Adriane CassidyIf music is the breeze of youth, that’s not the purpose we’ll assign it here. At 21, Lou-Adriane Cassidy offers timeless sounds and states of mind. On C’est la fin du monde à tous les jours, she sings about the daily nature of death, the small things that slip through our fingers, memories that never fade, and what’s left when our heart’s been emptied.

“It’s my first album, so I don’t feel there were any expectations about it,” says the artist, who landed on many a critic’s list of artists to watch in 2019. “I didn’t think it would flop, but I’m surprised and grateful for the way it’s been received. But I do wonder, on what do these people base their judgement,” she adds, laughing.

The album opens with “La Fin du monde,” a song that ties all the others together, “It’s only when the album was done that I realized that was the meaning,” says Cassidy. “I was afraid to complain too much on my album. But the end of the world every day is the perspective I wanted to impart through those complaints. I’m putting things into perspective.”

Known for taking part in many a song contest, Cassidy is adamant that this step had to be transcended. “The world I navigate nowadays is directly, or indirectly, because I participated in all those contests, and I feel very lucky,” she says. “But I was fed up of feeling like I was passing a test every time I got up onstage.” In her mind, the way she did things isn’t the only way to succeed. “I naturally fit in the contest format because I’m a songwriter, but that’s not the case for everyone, and that’s why I think it’s not essential.”

Many Stories

On her first album, Cassidy, to quote her 9translated) song lyrics, was “waiting for the burn to subside,” admitted that she “embraces excessively,” “spits on being 20,” and “devours with her eyes a body that’s already cold.” She draws the portrait of a carnal aura, of a love outside the bounds of her obviously young age.

The stories she writes are hers, but  created with the help of Tire le coyote or Stéphanie Boulay, to name just two. As an alumnus of the televised talent contest La Voix (the Québec franchise of The Voice), Cassidy was strongly and negatively criticized as a singer, after the fact. During last spring’s edition of Francouvertes, she was criticized for not singing only her songs, and her first single, “Ça va, ça va,” was written by Philémon Cimon.

“It’s a question of one’s era,” says Cassidy. “My mom was a singer her whole life, so it’s something about which I have a privileged point of view. It’s truly typical of our era to be snobbish about people who sing other people’s songs. There are people who write damn good songs, but who can’t transmit them. Collaborations are beautiful! I love bringing my own interpretation to something that was created by someone else.”

She was told that one day, she should be able to make an album on her own. “But that’s not what I want,” she says. “Singer-songwriters are put on a pedestal, but collaborations are much more satisfying to me.”

Becoming One With Music

Having barely turned 20, being an emerging musician in 2019 is a peculiar thing. Given the changes that the industry is undergoing, one wonders what awaits artists who are just starting their careers. “There’s no way of knowing where music is going, because we’re in the middle of a storm,” says Cassidy. “My whole life has changed completely, every six months for the last three years. And when I look back at where I was six months ago, I can’t even understand how I got to where I am.”

In her mind, the key is knowing how to diversify, a strategy that aligned with her approach to music: one can wear many different hats. “I want to keep playing with Hubert Lenoir [who she accompanies onstage as a musician and backup singer], write music for stage plays, produce albums,” she says. “My goal in life is not to make albums as a singer-songwriter. There are other possibilities.”

Thus, Cassidy creates a universe where she’s the master, but where it’s also allows others to gravitate to her. The door’s open, everyone’s invited. And even though this album was created by many hands, Cassidy remains categorical: she’s in command and in charge of the emotions that it carries. “‘Amours immatures’ [written and composed with Rebecca Leclerc and Simon Pedneault] is a good example,” she says. “I think it’s a fun subject. It’s not a perspective you often see. I’m proud of being the standard-bearer for saying it’s possible to love someone by ignoring their age.”

Onstage, the songs will be strung together to take the audience from the very small to the very large. The gentleness of songs played solo on guitar will be followed by rock flourishes alongside Pierre-Emmanuel Beaudoin, Simon Pedneault, Alexandre Martel and Vincent Gagnon. “There will also be a few covers, and it’ll all be understated, without being overly dark,” she explains.

Cassidy appreciates the fact that her collaboration on Hubert’s project helped her shed some of her goody-two-shoes image, and she reminds us that she’s fully capable of holding her own, front and centre. “You know, it’s possible to jump around on stage for two hours, and have a deep metaphysical discussion right after,” she says. “We’re all complex beings. No one is only just one thing, and I’ll never be just my solo project.”

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.”

Although she was born in San Francisco, Nathalie Bonin’s parents were Francophone Québécois. Although she spent her entire life in Québec, it seemed like going back to California was written in the stars. With the help of a SOCAN Foundation grant, and her mentor Michael Levine – composer, among other things, of the music for the Netflix series Sirens and the videogame Resident Evil – she got to experience the Game Developers Conference (GDC) during a one-week stay at the L.A. SOCAN House in 2016.

Nathalie Bonin“I had a three-year plan in mind, I was tired of living in the cold six months out of every year, so I took a leap of faith,” says Bonin. Serene, she couldn’t be happier with her new life. “If I was a city, I’d be Santa Monica! I think my authenticity opened doors for me. I love challenges.” Which isn’t surprising, coming from someone so eager to experiment. Bonin is a demanding artist who’s able to clearly and objectively question herself.

An acoustic and electric violinist, she‘s toured extensively with the band Tocadéo. She accompanied Stevie Wonder the last time he played Montréal. She’s been suspended from the Jumbotron at Montréal’s Bell Centre, as part of an amazing aerial number in collaboration with Cirque Éloize, during the opening ceremony of the NHL All-Star Game in 2009. She was imperial in stature during a wild performance alongside Klô Pelgag at the 2018 ADISQ Gala, followed by an intimate duet with Michel Louvain. She’s played in concert with Marc Dupré, composed two seasons worth of music for Messmer’s Hyp-Gags on Z Télé, and wrote the theme song for the show Prière de ne pas envoyer de fleurs, hosted by Patrice L’Écuyer on ICI Radio-Canada. She’s participated in 75 episodes of the show Hommage à Joe Dassin and, last November, Bonin played in a jazz concerto at the Gesù alongside New York saxophonist and composer Quinsin Nachoff. As if all that wasn’t enough, her music was selected for a Fondation du Dr Julien fundraiser.

“In L.A., I can’t rehearse eight hours a day, my life is a marathon and I like it just the way it is,” says Bonin. “Most of the people I work with aren’t from L.A., they’re from elsewhere. They’re people who followed their dreams and set challenges for themselves, like mine. We each try to help each other out through that process. I’m not there to take someone else’s place. It’s not a competition.

“I’m now at peace with my desire to do a lot of things all at once.”

“Screen composing, film scores, are mostly about communicating an emotion,” she says. “Composing for a story I see, I’m inspired when I play in real time. I’ll watch the film several times, and then talk at length with the director to make sure that the characters are well supported by the music, in terms of quantity and tone. I’m at the service of the images. But I don’t play over the images; if people don’t realize that music has entered a scene, you’ve done a good job. I become a creator, but at the service of a work of art.”

Nathalie Bonin, Brandon Garmon

Nathalie Bonin and Devil’s Hour director Brandon Garmon

She’s a member of the Grammy and Emmy academies, of the Society of Composers and Lyricists (SCL), of the Malibu Composers Club, which convenes once a week, and she won the highest distinction at the Live Score Film Festival for her work on The Devil’s Hour, a horror movie.

“Ten composers were paired with ten directors,” she says. “We didn’t know which horror film we were going to work on. It was no small feat, because I hate horror movies! I was grossed out by images of blood. I range from fully enthusiastic to completely panicked. That anxiety is always there: ‘Can I pull it off?’ I’m reassured to know that the big-name composers I work with feel the same uncertainty, even after working on hundreds of movies. You get there by impregnating yourself with a film’s atmosphere. At some point gridlock is broken, an idea pops out, there’s a click and everything falls into place. You need to trust yourself.”

Bonin has also composed 20 pieces for eight different albums of library music on Michael Levine’s label, MPATH. She often works at home, alone, tinkering with sounds and experimenting with the music software Logic. She also recently launched an album, Emotional Violin, chock full of dark tunes, under label CrimeSonics distributed by BMG Production Music.

On March 1st, she will fly to New York at the DIY Music Festival to give a workshop about the art of combining her business and artistic side to succeed in her career. And, after having realized a project of music for 3D phones, she plans on the composition of a musical work intended for virtual reality. In other words, 24 hours is hardly enough for a day in Bonin’s life. And she does all of it without an agent or manager.

“I battled with myself for a long time, wondering if I was too scattered with my countless projects,” she says. “But the truth is, as a musician, you can’t just be good at one thing. I’m now at peace with my desire to do a lot of things all at once.”