J-F and Paige first saw each other during a trip in the Nevada desert, and after that, they felt like never going home. While travelling together throughout the American West, the Québécois and the Georgian, both musicians, decided to share their influences with each other. Once back in Montréal, they became MIELS, and even though they’re staying put, their electro-rock takes us on a trip. The music they made in the desert expressed what surrounded them: space, warmth, budding romance. And then, that story repeated itself in new landscapes: they found music everywhere they went.

When she decided to settle in Québec, Paige immediately wanted to translate all the notes she’d jotted down in her travelogue. “When I moved to Montréal, I was surprised to see so many Francophones in English bands, while I wanted to do exactly the opposite,” she says with a laugh. “It was important to me that I pursue my music career in French.”

“Being Francophone, I’d forgotten what it was like to have favourite words for no apparent reason, and now I love seeing how Paige has fun with the language she’s learning,” adds J-F. Travelling in Québec now takes on a special meaning, as the duo uses such opportunities to dive into the sounds of the places they visit, and the accents that are unique to them.

In the months that followed their acquaintance, Paige and J-F introduced each other to their musical universes, the former being keenly interested in Québec rock classics which she’d obviously never heard before. “She really dug Pagliaro, for example, while it brought me back to our own rock from another era, and made me want to bring back certain elements of that time in the music we’re creating today,” J-F explains. “Before Paige moved here, I would mail her vinyl records. Didn’t take long for me to turn her on to Jean Leloup,” he recalls.

Paige learned her new language through music which, she believes, “is much better than through a formal course.” Besides rock from a bygone era, the duo felt the urgency to impart the presence of mobility inherent to their project. “We met on the road, and after that, every time we were together, it was on a road trip,” says J-F. Their first album, Prends-moi comme la mort (May 2021), is – almost by definition – a very intimate creation. “It’s a musical chronology of our travels, an homage to everything we wrote in our notebooks while on the road in the States,” he explains.

A few shows at the Festival de musique émergente (FME) and during the Taverne Tour, among others, opened up new avenues for the couple, who let themselves be influenced by the fun they have on stage. “We began as somewhat of a blues-rock outfit,” says Paige, “but what we really enjoyed on stage was getting closer to electro, with drum machine backing tracks. It was the kind of electro-rock you heard in the early 2000s.”

In short, MIELS let itself be carried away by the endless possibilities of spontaneity. As a duo, basically anything became possible. “The more we wrote, the more we became comfortable with the idea of being just the two of us, but with guest musicians if and when we felt like it,” says J-F. “The White Stripes became a huge influence: something we feel just as comfortable in when it’s just the two of us – or more.”

“There are some challenges in adapting our material from the studio to the stage, but we can improvise,” says Paige. “You carry your gear in a suitcase and you can play anywhere,” J-F continues. “Sure, it does change our sound and our methods, because when we create, we’re always focused on whether it can be done by just the two of us. But we make sure it’s never limited to that. Who knows? Maybe we’ll move to Europe next week.”

Their second album was crafted during the pandemic, and was guided by this more minimalistic mentality, while never sacrificing their desire to “make big noise.”

No matter what the case may be, the constant through it all is that the only place where MIELS finds its inspiration is on the road. “We went on trips without leaving the confines of our apartment during the pandemic,” says Paige, tongue-in-cheek. “Those were a different kind of trip. We also want to travel throughout Canada in our van.”

“We found it tough to write in our kitchen, so we spent two months on the road last year with a guitar plugged in the tape deck,” reminisces J-F. “We would camp out in the woods so that nature would dictate what’s next.”

The duo will carry on songwriting, with its eyes looking outward. “We’re constantly taking notes and looking around us,” says Paige. “I hear sounds I’d never heard before coming from the mouths of the people here, and I want to reproduce them and learn even more. I’ll never stop learning.”

A new pop singer-songwriter has entered the conversation. After two years of dropping consistently listenable singles, Olivia Lunny has handed listeners the key to her diary with a self-titled debut album.

Introduced to music early, the singer-songwriter hasn’t stopped since her first strum of a guitar. At 14, Lunny landed onstage and performed for 40,000 people at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. From a passion for writing poetry in Grade 4, to scoring a deal with Universal Music in May of 2021, Lunny recognized early on the possibilities created by slowly adding some chords to turn her poems into songs. “I came home from a hard day at school, I sat down with my guitar, and played to de-stress,” says the singer-songwriter. “That’s when I started writing full songs. Then one thing kind of led to another, and I guess now I’m here.”

Fast-forward a few years from her start, and the Winnipeg native was like any young adult trying to navigate life in their early twenties. As Lunny experienced life, she wrote lyrics and created melodies reflecting her major influences: Fleetwood Mac, Coldplay, and Ed Sheeran.

She got her foot in the door by participating in the nationally televised singing competition The Launch in 2019 – which she won. Then, in April of 2020 (shortly after COVID-19 struck), she was hand-picked to sing alongside Justin Bieber, Avril Lavigne, and Michael Bublé in a cover version of “Lean On Me” (which became a Top 40 hit), to benefit the Canadian Red Cross’s COVID-19 initiatives. The same year, adding to her growing list of accomplishments, Lunny earned a SOCAN Foundation Young Canadian Songwriters Award for the song “Bedsheets.”

Lunny’s career is just beginning to blossom, but her list of collaborators already includes some musical heavyweights. Discussing her 2021 single “Who Could Say No,” she explains how the collaboration with Grammy-winning producer Boi-1da (Drake, Rihanna, Lana Del Rey) and hit music-maker YogiTheProducer (Kehlani, Jessie Reyez) happened in the studio.

“I was with YogiTheProducer and Boi-1da, and it was late at night,” she says. “There were some really cool studio lights, and he just put on this really cool beat. I wanted to write a song that was happy, empowering, and fun. Especially because the pandemic has been a dark time for so many of us. That’s how we came up with ‘Who Could Say No.’”

“That break was really important for me, because I put so much pressure on myself to write”

An ode to heartbreak and open wounds, Lunny’s debut album aims to introduce herself to listeners, offering them a deep, authentic, and vulnerable dive into her personal journey. “I hope my music can be the soundtrack to people’s lives,” she says. “I just want it to be a part of people’s journeys.”

Lunny says the pandemic has impacted her songwriting, and led her to recognize that she needed a break from music. “The first few months of lockdown, [it was] actually really hard for me to write,” she says. “After two months, I picked up the guitar and started writing again. That break was really important for me, because I put so much pressure on myself to write.”

 According Lunny, her writing process is spontaneous, filled with random bursts of creativity. “I either write a song in 20 minutes, or in three days,” she says. “It’s all over the place, but that’s still kind of the most fun part, because it keeps it so interesting. I think the hardest part for any songwriter is writing really unique, cool, smart lyrics. I would argue it’s really easy to write a bad song.”

Lunny looks forward to life after COVID, so she can venture out and share her love for music and songwriting with the world. “I would love to write some songs for other artists, travel the world, and play shows in many different places,” she says. “I’ve never actually been on a tour. So definitely, playing shows all over is a huge goal.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic ground the world to a halt in March of 2020, singer-songwriter LØLØ, born Lauren Mandel, was undaunted. Locked down at home in Toronto, LØLØ kept herself busy by posting short dance videos to TikTok. It was there that she spotted a video of a young woman performing a version of the song “Hey There Delilah” by The Plain White Ts, inverting the narrative to tell the story from Delilah’s point-of-view. Intrigued,  LØLØ wrote her own version, quickly generating a strong following on the platform with her pared-down acoustic performance.

“It got more streams than my dancing videos,” she laughs. “I was, like, ‘Wait a minute – this makes sense!” Realizing the creative potential in writing covers from new perspectives, she began generating lots of original content on the social media platform. Her version of country duo Dan and Shay’s “Tequila” got radio play, while her cover of Taylor Swift’s “Betty” generated buzz on a Reddit page run by Swift’s fans. Before long, LØLØ had also attracted the attention of Mike Caren of the APG Publishing Group, who, in December of 2020, signed her as a writer.

“I’m now getting access to other amazing artists and other songwriters and producers I wouldn’t have had access to,” she says, still giddy from a recent trip to Los Angeles, where she had the chance to pitch for artists like BTS and Gwen Stefani. “I love writing for other people, coming into a room and hearing them say ‘I want to write about this…’ It’s like a therapy session, and I turn it into lyrics.”

But LØLØ wasn’t always so keen on becoming on songwriter. As a child, she idolized Shirley Temple, studied tap dancing, and dreamed of being on Broadway. In Grade 9, however, when she started taking guitar lessons to keep up with her younger sister, her teacher suggested she try singing, and encouraged her to write her first song. Though young LØLØ was accustomed to writing out her feelings in her diary, she was terrified at the notion of having people hear her innermost thoughts. It was only when her teacher threatened not to come back unless she did, that she buckled down and got to work.

 “I think my younger self would be freaking out”

“I sat down with my guitar and wrote a song – and it came super-naturally,” she recalls. “I was like ‘Oh, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’” From that day on, she wrote hundreds of songs, and still credits her teacher, Elliott Bernstein, for charting her career path.

With no connections to the music industry, however, LØLØ – who cites Avril Lavigne, Green Day, and Hilary Duff as early influences – began performing at open mics in Toronto, in a bid to meet people. After joining forces with a couple of music producers, she put out her first single in the Fall of 2018, quickly finding success as an IHeartRadio Future Star, which in turn resulted in widespread radio play.

“It was a blessing and a curse that I got on the radio [right away],” she says, admitting that she soon felt pressure to tone down her punky, guitar-driven sound for something more “straight down the middle” – but she wasn’t happy with the result. “It didn’t work not being myself,” she says.

Stepping back, LØLØ spent the next year working on her writing, staying true to her desire to craft “weird or quirky lyrics.” Since then, she’s released a number of new songs and videos that are truer to her roots, including 2021’s “Die without U” and “Lonely and Pathetic.” “I like trying to say things that nobody has ever said before,” she says.

As COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift, LØLØ has her eyes set firmly on the future, including touring with Simple Plan in the late summer, releasing a new EP, and then heading back to Los Angeles for another writing stint.

She admits she’s surprised to see how far she’s been able to come in a short time, but loves where the journey is taking her. “I always wanted to do this, but I didn’t know if I actually could,” she says. “And now I feel like I’m actually doing it. I think my younger self would be freaking out.”