Once A Tree says ignorance is bliss in Fool’s Paradise

We sat down with Once A Tree to discuss their backstory, making music while in love, and the release of their latest EP.

The Toronto-based electro-pop duo composed of Jayli and Hayden Wolf definitely has a fascinating backstory. Both grew up in British Columbia, raised Jehovah’s Witnesses but met while leaving the religion, and eventually excommunicated. The two bonded over their love of music and fell in love, moving to Toronto after Jayli won a songwriting contest.

Thus Once A Tree was born, releasing their first single “Howling” in 2015, and their first album Phoenix in 2017. The album earned the duo a 2018 Indigenous Music Award win for best electronic music album. They’ve since been covered by Rolling Stone, Billboard, People, and

Once A Tree are multidisciplinary artists who have directed, produced, and edited the majority of their music videos. The “Howling” music video is cinematic and occult. “Hide” features dancers writhing artistically. “Worth” is a metaphor for bullying through a little girl who looks like a monster. “What You Say” has Jayli carrying a skeleton around San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in a red suit, and this summer’s music video for “Rush” has Jayli wandering around Los Angeles.

Outside of music, Hayden has worked as senior photographer for Drake’s OVO clothing brand and produces for other Toronto artists. Jayli is an actor who is set to star in The Exchange, from director Dan Mazer (Borat) and writer Tim Long (The Simpsons), alongside Justin Hartley, Ed Oxenbould, and Avan Jogia.

In 2020, Once A Tree has released singles “Rush” and “3 Day Trip,” as well as an acoustic version of “Rush” which features Boy Pape. Their latest EP Fool’s Paradise is out today, so I sat down to chat with Jayli and Hayden about the EP, working during the pandemic, their musical journey, and mental health.

Our full conversation with Once A Tree can be found below:

The Concordian: When I was listening to the EP I found a lot of connections between the lyrics and the state of the world. In “Rush” Jayli sings, “You should take your time with me,” and COVID has put a lot of things on hold. We live in a very fast-paced world, so I think that has really affected people.

Jayli Wolf: Yeah. Last year, I was filming back-to-back and I was so caught up in work. And this year has been so different whereas I have the time to ask really important questions and kind of just reevaluate everything about my life and make sure that I’m on the right track.

Hayden Wolf: The things that are really important to you.

JW: Yeah! Because especially living in a city, it’s just so fast-paced, and I feel like I’m always just living for the future and never in the moment. So that’s definitely where that song came from. And paradise is a play on that saying, “ignorance is bliss.” Because we were just kind of playing with the idea that there’s some songs about infatuation on there but then also Hayden and I, you know, we were raised in a doomsday cult. So, when we left it was really hard to realize ‘holy, we’re not going to live forever on paradise Earth, we are going to grow old and we’re going to die.’ And so, realizing that we were like, was it kind of blissful to be ignorant of the reality of life like did we enjoy it? Do we regret kind of waking up sometimes? So some of the songs are about that too, I don’t know, it can be blissfully ignorant and we can kind of get lost in our own little worlds and sometimes we don’t even know it.

TC: Can you tell me about the process for making Fool’s Paradise and how it was different from making Phoenix

HW: I think it’s way more upbeat and lighthearted in terms of the sonic direction, which is actually a good thing for how hardcore this year is. It’s more on the lighter side and a happier side. Yeah, we had a very similar process creation that’s a lot like Phoenix, we wrote on the road and … we’ve been working on this one for a little over a year.

JW: We wrote some in L.A. We had way more fun with this project because we would just get in the studio in a really good headspace and just literally have fun, it wasn’t about ‘let’s create something with a direction in mind,’ we just went in and had good energy.

HW: The track “Have You Ever,” we were in L.A. and we were about to go for a walk, and Jayli bent down to tie her shoe and you started to hum in this melody and then I grabbed a guitar. And she pretty much freestyled all the lyrics on that.

TC: Well that leads to one of my questions actually, because I had noticed that the EP is a bit more light hearted and upbeat than your older music. I was wondering if that was the result of what’s going on in the world or if that was just a natural evolution for you guys.

JW: Yeah, I think it’s just where we were in our mindset, because we started writing this right before COVID really hit. So it was January in L.A. and we were in a good headspace. We were just really grateful for everything that’s coming to our lives and where we’re at in our personal journeys. And I think that that is reflected in the music because we’re literally just having a really positive time.

HW: Phoenix is really therapeutic for the stuff that we’ve been through in our past and this is more in the moment; we’ve come to a much happier place in life. So I think it’s a natural evolution. I definitely want to play again with ballads.

TC: The EP is sort of about falling in love against the odds, slowing down to enjoy the little things in life, getting rid of toxic people. Why were you guys drawn to those topics?

HW: It’s all really personal stuff.

JW: Stuff we’ve been through and stuff that we’re going through.

HW: When we left the religion we lost so many people in our lives that were like our family. And so it made us kind of jaded or just really more aware of who we want in our circle and, you know, the people that really wanted to champion you and support you and love you for who you are. Yeah, so I think that was also a big key part of the lyrical content.

JW: Yeah, we’re definitely coming to that place, and more conscious of who we spend our time with. And just always wanting to have that real love for each other — that unconditional love, even with our friends, where we just uplift and support, and there’s not that negative energy and there’s not that hierarchy feeling of competition. We just love each other and we’re just on the same wave, and we want healthy relationships in our lives now, whereas before we weren’t even conscious of that.

TC: Can you describe Fool’s Paradise to me in 3 words?

HW: Ignorance is bliss. In our case it’s just kind of funny to look back and be like, wow, we were living in a fairytale and as weird and fucked up as it was, that hope was really beautiful. Even [in] society sometimes we can get caught up in that.

JW: I mean obviously it’s so important to know what’s going on and have that awareness so we can change the world, but sometimes I was just getting really overwhelmed, and it was to the point where I couldn’t do anything because I was so stressed out and overwhelmed about trying to do everything. It’s great to keep bringing more positive headspace and take care of yourself so that you can bring that love and good energy to the world.

TC: How did COVID-19 and quarantine affect your art and creativity?

HW: We’ve definitely had days where we’ve been feeling overwhelmed or our mental health has really taken a hit. But I think overall we used this time to really focus on the creation process and honing in on really where we want to take the direction of the music and the type of music we make — which one makes us feel the best or the most organic.

JW: Just like everybody else, we lost our live shows that we had set up this year, but I think it’s been a very beneficial year creatively for us because because of that we’re getting into a new headspace, and I started meditating and I started therapy and I’m doing things to really take care of my mental health, whereas I never did before — I never really took the time to. Of course it’s affected our mental health. We’ve definitely had hard days.

HW: And I think if you can have something even that you do once a day that makes you happy during this crazy year, that’s so important.

JW: Most of my family’s still in the doomsday cult I was raised in, and they’re determined that it is the end of the world and it’s coming any day and we’ve always been taught that. But now with 2020 they’re so hyped on the end and a lot of them are talking to me more. Which is weird because they’re not really supposed to be, but they’re really encouraging me to come back to the religion, so even though it’s not a super healthy relationship, they are talking to me — which I find is a positive because I’ve missed them a lot. So it’s just been a really weird year.

TC: Over the summer you guys released a music video for “Rush.” What it was like to be making a music video during a global pandemic?

HW: We actually shot that just before COVID started, the beginning of March.

JW: Yeah, we were still in L.A. and nothing had really broken yet on the news.

HW: The creation process was really fun, because it was just me and Jayli running around the city and exploring different communities in L.A.

JW: I’m working on my solo project right now though and we just shot a music video a couple weeks ago and it was a very different experience with social distancing and making sure everyone’s got a good temperature and the map. It’s a completely different vibe on set.

TC: I had heard you were working on a solo project Jayli, and Hayden you’re producing that, so is working together on this project any different than working as Once A Tree?

JW: Yeah, I think it’s completely different because I feel like I’m having way more of a direction, even in the production just because I have a very definite vision of what I want sonically and visually as well. I have a very different direction that I want to take. So Hayden has been so good at just listening to what I want and taking notes for me. I’ve also got to work with a couple of other producers in L.A., and it’s more of a personal project.

HW: The songwriting is way more on your side. Once A Tree we usually write everything together but this was way more Jayli … really pouring out her soul. And then I was giving my little ideas here and there, but it’s definitely a very personal project.

TC: You guys mentioned live shows earlier, which were obviously cancelled. But I got to see your virtual set for imagineNATIVE Film Festival’s The Beat series, so what was it like to perform with no stage or audience?

JW: I liked it, there was no stage fright. We just got to be so creative with the editing too so we liked it. I think it was really fun. It was really cool and it was interesting to sign in and it was nerve-wracking to see what everyone was gonna say. It was cool, a really new way to interact.

TC: Jayli, you contributed to Beans, and Trickster, both 2020 TIFF projects which center on Indigenous youth. Do you actively seek out those kinds of projects which tell Indigenous stories or was that a coincidence?

JW: I mean, I definitely am so excited when things like this come across. I really wanted to be part of this project. I actually am really good friends with the director Michelle Latimer, and so when she was telling me about it I was like, “oh my god I hope I get to audition for this.” Just so pumped up because the novels are amazing and I don’t think I actively seek it, I think just as an actor hopefully I try to be ready to jump into any role. But yeah, I’m always excited when things like this come my way.

TC: After the success of Phoenix do you feel pressure to live up to that and one-up yourselves, or did Phoenix just give you the validation to be like, “Oh, we got this no big deal?”

JW: No, I don’t think I’ve ever felt in my life like “I got this” (laughs). I feel like more than ever, I just want to go back to the drawing board. I just feel like we’re really wanting to take a new direction with the music and that is to be more authentic … in everything that we say. Phoenix was authentic to what we were going through at that time, but we were really both depressed and suffering from a lot of mental health issues, and so I feel like now we just want to go back to the drawing board as who we are and get more authentic in a different way.

HW: I think every project is cool to see the evolution of where we are in our lives. So, each project is a cool archive of what we were going through.


Feature photos by Once a Tree


Electro Bear Mountain

Singer-songwriter Ian Bevis shares his love for performing in Montreal

The Canadian indie band Bear Mountain recently performed at Montreal’s Fairmount Theatre on Nov. 18. They are currently on tour for their new album, Badu, which was released on Sept. 9. Badu features a mixture of upbeat 80s electro melodies that will send you running to the dance floor. Singer-songwriter Ian Bevis’ mellow and pleasantly soft voice fits just right with the band’s nostalgic, retro-dance rhythms.

The Vancouver-based band was founded in 2011 by Bevis, who initially started Bear Mountain as a solo project. He invited guitarist Kyle Statham to join in later that year. The band now also includes Bevis’ twin brother, Greg Bevis, who plays drums and keyboards, as well as Kenji Rodriguez, the creative director, who creates the live visuals for the show. He orchestrates a series of 3D visual projections live on stage that correlate to the beat of their music, which allows the audience to visualize the music.

They have performed in Montreal a few times before, but, according to Bevis, their favourite experience was when they performed at Osheaga in 2014. “Osheaga was a blast,” he said. “The energy in the crowd was really good. Everyone was excited and happy to be there… It was just really high energy.” Bevis said Montreal is one of his favourite places to be, which is why he keeps coming back. “I love Montreal,” he said. “I think it’s so unique. There’s nowhere else like it. There’s no other city that I’ve been to that’s like Montreal. It’s got its own thing going on, and it’s always, always fun. And the people too, the people are just really, really, really great.”

The Bevis brothers, Statham and Rodriguez touring across North America. Photo by SATY + PRATHA

Bear Mountain’s newly released album, Badu, took about two and half years of solid work to put together. Due to how much time they put into creating the album, Bevis said he’s very relieved to finally release it. “We just took [the music] as far as we could take it,” he said. According to Bevis, every band member had their own part in the creation process of Badu. “It’s definitely a lot of collaboration,” he said. Bevis said the band’s attitude takes their music to the next level. “I think everybody just brings something different,” he said. “Everyone brings their whole energy, everything they’ve got.”

Bear Mountain has been touring in Canada and the United States since late October, and will finish touring in mid-December. They are performing alongside Aluna George and The Darcys. In Montreal, they shared the stage with The Darcys. According to Bevis, their band has incorporated a new lights show into their performance that people can look forward to. “I think it’ll be a party,” he said.

Travelling for months on end can be hard at times, Bevis said—they’ve spent most of their time driving across Canada. “It can be exhausting, but also we have those moments that are extremely fun, so it kind of balances out,” he said, “Playing the shows makes it worth it. I just like being on stage and playing songs, playing music and creating the energy in the room.” Inspirations for Badu included nature and the cosmos, Bevis said. “[Inspiration] has got to come from somewhere, so you just draw it from your surroundings,” he said. The last song on the album, “On my Own,” is Bevis’ favourite song to play, he said. “I think it turned out really well, from beginning to end,” he said.

Bear Mountain’s sound is constantly evolving, according to Bevis. “Thing’s naturally change a lot,” he said. “I mean, I think you can kind of have an idea of where you want something to go, and you can do your best to guide it in that direction, but ultimately, you know, [the music is] like a river—it’s going to go where it’s going to go, so it’s almost like we’re just along for the ride,” he said.

Bear Mountain is currently on their way to perform in Toronto, followed by stops in London, Ont., Hamilton and Los Angeles. They will be wrapping up their winter tour on the West Coast in Seattle on Dec. 15.

Bear Mountain’s new music off of Badu can be accessed on Spotify or downloaded on iTunes.

Music Quickspins

The Darcys – Centerfold

The Darcys – Centerfold (Arts & Crafts, 2016)

After dropping four singles in anticipation of this album, The Darcys, a Toronto-based two-piece band, have finally released their fourth album, Centerfold. This project is something a little different from their usual sound. The bleak tone and heavier sounds of their previous albums are now replaced with electro-pop funky freshness. Lead singer Jason Couse’s silky smooth voice guides the album. Another surprise is the way the album is produced—it has normally been on the darker side, on this record, it has an 80s and 90s pop vibe—Prince is a clear inspiration in particular. The main attraction when it comes to this project: it’s just so goddamn cool. Suave instrumentals on the part of Couse and Wes Marskell radiate swagger on every track. The lead single, “Miracle,” is honestly one of the most fun pop songs to come out this year. The old-school vibe of the entire album, combined with the simple but fantastic vocals makes this one of the best Canadian albums of the year.

Trial Track: “Miracle”


Music Quickspins

Aluna George – I Remember

Aluna George – I Remember (Island Records, 2016)

Aluna George’s latest release, I Remember, brings out her soothing, soft, sweet voice which serenades your ear, and complements the album’s pop-electro sounds. I Remember features pop-electro and lounge melodies as well as smooth R&B rhythms, both of which she blends together beautifully. George opens with the track “Full Swing” which has a strong pop-electrified beat and baseline. “My Blood” follows, with a smooth R&B rhythmic sound. It’s wonderful to hear rhythm and blues being combined with soft electro beats. “Not Above Love” brings you back to the early 2000s when pop music was at its peak. “Mean What I Mean” will surely be playing in lounges and clubs in no time—it’s very modern and has electro-pop with rap verses by featured artists Leikeli47 and Dreezy. Its metallic sounds will be sure to grab your attention—The brassy sound is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. Overall, the album is a beautiful blend of R&B and pop-electro, and George’s voice is the cherry on top.

Trial track: “Not Above Love”



Lydia Ainsworth sees the magic in the mundane

The musician writes songs that are smooth, ghostly, and even a little magical.

“Are you still recording?! Shut up already!” Lydia Ainsworth quotes her roommates jokingly saying in exasperation.  Last year, Ainsworth recorded much of her debut EP, Right from Real, in her New York City bedroom. “I would have to make sure that everyone was out of the apartment. A lot of my roommates would get pissed off,” she recalls. Right from Real, now released via Arbutus Records, is getting rave reviews — more than her former roommates can account for.

Ainsworth’s electronic-orchestral-pop is the result of sifting through online sound-banks of orchestral sounds, triggering horn and string section sounds, and finally letting her sweet ghostly vocals shine through. Mostly written from behind the glow of her laptop, the musician’s music is just as powerful as if a 50-piece orchestra were playing her songs.

Appropriately, Ainsworth had spent her days studying film-scoring at McGill University where she wrote music for 50-piece orchestras. Her music reflects the overwhelming sensation of having a room full of musicians play-back the melodies she wrote. “I wrote with sound libraries to recreate that feeling- it’s an amazing feeling to hear your music played by live instruments,” she says.

The process of translating her songs’ power and enchantment to a live setting had Ainsworth, “[practicing the songs] at tiny clubs to about five people just to get a feel for how they sounded in a live setting; I’d work out the kinks,” she explains.

Photo by John Michael Fulton

Her music is definitely devoid of kinks. There’s an inimitable quality that accompanies Ainsworth’s songs; a smooth transition of beats and synths playing in and fading out, strong electro beats, and an eerie texture infused in her vocals. Ainsworth has created a masterpiece on all fronts, much like the artists that inspire her.

“I drew a lot of inspiration from this artist named Guido Cagnacci, an Italian baroque painter, who painted these private salon paintings depicting women on the brink of death. Iconic figures like Joan of Arc and Cleopatra. Their gazes were so serene amidst such a terrible and frightening situation. I loved that juxtaposition and I drew from that for my vocal treatment for a lot of the songs.”

The songwriter identifies the unique sensations she is overcome with when experiencing art and reflects this in her performing and mixing of vocal tones and melodies.

“I draw from films, like The Shining. I imagined myself as this little possessed boy for one of the songs called “Malachite”. You can find inspiration anywhere: a conversation with a stranger on a bus, a letting someone has written you,” she adds.

Ainsworth tries to decipher why she holds this ability of finding inspiration in other art forms than music:

“It’s a natural thing for me because of my background in film scoring, or collaborating with other artists. It just feels natural to draw inspiration from a painting or song,” she explains.

The EP is named Right from Real which is a name that represents her belief that, “the impossible is possible, and magic is all around if you only look hard enough,” she explains.

The songwriter’s daily life consists of finding “the magic in the mundane,” she says.

“I’m always searching for a feeling of magic and aliveness, of seeing things a little differently than what I’ve seen before. That’s what I’m chasing when I’m writing music of any kind,” she adds.

There are definitely magical qualities floating around in her music—the song “Holograms” layers clear piano melodies, soft choir voices, and ‘80s-style electro beats that frame the song. Finally, Ainsworth’s soft voice chants “into the garden I find my center–I found peace in dreaming of you and all the things we do,” and it sounds great.

The song “Malachite” dives further into a darker magic. The synths and vocals are even more intense; they vary from being rhythmic and staccato to becoming smooth and fluid. The music video for the song is set in a warehouse and features three b-girls performing a complicated choreography to the music—their fingers adorned with lights flowing with the song’s beats. The music video is just another way for Ainsworth to express her talent for combining art forms together.


On a final note, Ainsworth tells readers to, “come out to Sala on Sept.19– there may or may not be a snake on stage!”

Lydia Ainsworth’s album release is Friday Sept. 19 at La Sala Rossa with TOPS, Moon King, and Homeshake.

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