Nine years after a party with its fair share of drinking revealed their musical potential, Emma Beko and Gab Godon are about to reap what they’ve sown with the release of Why Make Sense, their first album as Heartstreets.
An instinctual hybrid of R&B, pop, soul, and hip-hop, it’s the result of 18 months of intensive labour. Though the road to the album wasn’t too winding, it was nonetheless dotted with doubt. Along the way, a creative endeavour helped them along the path: SOCAN’s Kenekt Québec Song Camp, which they attended in the Spring of 2018.
It was there that the two friends met several high-calibre producers and musicians, like Realmind, A-Sho, Connor Seidel, L’Isle, and Pilou. While at the camp, they created three songs that ended up on the album: “Good Thing,” “Lost,” and “Piece by Piece.” “Our interactions were so inspiring,” says Beko. “It was the first time that we spent five straight days creating music non-stop. When we walked out of there, we told ourselves, ‘OK, let’s finish this album!’ It motivated us for the final steps.”
“It opened us up to new ways of working,” says her creative partner Godon. “Emma and I have a very organic and spontaneous workflow, but there, we saw other people thinking about the structure and logic of a song before even writing lyrics, or composing a melody. We understood that no matter who you are, the means at your disposal, and the resources required, you must always be at the service of the music.”
In other words, the two 27-year-old musicians are much more open to others on Why Make Sense – and open to themselves while exploring serious topics, like grief, anxiety and depression. A good example of this collaborative method is the album’s opener, “By You,” which came out of a game of “musical ping pong” between longtime songwriter/producer Philippe Brault and electronic music producer Ouri. Born at Kenekt in collaboration with Pilou, “Lost” changed along the way, and benefited from Shash’U’s know-how in the rhythm department. “Our mission is to tie all that together, to hold the reins, and make sure it’s homogenous,” explains Godon.
Remaining True to Your Essence
That’s why, in spite of its exploratory nature, Why Make Sense remains cohesive. The duo’s simple, no-frills approach – centred around the pure and natural fusion of their voices – translates into an impression of closeness for the listener. “We grew up listening to what was being played at the time,” says Beko. “Pharcyde, Biggie, Big L, AZ, Fugees… It all had an immense impact on our lives, and it gave our music its gritty and raw side.
“It’s not rare, onstage, that we have to tell the sound person to kill the reverb on our voices, because we like them au naturel. Not to say we don’t play around with effects in the studio, but always in moderation.”
This organic signature has been the basis of Heartstreets since its inception. Childhood friends, Beko and Godon developed their artistic bond while filming improved sketches, singing Christina Aguilera songs, and later, taking hip-hop dance classes in their teens. That party we mentioned at the beginning of this story happened in 2010, and sealed their friendship forever. “My dad wasn’t home, so we went over to his place to drink and smoke joints,” Beko remembers nostalgically. “At some point, Gab showed me an Adele song and started singing it in front of me.”
“And then, during the instrumental break, Emma had the balls to start rapping her own lyrics,” adds Godon. “We were both totally mind-blown! It was love at first sight… This is our new activity now!”
The following year, they published their first songs on SoundCloud, and the buzz around them on the local scene grew steadily, as many enjoyed their warm and unusual amalgamation of hip-hop and R&B. Then, in 2016, the critical success of You & I, their first EP, helped them secure several high-profile gigs in Québec, notably at the Osheaga festival, and the Festival d’été de Québec. They also garnered collaborations with renowned Montréal-based producers, like Kaytranada and Ryan Playground.
Being careful not to set their bar too high, the pair now hopes that their debut album will take the place it deserves on the Montréal scene. “We don’t even count the time and effort we devoted to it,” says Godon. “We’re just really proud to introduce it to our fans. And from there, our main goal is for Heartstreets to take off and fly on its own, all over the universe.”