In the Spotlight: Stars align for Jade LeMac’s “Constellations”
Story by Beatriz Baleeiro | Thursday October 14th, 2021
From time to time, each new generation shows up to create, consume, and shape pop culture. When it comes to social media, it’s clear that Gen Z is dominating the business. Seventeen-year old singer-songwriter Jade LeMac is one of TikTok’s freshest voices, and she’s been using the platform to showcase her music and normalize conversations around sexuality.
The Vancouver-based artist has caught the attention of a million followers on the app, after releasing “‘Constellations” in early August of 2021. The song also went viral on Spotify, reaching more than a million streams on the platform in less than a month. (Though this wasn’t her first rodeo: Back in 2018, LeMac collaborated with Dutch EDM producer Dion Timmer on “The Right Type.”)
Although LeMac’s success across social media drove her into a career in music, none of it was planned. Like most people posting on TikTok, the musician was only having fun and connecting with other people in the midst of the pandemic.
“I started, believe it or not, as a joke,” says LeMac. “It was really cool, because right away, I started gaining followers. It wasn’t for music at first, but then I kind of realized that TikTok is a great way to gain an audience and a fan base that you can convert into your music career.”
According to the artist, the turning point came after she re-purposed a song based on Rihanna’s melodic solo vocal-and-piano ballad “Stay.” “I just re-wrote the lyrics, and that’s when I realized that I could really write songs on the piano,” she says. Her influences also include Shawn Mendes, whose career similarly took root in social media, on the now-defunct Vine app.
Similar to other young adults, LeMac is on a path to self-discovery, as reflected on her social media. In some of her TikToks, the singer comfortably talks and jokes about her sexuality. “I remember being younger and looking for someone to help me understand myself,” she says.
LeMac tries to keep negative comments out, but it’s hard to ignore all of them. “I’ve received homophobic comments and it sucks,” she says. On the flip side, the musician has been able to encourage her followers to open up more. “So many people have messaged me, saying how much I’ve helped them come out to their parents. It’s the best feeling ever,” she says.
Without taking any breaks, LeMac has already moved on to her next project, an EP with JUNO-nominated producer Jason Van Poederooyen aka JVP. LeMac has high hopes for her future – among them, to place her songs with a medical drama TV series. So stay tuned…
Photo by Jean-François Sauvé
AXLAUSTADE: Generation 90
Story by Dominic Tardif | Thursday October 14th, 2021
Just as two teenagers would, Jonathan Dauphinais and Steve Dumas can spend countless hours talking about the music of the ’90s and imagining – this is just one of many examples – what Weezer might have become had bassist Matt Sharp not left the band in February of 1998.
Dauphinais flashes a smile to his friend and says, “Remember when we went and talked to Matt Sharp after the Rentals show?” That was in May of 2015, at Montréal’s Fairmount Theater. “You told him, talking about me, something like, ‘This guy, he’s one of the best bass players in North America.’ I was so embarrassed.”
It’s clear, despite the prosperity of their respective careers, that Steve Dumas (better known under his last name only) and Jonathan Dauphinais (who’s collaborated with Beast, Ariane Moffatt, Milk & Bone, and creates electro under the name Hoodies at Night) are, first and foremost, bona fide music lovers.
In this spirit, they were supposed to celebrate Dauphinais’ 40th Birthday by booking a recording session at Electric Studio in Chicago, headquarters of Steve Albini—who produced Nirvana’s In Utero, among other notable projects. He’s one of the most influential sound architects of the ‘90s, an authentic living legend who advocates a radical vision of studio work. It’s the antithesis of a world where all re-touching is now allowed. Albini is also very open to receiving just about anyone in his home.
“If we got a band together with a tuba, a trombone and a tap dancer, and we were game to go record there, on tape, he’d book us,” Dauphinais says of Albini. “One e-mail and your session is booked, and it’s not expensive. He puts on his lab coat, places his mics, and presses record. All he wants is for people to make as much noise as possible, and then leave with their reel of tape.”
For several months, Dumas, Dauphinais, and drummer Francis Mineau (of Malajube) prepared for their Chicago visit in their rehearsal space where they improvised endlessly before choosing the best material to come out of those jam sessions, This was the raw material from which they elaborated the instrumental repertoire. that they would have immortalized over the course of a few days spent at Albini’s, starting on March 19, 2020. That never happened, for the viral reasons we all know.
Upon hearing a home recording of these songs, filmmaker Louis-Philippe Eno (one of Dumas’ close collaborators) convinced the trio to make them into an album, even without Albini. In fact, a photo taken by Eno more than 20 years ago, at a party in Victoriaville, adorns the album cover. It’s a young man suspended in mid-air, apparently doing a rather funny somersault. “Still. to this day, we have no idea how he ended up in that position,” Dumas chuckles.
Although entirely instrumental, the supergroup’s first album – “We hate the term ‘supergroup’” – follows a precise narrative: the story of a young musician in his late teens who was there during the August 8, 1992, riot at the Olympic Stadium provoked by Axl Rose deserting the stage. An event that would be the last nail in the coffin of hair metal, which was already on its knees following the uppercut of Nirvana’s Nervermind.
“It’s pretty much our own story: a young man growing up in a rural town, with passions like playing Nintendo and riding his bike, until music comes into his life,” explains Francis Mineau, who penned a series of allusive poems included on the album cover, a sort of hole-in-the-wall version of the story of their grunge hero.
Although the drummer and writer is originally from Saint-Hugues, Québec, near Sorel, it’s the Bois-Francs and Centre-du-Québec regions that are the setting for the adventures of their alter ego (Dauphinais is from Drummondville, and Dumas from Victoriaville). For this instrumental project, Dumas is happy to go back to the role of simple guitarist within AXLAUSTADE, a task he used to perform in his very first skate-punk band, The Slug.
“When you’re a teenager and you start a band in a place like Saint-Hugues, Victo, or Drummond, you inevitably think that the ideal world is elsewhere. It’s in Seattle, London, or Halifax. It’s everywhere except the place you were born,” says Dumas. Their protagonist gradually understands, as they did, that there’s nothing more powerful than celebrating where you come from. The poems accompanying AXLAUSTADE are full of references to villages like Tingwick and Wickham, along with nods to prominent figures from the decade before the millennium. And the song titled “oui no na”? Obviously, it’s a tribute to Winona Ryder, the star of Reality Bites (1994).
Imagined in part as an alternative to those who like instrumental music but want something more than a solo piano, AXLAUSTADE is also proof that it’s possible to go through our thirties without leaving behind either the fervour of musical curiosity that animated us in our teens, or the desire to create for the sake of creating, for the beauty of the gesture, and for the camaraderie. In this regard, AXLAUSTADE is anything but a nostalgia project.
“I believe it’s a choice you have to make. The point came when we decided to put in the necessary hours,” says Dumas, who has a son, while his colleagues both have three kids each. “You have to put in those hours so you don’t lose that passion, and you don’t forget the kid inside of us, who gives us that drive.”
James Baley fuses Gospel vocals with house music
Story by Liisa Ladouceur | Thursday October 7th, 2021
There’s a moment in “Keep the Light On,” the new single from Toronto’s James Baley, where you expect the heavens to open up. It’s a Gospel/R&B ballad, after all. But Baley doesn’t need a dramatic orchestral crescendo to make you feel all the feels. Instead, for nearly five minutes it cradles the listener in his voice, with subtlety, emotion, and grace. It’s a gorgeous example of what can happen when you let a song simply… be.
Baley’s voice has been heard on a variety of tracks in recent years. He’s collaborated with such diverse Canadian artists as rock groups July Talk and U.S. Girls, electronic artist Azari, and jazz/R&B experimenters Badge Époque Ensemble and Zaki Ibrahim. And now he’s turning this spotlight on himself.
This fall, Baley releases his debut solo album, A Story. It’s a story that many will know, but few have told so boldly, about the search for belonging, and the pride of discovering one’s true self.
Raised in a family where singing was encouraged, he discovered the power of his voice early on. “Ever since I knew what music was, that I could make sounds with my body, I was hooked,” says Baley. “Myself, my older brother and my younger brother can all sing, and my mom taught us how to sing in harmony. It was kind of one of those things to keep us under control, especially in church, when she was leading praise and worship. But it became a really fun challenge for me.”
He cites ‘60s Motown, ‘90s R&B and hip-hop, and alternative female singers such as Tori Amos and Björk as early influences. But the one constant musical thread in his life has been Gospel. As a queer Black man, however, he admits it hasn’t always been easy to be part of that musical community.
“Let’s just say, for a long time I didn’t want to be put into that Gospel category,” he explains. “Knowing that I was gay, I’m like, ‘I don’t want to be gay and be a Gospel artist.’ ‘Cause that just feels so wrong. And I don’t wanna feel wrong in my body, with those labels attached to me. I feel like nowadays it’s not so much an issue, ‘cause I know that music really does bring me joy.”
“House music is like the church music of the dancefloor”
That complexity of emotion is captured beautifully on “Banishment,” another single from A Story. The driving dance track, in which Baley imagines what it would feel like to be Eve, banished from the garden of Eden, fuses gospel vocals with house music. Baley says the song went through several iterations over the years with different producers, from an “I Feel Love” disco vibe to one more inspired by the contemporary ballroom scene.
“I really love ballroom music,” he says. “[It’s] rooted in house music, and house music is like the church music of the dancefloor, of that nightlife,” he explains. “It’s like those Gospel tracks where people are catching spirit in the aisle. People are thrashing. People are singing ‘Hallelujah!’ That’s the feeling [house] brings up in my body.”
“Banishment” also features guest vocalist Twysted Miyake-Mugler, co-founder of the Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance, where Baley regularly performs. He says walking the runway is where he feels like his best self, and that the ballroom community has also been a place of healing. Like so much of A Story, the song honours Baley’s musical roots in the church, but leaves behind what he no longer needs.
“It’s like saying we would never go back to those ashamed, fearful selves when we were a part of communities that were so good for us at some point, but so dangerous for us when it comes to realizing that you are gay,” he says. “It’s saying, ‘You are amazing, you are important, you’re beautiful, you’re talented. Don’t be ashamed of yourself.’”
Baley at the SOCAN Foundation TD Incubator
James Baley was one of the first participants in the TD Incubator for Creative Entrepreneurship, powered by the SOCAN Foundation. The program launched in 2018, enables young music creators with cash grants, mentorship, and access to webinars on financial literacy, digital media, management, publishing and more.
“I feel like at the time when I applied it was something that I really needed for my career,” says Baley. “One of the things that really rang true for me from the knowledge those webinars imparted on all the artists was, ‘Don’t be afraid to reach for your dreams. Don’t be afraid to ask for the things you need, because if you don’t ask, no one’s going to ask for you.’”
As part of the program, Baley was selected to attend a residency co-presented by The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, where he had the opportunity to write with songwriters from across the country, with many of whom he’s continued to keep in contact. He praises the program for “not just checking the boxes,” but its organic feel, and genuine approach to learning.
“I feel like the Incubator allows artists that are deciding to take their brand, their business, to the next level, to get to that next stage,” he says. “It was such a great experience. They really want you to succeed.”
On Oct. 22, James Baley will take over The Great Hall in downtown Toronto with a multi-media exploration of his multitude of communities and creative worlds, and a conceptual live experience with two performances, produced by somewherelse.