Toronto hardcore legends Fucked Up build on their galvanizing sound ‘One Day’ at a time

A silhouette of the band Fucked Up, photographed in the desert twilight.

Toronto hardcore legends Fucked Up build on their galvanizing sound One Day at a time

By: Tabassum Siddiqui | Photos by: Jeaninne Kaufer

For so many, the pandemic and the many fault lines it exposed led to personal and societal breaking points – negative outcomes like fractured relationships and political divisions, but also positive change that pushed people to think about what matters most.

Toronto hardcore legends Fucked Up have always been a thoughtful group – singing and speaking up about the things they care about, but also in their approach to music itself. So when it came to writing and recording their sixth full-length album in the middle of a time of lockdowns and uncertainty, they found that trying something a bit different could be just the right creative catalyst.

Their shortest album to date (10 taut songs in 40 minutes), One Day was – as the title suggests – written and recorded in just one day, though with some leeway for COVID lockdown constraints and the fact that the band members often record their parts separately.

Guitarist Mike Haliechuk initially envisioned the concept prior to the pandemic, towards the end of 2019, writing and recording the music for the album’s 10 tracks over three eight-hour sessions.

“I just wanted to get something out quickly. The last few records, we took several years – and when we got back from the last album tour, it felt like we had come back from the moon or something,” Haliechuk says from his home in Toronto. 

“I thought, ‘I gotta recover and just chill out.’ And that only lasted for about a week before I got restless. Initially I was thinking of [the record] as a non-committal, chill thing. And I always like to come up with contrivances or weird, wacky ideas to start recording. Doing it in a day felt appropriate – and then other meanings for doing it that way kept coming up afterwards.”

When the pandemic hit weeks later, the idea of releasing something quickly went out the window, but the rest of the band stuck to the guideline of doing their parts within the same 24-hour timespan – a challenge that proved more fruitful than limiting.

“What I liked was that I got to do what I wanted, in a way, because I was alone and I had time to play and redo some things on my own,” says bassist Sandy Miranda during a joint Zoom call with vocalist/bellower Damian Abraham (the band also includes guitarist Josh Zucker and drummer Jonah Falco). “In the old days in our practice space, it was often more directed by Mike, and I’d be a little bit like, ‘Don’t tell me what to do – do you have trust in my creative process?’” she adds with a laugh.

“But in this way, even though we were separate, I felt like we were more collaborative. I’m a bit of a loner at heart, so being on my own in my comfort zone really worked for me. I felt like I had a bit more freedom with my contribution.”

Abraham was initially set to record his vocals in early 2020 in Vancouver, but One Day was put on pause for two years while the band turned their attention to the Year of the Horse 12-inch. A busy father of three, Abraham eventually managed to find time – between overseeing virtual school and taking the kids to play outdoors – to record his parts in four six-hour blocks. Having time to ruminate over the songs also saw him return to contributing lyrics for the first time since 2014’s Glass Boys.

“When I actually had to sit down and write the lyrics within that so-called ’24-hour’ period, I wondered if I could do it,” Abraham admits, puffing clouds of smoke from a joint. “But I had these melodies and choruses and a couple lines bouncing around in my head for a long time at that point, so it really came very easily.”

Given Haliechuk’s role as the de facto musical director of the band, he usually has a clear idea of where he wants an album’s sound to go – but putting a framework around making One Day, and splitting lyrical duties with Abraham, gave him the chance to delve even deeper into what Fucked Up’s musical ethos is all about.

“There are so many chances when music is your form – you get to record it, and then you sit around listening to it and you can make changes that no one will really notice. If you’re painting and you paint over something, it’s not there anymore. But music is so malleable, and it’s the post-production process that often takes us years. It can really make the finished thing so different than what you [initially] played,” Haliechuk explains. 

“With this album, I really wanted to know what kind of music I could truly write without being able to spend years on making a perfected version. I found a lot of clarity writing in that way.”

Asked how he and Abraham decide which tracks they’ll each write lyrics for, Haliechuk quips that he usually lets Abraham have his way, but adds, “It’s almost like doing draft picks.” At first the two planned to write collaboratively, but pandemic restrictions soon scuttled that idea – and writing lyrics about the tedious minutia of pandemic life held little appeal, he points out.

For Abraham, the return to writing lyrics was inspired in part by the music Haliechuk had written – and also by pandemic ponderings about the family and friends he holds dear.

“I wonder what it’s like for Mike, because I know that when he writes the songs, he’s got a particular vision in mind for how they’re going to sound – and by the time I’m done with them, I’m sure they’re completely unrecognizable [to him],” he says with a chuckle. 

“I’ve only now come to appreciate what a trust and sort of surrender that is as a creative person, to be able to just give things over like that. I won’t even let anyone else edit my podcast, let alone write lyrics to a song that I worked on myself!”

Fucked Up photographed in the desert twilight. From left to right: Jonah Falco, Damian Abraham, Mike Haliechuk, Sandy Miranda, and Josh Zucker.

More than two decades into their career, Fucked Up sound more vital than ever on One Day – which to the uninitiated might come across as far more melodic than their reputation as high-energy punks might imply. While Abraham’s roar is as fierce as ever and the rhythm section still raises the listener’s pulse, the melodies are relentlessly memorable and the lyrics deeply pensive.

“I think we started as a very distilled project where we were writing under the guidance of very specific punk songs. We were into ’80s American DIY music and late-’70s small-batch British punk records. And as weird or obscure as some of those bands are, they’re all trying to write pop songs, right? Everybody who puts a record out, they’re trying to make a hit – whether they admit it or not. No one goes into the studio thinking, ‘I hope no one hears this,’” Haliechuk notes. 

“And so we were listening to heavy music, but the pop sensibility is there. I always feel like punk and aggressive stuff, it’s just one of the trappings of pop music. Even our early 7-inches, they’re very aggressive and angry – but they have little guitar licks and there’s always been melody up front. If I was writing music for Taylor Swift, you’d write to that type of vocal. But we don’t have a singer that plays that role – so it’s just a different expression of what we’re doing,” he says.

“I’m very orthodox in my love of punk and hardcore, and felt like what I was going to do was always going to be within this certain sonic parameter that I’d set for myself. And as time has gone on, just realizing that there are other influences and ways to incorporate other sounds into what I do has made me enjoy the challenge of trying different things,” Abraham adds. 

“To some, it probably does not sound like a lot of diverse experimenting going on in my vocals. It’s like Where’s Waldo – the melody is always hiding there, but it might be under a bunch of screaming,” he quips.

While they’re never afraid to change things up in their sound or approach to making music, what remains constant is Fucked Up’s place in Toronto’s cultural scene – an influence that goes beyond simply their music. Aside from being an integral part of a groundbreaking wave of local indie music that began in the early 2000s, the band has maintained an unwavering commitment to social and artistic movements – including the Long Winter arts and music series founded by Haliechuk and Zucker; the band’s longtime penchant for holding all-ages shows in offbeat venues across the city; and their fundraisers to support local causes from women’s shelters to harm-reduction programs.

Those community values are reflected in songs like One Day’s “Lords of Kensington,” in which Abraham laments the gentrification of one of Toronto’s beloved neighbourhoods – while candidly acknowledging his own role in that same evolution. The changes in their city and the many difficult issues that come with it – from rising homelessness and housing shortages to venue closures and artists’ inability to make a living – are clearly top of mind.

“Over the last few years, even since we’ve written the record, Toronto has become a very different place,” Haliechuk says. “In ‘Lords of Kensington,’ Damian is remembering a crystallized time in our late teenage years when we were discovering the city as people that could maybe have an impact on it, and coming to art spaces in the Market and all that. 

“But as we were writing the album, we lost our practice space, and so many other things closed. It really does seem like in the last 10 to 15 years, the focus has really changed from Toronto being a weird, cool place to just sort of a cold, sterile assembly of condo units – which is painful for those of us that wanted something else. I think about it a lot, especially doing Long Winter and all that stuff – but similar to how we did this record, if you push people into a smaller and smaller space, it just forces them to be more resourceful,” he adds.

“It’s tough seeing the churn – there was already a shortage of spaces, and the rising rents do add a bleakness to the city,” Miranda concurs. “But we’re here, and we’re going to keep going as long as we can – and hopefully more places will crop up to foster that same sense of community that we thrived on in the early days.”

From their earliest days as chaotic provocateurs to One Day’s decidedly adult preoccupations with time and memory, Fucked Up have managed to sustain a long career where change remains the common denominator but one thing stays the same: their dedication to the ever-evolving experiment that is Fucked Up. 

“We set out to be a weird, belligerent band who never put out records or toured, so we definitely didn’t achieve what we set out to do,” Haliechek jokes. “There’s a lot of stressful things that go into being a band like this, but we really like making music – that’s the constant. So that’s really where we ended up.”

“Yeah, we broke all of our own rules somehow,” Miranda says. “But it’s been beyond my wildest dreams – things keep happening that I never expect. It’s cool, but it’s just a mystery to me. I feel very blessed and lucky – and we just keep rolling with it.”

Abraham echoes his bandmates’ thoughts, but goes a step further: “I was in, like, 10 bands in high school before Fucked Up that didn’t go anywhere. I had become contented with the idea that I would always just be a fan that loved to talk about music. So this band afforded me everything – I don’t think I would have met my wife if it wasn’t for this band,” he declares.

“And I don’t know who I would be as a person – I got to grow with these people, and they became my family. To be able to do this every day – as a kid, this is all I would have ever wanted in my wildest dreams.”

Editor’s Note: Issue 11 – Prospect

Editor’s Note: Issue 11 – Prospect

By: Tabassum Siddiqui | Art by: Michael Rancic

Every issue, the New Feeling team puts our collective heads together to come up with a theme that addresses the big picture — in music, in culture, in where we all find ourselves at large.

This time around, we landed on “prospect” — very fitting in a pandemic era in both noun and verb form: many of us have indeed been looking out into the distance, trying to figure out what’s next; and also anticipating the things that might be.

We certainly hope the prospect of great reads ahead has you excited for this issue’s features, which all touch on the idea of possibility. Laura Stanley profiles Toronto-based percussionist Yang Chen, who sought out community after the loneliness of lockdown. That prospecting for collaboration yielded unexpected connections — and their richly textured debut album, longing for_.

Prospecting is something the Yukon knows a thing or two about — quite literally, in the case of the gold rush. Tom Beedham headed to the traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dün and Ta’an Kwäch’än (otherwise known as Whitehorse) to bear witness to Wonderhorse — a community-focused event that’s turning the concept of the music festival on its head. From centering youth to platforming underground artists, Wonderhorse meets audiences where they are — in the process, reminding us how music and art are often a catalyst for reimagining existing paradigms.

And Tia Julien tells us about how Juno-nominated singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alysha Brilla drew on the introspection and experimentation necessitated by the pandemic to recognize the prospect of healing through music — which underscores her latest album, Circle, and also her work hosting yoga and music workshops with fellow Canadian artist Desiree Dawson.

As the year nears its end, New Feeling too has been prospecting in its own way — grateful to our members and readers for following us through 11 issues, and dreaming up meaningful new stories to bring you in the months ahead.

With Twitter ever-closer to being one big fail-whale, we encourage those interested in staying in touch and sharing thoughts about music to join us on Discord (it’s fun, we swear — and completely El*n-free!), and we’re always looking for new members to get involved with organizing, editorial, and other aspects of keeping the co-op running.

And don’t forget about our ongoing Reading Group series — in our final meeting of the year on Nov. 29, we’ll discuss Erica Campbell’s insightful Paste Magazine feature “Is This It? When Will Black Artists Get To Just Be Rock Artists?” To join in the conversation, register here.

So many of the meanings of “prospect” are at the core of what New Feeling is all about: hope; possibility; exploration. We hope this issue inspires you not just to dig into the musicians, albums, and art our writers are highlighting, but also to think about what the ideas inherent in the word prospect mean to you.

Editor’s Note – Issue 10: FUNDAMENTALS

The word "Fundamentals" written in a black font resembling children's block letters. "Issue 10" appears below it, and below that, a wall of tetris blocks outlined in orange.

Editor’s Note – Issue 10: FUNDAMENTALS

By: Tabassum Siddiqui | Art by: Laura Stanley

Welcome to Issue #10, the Fundamentals issue. What does that term mean to you? Maybe you think of something elemental or foundational to who you are, or what you want the world around you to be. At New Feeling, we’re always thinking back to the core of what we’re hoping the writing and art we publish conveys: an enthusiasm for the deep creativity of the artists making great music across this country, through a lens of community and connection.

In this issue, Montreal writer Sun Noor takes us deep into the sounds that are fundamental to her and her Somali-Canadian peers—and how they’re taking inspiration from the golden age of Somalia’s music scene to fuel their own understanding of their roots and making music that reflects their unique place in the diaspora.

And Daniel G. Wilson examines the passion behind the Canadian extreme metal scene, exploring the legacy and influence of bands like Voivod, Fuck the Facts, and their next-gen counterparts like Mares Of Thrace. Wilson looks at some of the fundamental elements of the scene, including its timelessness, rebellion, and sense of community, while reminding us of its diversity of sound and the impact of the many BIPOC musicians instrumental in its foundation. 

In our Group Chat feature, Wilson, Tom Beedham, and Leslie Ken Chu offer up their perspectives on Edmonton metalcore band EXITS’ heavy tune “The Forever Crashing of Waves,” while Beedham, Galen Milne-Hines, and Wilson reflect on Toronto-born, Nunavut-based producer </DAD>’s lo-fi hip-hop track “Better Then the Worst.” More than mere reviews, these writeups get to the heart (or what is fundamental, you might say) of how these songs—tunes you may not have heard before but that are worth seeking out—make our writers feel and think.

Of course, New Feeling is more than just the publication of our online issues—behind the scenes, the co-op has been busy putting in place a ‘buddy triangle system’ that connects all members with a buddy and a third member to pool resources, diversify skill development and prevent burnout. It’s yet another move that helps to uphold our values by ensuring collective growth while prioritizing accountability.

Speaking of collectivity, we continue to reach out to readers and those discovering New Feeling for the first time to encourage everyone to join the co-op as a member—whether you want to get involved in writing for the publication, helping to organize behind the scenes, or just support the group’s work, there’s a place for you as a member! Increasing our membership will allow us to reach new goals this fall, including adding another feature story to each issue; grow our reserve fund for commissioning long-lead stories, invest in our website and deal with other expenses; and raise the rate paid for features. Learn more about the co-op and join or donate here.

We’ve got lots of interesting initiatives on the go of late, including What’s New, our bi-monthly newsletter; our Reading Group continues, with a terrific discussion earlier this month about Sasha Geffen’s history of gender fluidity in pop music, Glitter Up the Dark; and as New Feeling’s first Public Editor, I took over our Twitter account to explain more about the role and ask how I can best serve our readers (feel free to email me with any questions or ideas at nfpubliceditor[at]

We hope New Feeling becomes a fundamental part of your music reading—and that the music you read about in each issue also finds its way into your essential listening.

Group Chat: EXITS ; DAD

Group Chat: EXits; </DAD>

The words "GROUP CHAT" in large black font over a light brown textured cardboard backdrop. In the foreground, two poorly drawn text bubbles featuring photos of EXITS and DAD in each.

Art by: Michael Rancic | EXITS photo by: Agnes Benson; </DAD> portrait by: </DAD>

Welcome to New Feeling’s Group Chat. In this feature, we invite a panel of writers to give their takes on two songs selected by our editorial team, with the goal of offering a variety of perspectives of each track and discovering common threads of interest, analysis, and interpretation.

In our latest edition, Tom Beedham, Leslie Ken Chu, and Daniel G. Wilson plunge into the deep metalcore waters of “The Forever Crashing of Waves” by Edmonton heatseekers EXITS. And Beedham, Galen Milne-Hines, and Wilson offer their vivid thoughts on the lo-fi abstract hip hop of Taloyoak, Nunavut-based producer </DAD>’s “Better Then the Worst.”

Note: We’ve had to stylize </DAD>’s name as just “DAD” in places because WordPress thinks its code. Fun!

EXITS – “The Forever Crashing of Waves”

Tom Beedham: In Kondratiev theory, the world economy cycles through a series of growth waves every 50 years: expansion, collapse, stagnation, and recession. Edmonton metalcore unit EXITS desperately motion toward that brutal economic determinism all over “The Forever Crashing of Waves,” transcending its predictability in the process. The title suggests eternity, but freshly inaugurated vocalist Jon Baker sees the pattern as an opportunity, piercing through the heavy rhythmic onslaught to stake a claim: “This time it’s gonna be different / I won’t be right back where I began.” Screaming out as if he’s drowning, there’s no doubting Baker’s urgency as he begs for support in this effort, and the band rides that energy all the way through to a palm chugging finale breakdown begging for a pit. Change requires mass resistance, and Baker reiterates the directionless default desperation through repeated lines of exhaustion before the song’s collapse: “Are we just running and running around? / Running ourselves into the ground?”

Leslie Ken Chu: Writing about metalcore bands like EXITS is challenging for me. It’s not their meticulous arrangements and airbag-triggering time signature changes that I can’t follow, it’s their impenetrable screaming. Halfway through “The Forever Crashing of Waves,” I gave up worrying about the possible meanings circling the song’s ocean of noise. I just clamped my eyes shut, held on for dear life, and let EXITS haul me through their sonic wake. But after a dozen listens, I realized why the song clicked with me: compared to the literally cartoonish melodramas of more agile metalcore bands, “The Forever Crashing of Waves” contains few frills—no parrying, no strafing, just a straight punch to the gut; Killswitch Engage can keep their theatrical flare to the ring. By the time this epiphany hit me, I was ready for another round.

Daniel G. Wilson: Edmonton’s EXITS zero in on the chaotic aspects of mathcore with bone-crushing precision. On “The Forever Crashing of Waves,” harsh metallic guitars cascade over pounding drums and aggressive rumbling basslines that constantly sound like they are on the edge of implosion. Jon Baker’s shouted vocals are a call to action, blurring the line between a lyrical vehicle and an instrumental texture that acts as a guidepost for the listener. The quieter breaks throughout the song add a nice counterbalance to the all-out assault of the louder sections. A lush and melodic eye within the maelstrom of distortion and shifting time signatures provides emotional catharsis and space for contemplation, showing a mastery of compositional dynamics at the heart of this frenetic song.

</DAD> – “Better Then the Worst”

Tom Beedham: Working under the remarkably unGoogleable project name </DAD>, Taloyoak, Nunavut-based, Toronto-born hip-hop producer Jonathan Nuss seems intent on obscurity. Building beats (and their samples) from scratch, the project certainly boasts an air of comfortable self-reliance, Nuss patiently transforming field recordings and homestrung instrumentals into the laid back atmospheres that permeate his tracks. Bumping along to burbling bass lines, “Better Then the Worst” underlines that sense of ease with a series of breezy guitar chords that spill into surfy vibrato washes. Unpacking scenes of elemental abundance, rapper Kai Waves steps in with a feature that throws shade at the darker sides of ambition, making a case for building sandcastles rather than empires.

Galen Milne-Hines: As a producer, Nunavut-based </DAD> describes his style as “abstract hip-hop,” which makes sense as you hone in on the textures and colours compressed into “Better Then the Worst.” Each listener can easily come away with their own descriptors—it’s a good thing we have three different writers reviewing such a cool song even though it’s less than two minutes long. For me, it’s the sense of contrast built into the woolly production. Bright chords overtop a loping beat switch up with warmer, darker guitar hits, somehow bringing to mind the sound of an old Western, albeit one perhaps set in the tundras of the far north. Guest emcee Kai Waves grounds the track with verses that feel confidently defiant and perfectly suit the “dad-fi” vibe.

Daniel G. Wilson: The sound of late ‘90s underground hip-hop is alive and well on “Better Then the Worst” by Taloyoak, Nunavut’s </DAD> featuring American rapper Kai Waves. The entire vibe of the song is heavily reminiscent of a track found on a Def Jux comp or an Adult Swim bumper back in the early ‘00s. That is to say: “Better Then the Worst” provides hard-hitting yet boom bap-esque beats with a delicate eye for sampling and low fidelity texture smeared across the production. Kai Waves’ verses are delivered with a confident and dynamic flow that merges succinctly with the underlying music, never taking away from the beats while using them as a springboard to deliver observations about life. In combining these elements, </DAD> keeps old school reference points alive so that they will continue shaping the future.

Editor’s Note – Issue 9: Kinship

Editor’s Note – Issue 9: Kinship

By: Tabassum Siddiqui | Art by: Galen Milne-Hines

“Kinship” is the theme of this issue—and something that’s at the heart of New Feeling. As a collective, New Feeling is committed to building a supportive platform where music writers and the wider music community can feel at home, learn from one another, and uplift each other.

Those values permeate Issue 9, in which our writers explore what kinship means in the context of some of the music being made across the country today.

Each issue, we bring together multiple writers to give us their take on some intriguing new songs. Having a mutual starting point for our Group Chat reviews draws on the idea that kinship is about a sharing of characteristics or origins, but also offers up each writer’s distinct perspective—which, if you think about it, is akin to any thoughtful collective experience.

In this issue’s edition of Group Chat, you’ll read Leslie Ken Chu, Jordan Currie, Jesse Locke, and Laura Stanley’s musings on Vancouver-based composer, improviser, vocalist, and violinist Wallgrin’s latest composition and the new track by Hamilton-bred, Toronto-based singer, rapper, and producer Quinton Barnes.

This issue’s two features delve deep into the concept of community—Winnipeg writer Cierra Bettens interviews B.C.-based Indigenous singer-songwriter Francis Baptiste about drawing on his roots for his new album of songs in both English and nsyilxcən, the language of the Syilx people.

And Toronto writer and photographer Tom Beedham takes us into the heart of the Lawnya Vawnya festival in St. John’s, which spotlights new independent music over several days and invites its audience to engage with music and art in an inclusive and innovative way. Tom’s overview of his time there reminds us what a festival can be: a place of creative kinship rather than a corporate cash grab.

In keeping with our commitment to being a communal space where communication and transparency is key, we also want to acknowledge that Issue 9 is coming to you later than we’d hoped—in part due to the ongoing challenges with COVID and the summertime schedules of many of our contributors. That means that work on Issue 10 will be affected, pushing that edition back as well.

We know our readers and paying members expect New Feeling to publish in a timely fashion, so we hope to be back on schedule with Issue 11, and thank you in advance for your patience as we continue to work towards publishing unique, inclusive coverage of the Canadian music scene you won’t find elsewhere.

A reminder that you can join New Feeling’s cooperative as a member—when you subscribe, you become a co-owner and help to equitably pay our talented contributors across the country and shape the organization’s direction.

And as Public Editor, I’m always open to your feedback and ideas around how we can continue to grow and foster kinship—you can reach me at or follow us on Twitter and Instagram @newfeelingcoop (keep an eye out for a Twitter takeover from me in August where we’ll be looking to hear more from our readers and members about how the Public Editor can best serve their needs and interests).

As Francis Baptiste puts it in this issue, “I guess when I hear that word [kinship], I think of family. Not just your literal biological family, but the family you create around you.” Thanks as always for being part of the New Feeling family—bringing together people through music, one issue at a time.

Group Chat: Wallgrin; Quinton Barnes

Art by: Galen Milne-Hines | Wallgrin photo by: Mackenzie Walker; Quinton Barnes photo by: Rahel Ellis

Welcome to New Feeling’s Group Chat. In this feature, we invite a panel of writers to give their takes on two songs selected by our editorial team, with the goal of offering a variety of perspectives on each track and discovering common threads of interest, analysis, and interpretation.

In our latest edition, Leslie Ken Chu, Jordan Currie, and Laura Stanley declare their devotion to Vancouver violinist Wallgrin’s avant-chamber pop composition “PseudoReligion.” Meanwhile, Tia Julien, Chu, and Jesse Locke wax animated about the viscerally conflicted and disorienting “Dead” by Hamilton-born singer-rapper Quinton Barnes.

Check out the takes below!

Leslie Ken Chu: Melodic drops of harp pool around salt-lamp synths and Wallgrin’s operatic voice like water in a pristine underground pond. Yet, counter to that tranquil imagery, the Vancouver composer lyrically wades through murky existential waters. “Am I a fool for seeking clarity / When I know that nothing will ever be clear?” they ponder. An electrical storm guitar solo rages, mirroring their inner conflict. Wallgrin’s skepticism that an unequivocal universal truth exists inspires feelings of insignificance. But light always breaks through the surface of even the darkest waters—as long as Wallgrin keeps swimming, they’re bound to reach a revelation and break through their uncertainty.

Jordan Currie: Wallgrin’s “PseudoReligion” is a cosmic, magical melting pot. If the poetry of Florence and the Machine, the whimsical vocals and delicate harps of Joanna Newsom and the rousing 1970s rock guitars of Yves Tumor had a baby, this song would be it. But make no mistake—the Vancouver artist spins all of these eclectic sounds into their own original creation. Confusion, faith, a search for meaning in life—these are all themes explored in the song. “Am I a fool for seeking clarity / When I know that nothing will ever be clear?” Tegan Wahlgren ponders. The track’s simmering build leads to an epic finale that can only be described as utterly mystical, like the image of Venus emerging from the ocean.

Laura Stanley: On “PseudoReligion,” Wallgrin (Tegan Wahlgren) steps up to the pulpit and lets loose. If Elisa Thorn’s twinkling harp is heaven and the face-melting rock opera-like guitar solo from Tristan Paxton is hell, then Wahlgren is caught somewhere in the middle trying to understand their life’s purpose and, as they write on Instagram, “surrender to absurdity.” Wahlgren’s striking avant-garde pop track twists and turns unexpectedly, but the weighty unease at the heart of “PseudoReligion” (and Wahlgren) is a steady conductor and a very relatable touchpoint. Light a prayer candle in preparation for Wallgrin’s second album, Yet Again the Wheel Turns, due out in September.

Leslie Ken Chu: It’s difficult to parse reality from paranoid fiction on “Dead,” the lead single from Quinton Barnes’ upcoming sophomore album, For the Love of Drugs. A harsh, jarring electronica beat undergirds the rapper’s innate swagger, revealing his inner turmoil. One moment, he’s boasting that no one can ever be on his level; the next, he’s crumbling completely: “Got a feeling I deserve something more / ‘Cause ain’t nothing working here at all / I got voices in my head telling me I’m better off dead.” That Barnes swings from flaunting confidence to wrestling with self-doubt in the same verse evinces one sure reality: it’s too easy for our disparaging internal voice to invade our thoughts.

Tia Julien: Quinton Barnes leans into the dark on the first single “Dead” from his upcoming album, For the Love of Drugs. The accompanying music video provides a chilling visual aid to the horror behind the narrative: “I got voices in my head / Telling me I’d be better off dead.” Consistent with his discography, “Dead” is a bold and stylized statement on a socially stigmatized dilemma—the temptation to succumb to your vices: “I’m liable to lose my mind at any time / Stop treating me crazy.” We know Barnes from his previous works, including As a Motherfucker (2021), as a multifaceted artist who isn’t afraid to be truly vulnerable in his songwriting. Laughing in the face of evil on “Dead,” Barnes shows his willingness to work and play with intense emotion through his music.

Jesse Locke: The devil on Quinton Barnes’ shoulder is laughing so loudly that he can’t be ignored. On his new single, “Dead,” intrusive thoughts bubble up to the surface and spill over like an oozing evil that refuses to remain bottled inside him. The young Kitchener-based rapper and producer revealed feelings of vulnerability under the leather-clad exterior of his 2021 debut, As A Motherfucker, but on this song he shines the spotlight directly into the darkness. Like his former Grimalkin Records labelmate Backxwash, Barnes speaks openly about the temptations to obliterate himself either temporarily or permanently, tearing down the stigmas that surround these very human conditions. When he laughs back at the devil, weakness becomes strength.

Editor’s Note – Issue 8: Nourishment

Editor’s Note – Issue 8: Nourishment

By: Tabassum Siddiqui | Art by: Michael Rancic

If you’re familiar with New Feeling (and for newcomers, welcome!), you know that it was started as a way of reimagining the old model of music journalism—one that’s seen in-depth, thoughtful coverage slashed and publications closed. Over the past year, New Feeling’s cooperative model has powered several issues of innovative writing that highlights emerging Canadian artists not served well by the old paradigm.

In two decades of writing about music, I’ve rarely heard any editor or publication make mention of values. They might talk about editorial approach, or copy style, or even journalistic ethics. When New Feeling launched with a commitment to being a supportive platform where writers and creatives worked collaboratively not just to publish great work, but to uphold community-based values, it underscored the collective’s unique space in the Canadian music scene.

In thinking deeply about what sort of music writing they wanted to see and how to make that happen through a cooperative process, the organizing working group and steering committee worked together to develop the framework that guides New Feeling. Part of those early ideas included the establishment of a Public Editor role—someone who could be a resource and contact for readers; a go-between amidst co-op members and the New Feeling readership (though we certainly hope readers will consider becoming members as well, as your voice and input can only help the collective grow!).

With this issue, I’ll be stepping into that role—at least to start; we hope other New Feeling members will also serve as the Public Editor down the road and bring their own ideas and creativity to engaging with readers. The way we see it, having a Public Editor is a vital part of living up to the co-op’s values, particularly when it comes to transparency and accountability.

If you have questions, feedback, or even complaints, you’ll now have a direct contact at New Feeling you can reach out to—I’m keen to get your input into the work we’re doing and how we can make it even better.

As a longtime journalist, I also want to ensure those interested in any aspect of music journalism—whether that’s writing, editing, criticism, pitching or something else—can come to New Feeling for support and resources. And what that looks like—online workshops? Mentoring? Writing feedback?—is entirely up to you.

It’s perhaps fitting that we are taking this step as we launch Issue 8, on the theme of Nourishment—how to feed our bodies, minds, and souls during these last few trying years has certainly been top of mind, and we hope the reviews and stories in this issue remind you of how music can nourish us. Of course connection is yet another way we nurture community—something I’m hoping I can help do for New Feeling as the new Public Editor.

In this issue, writer Karen K. Tran interviews Brock Boonstra, frontman of Guelph punk band Habit, about how his love of music dovetails with his enthusiasm for cooking. “Being able to invite people over and say, ‘Hey, this is something that’s really interesting to me’ is just a good way to communicate with each other,” he says.

New Feeling is all about sharing what we think is interesting to our writers—like Boonstra, we’re inviting you into our (virtual) space, and hope you’ll connect with us in return.

Whether you read about an artist you already know and love, or discover some new sounds through one of our stories—or maybe you’re a music writer or diehard music fan who wants to get involved with like-minded people who love and support creative, diverse art by joining the co-op—I want to hear from you. Email me at or tweet at me @tabsiddiqui.

From the start, New Feeling has been about envisioning that something new is possible through working together with shared values. Reach out anytime and let me know how we can best serve you as fellow members of a community that deeply cares about all the incredible music being made across the country.

Group Chat: Ariane Roy; A La Una & Kimmortal

Art by: Laura Stanley | Ariane Roy photo by: Kay Milz; A La Una photo by: Lorenzo Colocado; Kimmortal photo by: Iris Chia

Welcome to New Feeling’s Group Chat. In this feature, we invite a panel of writers to give their takes on two songs selected by our editorial team, with the goal of offering a variety of perspectives of each track and discovering common threads of interest, analysis, and interpretation.

In our latest edition, Kaelen Bell, Megan LaPierre, and David MacIntyre do a triple-take of Ariane Roy’s swaggering piano-driven francophone track “Apprendre encore.” Tom Beedham, Jesse Locke, and Laura Stanley stare down the court at A La Una & Kimmortal’s thunderous anthem “On My Way.”

Check out the takes below!

Kaelen Bell: “Apprendre encore” immediately opened a wormhole to ninth grade, the kind of thing that I’d replay to death on many an early morning bus ride. Whether that’s a good or bad thing—I had pretty solid taste as a tween! Being 14 kinda sucks!—is still up in the air, but what’s certain is Ariane Roy’s refreshing disregard for the ticks of today’s pop music. A bit of ’60s Yé-Yé, a bit of Brill Building bombast, and a healthy dash of winking 2010s blog pop, “Apprendre encore” would be right at home between Grizzly Bear and Purity Ring on a 2011 BIRP! playlist. It’s certainly not anything new, but when “new” can be so uninspired, it’s kinda nice to look back for a couple minutes.

Megan LaPierre: “Encore” is a fun French double-entendre: in addition to “again,” it can translate to “still,” which semi-dramatically changes the song’s titular concept. (I had a great relatable anecdote about going to the dentist and being told I’ve been brushing my teeth wrong.) But “still” makes more sense sonically, since “Apprendre encore” suspends itself in mid-air with a bubble bath of guitar fuzz. Roy’s use of the ’50s doo-wop progression and a steady piano bounce give the song a retro-tinged aesthetic familiarity, like you might be hearing it encore—perhaps it could have played after “Operator” by Shiloh on a MuchMusic VideoFlow of yesteryear.

David MacIntyre: On this tune, the so-called queen of “sad dancing” muses about recognizing her character flaws and admitting she’s a work in progress. “Apprendre encore” (French for “still learning”) is a piano-driven, fairly straightforward indie-pop tune by the Quebec City native. Its sprightly instrumentation complements her higher register, and traces of indie, pop, soul, and jazz—she counts Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday among her influences—can definitely be heard, with a sprinkling of electric guitars in between. This song is pretty standard singer-songwriter fare, but it’s nonetheless a pleasant one that deftly showcases Roy’s talents, and it’ll feel right at home for fans of other francophone artists like Ariane Moffatt, Lydia Képinski, and Hubert Lenoir.

Tom Beedham: Living in the same city as producers Romeo Candido and Lex Junior, I’ve followed their evolution since retroactively happening upon the Santa Guerrilla project they belonged to and tracing their work through DATU. Abandoning that name for its patriarchal connotations (datu means “tribal chieftain”) and starting fresh (the group’s website explains A La Una means “back at one”), it’s exciting to hear the pair return with a track that channels kulintang gongs, distorted beats, and sirens for a sound that could fill blocks in the process, but it’s guest feature Kimmortal who steals the spotlight here. Rapping from a perspective of underestimation, flows like “Imma punch up, up, up / Underrated, underdog / I’m under the radar, above / I’m up and down and all around” roll off their tongue and land like a self-actualizing verbal Konami Code, begging to be contended with and disorienting challengers in the space of one breath.

Jesse Locke: A La Una were formerly known as DATU, a group fusing traditional Filipino instrumentation with modern pop flourishes. They maintain a hint of that sound in the beat for their latest song, “On My Way,” embedding chiming kulintang percussion within thumping drums and wailing sirens. Rapper Kimmortal joins the duo on this aspirational jock jam, entering the pantheon of songs about playing basketball when you’re not very tall (slide over, Skee-Lo and Aaron Carter). They sound ready to dunk on the competition with their first burst of braggadocio: “Small package, but I’m sicker than your average / Spitting fire, I’m inspired by the alchemist.” It’s unclear if the pint-sized MC is shouting out another beatmaker or writing bars about transforming base metals, but either way the result is gold.

Laura Stanley: I first heard “On My Way” because of SHORTY, a short film made for the NBA’s 75th anniversary celebrations and whose trailer aired regularly during Toronto Raptors broadcasts. The pounding tenacity of A La Una and Kimmortal’s track is the teammate of a father-daughter story about a girl who’s driven to make her school’s basketball team (even though she’s shorter than everyone) and motivated by her father and his stories about the best short NBA players of all time. The determination of the film’s story is mirrored in that of “On My Way” which is flooded with focused confidence: “Tell my competition quiet on the set,” Kimmortal raps.  

Whereas I gave up my basketball career in grade 7 when a 5 foot me (I somehow made my school’s team!) saw the height of my competition, the track’s looped siren sound and thunderous energy feel like a sold-out Scotiabank Arena has my back and makes me regret not pushing myself to be a better player. As you persevere through whatever challenges you’re facing, throw on “On My Way” and be reminded that you’ve got this.

Group Chat: Hotel Dog; SÜRF

Art by: Michael Rancic | SÜRF photo by: Marcus; Hotel Dog photo provided by the band

Welcome to New Feeling’s Group Chat. In this feature, we invite a panel of writers to give their takes on two songs selected by our editorial team, with the goal of offering a variety of perspectives of each track and discovering common threads of interest, analysis, and interpretation.

To kick off Group Chat, Jordan Currie, Karen K. Tran, and Jesse Locke answer the call to offer their thoughts about the runway-ready “Telephone” by Winnipeg’s Hotel Dog, taken from the band’s bedroom pop collection, the Isolation Inn EP. Meanwhile, Reina Cowan, Sun Noor, and Tom Beedham dive into deceptively deep waters on Toronto rapper/producer SÜRF’s “Bunda,” one of six minute-long riptides from his EP, Project.wav.

Check out the takes below!

Jordan Currie: Hotel Dog’s “Telephone,” from their debut album Isolation Inn, is a jovial blend of bedroom pop, electronic, dance, and house sensibilities. The offbeat track’s lyrics show singer Charlie Baby breaking free of their anxieties and celebrating their authentic “non-binary and hot” self. “I don’t do this for you / Not even if you’re my boo,” they sing. Light and tinny vocals contrast with the meaty bass line and clanging key chords in the background. “Telephone” is the type of song that could easily be played at either a late-night house party or a posh fashion runway show.

Jesse Locke: Hotel Dog’s Charlie Baby has a gently stoned sing-song quality to their voice that immediately disarms. On “Telephone,” they reach out for affection and assurance but never sound stressed out. Riding sputtering synth grooves reminiscent of Chad VanGaalen’s DIY dance music, the non-binary singer explains that it’s all for fun: “I don’t do this for you / Not even if you’re my boo / Not a guy or gal / Just write the songs with my pal.” Like Palberta’s Lily Konigsberg, Hotel Dog makes bedroom pop that could be a bona fide hit, if the world wasn’t so crummy.

Karen K. Tran: “Telephone” is a notable addition to the bedroom pop genre. It has it all: teenage lamentations, hypnotic vocals, and a pretty groovy bass line. Hotel Dog make good use of the tools they have available and possess an attentive ear for adding the right amount of production, without overthinking it.

Hotel Dog reinforce the telephone theme not only with the sample of the “This number is no longer connected” message but also with those ’90s phone keypad tones incorporated into the beat. The key change at the end gives the song an eerie edge reminiscent of a home dial-up internet service connecting.

Tom Beedham: SÜRF was only serving up a self-described appetizer with the November release of his Project.wav collection on Bandcamp, but he’s already weary of the tedium of hip-hop’s eternal self-marketing. Summoning a scratchy violin sample and room-shaking bass to boom and weave through high-pressure systems, on “Bunda,” the artist draws a line in the sand and washes away any notion of talent scarcity, insisting they can turn it on and off like the Human Torch: “I’m so done giving out my handles / I’m like an eternal candle / Johnny Storm in this bitch like flame on.”

Reina Cowan: You don’t often hear this type of instrumentation on hip-hop songs, but it works. The strings and percussion on “Bunda” give this track an international funkiness that refreshingly breaks out of the moody, dark, sing-rap sound that Toronto has become known for. Production-wise, “Bunda” has an demo-esque rawness to it. On a track with a 1:11 runtime, this style fits perfectly. Lyrically, lines like “Only ever here to raise the bar higher / Turn up, make the girls go, ‘Ahh yeah’ / Sauce like this is hard to come by, eh” feel like a good dose of solid (if a little simple) hip-hop bravado. There are some cleverly placed comic book, video game, and film references on this track and throughout SÜRF’s whole Project.wav record. See if you can catch ’em all. The punchy energy on “Bunda” makes it a strong introduction to SÜRF’s catalogue, making me want to hear more from this intriguing new artist.

Sun Noor: Fusing new sounds with the old and being open to new approaches during the creative process enables the creation of timeless music. SÜRF encapsulates that energy through his track “Bunda,” off his eclectic first release, Project.wav. With all six songs amounting to a minute or less, SÜRF redefines what an artist’s initial release should capture. “Bunda” is undoubtedly one of the stronger tracks off this project, given the beat’s infectious, violin-heavy instrumentation that is reminiscent of Sudanese jazz. SÜRF captures how letting go of a perfectionist mentality allowed him to embark on his newfound musical journey with ease.