Interview Music

Masters of Music: The Silver Skies

Discover Montreal’s rising stars and their journey through music.

In the heart of Montreal’s vibrant music scene, a phenomenon is brewing—an infectious blend of friendship, passion, and creativity known as The Silver Skies band. This dynamic sextet, comprising Christopher Chenevert, Charles Rabbat, Phillip Rabbat, Simon Lafortune, Jonathan Shapiro, and Aidan Shapiro, is redefining the city’s musical landscape with their unique fusion of indie, funk, rock, and pop, captivating audiences and critics alike with their electrifying performances.

Their journey began when Chenevert moved to Outremount and met the musically gifted Rabbat brothers. With Chenevert and Rabbat playing the guitar and Chenevert on the drums, they started playing together. Soon Lafortune, Chenevert’s childhood best friend, joined. Bonding over their shared passion for music, they began jamming together in a basement, laying the groundwork for their musical journey.

“The neighbors hated us,” said Chenevert humorously, as Ninja, the Rabbat brother’s cat, raced around their house, temporarily distracting the group during the interview. “But those jam sessions were where it all started.”

The four had no singing skills and sought out vocalists via Facebook advertisements. Their lineup solidified on April 16, 2021, when the twin Shapiro brothers, joined the band. “I think like that’s our anniversary,” said Chenevert nostalgically, glancing over at the rest of his band with a smile on his face.

Finding the perfect moniker proved to be no small feat for the band—in fact, it took over eight months before the group landed on their iconic name. “We gave our producer a list of like 10 names, and he chose two that he liked. One of them was The Silver Skies, and that was my idea,” Rabbat said. “The reason why I came up with it was because, well, today is actually a perfect example. Look at the sky, it’s gray. Gray skies are a depressing way of seeing it. Instead of saying ‘Gray Skies,’ it’s ‘Silver Skies.”

The band’s journey wasn’t without hurdles that went beyond the choice of a name. One of their major challenges revolved around fostering active listening and clear communication. Chenevert openly acknowledged the diverse nature of their personalities, particularly within the dynamic of a band where individuals with varying traits come together. He admitted to the ongoing struggle of navigating through personality conflicts and interpersonal challenges inherent in collaborative efforts. “The greatest thing about us is that over time, we’ve learned to communicate. So even though we disagree, and sometimes we have to shout over the drums, we learn each other’s talking styles,” said Shapiro. 

Since their humble beginnings, The Silver Skies members have taken the Montreal music scene by storm, one gig at a time with their electrifying live performances. Their favorite show to date is a memorable night at Blue Dog on June 9, 2023, where the band’s energy and connection with the crowd reached fever pitch. Encouraged by the crowd to keep going even after being told that their set was done, the band kept playing. “Blue Dog was dope. It was a small venue, but the vibe was there. Even though they cut us off, we had a rock and roll attitude,” said Rabbat. 

The Silver Skies recently unveiled their latest single, “Drive Me Crazy,” a song that holds a unique place in their repertoire as both their newest and oldest creation. Written by the youngest duo of the group, the Shapiros wrote the song at 16-years-old. It stayed untouched for years until they met the other band members. It was the first song they performed together as a group and, now, their first released single. It is currently out on every streaming platform. Fans can look forward to the upcoming release of Silver Skies’ new single, “Emotional” set to hit the airwaves very soon.

As they look ahead to the future, The Silver Skies members have their sights set on even greater heights. One of their aspirations is collaborating with another local Montreal band, Mr. Patterson, who once opened for them at L’Escogriffe Bar back in February. 

When asked how fans could help support them, Chenevert said, “If you like our music, please share it with other people. The best thing you could do to help us is share it with your friends and family. Don’t keep it to yourself.”

With its infectious enthusiasm and unwavering dedication, The Silver Skies continues to reach for the stars. As members navigate the ever-evolving landscape of the music industry, one thing remains clear—with The Silver Skies, the sky’s the limit.

Interview Music

Montreal band arc on their self-titled album 

The band is thrilled upon the release of their debut album on April 6.

arc is a local band composed of Stephen Venkatarangam, Adrian Aitken and Annabelle Brault who recently released their debut album to the public. Venkatarangam and Brault are also Ph.D. Candidates in Concordia’s INDI program. 

When they first started out, the band didn’t set out with any specific instrumentation or even a set compositional process. Later on, Annabelle knew she would play a synth, Stephen would play the guitar and Adrian, digital drums. 

The band members do not see themselves fitting in any specific genre of music. As their Bandcamp profile states, “arc blends the unpredictability of live modular synthesis with the warmth of traditional instruments, crafting spontaneous, one-time-only soundscapes.” The band is “a sonic dream collective mashing modular synth, ambient, IDM, psych rock, contemporary classical, raga and post-rock for your listening/visual experiences.” 

With songs running from five to nine-minutes-long, the five-track project was created by recording live improvisations. Such recordings captured in the process reflected musical moments like a slow-building theme that evolves into something new. “We felt the songs on the album captured this ‘arc,’” expressed Venkatarangam—hence the album name. 

A core element of the creative process was the incorporation of modular synths, which are instruments where you pick and choose different components to create your own instrument. This granted the band more freedom regarding desired tones and unique sequences or samplers. On top of the modular synth, arc blends more traditional instruments like flutes, guitars, analog synthesizers and drums. The band does not use pre-recorded tracks or even laptops for that matter (other than to capture the recording). As for the songwriting process, different members will take turns starting and then co-creating will happen spontaneously. 

The shortlisted group of their improvisations represented a snapshot of ever-evolving soundtracks: “A different person begins with a musical theme on whatever instrument they feel works, and the other two of us add to this theme and we see where it goes from there,” Venkatarangam explained. 

The band believes that nature counts as a source of energy and inspiration for them, which is reflected in their album cover. The visual is a photo of a stream behind Stephen and Annabelle’s place in Boucherville. “It was run into a video synth, another aspect of our collective and then made into the cover. I guess it symbolizes a snapshot of our collective stream of creation, which is what our recordings are,” Venkatarangam said. 

The making of the album was filled with memorable moments for the band, like the time when Annabelle was taking birdsong samples in India while creating wind sounds on her modular synth. “This created a unique atmosphere which allowed us to all add our own sonic textures and beats to it—it felt special creating it,”  said Venkatarangam.

But the birth of the album came with its challenges. The band would sometimes find themselves struggling with creating and recording music on the spot.  It also took a little while for them to find a consistent sound, learn how to record their tracks and learn how to play and incorporate their various instrumentations—particularly the modular synths.

Overall, arc’s sound on their debut album makes them a bit of a hybrid between a live band and electronic, ambient or IDM music. They incorporate a live electronic drummer, modular synths with unique sounds to create music that is moving forward, embracing technology, without being overly polished and produced. “We feel the music is still engaging and meaningful to us and try not to be overly self-indulgent or pretentious (i.e. shocking the listener) but authentic despite our experimental nature,” added Venkatarangam. 

arc wishes to create soundscapes that allow the listeners to generate their own personal meanings. The members also noted that their songs reflect what is going on in their personal lives, and leave a glimmer of hope or a moment of respite, reflection and/or positivity as they navigate the human experience in these uncertain times. 

“We think this album reflects us finding ourselves as a band, getting on the same page together and continuing with our creative arc,” expresses Venkatarangam. Although a debut album is a significant milestone, the members believe that it also just marks the beginning of them. “We hope we join the list of artists that bring a human element to the many genres we fit into,” shared Venkatarangam. 

If you’re curious about arc, don’t forget to catch them playing shows this year, like at  Brain Freeze Montreal (a local electronic festival series) on Sept. 11. 

You can also check out their live video-synthesis projections filmed at their home studio and shared via their social media at @arcbandmtl or their YouTube channel @arcband8649.

Interview Music

Behind the Lens: Photographers and Live Music

A glimpse into two university students and photographers’ experience shooting live performances and participating in music culture.

To delve deeper into the relationship between photography and live music events, Concordia alum Sydney Gastaldo and third-year student in professional music at Toronto Metropolitan University, alongside third-year photography student Jordan Markle at Dawson College, proudly share their respective journey taking professional photos of live concerts. 

Being in charge of capturing a moment in time, especially in an atmosphere as lively and busy as a live music event—both visually and sonically—is no easy task. When asked about photographers’ aim in capturing the energy and emotion of a performance in any venue, Markle said that he really tries to focus on capturing the emotion and energy of live music in Montreal, no matter its scale: “Each picture is carefully constructed in a way that channels the energy and atmosphere of the event, giving viewers a sneak peek into what it was like to actually be there.” 

As for Sydney Gastaldo, she personally always tends to come back to the concept of movement and DIY approach in photography since she doesn’t like photos that look staged. “Some of this happens in post/editing but some of this experiment can happen in the moment through experimenting with aperture, angles, exposure etc,” Gastaldo shared. She also noted how some of the best photos she’s taken have come from in-between moments like while the show is being set up, the singer is talking to the crowd between songs, or when the stage is being set up for the next track or right at the end of the act. “It can be a great way to capture authenticity from an artist as they tend to be less “on” during those moments,” she said. 

There can also be a process of preparation that happens before the action of a show which can impact how the approach of photographing will unpack. “I start preparing by taking a deep dive into the artist’s discography meaning I’m listening to them all day before the show,” Jordan Markle stated. By doing this, he can understand the emotion and feeling of what the artist is trying to portray to their audience on a deeper level and then capture that energy authentically. 

Logistic preparation is also crucial. In regards to this, Gastaldo always ensures she has enough storage on her camera or enough film, as well as charged batteries and a prepared kit. Moreover, she makes sure to back up anything from past shoots and to develop all her older films beforehand. Checking out the weather if it’s an outdoor show is also part of her routine. 

Challenges can be encountered when documenting the ephemeral nature of live performances. Markle shared how a venue might only allow photographers access to the photo pit for the first three songs. If this is the case, Markle avoids taking the same type of photos for all three songs to offer more variety in the shorter amount of time that is offered to him. To essentially counter this problem, he experiments with different techniques and employs varied shooting methods, sometimes using long exposures or action freeze frames. 

As for Concordia Alum Sydney Gastaldo’s biggest challenge, the lighting for underground or DIY/indie shows can be quite unpredictable. “It can be really hard to capture the in-person feel of a show when it’s happening in low lighting or with flashing light / over-saturated set design,” she said. Matching the pace of any movements on stage is also something to navigate, but these challenges, Gastado said, are just “trial and error.”

A visual artist, in this case, a photographer, retains a certain role in preserving and celebrating music culture since it acts as the bridge between the performing artist and fans, the internet, tabloids, etc. When asking Sydney Gastaldo and Jordan Markle how they see their work contributing to this broader cultural narrative, they provided similar opinions. 

Markle seeks that his work tell someone’s story and preserve memorable moments for years to come. “I see it as a means of capturing the intersection of music, art, and human experience […] whether it’s through documenting live performances, capturing intimate moments backstage, I want my photos to tell stories,” he said.

Gastaldo shared how for her, photography in the realm of live music cements these seemingly small moments that can often feel big for those attending. Moreover, her work focuses on underground and more obscure kinds of music or smaller bands/artists existing in the local scene. “A lot of them split apart and/or don’t end up making a living out of their craft and all that is left of their work is people’s memories and photographs/videos. But regardless of how successful they may be in a broader sense, the impact that their music had on their fans and the community and the beauty of their live performances still means something and I think capturing that and cementing it in history can be beautiful,“ Gastaldo proudly answered. 

From utilizing a small-budget camera or owning professional high-grade equipment, from capturing a small local stage to a large national music festival, live music photographers, like Sydney Gastaldo and Jordan Markle, make sure to remain intentional with their craft. They deliver the most authentic representation of the evening through passionate intentions for the art and story behind each frame. 

Interview Music

PermaCulture: Diversifying the City’s Nightlife

PermaCulture founder discusses rave and nightlife in Montreal.

Montreal is a city that prides itself on its nightlife. Adrien Orlowski has been an organizer of the nightlife scene for the past ten years. He has watched the scene change and evolve and has worked to cultivate a more diverse environment in Montreal’s underground.

“For so long, the rave scene has been considered a juvenile activity, something that is not serious, that doesn’t bring anything to society,” he explained in an interview with The Concordian. Orlowski founded PermaCulture, a non-profit that organizes events and conferences geared towards fostering a more diverse and inclusive environment. Orlowski and his organization want rave to be taken more seriously—he sees it as an escape from the pressures of life.

“We live in a world today that is not easy at all. There’s war everywhere, there’s famine, there are so many issues,” he said. “I think rave can be a solution to that, people get on well. People are at peace, everyone is chill.”

Orlowski talked about how the scene had all these communities that would run their own events, but they were segmented. The afro, arab, and queer scenes all stuck to themselves, and PermaCulture was created to combine the communities under one roof. “I felt like it’s been the same for decades where we only had the same type of DJs, promoters, and people coming to our events. I think in the past years, we’ve started to see a change,” Orlowski said. 

Orlowski and PermaCulture are deeply passionate about the nightlife in Montreal, but of course, there are hurdles to organizing a festival like theirs. Orlowski says the main factor is funding—before you can do anything, you need money. They look for grants mostly through the city and some sponsorships from the private sector for things like alcohol sales. However, the relationship can be adversarial at times, according to Orlowski.

Recently, the city cut funding to the nightlife advocacy group MTL 24/24, which has led to the organization having to lay off staff and cancel its annual Montreal Night Summit.

“This is a lack of consideration for all the work we have accomplished over the past three years,” said Mathieu Grondin, director of MTL 24/24, in an interview with Resident Advisor. Members of the nightlife scene view the funding cut as a way to silence the organization, which has historically been critical of the city and the Plante administration. 

A Facebook post by rave organization Homegrown Harvest reads: “They’ve completely gutted the funding of MTL 24/24, an amazing night culture advocacy group that has been publicly critical of the city’s approach (coincidence??), and are attacking the funding of great institutions like the SAT—all while juicing up the police budget yet again.” 

The Plante administration said that MTL 24/24 can refile its application. Luc Rabouin, executive committee chair for the city, added that Montreal doesn’t fund organizations, it funds events—MTL 24/24 simply didn’t meet the requirements.

The city proposed two large pieces of legislation on Dec. 19, 2023. The first is the creation of 24-hour zones, which would enable businesses within the zone to sell alcohol and stay open throughout the night, whereas previously alcohol sales would end at 3:00 a.m. The other piece is an investment package of $1 billion that is dedicated to revitalize downtown Montreal over the next 10 years. 

All of this should make it easier for organizations like PermaCulture to host events, but there is still no news on an updated nightlife policy. Organizations like Homegrown Harvest ask why the Plante administration doesn’t simply make it easier to get 24-hour licenses, as many of the venues the nightlife relies on are outside of this crucial zone.

Arts and Culture Community Interview

The art of leadership

Four leaders in and around Concordia’s community spoke on how they implement creativity into their leadership approach.

In a polarized world, it is important to have leaders who focus on positivity, encouragement, and humanity. Being a leader now means being approachable and open, working well with colleagues, and honouring one’s role and connections. From top executives to middle management, creative leaders seek out purpose in their decisions, turning the activity of leading people into a masterpiece.

“I see leadership as an art in complex strategizing and continuous motivation and support of my team at work as well as my community,” said Kseniya Shibanova, team lead at Keywords Studios, a gaming company in Montreal. Being adaptable and open-minded while staying firm and true to yourself at the same time is not an easy task, and for Shibanova, it requires creativity and strong vision.

Shibanova believes that there is no reason to limit your creativity when it comes to leadership—it’s important to keep testing different approaches.. “I’m always striving to be innovative and test various ideas with my team. It can be in finding new ways to motivate or in creating custom solutions that will satisfy the need and keep everyone happy at the same time.”

For Christopher Menard, head chef of Bottega Pizzeria, employee satisfaction is a top concern in team leadership. “It’s really important to me to make sure that my staff is happy. I try to strike a good work-and-life balance for everyone,” he said. 

The chef, who has been cooking professionally for over 20 years, believes that a team achieves better results with someone who leads naturally. “I have worked with many chefs, and in doing so [I] was able to really pick and choose my leadership styles. I know exactly what’s going on in the kitchen at any moment and always know whether or not we are ready for a busy service. This is art,” Menard said

Chrissy Jean, a learning and development specialist in Montreal, highlighted how crucial it is for organizations to provide training to aspiring leaders in their teams. “Just like any art, we also get better at being a leader through practice and continuously improving ourselves. I believe that leadership is not an entitlement in which someone is born into the role,” she said. 

According to Jean, investing in a broad vision can be a valuable strategy to improve ways of leading and guiding people:  “Leadership is a rewarding, fruitful and wonderful journey. Practice your resilience, open your mind to feedback, and keep working at the amazing artform, you will be empowered to lead your people to achieve the common goal.”

Michael Netto, teaching a  leadership diploma course at Concordia University, believes that leaders must steadfastly drive towards the goals that align with their visions. “Leaders need to not only consider the voices of those followers, but to the voices of those who offer opposing perspectives. Those perspectives may help in discovering innovative ways to drive towards their goals,” he said. 

Netto believes that leadership is not restricted or reserved for those in politics or industry: it is most definitely an art, coupled with scholarly learnings. “Learn from the ones who have walked before you, learn from those who walk beside you, and continue learning from those who follow. With an open mind, you can better lead to serve those around you,” he concluded.

Interview Music

Concordia artist Vikki Gilmore discusses her album Mental Backroads and its launch in Montreal

A chat with Gilmore about her debut folk album and a preview of its celebration launch event planned for Dec. 10. 

Following the recent release of her debut album Mental Backroads on Oct. 20, child studies MA Concordia student and music artist Vikki Gilmore discusses the making of the project and gives insight on her upcoming album launch event on Dec. 10 at Le Ministère in Montreal. 

The local artist was born and raised in the city and has been involved with music since high school. Gilmore taught herself how to play acoustic guitar around the age of 16 so she could accompany her poetry with music. She’s gone from school talent shows to doing gigs around Montreal during her time at university. 

The musician has been writing songs for years and said that finally coming out with an album is “a lifelong dream and it means the world to me.” Gilmore’s intention was to tell life stories that others can connect with, namely discussing family, friends, love, nostalgia, grief and mental health. 

Mental Backroads is meant to take the listener on a metaphorical and literal road trip through their mind. Its songs weave a story with stories from her personal experience that she hopes are relatable to others. The main message is about being patient with yourself during any new journey one embarks on. 

Gilmore describes her music as Indie-folk soup for the soul that could be mistaken for the soundtrack of Gilmore Girls. Her sound ranges from twangy folk to alternative pop/rock and is great for fans of Phoebe Bridgers, Daughter, boygenius, Lizzy McAlpine and Joni Mitchell. The artist also takes care in connecting what she’s learned from her background in psychology to her lyrics. The classes and her involvement and interest in the subject have deeply influenced how she conveys her emotions and ideas. She’s able to relate them efficiently through words with ease and connection via her knowledge of psychology.

Gilmore said the creation of her debut indie-folk album has been the most exhilarating and difficult part of her music career. “Releasing it independently has taken a lot of dedication, spending most of my nights planning promo, filming music videos with friends, doing my own PR, planning finances, and more,” she said. 

Having to write, record, plan a release, plan the promo, and then plan live shows was the same process as previous EP releases, but she said that completing an eight-song album involved difficult mental aspects and financial commitment. The scale this time was completely different. Gilmore also never creates music with profit in mind and therefore always writes from the heart. Most of the songs on this album took between 20 minutes and an hour of writing, while the album’s production process took months, “but the writing just flows,” she said. 

Vikki Gilmore shared that her writing process is therapeutic. The Montreal singer doesn’t adopt any particular habit while writing but notes that it helps her process difficult emotions, which is a habit she’s developed over the years. Notably, the song “Pieces in the Black” came from a time when she was navigating a deep sadness and wanted to write something she could listen back to in the future.

For this project, Gilmore collaborated with a few Canadian-based producers. Her longtime collaborator Mathieu LeGuerrier mixed and produced the majority of the songs. Jacob Liutkus produced “If I Wrote You”, and “Stranded” was produced by Gert Taberner. “It was really cool to work with a variety of producers and you can probably hear hints of each of their production styles in the different songs,” she said. 

Gilmore brainstormed the idea of a road trip and postcard aesthetic to match the theme of the music. Tyler Piechota designed it to depict vintage scenic postcards in Colorado, “which has become one of my favourite places in the world,” Gilmore shared. The physical design of the vinyl version is a postcard with a guide map as the insert. “The visuals are cohesive and match perfectly with the sound to support painting a picture of travelling through life and the experiences and growth that come with exploring ourselves and the world,” she said. 

Gilmore hopes that this project is a warm hug to whoever needs it. Like a lullaby from the moon when you can’t sleep at night, plagued with fears of abandonment, wondering about the people you lost touch with, thinking of the people that have passed on, and reflecting on life with kindness for the previous versions of yourself. Gilmore especially learned about resilience and self-love during the creation of Mental Backroads. “In an era of streaming and social media, it can be hard comparing yourself to others,” she added.  

The album launch on Dec. 10 at Le Ministère promises to be beautiful, with twinkling lights, a guitarist and a drummer to support Gilmore on stage. It will be her first live show since the pandemic and she is beyond eager to connect with other music fans during the evening. There will be performances of songs from Mental Backroads with some older songs and possibly some surprise ones. The night will start with Callahan and the Woodpile performing a solo acoustic act to set the stage for an indie-folk cozy night out. If you’re looking for an excuse to discover some new music, get dressed up, and have a night out on the town, stop by!

Interview Music

“Experimental music”: an honourable or a degrading term?

A look into experimental pop through one of Quebec’s most unorthodox collectives.

Experimental artists willingly alienate themselves from the embrace of mainstream media in exchange for artistic integrity and independent creativity. Though experimental art is as revered as it is rebuked by critics and music enthusiasts alike, the labelling of artists as “experimental” often influences social perception, affecting their credibility. Not only do these artists face harsher criticism, but they also tackle the very fundamentals of the medium and push technical and artistic boundaries.

Laval’s own Les Amis au Pakistan have based their style around “the weird and the vulgar”— not as a way to fight the system but to create psychedelic and unorthodox imagery and sound. 

Writer Joël Chevalier, producer Simon Tremblay, and their singers Solange Lavergne, Jacinthe Fradette, Caroline Fournier, Evelyne Mireault, and Katia Cioce believe that the labelling of their music and style as “experimental” is fair, but somewhat diminishing in regards to their unique musical prowess. 

Conceived as Joël Chevalier’s passion project, Amis au Pakistan was a fun way for the writer to express himself with his friends. It was only when Tremblay joined the group that proper expectations formed, as his sound enhanced the project. “There is a pop side to what we do; there is often a chorus in most of our songs. When Joël would send me his lyrics, it was always structured like pop music,” Tremblay said.

The term “experimental” only appeared when producers and labels caught wind of their music and decided to label the band as such. “I really had no idea about experimental music. I just wanted to hear my friends sing stupidities and laugh at them. Simon brought a musical side to it,” Chevalier said. 

With song titles such as “Beautiful Hamburger,” “Mystery of Monkeys,” and “Appelle-moi ta cochone” in their discography, it is understandable why their style could potentially put off the general public. That said, there is much thematic depth sewn into the weirdness. 

As of 2007, the band has released three studio albums, tackling themes of sexuality, love, death, and suicide throughout, all hidden behind a heavy veil of silly and goofy sounds and grotesque lyrics. Their latest E.P. titled Schnoutte, released in 2021, is alien-themed. 

One of the songs on Schnoutte is “Mutilée,” which revolves around the themes of suicide and the horrors of self-harm—something that’s not necessarily evident when listening to the song at a surface level. However, when immersing oneself into the amalgamation of low and dark sounds and the repetition of noises of pain and suffering, coupled with an eerie instrumental, a feeling of unease washes over the listener. 

Though the band receives criticism for their content, they agree that labelling their sound as experimental can shift the listener’s perception of the music, affecting commitment and attachment. After all, if someone deems art as “unserious,” their willingness to commit to the experience will diminish. 

Luckily, the band cares only for one another. As Tremblay said “People always ask us about our concept, why we make music like this, and it is never to make experimental music, it is to make music. I think what is experimental takes more effort, and humans tend to take the easy way out.” 

The question, therefore, turns towards experimentation as a product of the human condition. Experimentation is subjective. To some, it is synonymous with creativity and to others, with the perils of the unknown and unorthodox. 

Love or hate them, Les Amis au Pakistan exists without confinement in a way that’s true to them. Like all art, experimental music is a looking glass into the creator’s soul ready to be peered into and explored. It’s as valuable as any other form or genre of music, regardless of how strange and unsettling it might appear.

Interview Music

Satisfaction guaranteed with Concordia’s rock ’n’ roll band The Satisfactory

An introduction to the rising local band, The Satisfactory.

Everyone wants to be a rockstar but not everyone can. Three of Concordia’s very own are coming closer and closer to being the exception. Salvador Vaughan (a.k.a Sal), Max Moller and Viva Anoush Egoyan-Rokeby make up the entirety of local up-and-coming rock band The Satisfactory. 

The trio lived in Concordia’s Grey Nuns downtown residence last year for their first year in Montreal coming from Toronto. This is where they all properly met each other. “Sal was my neighbour when we were in residence and he would practise like 8 hours a day so I knew all the songs before we even started as a band,” Egoyan-Rokeby explained.  

The Satisfactory came to life at the start of the summer once all three returned from Toronto. Spearheaded by singer-songwriter Sal on the electric guitar, backed by Moller on drums and Egoyan-Rokeby on bass, the band always gives a performance worth seeing despite only having done it eight times. When asked about what prompted his decision to write and form a band, Sal cited his love for music and his desire to transform it into something tangible through performing. Anyone who has seen them live can attest to the acumen of this decision. 

Despite Sal largely being the one in charge, Moller and Egoyan-Rokeby do not feel like anything is being taken from them and they do not resent him. In a tongue-in-cheek response to this, Sal compared himself to The Beatles’ Paul McCartney during the recording of the band’s White Album but unlike the famously argumentative quartet, this trio guarantees that they never have any issues and get along great, apparently they’re just getting closer. 

When asked about the origin of the band’s name, Sal explained that he discovered it while looking through a cocktail book while high and that he found it cool. He then scoured Spotify to make sure no other artists had already claimed it. Despite the name, be assured that they’re a lot more than just satisfactory.

Sal finds writing inspiration in a mix of three different things, namely looking at his own life through a positive lens. This creative approach is akin to his rock idols, Oasis, a band he heralds for their heartening music along with love and eccentric nonsensical things à la “I am The Walrus” by The Beatles. Sal further describes music as something that has always been a part of his life, but something he only started taking seriously at age 13. Since then, his world has revolved around music and writing alike. The Satisfactory songs are typically humbly written when he’s alone in his room, just him and his guitar.

“I just want to be in a band and I’m ready to work my ass off for it,” Sal said.  This drive, ambition and talent is exactly why The Satisfactory has only been moving closer and closer to their goal of rock stardom, one string and a beat at a time.

Interview Music

Into the Mind of Bane

Concordia student Justin Tatone talks about his new album “BANE & BLESSING”.

On Sept. 29, Justin Tatone finally released his latest album BANE & BLESSING, a collaborative effort with his friend and frequent collaborator, rapper Benedict Tan. Released after a three-year wait, the project is an ambitious opus that fuses rage-rap with a myriad of other musical genres and styles.

Tatone credits American rapper Playboi Carti’s second album, Whole Lotta Red, as the primary influence for BANE & BLESSING. It paved the way for the rage-rap wave which was popularized by artists like Yeat and Trippie Redd in 2021. The genre’s characteristic sawtooth synths, 8-bit melodies, and heavy bass are all prominent on Tatone’s new album and originally constituted the entire soundtrack. 

BANE does not juxtapose rage rap with other styles and seamlessly fuses them together, resulting in unique, electrified versions of these subgenres. The foundation of Tatone’s creative collective Xion in 2022 granted him new collaborators and ideas that would break the project’s one-dimensionality, venturing into sounds like grunge and synth-wave on “BANE’S THEME,” and dance-pop on “BLEACH ON ME.” “I needed things like that [other styles] to offset the agedness of those harsh rage tones,” Tatone explained. 

Tatone fully embraces the album’s low-budget production and DIY approach, with most of the record having been recorded in his bedroom. He notably boasts on “BREAK THE FABRIC OF TIME” that he is out-rapping his competition, despite using BandLab (a free music production app for mobile devices). “When you’re stripped back in terms of budget and materials you have to wear that on your sleeve,” he said. 

The artist invokes XXXTENTACION and Ski Mask the Slump God as examples of this mentality, given their inclusion of heavy distortion and room tone into their music. Tatone also praises the Baltimore-based rapper JPEGMAFIA, whose overblown mixing helped Tatone embrace the imperfections of his own.

BANE & BLESSING is a persona piece where Tatone and Tan portray two titular characters. “Bane is vain, indulgent in the iconography and gluttony of hip-hop. Blessing is woke and open-minded, he is the voice of reason,” Tatone explained. His character represents the current, bravado-heavy side of hip-hop, whereas Tan embodies the genre’s woke, conscious side. 

Tatone’s lyricism is also filled with ridiculous one-liners like “You’re Boots, I’m Dora” (“MASK ON!”) and “Facebook moms love me like I’m Candy Crush” (“FANS / NEVER GOING BACK”), which fulfill his attempt at taking himself less seriously. “People are going to criticize you anyway, so might as well make it a fun time,” he said. These lyrics are guaranteed laughs from the audience but also help him loosen up. This idea relates to the masks in the album’s artwork, a motif that has been used to promote BANE & BLESSING since early 2022. “It helps to have a mask: I can pick at myself and make silly comments but still feel confident.”

Jaden Warren, a design student at Concordia, served as the creative director for the album, directing the art and designing a colour palette. The final album cover is AI-generated by Tatone and received praise from Warren as it lived up to his envisioned aesthetic. The rapper sees the AI cover as an extension of the album’s technological nature. “Bane only exists in the digital realm,” he claimed. Tatone sees no issue with artistic integrity as he believes he successfully divorced himself from his work on this album, allowing himself to embrace AI as an artistic medium. 

Tatone cites collaboration as key to both his and the album’s artistic evolutions: “As a creative person, you can get stuck in a silo of thinking and have tunnel vision because you’re in love with your work.” The album notably contains guest features from Xion member E.Sko, punk-rapper KPTN, and rage-rap artist KeBenjii, all of whom hail from Montreal. A guest feature from Atlanta-based rapper Zoot was also secured through a mutual friend.

Overall, BANE & BLESSING is a highly ambitious and creative experiment that pushes the raging sound to new extremes while bringing different artists, ideas, and creative approaches into the mix. “It’s heavily derivative but an original interpolation of the culture. That’s what I’m most proud of,” Tatone concluded.

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Life in Xion

A look into the collective that’s growing in Concordia’s music studios.

Multidisciplinary artist Justin Tatone first met Benedict Tan in high school back in 2017. The pair began collaborating over the years. “It was just us making stupid songs and I would produce the beats. It was so bad.” The pandemic later inspired them to take their musical alliance seriously and they began working on a collaborative project in 2020. This union marked the inception of Tatone’s art collective Xion, which welcomed four more members in 2022: Yorgo Al Terek, Leo Deslauriers, Giancarlo Laurieri and E.sko (Elias Skotidakis).

The group’s name is based on the word Zion, which is derived from Tatone’s Jamaican heritage. In Rastafarian lore, it signifies a land of promise. He was also inspired by the 1999 sci-fi film The Matrix, in which Zion is referenced as a land where humans can live freely and without restriction. The intention behind the collective was to “share resources, create a space promised for us,” Tatone explains. The replacement of the Z by an X represents a dissociation from perverse connotations and variations of the word, specifically Zionism—the nationalist movement predicated on reclaiming territory in the Middle East.

As an electroacoustics student, Tatone gained access to the sound studios at Concordia. The available equipment provided him with resources that allowed the group to expand and make music they never would’ve been able to afford to make, according to him. 

The group’s dynamic is highly collaborative: the approach to their forthcoming group album Xion Vol. 1 notably had three producers individually working on a sample (as a background melody) simultaneously. Deslauriers would then splice the renditions together into one, full beat, with drums and other elements being added later. Al Terek, who also studies electroacoustics, describes the process as working in “episodes,” and recalls creating shorter beats with the intent for his colleagues to add to them however they want. 

Each artist fills a specific role, but their contributions converge into a larger, distinct product. “Our collective space serves as the crossroads of artistic expression,” as Laurieri puts it. Tatone wants his collective to be bigger than music: “I want to build a community based on sharing resources. The first step to that is allowing people in the space who aren’t necessarily artists.” 

Laurieri, who is currently a second-year political science student, is an example of this. He has no distinct training in music but plays a key role in the group, serving as its marketing and networking specialist, and as creative consultant. He put together the campaign for E.sko’s Love, Wannabe tour this past summer, a makeshift tour born from booking every open mic and venue in town. The experience was a success, bringing the group to several bars throughout Quebec and even Ontario. “Montreal has so much opportunity for small artists,” Tatone says.

BANE & BLESSING, the electrifying rage-rap album from Tan and Tatone, will finally launch on Sept. 29 after three years of creation. The album is set to be supported by live performances, with punk venues being envisioned. Tatone also expresses interest in embarking on another tour in summer 2024, this time as a collective in support of their upcoming group album, the boom-bap influenced Xion, Vol. 1. He also revealed that a documentary for the Love, Wannabe tour is on the way.

Xion may just be gearing up, but their ambition and output support Laurieri’s description of the group. “It’s a journey of creative convergence where the sum is truly greater than its individual parts.”

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DJ PØPTRT is taking over

Meet the Concordia student playing Quebec’s biggest festivals.

Hailing from Kahnawà:ke, DJ PØPTRT (real name Kiana Cross) is an Indigenous DJ and second-year communications studies student. She is coming off a loaded summer which included performances at Montreal’s Club Unity and some of Quebec’s biggest festivals such as the Festival d’été du Québec, the International Balloon Festival, and Piknic Électronik. 

One of the festivals that the DJ performed in was Festival d’été du Québec (FEQ), and she looks back at the experience with nothing but admiration. She also played at the International Balloon Festival and PIknic Électronik, the latter being the biggest crowd she has ever gathered. “I was so focused on transitions and playing music that when I finally looked up to see thousands of people it was surreal,” she recalled.

DJ PØPTRT describes her style as “nostalgic sounds from the classic ‘90s rave scene in a more contemporary vibe.” She incorporates aspects of her Indigenous culture into her music and hopes to “see the world, to tour,; to connect with people and share an insight on who I [Cross] am and my culture.”

The rising artist also got candid about the sacrifices involved in balancing a DJ career with being a full-time student: “It was hard. I remember having a job during the day, a class in the afternoon, and I would DJ until 3 a.m. […]I’m trying to add the human aspect of being kind to myself and healthy, combining both so I can have longevity with this lifestyle.”

A Mohawk artist, Cross shared her feelings about receiving support from Quebec festivals and organizations, given Canada’s negative history with its Indigenous populations.

 “It’s interesting to be in this time, especially as a female Indigenous artist. When people reach out, it’s hard to decipher if they’re simply trying to appease by making it seem like they’re supporting an Indigenous person,” she said.  While she is grateful for the environment she’s in, DJ PØPTRT finds that “there is a lot of work to be done,” and aims to address Indigenous issues and decolonize the music scene.

As an artist who manages all aspects of her career by herself, including graphic designing and business management, Cross has also played gigs in Ottawa and New Brunswick. She now plans to make a breakthrough in Europe following her increasing popularity in Canada. “I’m already making connections and seeing where I want to go,” she told The Concordian.

Be sure to catch DJ PØPTRT’s upcoming show at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa this September, which she describes as having “original music and visuals— a sample of what’s next.”

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Enter: Sons of Rice

Sons of Rice sit down to talk about their latest album Guts To Skin

The music scene, especially Montreal’s music scene, needs more iconic and theatrical groups. What does this mean? Think about it: in the past decade, besides Arcade Fire, Half Moon Run, and (maybe?) The Damn Truth, we haven’t had anything of their caliber rise from this diverse and multicultural city.  

Sons of Rice is a duo that is trying to stake its ground in Montreal’s music scene. Enter Ram Sleibi and Bob Mood. Sleimi, who grew up with parents who are actors, stated, “I’ve always been passionate about filmmaking as a source of expression, but my priorities changed when I met a guitar player [Mood] who became my best friend. They met in high school at sec. three [grade nine], in the music room on the first day of term.   

In July of last year, they released their debut album Guts To Skin. Topping off at a short 26 and a half minutes, it seems a bit small for an LP, but don’t let it fool you, for quality is more prevalent here than quantity. According to Sleibi, the umbrella theme for the album is “Identity.” “Under the identity umbrella falls many themes: expression, diaspora, community, death, nationalism, and culture,” he said.    

Their writing process is “all over the place,” said Sleibi. When they first came together as Sons of Rice, they would tumble over lyrics, melodies, and chords while in the same room. Their process has changed drastically now, where Sleibi is in the producer chair. 

“Lyrics are equally written by Mood and I depending on the songs, and the melodies are also a collective effort,” he said. In terms of guitar, Mood is the man for that and Sleibi does the rest (bass, piano, synths, drums). This is due to them getting separated due to immigration issues on Mood’s side. 

Sleibi grew up in Damascus, Syria, while Mood was raised in Saidon, Lebanon. Consequently, the duo brings a touch of their Middle Eastern upbringing into their music.  

“We both have a natural sense to how we implement our Levantine Arab culture into our current music.” said Sleibi. 

When asked about their easiest song to write, Sleibi immediately replied, “Our ego trip ‘Suns of Rise.’” The reason for it was that the core of the track is a loop of a song from Asmahan, a famous Syrian singer. Contrasting with that, their hardest songs to write were “Come Happy Time,” “The Flame,” and “Chase Me Back.”

Unlike many artists, when asked about their influences, Sons of Rice don’t let other musicians/groups get in the way of their songwriting. “I’m mostly influenced by films, stories and people I know in real life,” said Sleibi. However, they do love ’90s/2000s rap and hip hop, Levantine Arab music and rock groups like Twenty One Pilots, Pearl Jam, and Jack White. 

The title of the album Guts To Skin is a lyric in their song “Suns of Rise.” The full line is “Guts to skin is not enough,” which tells the audience that they, as a duo, are not done with just one album. 

“It is not going to be enough for us to express what we feel, and we are also aware that it won’t be enough for the listener to fully trust us into becoming his or her new favourite band.”  

This album is what Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers was to Kendrick Lamar: therapeutic. “We’re human,” said Sleibi: “We think and we must express to share how what we think makes us feel to achieve a sense of relation between people that in return could achieve a state of peace.” 

As a final note, the future for Sons of Rice is working on a second album, but their main objective now is to “offer a term [Sons of Rice] that can give people who use [it] a sense of belonging to one another, a term of unity.” 

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