Thursday, November 18, 2010

Interview with Triple Threat, Vivek Shraya

Vivek Shraya, another musical Canadian gem took time out from packing and planning and who knows what else while preparing to leave for India to answer some questions for me. The singer/songwriter turned electro-pop wonder is crossing the North Atlantic Ocean to support indie-pop band Tegan & Sara.

Shraya has been releasing music consistently over the last decade. After receiving praise for his acoustic records he switched it up and went electro-pop and doesn't seem to be looking back. I don't think he needs to as he's made the better contributions to the genre over the last few years. He truly has a talent for producing this sound in way that sounds so vintage yet completely original.

However, his talent goes beyond music. He recently wrote a collection of short stories called 'God Loves Hair' and has been touring and doing readings of it since spring. And just recently he released a short film, Seeking Single White Male, which shed light on some of the racism he has encountered as a man of color. So I was excited to get some insight about these projects as well as his music.

You've been traveling and doing readings of your book God Loves Hair for a while now. Are you excited to be playing shows again?

Doing readings has been such a wonderful change of pace after playing music shows for 9 years (not including the cheesy talent competitions in shopping malls as a teenager). I love the intimacy of readings, making a connection, not via melody or instrumentations but storytelling. But yes, I am very excited to be playing shows again and particularly excited about this upcoming tour because a) Tegan and Sara! b) it is the first tour where I will be playing shows and doing readings.

According to Tegan you've been to India "many times". What are some things you like to do for fun while visiting India?

I have been to India many times but the last time I was there was in 1998 and it was a completely different kind of trip. So in a lot of ways I feel like I will be experiencing India for the first time. That said, I am looking forward to drinking a Limca – a lime flavoured soda pop that is so unbelievably delicious – and riding the auto-rickshaws (and praying that I don’t fall out).

"Your Name" - Vivek Shraya ft Sara Quin

So much of your material has this cool 80s feel. It feels like the beginning of electro-pop and not as techno as contemporary electro-pop usually sounds. Were the 80s a particularly influential period for you, musically?

Meghan Toohey (producer of If We’re Not Talking and Keys & Machines) and I both grew up in the 80s so I think that between her love for Prince and my love for Madonna , that sound comes naturally to us. Contemporary electro can also sound a little gimmicky with random synths slapped on to a beat and I strive for a musical efficiency, where each layer serves a purpose and enhances the song.

Your song "Fevered" was featured on Degrassi. Were you excited about that at all? Are you a fan of the show?

That was definitely a career highlight for me, particularly the way the song was used in a high school dance scene. Teenagers dancing to Fevered! I have not watched the new version of Degrassi a lot, but the original Degrassi was HUGE when I was growing up.

SEEKING SINGLE WHITE MALE (short film) from Vivek Shraya on Vimeo.

I have to ask what inspired you to make 'Seeking Single White Male', your short film. It was so sad and touching but also deeply personal.

Growing up queer in Edmonton was such an isolating experience and so I often imagined that gay bars and the opportunity to connect with other queers would feel like a homecoming of sort. But as a person of colour, I found I would almost literally disappear in those spaces, even when a conversation was had with another. This triggered a slow and innocent process of assimilating to a white aesthetic to be seen. It felt important to create a piece that spoke of and brought visibility to this experience, which is unfortunately the experience of many queer people of colour.

I'd like to note how soon you tackled this race issue after addressing Gender/Queer issues in your book. Can we look forward to more projects such as these from you in the future?

For most of my artistic career, music has been my central outlet. Writing/releasing God Loves Hair opened doors I had never considered before and has made me excited about art in general, particularly art to bring awareness and change. So yes, I hope to make more projects that discuss the various issues I am passionate about.

You tweeted that there will be new music in 2011. When can we expect a new release?

Either the summer or early fall. Fingers crossed!

Quick rundown of your favorite 2010 releases:

Robyn’s Body Talk (particularly pt 1) owned 2010. Hands down. Lately, I have been listening to the new Kanye record obsessively. The production is stellar. It makes me want to be a better musician and a better man.

God Loves Hair Reading - Gay Bombay event
11/21 Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Tegan & Sara w/Vivek Shraya - Hard Rock Cafe
11/23 Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Tegan & Sara w/Vivek Shraya - Hard Rock Cafe
11/25 New Delhi, Delhi, India

God Loves Hair Reading - Bengaluru Pride
11/27 Bengaluru, Karnataka, India


photo by: Juliana Neufeld
photo 2 by: Sarah Bastin

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Interview with Laura-Mary of Blood Red Shoes

The two-piece manages to create a dense sound looping guitar, drums and vocals together flawlessly. They sing about everything but love and relationships. They're more about telling you what's wrong with where they come from and how bored they are, or how hard it is to concentrate. See now that's what I related to.

As with many things in my life, when sending in this interview, I was met with bad timing. The band had just embarked on their first North American tour and had subsequently become insanely busy. Immediately after the tour they went home and did an intimate in-studio show with 50 fans and are now touring again! The speed of Indie!

Instead of trying to be clever and change the wording of the questions so that they're past tense like Laura-Mary's answers I decided to...not. They became busy and therefore some things I ask about have already happened, NBD right?

You guys are touring North America for the first time this month. But you have played in the states before. Have you noticed any differences between your UK and North American fans?

There are some differences like that people travel further to see you in the states, but thats just coz ITS MASSIVE. people seem really grateful that you come to the states, which always suprizes me as there are so many bands in north many to choose from, but yet people are really grateful which is nice.

You play festivals quite a bit. What do you love about playing festivals?

Its just so much fun. I mean there are terrible festivals....but we have been really lucky! and this year were some of my fav festival experiences ever. It is great to play to people that dont necessarily know anything about your band. Its exciting to try and convert people into liking your band. Then afterwards you can watch bands and bump into friends that you dont get to see most of the year because we are both touring all the time.

Do you prefer big festival stages to smaller venues?

i like both, for different reasons. Big festivals are fun because there is not a huge pressure as its not your own show, you have a short amount of time to put across your point. Small shows are really intense and intimate its a whole other thing! you change how you talk and play. They are both a challenge and both equally as fun.

During your fall tour in 2008 you played 12 countries and now you're touring North America which includes stops in Canada. Is there anywhere you would like to play that you haven't yet?

Russia and australia

For your new video for "Heartsink" you asked fans to bring things of sentimental value and destroy them. It turned out great on film but what was the set like? Were the fans at all emotional about what they had to do?

Not really, everyone was pretty quiet and up for just smashing things. Maybe they were emotional inside but it was hard for us to tell...they didn't really show that.

There was also a remix contest for a fan to get their own remix of "Heartsink" released as a B-side. How did that go? Did you personally get to hear the entries and pick the winner?

Yeah of course we heard it!! we had to pick the best one else could have done that!! Been weird if someone else chose it. We listened to loads and narrowed it down to two and then we picked the one we did as it just took the song and changed it but with still using the main parts. it was a bit dubstep, we just really liked it. The best one won for sure.

Laura-Mary, have you ever considered bringing a second guitarist on the road?

No way! there would be nothing for them to do. maybe if i wrote loads of parts i couldn't do live then it would make more sense...but we write songs as a two piece so bringing anyone else in would be weird.

Will you ever re-release or rerecord some of your earlier releases from '05 and '06?

I very much doubt it...we would rather write new songs then going back to seriously old ones. But i guess never say never! but i VERY much doubt it

You've released a few instrumentals. Were these songs initially intended to be instrumental or was the decision to not add lyrics made later?

Well Melvo we wrote in an hour to use as a b-side and it kinda just rocked without words. Carry knots is one of my fav songs and i tried singing over it...but it just didn't seem to work. Sulphites i think would be ace with will at some point prob try and do something with that.

Is it true that Edgar Wright, the director of Scott Pilgrim vs The World is a fan of yours and personally had "It's Getting Boring By The Sea" put on the film's soundtrack? Were you guys excited about that? Were you familiar with the graphic novel or the film beforehand?

Yes its true that Edgar Wright likes our band, he came to see us and we met him. He told us he was researching for this new movie he was doing which turned out to be Scott Pilgrim. He is an awesome guy!
I was not familiar with the graphic novel beforehand but i saw the movie and i think it is a great story. We were really excited about having our song on the film, it was ace.

I read that you're working on new EP or will be soon, is that correct? Is this the new material that 50 fans will get to hear at the intimate in-studio show next month?

We are working on new songs yes, we may release a ep...but if it goes good then prob will just get on with album number 3. We want to have loads of new material and we have been doing our best writing on the road. We will have alot of time next year to really get down to it and write as much as we can...its really exciting.
We played the intimate show but didn't play any new tunes in the end, as i was ill with flu and instead of the day we had to rehearse i was in bed trying to recover as the day after that show we were going on tour for a month and a half (which i am currently on now) so we played our songs and people were cool with us not doing new ones, as we didn't want to play them if they were not properly rehearsed. People seemed to have a good time and were just happy to see us in a living room basically.

Are there any US and/or Canadian based indie bands you guys are into?

Yeh LOADS to name a few Queens of the Stone Age, Women, The Bronx, Smashing Pumpkins, Warpaint, Jesus Lizard, Sonic Youth. i dunno most of our record collection is from the states or canada

Oh, and Laura-Mary could you update your blog with more amazing photos soon please?!

hey you just reminded me!! i kinda forgot about that blog fact i might start it again on this tour, as i got some ace photos from america and japan recently!
thanks for the reminder...also i didn't think anyone had seen that!!