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


leehoosierforlife said...

very nicely done Janay!

leehoosierforlife said...

very nicely done Janay, great questions.