Antony CarleHis album is a moment. The moment you choose because it’s right, when you decide to go ahead with the plan. Antony Carle builds such moments, and meticulously polishes the time he’s given until all the settings are taken to their full potential. Released in May of 2019, The Moment, his first, is only a small part of what he can do.

Whereas his onstage work takes him to places where excitement is commonplace, Carle also knows how to create quiet moments when needed. Sitting on the patio of a Mile End coffee shop in Montréal, he tells us that he’s known for not speaking loudly.  “Studio work means you can fine-tune a moment,” he says. “Stage work means creating a moment. You can’t explain it. I think you lose that aspect sometimes. It’s an energy that gets created. I’ll never forget Erykah Badu looking straight at me and singing while holding my hand. I want to reproduce that.”

Embracing vulnerability isn’t simple, but that’s a process for which he advocates. “We’re afraid to fuck up, but when you’re singing, it’s like you’re painting a canvas,” says Carle. “It’s got to be ugly. People will file in front of it, and you’ll tell them it’s not finished. You can’t create if you’re afraid of everything you’re going to produce.”

The queer artist was signed by Bonsound, and has released music that taps into elecrtro codes to express something bigger. “I was well received,” Carle points out, “but I couldn’t help wondering whether that was because the media needed a queer article that week. Anyway, I was in the paper!”

More than an image. More than a style that offends the closed-minded. More than an identity badge that you stick on to a body of work out of laziness. Carle is “more.” A champion of authenticity, he’s not planning to travel alone on his ship. “Barriers had to be climbed and, yes, I often speak about identity problems in my songs, but for any artist, it’s hard to feel accomplished,” he says. “Everyone wants to exist, leave their mark, and find themselves through their projects.” Has he found himself? “Absolutely. That was the goal.”

Carle was discovered by Bonsound before he had enough serious material on hand, when he opened for Cri in 2016. The contact was easy, later on, when he called the label to say “I’m ready.”

The spring of 2019 brought him out of his wintry shell, where there’d been a whirlwind of creativity that was bursting to get out. “When winter comes, it’s like you work intensely or you die,” he says. “I was writing so I wouldn’t die. I know I have a theatrical approach to music; it comes with my perception of work. I take what I do quite seriously, and I lose interest when things are simple.”

In his view, artists create because they have to, but where the project will end up is hard to tell. According to Spotify, there’s enormous interest for what he does in Norway, but what will that bring?  “It’s a platform that provides enormous visibility, but it makes people lazy,” says Carle. “I don’t want to count too much on it. I remember spending hours in record stores, making discoveries. We weren’t born with music selections. That made us curious.”

When we start joking about the weather, Carle told us he believes in the “end of the world,” and that he hopes to survive it. “In spite of everything we think, and everything people try to do, all we want, in the end, is to be allowed to be happy and find a place,” he says. In spite of all the queer culture elements that find their way into his words and performances, Carle knows that he’s serving a broader purpose. “I’ve already written a second album, and it doesn’t talk about that. But I think it will always be implied,” he says.

Having been shocked by many things he saw, Antony Carle wanted to speak out, but without necessarily making a “committed” or “serious” album. “It shouldn’t be committed, but should just help people feel well,” he says.

His belief is that things should be changed bit by bit. “There will always be violence,” he says. “You just have to know how to change one mind at a time. I do my part. I say, this way, please. I’m the stewardess, pointing out the exit,” he jokes.

Jeffrey Piton

Photo: Guillaume Beaulieu

His velvety voice tells you that Jeffrey Piton isn’t one to force things. “When I compose, I don’t push too hard,” he explains. “I sit down to write, and if nothing relevant or interesting comes up, I don’t worry too much about it. I set the whole thing aside, and get back to it the next day. I don’t see any point in insisting. It’s like when you go fishing: you get there with your rod, and sometimes you catch a fish, sometime you don’t.”

The nine biggest ones he’s “caught” since the 2015 release of his first album, La Transition, can be found on his new recording, Blind, released in May 2019. The album is sung in English, except for two songs in French: “Panorama” and, above all, “Californie,” Piton’s favourite song. “It’s an inside joke between me and my girlfriend,” he explains. “Sometimes, when you’re going through a rough patch, you can mentally see yourself checking your bank account, selling this and that, and wondering how long you could last in California on the proceeds…  It’s the feeling I think I was able to convey in that song.”

Born in Kingston, Ontario, and having spent stints living in Germany, Gatineau, and St-Jean-sur-le-Richelieu as his father’s military career demanded, the singer-songwriter explains that releasing an album mostly written in English somehow made him feel like he was returning to his roots. “When I was growing up and learning to play the guitar, I was playing English songs,” he explains. “It’s actually when I was first involved in La Voix [during the first season of the televised singing competition, the Québec franchise of The Voice] that I started singing in French for the first time. The reason was that on the show, once the live performance stage was over, I had to perform in French for reasons of [language] quotas on television. And I liked it a lot, which made me want to have my own Francophone repertoire, hence my choice to release my first all-French recording.”

So here he is again, with a proven formula that’s both timeless, and in continuity with his first album. “I often say that I put some pop in my folk. because I enjoy both styles,” says Piton. “The instrumentation is more folk-like, but I have melodies that could qualify for pop music. It remains within the singer-songwriter range, and my new album isn’t all that different from my first one. However, I feel that I’ve evolved as a songwriter, and that I did so in the direction I want to take. I feel that I’ve produced something that’s more and more like me.”

What Piton remembers from his La Voix experience six years ago is the stress, and the “showbiz side” of the production, “but what I enjoyed most were the people I got to meet,” he says. “Guys like David Laflèche, with whom I made my French-language album, and with whom I worked again on this just-released one.” This time, Laflèche produced half of the album, the other half being produced by Piton himself, “which I’d always dreamed of doing.

“I’ve always passionately loved recording and music production, so I decided to take the big jump for half of the album,” he says. Piton hired his musicians – Francis Veillette on pedal steel, Catherine Laurin on violin, Max Sansalone on drums, Laflèche on bass and electric guitar – who joined him at his place for the recording sessions. “It felt like skydiving when I did that,” says Piton. “It was a great experience, both in terms of songwriting and decision-making. ‘Producer’ is a hat that I enjoy wearing, and that I’ll continue to wear as I go along.”

Piton is a great consumer of instrumental and ambient music – primarily Jónsi & Alex’s Riceboy Sleeps, the album released by the Sigur Rós’s guitarist and vocalist Jón Þór Birgisson (Jónsi), and his partner and Parachutes member Alex Somers. Piton delights in the delicate and melodious folk songs that echo the calmer repertoire of Iron & Wine on his new album.

With Piton, the music and the melody always come first. “I always use a guitar to write,” he explains. “I like hearing what I play without having to play it, this is what works best for me. So I play my guitar while humming melodies over the music, without lyrics. Once I come up with a structure that has an interesting sound, I record it on the computer; this way, I can re-listen to it without having to play it again, which allows me to concentrate on the melodies. It’s strange, but I’ve noticed that when I play everything back as I write the lyrics, part of my brain remains concentrated on helping me play the guitar part better!

“So the lyrics then follow. I usually sit down with my notebook, but sometimes I’ll resurrect bits of lyrics that I have lying around on scraps of paper. When I come up with a line, I write it down for later use. I rarely experience strokes of genius… Writing is an exercise. And that’s a good thing, because the more I write, the better I get to be at conveying the feelings that come into a song.”

When the Toronto Raptors played the Golden State Warriors at home in Game One of the National Basketball Association 2019 championship finals on May 30, a famous local rapper did a hype-building mini-concert performance for the 5,000-plus fans gathered in “Jurassic Park” just outside the Scotiabank Arena. The song the rapper played was a love letter to the 6ix. (No, it wasn’t Drake.) Its familiar line, “I’m from the T dot, Oh / Rep it everywhere I go,” may be the definitive pro-Toronto rally cry.

The song, of course, was Kardinal Offishall’s “The Anthem.”

Originally released in 2010, Kardi’s Toronto-loving song was remixed and re-imagined for the Raptors playoff run at the behest of giant American sports broadcaster ESPN, who used the new version of “The Anthem” to anchor their video tribute to the eventual world championship-winning team.

Kardinal Offishall, Kardi, Raptors

Click on the photo to see the ESPN video

“That whole re-vamping of ‘The Anthem’ was something very, very special,” says Kardinal Offishall, whose updated version of the song features mentions of key Raptors players Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard, Pascual “Spicy P” Siakam, Danny Green, and Marc Gasol.

Kardinal, whose career in the Can-rap spotlight stretches all the way back to the breakthrough Rascalz posse track “Northern Touch” in 1998, says the new lyrics for “The Anthem” came to him in a burst.

“I think, literally, at 5:00 in the morning, it was just, ‘Oh, there it is’ and I banged it out one-time, and it was done within 15 minutes,” says Kardinal. “But that’s kind of my method, that’s how I write. I’m one of those people, when I’m in that good zone and that good vibe, it doesn’t take long for me most of the time.”

That Kardi got to soundtrack the Raptors’ run — and get paid by ESPN for doing so — isn’t lost on him. “Would I have done it for free? Probably. Is it nice that I got a cheque and got to represent?” asks Kardinal, rhetorically. “Absolutely amazing.”

The Raptors’ playoff run has coincided with a period of renewal for the rapper / producer / actor/ Universal Music Canada Creative Executive Director of A&R. He released the potent new single “Run” on June 12 — the day before the Raptors’ championship-clinching Game Six — and is planning to release Pick Your Poison in the fall, his first album in four years. Though “Run” wasn’t released specifically to coincide with the Raptors’ run, the song’s stand-tall themes and high spirit matched the feeling of the city during the sports team’s march to victory.

“I don’t like to just do random stuff. I try to attach songs to moments.”

“I don’t like to just do random stuff,” says Kardi. “I try to attach songs to moments – and rather than it have anything to do with the Raptors per se, it was just the energy and the vibe of it. We were maybe going to release it Canada Day, but there was just such an indescribable energy and magic that was in the city at the time.”

There’s an unlikely source behind the newly jump-started Kardinal: veteran American comedian Dave Chappelle. A pep talk with Chappelle helped Kardi put a period of feeling “uninspired” in perspective.

Rappers love Raptors: 10 jams that “big up” the team

  • “Really Doe,” by Danny Brown Featuring Kendrick Lamar,
  • Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt
  • “Rapture,” by Fabolous and Jadakiss
  • “It’s Lit,” by Kyle featuring IAmSu!
  • “Something to Say,” by Nick Grant
  • “Streets at Night,” by PRhyme
  • “Throw It,” by SahBabii
  • “Daytona 500,” by The Game
  • “Makaveli,” by Tory Lanez
  • “Winter Schemes,” by Wale featuring J. Cole
  • “Love You,” by Roy Woods

“Dave said to me, ‘Man, Kardi, I’m a massive, massive fan, and I know that if I’m a massive fan, that means there are hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions of other fans across North America, and Canada, and Europe, and Asia, and everywhere in between.’ So, it was like one of these scenarios where we had a very transparent, honest, really great night over some drinks in his hometown,” says Kardinal. “Dave Chappelle needs absolutely nothing from me, so him telling me this is not because he’s trying to butter me up ’cause he needs a favour, or needs to borrow some money. It was just a very honest discussion between friends, and I’ll be forever grateful to people like him.”

For a different take on gratitude, one only needs to surf Kardinal’s Instagram account to see the rapper in the heart of Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square, surrounded by thousands of fellow revelers celebrating the Raptors’ Game Six championship win on June 13, 2019. Pop star Jessie Reyez and local super-producer Rich Kidd are seen celebrating along with Kardi in one post. Kardinal has also proposed a giant free Raptors victory party featuring himself and the likes of Drake, Tory Lanez, The Weeknd, Nav, Justin Bieber, and Daniel Caesar. That Toronto’s music community would back the Raptors in their finest moment seems entirely natural to someone who’s been doing it for the entire history of franchise.

“We’ve been supporting them the entire way,” says Kardi, “so a win for them is a win for us in a way.”