Breakout country singer-songwriter Lindsay Ell played a pre-CCMAs show at the new Axis nightclub in downtown Toronto on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. Check out our photos from her explosive performance below!
ElyOtto’s “SugarCrash!”: fourth most-liked TikTok ever, and 100 million Spotify streams
Story by Chaka V. Grier | December 9, 2021
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.”
Photo by Éva-Maude TC
DJ Killa-Jewel: Head in the Stars
Story by Olivier Boisvert-Magnen | December 7, 2021
Montréal’s DJ Killa-Jewel – who many Québecois discovered this year as the house DJ for the TV rap talent show La fin des faibles – has renewed her musical approach on Sagittarius. The four-song EP is her very first release on a record label, namely Hydrophonick Records, the hip-hop branch of Indica Records.
Her previous project Reckless, released independently last year, featured the talents of several rappers (Wasiu and Nate Husser in particular), but Sagittarius is a “true” solo project, on which Killa-Jewel’s music lives on its own terms. Only one of the tracks – the bona fide earworm Without You – uses a non-sampled voice: her own. “Producing music with the intention of collaborating with a rapper or singer is very different from composing instrumental music,” she says. “It led me to create a more dynamic style of music whose goal is to entertain and engage the audience. This translates into a much broader creative freedom.”
With its trip-hop and techno influences, its soaring sounds, and its references to astrology, Sagittarius offers a rather unique astral trap signature. Killa-Jewel’s scratching parsimoniously peppers her amalgamation of sounds and styles. “I wasn’t even sure I would scratch over those songs,”: she says. “I didn’t know if scratching was still relevant in 2021. But they [the Hydrophonik people] said I absolutely had to include some scratching, because it’s my signature. They offered me a great opportunity to marry my original style and my new direction.”
In addition to embodying the celestial mood of the project, the title of the EP represents the zodiac sign and personality of the DJ, producer, and singer-songwriter, who turned 42 in November. “A Sagittarius is someone who loves their freedom,” she says. “It’s a sign associated with passionate people who like to take risks and who want to live their lives to the fullest. That’s exactly how I live my life. It’s been a wild ride!”
With her head in the stars since childhood, this Star Trek ultra-fan got her start as a DJ in the mid-‘90s. “My first boyfriend taught me the basics of DJ-ing when I was in high school,” she says. “We’d spend hours every day playing and mixing records on his turntables. Then we started playing at house parties. Music was my drug.”
A few years later, a phone call changed her life: it was DJ Qbert, the American master turntablist. “I was still living at my mom’s when I got that phone call, says Killa-Jewel. “The person on the other end said: ‘Hi! It’s Q!’ I was speechless. I asked him how he got my number and he said, ‘I just heard of you.’ He explained that he was producing a tutorial DVD on the various scratch techniques, and that he was looking for up-and-coming DJs willing to participate in the production. He asked me to scratch for him right there on the phone, just to make sure I was good enough. In the end, he just said, ‘OK, it’s perfect! Send me a video and I’ll include it on the DVD!’”
The DJ then shared the stage with Qbert a few times, including alongside MixMasterMike (another turntable legend) during the X Games extreme sports competition a few years ago.
On a local level, however, it was her early encounter with another renowned artist that was pivotal: Robert Lepage. In the 2000s, the playwright and stage director tapped Killa-Jewel for his plays Zulu Time and The Busker’s Opera, experiments that went far beyond music.
“When you work with Robert, you have to expect that he’ll use everyone’s talents in different ways,” she says. “For The Busker’s Opera, he made me sing opera, play a role, play the piano, and scratch, too. It was a golden opportunity for me… And now when I’m onstage, I try to think out of the box, like Robert does. It makes me strive to make my shows as dynamic as possible. I do live-looping, I sing, I play the piano, I scratch… It’s a real one-woman show.”
Killa-Jewel’s experience alongside Lepage also allowed her to discover the world. Released in 2014, her debut album Saudade is the result of a crate-digging quest that took place mostly during her theatrical tours. “Saudade is made with sounds that I found along the way,” she says. “It’s a travelogue. The problem was, there were just too many samples, and I just didn’t have the budget to clear all of them,” she adds, referencing the independent release, essentially limited to her website and Bandcamp page. “It was an important learning experience,” she says
And the learning hasn’t stopped over the last few years. Killa-Jewel switched from the MPC-2000 and samples, to Ableton Live and composing. “My productions definitely have a more electronic sound. It literally changed my style,” she says.
First hinted at on Reckless, her new style is confirmed on Sagittarius. And the new musical direction is matched by a similar one in her career – symbolized as much by being signed to Hydrophonik, as it is by her participation in La fin des faibles, the TV talent show whose second season was recently green-lit.
“When the pandemic started, I spent as much time as possible in the studio to really fine-tune my productions,” says Killa-Jewel. “I started shopping around for labels, and in the meantime, I got the call from Urbania [the production company of La fin des faibles]. It was an extraordinary and totally unexpected [case of] momentum. I’m unbelievably lucky.”
But it’s not just a question of chance… After all, Sagittarius is known for being extremely resourceful.