of new music they wouldn’t have known about before. It would also mean great things for artists who exist within small scenes, meaning greater exposure outside of the range that they normally would be able to spread.
As it stands, the majority of bands and artists that I’ve known over the years who have ambitions of “making it” feel as though it’s only possible to do so by relocating to a major city, where they’ll be competing in a saturated market to grab a foothold. With higher costs of living it makes it that much harder to devote yourself to the craft without making serious quality of life sacrifices.
I’d like to think that by fostering greater importance on local music across Canada there could be more support in smaller communities for both local and traveling bands. This could also give greater access to bands who might otherwise STAY strictly local to venture further afield. If artists knew that they could exist in a small community while still having access to coverage it could make it much easier to get solid promotion while on the road. More robust support for local scenes would then ostensibly create more viable stopover points for traveling artists. This could make it easier to go cross-country and know that you’ll be playing every night, potentially actually coming home with a marginal profit.
Our values drive our listening – and our reading.
In considering which factors contribute to their enjoyment of new music, 65% of respondents found it important that the music aligns with their values. In fact, an alignment with progressive values was the most prominent variable attributed with the enjoyment of new music across the survey.
WHICH FACTORS CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR ENJOYMENT OF NEW MUSIC?
Prompted with the question of what they would like to see more of in Canadian music media, an overwhelming number of respondents requested diverse artist coverage, in particular calling for stronger representation ofBIPOC, trans, non binary and women artists.Beyond artist coverage, however, many respondents also called forstronger representation in those same areas across Canadian music media writership.Tying this to the observation that most respondents did not consider Canadian music coverage to be representative of the country’s diversity, it is clear that the wider industry has not caught up to readers’ concerns surrounding equity and intersectionality.
Genre preferences can vary widely from one person to the next. After all, they’re just that – preferences. But when we consider the question of what genres are overlooked in Canadian music media, clear trends emerge beyond personal tastes. The Reader Survey confirmed our suspicion that the same individuals interested in reading an interdependent publication are inclined towards independently-oriented music, with respondents requesting coverage of oft-overlooked genres such as punk, electronic, and jazz, and music that more generally blurs genre lines.
Across the survey, listeners identified a lack of critical coverage of independent rap and hip-hop music in Canada, and conveyed their sense that the country’s music industry apparatus fails the genre’s artists. If the Reader Survey is any indication, the appetite for experimental, innovative hip-hop is undeniable – and underground, “street rap” is especially overlooked by the Canadian music media.
NF: Does Canadian music media substantively cover rap and hip-hop scenes? CW: I don’t believe so. A certain segment of Canadian rap that is more alternative gets covered adequately but there seems to be an aversion to covering “street rap” that comes from Canada. Maybe it’s a lack of knowledge or appreciation for trap / drill in Canada, or writers being uncomfortable about what they rap about, but Canadian rappers like NorthSideBenji and Lil Berete only seem to get token coverage in Canada. [This] might be why both of them have aligned themselves more with UK outlets like GRM DailyandFire In The Booth. There’s also basically no press coverage for Canadian rappers from outside of Toronto. I’d like to see more coverage of Indigenous rappers. Canadian journalists should be searching for new rappers to expose to a larger audience. Maybe this could be helped by publications actively scouting for young POC writers. NF: Can you speak to how the larger issue of industry-wide support for rap and hip-hop in Canada may intersect with the state of Canadian rap and hip-hop coverage? How may this be different from, say, the United States?
CW: In America, regional rap is regularly played on the radio. Some cities have multiple radio stations that only play new rap. They have multiple festivals. In Canada, we have one station in Toronto that might play maybe the top three or four mainstream Toronto artists all day. This trickles down to awards that only nominate rappers who get played on the radio or have major label backing. There’s OVO Fest and Manifesto but not much else. Streaming programmers will only put Canadian rap on three specialized playlists and only those top three or four mainstream artists can make the jump out of being ghettoized and stuck on the Canadian-only playlists.
There seems to be a fear of supporting Black music in Canada.There’s the issue of the industry being reluctant to support Canadian rappers until they get cosigned by another country first. Canadian journalists seem reluctant to take a chance on something unless it’s been vetted by the Americans already. In Canada, subgenres and styles of rap are not as stratified as they are in the US. There are so many types of rappers who get covered there and writers have a better institutional knowledge of where they fit into the larger picture of rap. You wouldn’t write the same way about Tyler The Creator, Noname, Kid Cudi, Vince Staples and Smino, for instance. In Canada, it’s still either alternative or street with no degrees in between. As a result, I’ve often felt misunderstood by the media in Canada.
NF: What needs to change going forward?
CW: More POC writers, more diverse publications. I think the biggest problem is a knowledge gap. Every music journalist in Canada should be engaging with rap music.Ignoring trap today is like ignoring jazz in the ’60s. This is the music of our time and your average Canadian music journalist has largely ignored it. We need more independent publications like New Feeling giving writers the opportunity to promote more diverse tastes.
Let’s do it ourselves
Local, “underground,” music can be considered a regional distinction. It can also be classified as a genre, or at least an umbrella term under which several sounds fall. But we can also look at the local, the underground, and the DIY (do-it-yourself) as community-oriented concepts rooted in connection, care and collaboration. Local scenes are avenues by which many musicians pursue their artistic visions and express themselves, and local spaces are often safe havens through which marginalized artists, such as queer and trans musicians, flourish.
READER INSIGHTS When asked “What do you want to see more of in Canadian music journalism”… “Connections and community! Show how people work together and collaborate. Solidarity with and between artists.”
“Greater emphasis on locality, guides on how to support a local scene.”
Across the country, local scenes and spaces are under threat. Recognizing this unfortunate reality, many respondents to the Reader Survey urged for a more symbiotic relationship between music publications and local art. Several readers suggested “scene reports” as a potential avenue to strengthen this relationship and an opportunity to expand the reach of Canadian music coverage beyond large metropolitan cities.
NF: What is the relationship between the audience and performer in the DIY context?
DL: It’s exactly the same as the mainstream, but the performances are better.
NF: What role do you think independent media should hold in covering and engaging with DIY art and communities?
DL: I have a lot of mixed feelings about this, and that’s mostly because I remember NOW Magazine promoting a secret Not Dead Yet S.H.I.T. show at Double Double Land in their magazine and the turnout was so huge it was essentially what shut down the place. Some things are not for everyone. Some things in the DIY underground community need to stay underground, contained and protected by word of mouth. But I also recognize that’s gate keeping and with such a small amount of resources in Canada for artists and musicians.
I do know that when I was 15-25 I deeply relied on independent media coverage of music and art communities. All I did for a long time was listen to music featured on blogs. Growing up in London, if things like Silent Shout and Gorilla vs Bear etc didn’t exist I don’t know what would have become of me. I definitely felt inspired by learning about all these different scenes and ways of creating. When I started to book shows I’d just surf Silent Shout and find new performers I hadn’t met yet. It’s harder these days to know what’s happening, who’s making what without shows or touring or independent media. Even harder to get better at your practice if you don’t have a community to share and engage new ideas with.
There’s plenty of media for straight white male WASPs.When it comes to independent media, it should be about whose voice you hype and broadcast. Whose issues and scenes are important? Those people better be Black, Indigenous, POC, LGBTQ2+ youth that don’t have regular access to the mainstream media platform.
NF: Who is DIY for? Why do you do what you do?
DL: DIY is about making your dream world and desires a reality, especially when no one else is gonna do it for you. It’s a reminder that something interesting can happen at any moment.
Tired of the same old
The average New Feeling reader is not all that interested in some of the most prominent formats and features of well-known music media outlets, which tend to perpetuate cycles of popularity through year end lists, awards coverage, playlist creation, and more. In most cases, variables (see graphic) related to mainstream success were noted as “not important” to the listener’s enjoyment of new music.
WHAT DOES NOT FACTOR INTO YOUR ENJOYMENT OF NEW MUSIC?
When asked what they would like to see less of in Canadian music journalism, respondents did not hold back. In different words and through different examples, readers expressed a general dissatisfaction with the forces that contribute to what can often appear to be cyclical coverage of the same artists –PR partnerships, corporate sponsorships, and risk aversion, to name a few. On top of the sidelining of underground and underrepresented artists, respondents noted that these practices have resulted in stale journalism, where writers avoid criticism, offer “blanket positivity,” and elevate “indistinguishable indie bands.”
In with the new (feeling)
Music media has experimented with various formats of content production in recent history, though the industry has largely trended towards a predominance of shorter content posted at a higher frequency. This often includes news or tabloid-style items. When asked to select which formats they would like to see more of, a slightly higher proportion of respondents (28%) requested “more robust monthly content all at once,” while 22% preferred shorter daily content. 52%of respondents selectedlong-from articles and artist profiles – a finding that aligns with several of the written responses to the survey requesting meaningful and conscientious journalism.
WHAT FORMATS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE OF?
When asked what they looked for in music criticism, 70% of respondentsindicated that they were interested in critique – positive or negative. However, only18% of respondentswere interested in music criticism that utilizes a rating or scale system. This implies that respondents are keen to read reviews that engage meaningfully with the content at hand, as opposed to a prescription of what is “good” or “bad.” Well over 70%of respondents seek out criticism that connects music to its historical or cultural context, as well as the personal contexts of the musicians at hand.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN MUSIC CRITICISM?
70% – Critique, even if it’s a bit negative.
76% – Connecting the music to a larger historical or cultural context.
71% – Context specific to the music.
40% – Description of methods, gear, production.
45% – The perspective of the writer.
18% – A rating scale.
The above analysis is not an exhaustive index of the ways listeners perceive and interact with Canadian music media. Even still, its instructive of the work music journalism must do to catch up with the average socially-minded reader, and the gaps in the current landscape that we can work to remedy. As a cooperative and as a publication, we are committed to using the findings of this survey to support New Feeling’s editorial direction and cooperative activities. This process is already underway and visible in our new issue, The Fear, with much more to come.
A big thank you to the readers that completed the survey, and for those who continue to engage with New Feeling as it continues to grow. We couldn’t have – and will not – do this without you.
Special thanks to Paul Lawton and Katerina Zoumboulakis
Mother Tongues Everything You Wanted Buzz Records Toronto, ON RIYL: Stereolab/Broadcast; psychedelia; being moody
I’m not sure whether Mother Tongues would welcome or wince at a likening to psych-rock royalty Melody’s Echo Chamber. Like Melody, the Toronto band’s influences take centre stage on their debut release, where swirling, trance-like guitars, punchy synth lines, and distant vocals combine to form a nostalgic, psyche-kraut soundscape. If the album’s most interesting effort, “Fortunes,” is any indication, Mother Tongues know they aren’t reinventing the wheel – but that their subtle plays with timing and vocal delivery will make you want to get in the car and keep driving. Because, at the end of the day, any band aiming for mysticism (as per the album’s release pitch) is looking to take you somewhere else. Everything You Wanted gets you just there, whatever that means to you.