Local duo speaks about creating outside the confines of genre
A quick Google search of “Heartstreets” will pull up a description of the band as being R&B, soul, dance, and electronic all at once. In this instance, Google too is at a loss for words—or at least one that encapsulates a sound defiant of any one (or two or three) categories. But that might not be such a bad thing.
According to Gab Godon, one half of this Montreal-based duo, the beauty lies in the ambiguity. “Our music doesn’t always make sense, and I don’t think we have one song that will completely describe what we do. We are a lot of things,” Godon said. “What we are is two girls, singing, rapping and always creating together, and that becomes Heartstreets.”
On paper, Heartstreets is a collaboration between longtime friends Godon and Emma Beko, who bonded over a love of music and a persistent creativity. To become acquainted with their music on a sonic level, however, brings a whole new understanding of their partnership. Punchy, electronic beats and smooth rhythms offer a dynamic backdrop for Beko’s intricate, 90s hip hop-influenced raps and Godon’s soulful vocals, which draw from the R&B mastery of Lauryn Hill and the Fugees. Each contrasting element brings out the best in the others, blending seamlessly and eroding the narrow delineations imposed by preconceptions of their sound.
It should be no surprise that the musical partnership came together in a similar way. Like a plot-twisting scene from a movie, everything fell into place for the duo over a bottle of wine and an Adele song. “Hometown Glory,” Beko recalled, was the song Godon showed her that pivotal night. “She sang it and I thought it was so beautiful, and there was a blank space in the song and so I was like, OK I’ll show you some of the raps I’ve been writing.”
The rest was history and the duo hasn’t stopped creating together since. “It was so fun,” Beko said of their first time in the studio. “We did a second one and a third one and at one point we had four [tracks] I think? And the producers were like, let’s put it out. We hadn’t even really thought about creating a band or having a music group really; it was just out of pleasure. And it still is out of pleasure.” The only thing they needed was a name for the new project. “We had a bunch brainstorms and ideas, and a friend of ours had suggested ‘Street Hearts’ because we’re two, and the duality between grittiness and the soft side we have,” Beko recalled. “But there was a band called Street Hearts—a Rolling Stones cover band—so then we just did Heartstreets.”
Godon described their first release as the moment the pair realized making music could be more than just a hobby. “Once the EP was out, there was the release party at Théâtre Fairmount. It was a big venue, and the first show we were producing. I remember after that I was like, yeah this is happening. We’re in it and we’re not getting out of it; we want to go all the way.”
Carving out a unique place in Montreal’s music scene seemed to happen unintentionally for Godon and Beko, as they began to grow in popularity after the release of their first album, You and I, in 2016.
“I guess we were very innocent at first and didn’t really realize what was going on in our city. We were more focused on becoming artists and creating our identity and our vision,” Godon said, noting the large francophone presence in the local hip hop scene. “We do music in English, so it does separate us from a lot of the francophone artists who are more out there.”
“After eight years, we still feel kind of like outsiders, but not in a negative way I think, we just assume it. But it’s not stopping us from trying to reach our goals,” Godon said. “Making music is not easy. I’m discovering, more and more, it is a shark’s world. But that’s just the way it is. We’re still just trying to do the best we can.”
Fast forward several years, and the duo have performed at festivals like Osheaga, the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Pop Montreal, Canadian Music Week, and, most recently, Mile Ex End Montreal. They’ve worked with local producer, Kaytranada, on the single “Blind,” and with Ryan Playground on the song “Lead Us,” one of Beko’s favourite collaborations.
“When we do it live […] she’ll be accompanying us without the beat, so it’s just her acoustic guitar and our voices,” Beko said. “It’s super cool to do. Since our music is mostly electronic, we do one formula of our show where it’s us and a sampler, but it’s fun to break it down sometimes and make it acoustic and intimate.”
For those who have yet to add Heartstreets to their playlists, Godon and Beko have some recommended starter tracks. “Listen to ‘Under My Skin’ and ‘Cruising With You,’ which are two of our most popular songs that have very different vibes,” Godon said.
“Completely different vibes, but you’ll feel a continuity in the music because, like Gab said, when we’re together there’s this vibe we give off,” Beko added.
Up next for the pair is a new song, this time a collaboration with francophone singer, Ariane Brunet, who goes by L’Isle. “It’s our first feature in French, our first bilingual song, and it’s awesome,” Beko said. The song is set to be released on Sept. 21. Beyond that, Godon said the duo are continually exploring their collaborative creativity and are excited to see where it takes them next. “We really do this because we like making music and we like sharing it with our fans and performing. It’s just for the pleasure of being able to share that.”
Photo by Mackenzie Lad