Sweet soul singer-songwriter Emanuel played a packed-house show at the new Axis nightclub in downtown Toronto on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. Check out our photos from his captivating performance below!
The pan-Canadian committee of members of our film industry chose Les Oiseaux ivres, a feature film by director Ivan Grbovic, as its representative in the Best Foreign Film Oscar race. On the very day we meet with Philippe Brault, who scored the movie, the news broke that the film was no longer in the race for a nomination. That didn’t deter the composer: “My music has travelled along with the film,” was his first reaction. It’s nearly impossible to determine what that means, and the impact it could have [on my career], but just knowing that there are a lot of interesting people who will see the movie means a lot.”
Recognized as one of Québec’s best record producers (Émile Bilodeau, Koriass, Patrice Michaud, Laurence Nerbonne), Brault – Pierre Lapointe’s longtime collaborator – was successful right from the start as a film composer: Sébastien Pilote’s La Disparition des lucioles (2018) earned him the Iris Award for Best Original Score in 2019.
“I’d done a bit of screen composing for TV before, but I mostly worked on albums and music for stage plays,” he says. “I’ve always gone with the flow, career-wise, I don’t over-think what’s next. I did the music for La Disparition des lucioles and it went super-well, I had a blast working on that. I remember telling my girlfriend that I’d like to do more film music.”
Thus, over the past two years, he’s composed four scores, including the aforementioned Oiseaux ivres, as well as the music for the popular Maria Chapdelaine, also directed by Sébastien Pilote. The results couldn’t be more different: Maria Chapdelaine is characterized by its big string arrangements around clearly defined themes and its references to folkloric music – foot-tapping and fiddles – whereas Les Oiseaux ivres is undeniably more diffuse and mysterious, mirroring the movie’s atmosphere, which critics have described as dream-like and impressionistic.
“True, the movie has that vibe because of its long, poetic sequences that make you feel like you’re uncoupling from reality,” says Brault. “But the movie also features characters that are somewhat rudderless, even though they think they aren’t, so I wanted to create music that was never totally anchored. You feel that in the music, as opposed to Maria Chapdelaine, where the music is firmly rooted in the land. Les Oiseaux makes you grasp for your bearings, and the music needed to underscore that.”
String arrangements are also the main colour of the music of Les Oiseaux ivres, but their effect is quite different, says Brault, “and windwood instruments also play a big role. Strings are there to enhance atmospheres, while windwoods add texture. One of the things I enjoyed while working on Les Oiseaux ivres that I couldn’t do for a more classic film like Maria Chapdelaine is use synthesizers. They lurk behind the strings, but they do contribute to the atmosphere, notable through pulses. Even the violins were tweaked in the studio, allowing me to push more modern ideas.”
The composer says he found inspiration for his musical ambience in the work of production designer André-Line Beauparlant and director of photography Sara Mishara. “The entire movie was shot on film, and only during traditional movie hours – at sunrise and at the end of the day – in order to get the best lighting,” says Brault, who worked closely with director Ivan Grbovic (who lives four blocks from him), making it easier to communicate during the pandemic. “That allowed for truly beautiful, epic, wide shots, with this light flooding amazing landscapes; the photo direction is very special. Some of the camera framings create space for the music; it sounds abstract to say it like this, but I saw these images as paintings by impressionist masters. It was incredibly inspiring to write music that was married to those images!”
At least two other new film scores by Brault are ready while the films await their release, and the musician confirmed that he’s working on new film projects – which reminds him that one of the qualities required to get into film music is patience.
“What I’ve come to understand with time is that in the movie business, you only measure the results of your work two to three years later,’ he says. “The process of making a film is complicated: a director picks up on your work, figures out if it fits the type of film he’s developing, and from there it can take another two or three years before he contacts you. Making a movie is a long-haul project, I find, as opposed to recording an album. If a project does well, I usually get a ton of collaboration requests about a year later. The process is a lot shorter, whereas filmmakers may pick you, but they still need time to develop their project. It is totally different universe.”
Two years ago, 17-year-old ElyOtto (aka Elliott Platt) never could have anticipated entering an unprecedented pandemic as a regular teen, posting random songs on SoundCloud, then emerging from lockdown as a TikTok star. But that’s exactly what happened, after releasing his immense viral hit.
“SugarCrash!” is currently the fourth most-liked TikTok of all time. It boasts 100 million streams on Spotify, a Kim Petras and Curtis Waters re-mix, and has reached number 11 on the Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative songs chart. This spring SPIN magazine named ElyOtto “The Face of Hyperpop.” And he’s since released the singles “Let Go,” “Teeth,” and the edgier “Profane.”
ElyOtto (whose music is published by Otto Dynamite Ltd.) began writing music in 2016, releasing tracks on SoundCloud a year later. His sound was inspired by experimental pop artists and SoundCloud rap. “I used to spend a whole lot of time just going through random artists on SoundCloud and seeing what obscure garbage I could find,” explains the Calgary teen. “I found somebody called Kid Trash Pop, and I was like, ‘Whoa, what kind of music is this?’ It was so grimy and robotic and artificial and shiny and colourful. I hadn’t really heard that in music before, so I was super-intrigued. Later I discovered 100 Gecs, and I was like, ‘OK. I gotta get in on this. This is such great music. Sounds like it would be really fun to make.’”
Making the outlandish clash of hyperpop began as trial and error of opposing beats and punk influences. And then ElyOtto accidentally landed on something that worked. “I made some songs and they all sucked horribly, so they’re deleted now, but out of these songs came ‘SugarCrash!,’ which actually sounded quite good,” says ElyOtto.
He explains that what ultimately became “SugarCrash!” began as a mixture of disparate pieces. “The lyrics were a completely separate piece,” he sa!ys. “I made the instrumentals very early on – like, days after the pandemic started – and it sounded very orchestral. It wasn’t at all hyperpop. I kind of forgot about that instrumental for the longest time. But I went back to it with some lyrics – I came with the lyrics in about a day, I was almost improvising on the spot [but] not quite – and I just recorded them over the instrumental, and re-worked them into hyperpop. And it worked.”
The track’s rise to 2021 viral status didn’t happen overnight, but its popularity was immediate. “I released the song about midnight on August 26, 2020, and then the next day I made a little promotional video on TikTok, and uploaded it, expecting maybe a few of my friends to go listen to it,” says ElyOtto. “I wasn’t expecting it to blow up at all, but I kept refreshing my page and more and more likes were coming, and comments saying, ‘This is going to blow up. This is great.’ I was getting followed like crazy, and I was just pacing back and forth on the train platform, like, ‘Wow! Oh my God, this cannot be happening right now!’ It was so exciting.”
Over the next year, “SugarCrash!” did anything but crash; instead it kept growing, including being used in a video by Nick Luciano on Feb. 23, 2021, sent out to his millions of followers. “It didn’t really hit me that this song was a worldwide phenomenon until almost a year later, when it just kicked up again, stronger than ever, and people were using it in their TikToks,” says ElyOtto.
Now signed to RCA Records, he’s preparing to release his debut EP, and working on more music. Preferring to write solo, he says all the experiences around him can inspire a song, and that means songwriting wherever and whenever he can. “Generally, I just wait for inspiration to come hit me,” he says. “It’s usually when I’m on the bus, I have long commutes from school, so I have a lot of time to let lyrics and melodies pop up in my head. I try to have a lot of party experiences, and things that people my age would have, so that I can write something relatable.”
When not using GarageBand, ElyOtto relies on the guitar, banjo, or occasionally the piano to compose. And if the banjo sounds like the antithesis to hyperpop beat-making, he makes it clear that he’s more than just a one-sound artist.
“I write in a lot of different genres,” he says. “I’m definitely not bound to hyperpop, but it has been what I’m doing most of late, because it’s really fun to make. It’s all in the computer, so you can just do it anywhere – on the bus or what-not. But at home, when I’m in a band or band session, or a setting where computers aren’t involved, I prefer to write in genres like folk, punk, and bluegrass.”
Those other sides of his sound are on hold for now, while the young man remains focused on exploring the hyperpop vein his fans can’t get enough of. “I ‘m working on some music videos with friends at school,” he says. “We’re doing something a little more lo-fi. I’m hoping to get into a film studio and do something a little more polished and professional for the EP. There’s going to be a lot of visual accompaniments to the music, so I hope my fans are looking forward to that – because I am.”
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