He’s played in acts that have opened for the likes of Robert Plant and Willie Nelson and played with artists like Feist, Kathleen Edwards and Jason Collett.

You’d expect that at some point, Afie Jurvainen, popularly known as Bahamas, would be done with being 20 feet from the spotlight, and show us there’s more to him than singing backup, or supporting someone else’s sound with his tasty, precise guitar playing.

“I was writing songs long before it was my profession, and I’m sure I’ll keep writing them afterwards, too.”

A few years back, Bahamas made a conscious decision to focus on his own music, and so the title of his third album, Bahamas Is Afie, can be seen as a declaration. In fact, he calls the album “a fully realized version of me.” Bahamas says he was referring to the fact that he played a lot of the instruments on the album.

“Not all, but enough so that the album has a unique tone to it,” he explains. “It’s a dangerous way to record, bordering on narcissism and the stroking of one’s ego. I’m not sure I’ll do that again anytime soon, but it sure was fun to try.”

Bahamas says that while making the record, he “started playing this game, like, ‘What would ‘80s Van Morrison do if he were producing this?’ or ‘What about John Williams?’” He was just trying to find ways of pushing himself past the initial song ideas.

“Often you end up realizing your instincts were in the right place and you go back to the first idea anyway,” Bahamas says. “But you get a chance to try out a lot of different musical directions, and I enjoy that process. I’m not really crazy about mixing, in fact I don’t really even like to be there. So the recording process is where I’ll try out most of my ideas.”

The fun and games manifested themselves in a headphone album full of gorgeous instrumentation, different flavours and Bahamas’ breezy voice. Considering how many songs deal with affairs of the heart, we asked the critically-acclaimed songwriter what the key is to penning songs about relationships without resorting to clichés?

“People have been trying to write and re-write love songs for so long now, so obviously it’s a deep well for many writers, and I suppose the only way I can create something legitimate and unique is to make it about my experience, my perspective,” he replies. “Even though it’s ‘my’ song, I do hope there’s a way for listeners to hear themselves in it.”

So, how is Bahamas adapting to being in the spotlight?

“It’s not like I’ve ever had any hit songs or big-time videos,” he says, “so my day-to-day experience is more or less the same as it was 12 years ago. I was writing songs long before it was my profession, and I’m sure I’ll keep writing them afterwards, too.”

Downtown Songs DLJ
Discography: Pink Strat (2009), Barchords (2012), Bahamas is Afie (2014)
Website: www.bahamasmusic.net
Member since 2002

Turning the Page
“In high school, I met Carlin Nicholson and Mike O’Brien. They were a year ahead of me and I really looked up to them, musically speaking. We started playing together and making recordings, and a whole world of music opened up to me. Original music! Writing songs! I was very inspired by those guys, and 15 years later I still am. They’re busy with Zeus and I’m doing something, but we’re still tight, still writing, still playing. They changed my life when I was 16, and I’m forever grateful.”

La Bronze is far from a newcomer on the Montreal music scene. She released a self-produced EP in 2012. “I kept things simple, to me, that EP was like a business card,” she says. As for her first, eponymous, full-length album, it came out in September 2014 and it definitely didn’t remain below the radar.

Born in Montreal of Moroccan parents, La Bronze, a.k.a. Nadia Essadiqi, was raised in the Aylmer area of the Outaouais region before returning home. A die-hard music lover, her musical taste is as eclectic as can be, ranging from Lhasa to James Blake to The Black Keys. Her outside-the-box pop songs incorporate many influences and genres, with strong lyrics veering on slam poetry at times, some rock energy and splashes of electro. The artist also mentions “some trip-hop somewhere in the mix, too.”

“Bronze is all at once soft and rough, dirty and clean. I like its inherent poetry.”

The fusion of genres culminates on the track “Explose-moi” [“Explode Me”], a song which sees La Bronze give everything she has and rip her own heart out of her ribcage to give it the the one she loves, still beating in her hands: 

J’aurais voulu être celle que tu veux toujours pour dessert / I wanted to be the one you always want for dessert
J’aurais voulu être celle qui te manque même quand je suis là / I wanted to be the one you miss even when I’m next to you
J’aurais voulu être celle que ta mère préfère / I wanted to be the one your mom prefers

Her delivery is still animated by a youthful ferocity, and it’s obvious even on record that she has a magnetic stage persona, where she plays drums standing up, accompanied by a guitarist and keyboard player. The opportunities to see her live last fall were scarce, thanks to the buzz she started generating (over 28,000 downloads of her track “La jeunesse feline” on iTunes!), but such occasions will be more plentiful during the winter and spring of 2015.

“Yes, I can confirm that. I just changed bookers,” she says. “I feel very confident with my current team. I don’t have any expectations, I don’t know exactly how things are supposed to happen, at what speed and in what order. I’m grateful for what is happening to me and I’m ready for whatever’s next,” says the artist, who got a chance to perform in front of industry movers and shakers last June in Los Angeles. La Bronze presented her live act during three SOCAN-sponsored showcases, one of which was on the stage of the mythical Sunset Marquis Hotel. “It was an awesome experience, my music was very well received, and the fact I sing in French wasn’t a problem and, as a matter of fact, it was even a plus… People there found it exotic!”

La Bronze might have been absent from concert venues last fall, but Essadiqi was still busy as she starred in Le cœur animal, a stage play she wrote and starred in at Théâtre La Chapelle in late October. The play bears the same themes as her songs do: devouring passion, burning desire, sexual or otherwise, thequest for freedom… She says, “I did write the songs and the play at the same time!” It’s through acting that the 28-year-old came to a career as a professional artist. These days, one can catch her in several popular Québec TV series such as 30 vies and Toute la vérité, as well as in movies such as Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies, where she played “a small role as a bitchy secretary, one of the few funny moments in the movie.

“But through it all, I was always drawn to music.  I started making music when I came back to live in Montréal, where I started in street percussion bands; I can do music through rhythm. One thing led to another, and playing percussion instruments made me want to write songs and sing them.” Essadiqi is a very instinctive person, and whether it’s music or theatre, she’s mainly self-taught, but does attend the occasional private class and professional development workshop.

“Bronze is an alloy made of copper and tin, known for its electrical conductivity and resistance to corrosion,” she says. “It’s used to make weapons, medals, and jewelry, notably. I love what the name evokes: metal, vibrant colours, contrasts. Bronze is all at once soft and rough, dirty and clean. I like the sonority of it, its inherent poetry.”

Bear her name (and face) in mind. The Bronze Age has just begun.

Turning the Page
In this era where so many performers – from your run of the mill pop sensation to the most left-field songwriter – are “discovered” through talent contests, La Bronze thought she too would give that a go… No luck, though: For three years in a row I tried getting in Les Francouvertes, but I was never chosen. At some point, I just decided I’d go about it some other way, via a different route. I was a bit disappointed, but in the end I just let go and I turned the page.”

Shopping at Aritzia is not only about finding that Talula Waverly Blouse for tomorrow night’s dinner party, it’s also about taking a journey through a store familiar to customers for its compelling soundtrack – music that customers will even tweet about.

Aritzia certainly attributes most of its success to its in-demand, fashionable urban attire, but also credits music for adding to its lounge-like store experience, employing a Music Director to curate and personalize each store’s playlist.

“We keep the music up-tempo, sexy, and relevant so our shoppers are excited to be in the store.”

“Our music program, like our windows, is meant to attract customers into our stores as they walk by,” says Music Director for Aritzia Sarah Lewitinn. “Countless customers have tweeted about walking into our stores because they heard a mixtape they loved, an artist they adore, songs that they can’t get enough of, and tunes they’ve never heard and are suddenly obsessed with.”

Founded by Brian Hill in Vancouver in 1984, the fashion boutique has been in business for 30 years, and has a growing portfolio of 60 stores across North America, including a 13,000-square-foot flagship store in perhaps the world’s most music-friendly city, Manhattan.

Aritzia curates each store’s playlist with its specific buyer demographic in mind – those between ages 15 and 30, with a modest budget, eager to be seen as uniquely independent, and open to discovering the terrific music playing in the background.

“With so many options to choose from, standing out from the crowd and attracting customers is crucial for all retailers, including Aritzia. We keep the music up-tempo, sexy, and relevant so our shoppers are excited to be in the store,” says Lewitinn.

A recent SOCAN study suggests that business owners feel music plays a vital role in the type of customer experience they want to create. For Aritzia, this couldn’t be more true.

“Aritzia is a business that understands completely the essential role that music can play in creating an optimal customer experience,” says Jennifer Brown, Vice President of Licensing at SOCAN. “Fine-tuning a music selection to appeal to specific customer demographics can be a make-or-break business decision. When it comes to music in business, a strategic approach definitely counts – and has the potential to dramatically affect the bottom line.”

The retail leader also considers the ears of its almost 2,000 retail staff, saying “By keeping our music fast-paced, our sales staff is kept happy and light on their toes, dancing around the store as they help our customers.”

Since music is key to the Canadian retailer’s success, being Licensed to Play music with SOCAN ensures that the songwriters, composers, and music publisher heard playing in its stores are fairly compensated for their extraordinary talent and hard work.

Taking it a step further, the fashion brand dedicates an entire section of its online magazine to music, calling it “In Review: Music.”

How you can make the most of music in your business – Tips from an expert

Sarah Lewitinn is a distinguished record producer, DJ (@ultragrrrl), music critic and Music Director for Artizia. Lewitinn recognizes the value that music can have on business, and works strategically with the Canadian fashion brand to ensure the music played in its stores adds the desired overall customer experience. SOCAN asked Lewitinn to share a few tips that SOCAN licensed businesses can use to optimize their music use:

  1. “Know your customer! It’s important to have an idea of what kind of music your clientele likes listening to when they’re not shopping so they feel at home within your stores.”
  2. “Up-tempo music makes the shopping experience more exciting and sexy, giving the client the most idealized version of how your product makes them feel.”
  3. “Keep things fresh! It’s great to update the music as often as possible because, not only does it reflect on your brand as being current, but it also rescues your staff from getting bored from hearing the same music over and over again.”