Story by Kerry Doole | Wednesday August 29th, 2018
Inter-generational bands are common in the roots music field, but father-and-son combinations in rock ‘n’ roll are comparatively rare. Introducing The Discarded, a punk-fuelled trio from Orangeville, Ontario, comprising dad Joel Wasson (J.P.) on vocals and guitar, and sons Jared Dean (bass) and Caden Jax (drums).
Officially a band for just two-and-a-half years, they’ve already released two albums, 2017’s The Discarded and 2018’s Manifesto, and have made a mark on the Ontario live circuit.
A recent in-person chat with all three in Toronto confirmed that this is a family with a very close bond, personally as well as musically. Jared (19) and Caden (15) both live with Joel, while younger siblings Trey (12) and Sadie (8) split their time between Joel and their mother, his former partner.
Joel dates the formation of The Discarded back to February of 2016. “We’d moved into a place together a few months earlier,” he says. “I had a music room set up and we’d play around, so when a band I was in couldn’t play a friend’s birthday party, I said ‘Hey, I’ll do something with my kids.’ That was our first show, and from there we took it seriously.”
The two sons were immediately eager to pursue the project. “I had just taken up the bass guitar, so it was a way to really start practising my instrument, rather than just taking lessons,” says Jared.
Then just 13, Caden had grown up with drums around the house, as Joel was initially a drummer, who’d played in such prominent Toronto bands as Fifth Column and Snowdogs during his time there (1984-1998). “I always played drums when I was little,” says Caden. “Then, in Grade 8, I got a drum set for my birthday, and that’s when I started playing seriously. My dad gave me lessons at the start, but I would mainly work on it and improve by myself. He’ll occasionally show me something to work on, but mostly it’s me practising at my own speed.”
Within six months of forming, The Discarded headed into the studio with one of Canada’s top producer/engineers, Ian Blurton (Change of Heart, Nashville Pussy). A comrade of Joel from his Toronto scene days, Blurton engineered and mixed the nine songs on the album in a single day, neatly capturing the band’s garage-meets-punk-rock sound live off the floor.
“My sons push me a lot to expand on what I do, so this old dog tries to learn new tricks.” – Joel Wasson of The Discarded
Encouraged by the response to The Discarded, the group returned to the studio in August 2017 to record Manifesto, an album that showcases the major musical strides the trio had taken. Blurton again manned the console, and Joel says that “Ian can hear that we’ve got a good rockin’ sound. If it was absolute shite he wouldn’t want his name attached.”
Joel Wasson remains the principal songwriter, but his sons make potent contributions to their sound. “He may come up with a guitar riff and lyrics and we’ll add our own parts,” says Jared. “We have a better sense of dynamics as a band now. We can do things more instinctively.”
It’s easy to rehearse There are practical advantages to being a family band too, says Joel: “We live together and we don’t have to book a studio, as we have the music room downstairs. We make sure we have two nights a week reserved to practise, and we play two or three shows a month on top of that.” “We’re used to long drives together as well,” adds Caden.
“It’s important in this band that you each find your own feel for what you do,” says Joel. “All the songs on the second album are much greater than just what I came up with. They’ve done songs I haven’t been able to do with any other band I’ve had around, because we’re able to click. My sons push me a lot to expand on what I do, so this old dog tries to learn new tricks, too.”
Playing together has had a positive effect on the family dynamic, Joel reports. “This takes it to a whole different level than just being a dad,” he says. “You relate to them on more of a musical peer level.”
The Discarded’s credibility and confidence have been boosted by successful, high-profile shows opening for U.S. garage-rock heroes The Sonics (at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall) and Lowest of the Low. The group already has 17 more songs ready to record, with Joel reporting that “we plan to put out a 10-inch record every four months, with five or six songs on each.”
The Wassons understand that the father-and-young-sons angle attracts media curiosity. “It’d be weird not to acknowledge it,” says Jared, “but at the end of the day we want the music to be the reason you’re interested in us, not the fact that we’re a family, or that we’re young. We’re going to grow old, too!”
Photo by Rafaël Ouellet
Alexandra Stréliski: The Art of The Fugue
Story by Nicolas Tittley | Tuesday September 4th, 2018
Alexandra Stréliski has HBO to thank for the kind of advertising campaign any musician would kill for. At the time of our interview, the U.S.-based channel had just broadcast the final episode of Sharp Objects, Jean-Marc Vallée’s most recent mini-series, in which some recent Stréliski compositions are featured. In the season finale, viewers can catch a glimpse of the cover of Inscape, Alexandra’s yet-to-be released album, on the iPod screen of Camille Preaker, the character played by Amy Adams. “What’s worse,” she says, “is that, except for the scenes I scored, I have yet to watch the series myself! I’m waiting for a break so I can view the whole series in one sitting. I did this for Big Little Lies, which I watched after everyone else had.”
As you might surmise, Vallée, the mini-series’ director, is an early fan of Alexandra Stréliski, having used tracks from Pianoscope (2010), her first, self-released album, in the major Hollywood motion pictures Dallas Buyers Club and Demolition. Nothing unusual there, for this film music specialist, who spent many years working in advertising. Although she’d found fulfillment in that profession for a long time, she eventually hit the wall of professional burnout, and was forced to ask herself what she really wanted out of life. Her introspective album title, Inscape, describes her descent into her inner landscape. And the fact that this album contains a piece called “Burnout Fugue” is no accident either… “In a fugue, you find multiple melodic voices, and this is exactly what happens with a burnout, when you find yourself confronted with all kinds of sentences that play inside your head, non-stop,” says Stréliski, adding that she wrote that piece in a distressed state.
In spite of the inner storm on which she was feeding, the resulting music – underpinned by solo piano – has an enveloping, soothing effect. For lack of a better word, that music style is called “neoclassical,” a term that appeared some hundred years ago, and that’s now been dusted off to apply to an instrumental music genre appreciated by lovers of all music genres. The musicians associated with that genre today are almost exclusively pianists such as Jean-Michel Blais and Chilly Gonzales in Canada, and Olafur Arnalds in Iceland, a handsome coterie inside which Alexandra finds herself most comfortable. “This label doesn’t bother me in the least – I’d even say I’m claiming it for myself!” she says emphatically. “When I met Jean-Michel Blais, it was as if I had come face to face with my cosmic twin. We all have – and I certainly include Gonzales in this group – common points: we all studied music and rejected the strict side of academe.”
That explains why this music is more emotional than intellectual. It attempts to arouse emotion in audiences, rather than seducing elitist listeners with an avant-garde approach. The reasons why this accessible, evocative, and graphic music is such an inspiration for a filmmaker are no mystery. Stréliski is the first one to say that there’s nothing groundbreaking in her melodic approach, and she’s delighted to be reaching such a wide audience. “I think that the use of the piano has a lot to do with it,” she says. “It’s a magical instrument that touches people to the core.”
With the release of Inscape, Stréliski is poised to step into the light by performing a show she describes as “intimate, poetic and immersive.” And while she’s busy creating her own universe, she fully intends to keep creating musical pieces to fit other people’s images. “Eventually, I’d like to create a project with live singers, but my goal is to keep working in film above all else,” she says. “I love people who have a very strong visual signature, people like Michel Gondry, or Wes Anderson. But I would also just love working with Denis Villeneuve!” Something tells us her phone will be ringing for some time to come.
Photo by John Londono
Yes Mccan unpacks his album Oui (Tout, Tout, Tout, Toutttte)
Story by Olivier Boisvert-Magnen | Tuesday August 28th, 2018
Yes Mccan trusted his instinct on his first solo album “OUI (tout, tout, tout, toutttte)”. Co-produced with the help of a veteran (Ruffsound) and a newcomer (Yen Dough), the ex-Dead Obies frontman wanted to diversify his musical spectrum as much as possible. To mark the release of this album, whose title is emblematic of complete openness and limitless ambition, the Montréal-based rapper-turned-TV-star – thanks to his memorable role in the series Fugueuse – describes the creative process behind his eight new songs.
“Temps” “We wanted to set the tone and have an intro à la Drake, a piano and voice number where the MC does a reality check, as if to tell you where he’s at in life and in his head. We listened to the whole Nothing Was the Same album for inspiration, and Yen came up with three beats along the lines of that vibe in one night. We picked this one because we felt it grounded the album. It’s a track that’s emblematic of how I worked for the rest of the record – by gathering notes, images or punchlines that I’d jotted down in a notebook. Initially, my first verse was 3:30 long, which was a tad too bold. For the sake of the song, I made cuts to the lyrics, even though I wasn’t showcasing my talent as a rapper as much, so that the melody could be at the forefront. Generally speaking, it’s about how everything in life is a question of timing. You need to go with the flow, accept where life is taking you, and above all, grab the opportunities that present themselves.”
“Près de moi” “Yen and I really wanted to reach the widest possible audience with this album. But as we were nearing the end of the recording process, we felt we were missing something required to achieve that mission. While I was on my way to his place, I walked by a supper club where people were starting to dance to way-too-loud music. I liked the atmosphere, though, and figured we needed a catchier song like that, a song that had the potential to make girls dance and sing. Once I got to Yen’s place, we went back to the source of pop rap like French Montana, and right away, he started working on a beat, and I was freestyling over it that very night. I then did a bit of songwriting inspired by what I hear in American pop music. I’ve always liked Rihanna’s writers and their forbidden pleasure, ‘It was wrong but it felt right’-type themes. I wanted to work on that notion of a dangerous liaison, in a clearly sexed-up track that suggests rather than reveals. There’s probably a link to the very sudden and superficial popularity I experienced during the peak of Fugueuse. All of a sudden, there was a ton of girls gravitating around m,e even though I was still part of a couple. I’m not the kind of guy that’ll jump the fence, but there was clearly some tension. Maybe that’s what came out on this track.”
“Forêts” (featuring Ogee Rodman and Caballero & JeanJass) “Before going to our first songwriting session in the Spring of 2017, I was walking down the street listening to a beat on my iPhone. I started reciting patterns over it, rhymes I’d written before. So back at the camp, Ruffsound was really down with my verse, and Yen started making a beat. We then invited Ogee (Dead Obies) to join us, and as usual, he got his part down in a single take, giving us a powerful and catchy chorus that became the song’s leitmotif. During that summer, Caballero and JeanJass were in Montréal for the Francos, and since I’d had a great time with them in Belgium a few months earlier, we invited them to the studio to finish that track. The thing is, with hindsight, I wasn’t down with my verse and nasal tone anymore, so I decided to re-write and re-record the whole thing. I added deeper sentences like ‘Elle habitait sur la Rue de l’amour/Y’a fallu que je Google map’ (‘She lived on Love Street/I Had to Google Map it’) and ‘Ils veulent me kill pour mon papier comme les forêts québ’ (‘They want to kill me for my paper, like Québec’s forests’). I thought that nod to forestry gave a new meaning to the song, because trees are the source of paper, and at some point, there’ll be no money left to make if we don’t take care of that source. On another level, the song also means that if you’re in the music biz just for the money, your shit might last for a while, but not necessarily very long. But if you believe in something, if your motivation or your ambition is deeper, you’re never going to run out of inspiration.”
“Money Convos” “At a certain point, I really needed inspiration for my writing, but my sessions with a whole bunch of talented producers hadn’t panned out. So, I forced myself to write at least one verse per day over instrumentals I found on the Net. I did that with “Look Alive,” a track by BlocBoy JB with Drake, with which I was obsessed. It was going around in my head so much that I was almost starting to copy its patterns. I needed to break that, so I asked Yen to make me a similar beat. We then sent that to Ruff who made crazy arrangements on top of it. We fine-tuned it a few weeks later during our second songwriting session, and it’s at the very end of the recording process that we realized 21 Savage had also just released a song called ‘Money Convo.’ Initially, I wanted to completely re-do the chorus, but I ended up accepting that it was part of my instinctive creative process. I simply assumed that I maybe had heard his track and that, consequently, the title had stuck in my mind. To me, “Money Convos” is a figure of speech that means, I don’t have time for free shows of promotional bits for this company or that. My priority now is to make music and enjoy my life, so I prefer doing my thing rather than chasing false opportunities and empty promises. I’ve done enough stuff for exposure, and visibility.”
“Vie” “We recorded this one at the time when Kanye was releasing an album a week. It was inspiring for us to see such a prolific artist in action, because we were in a rush to finalize the album. I wrote that in 15 minutes, on the corner of a table. It was just honest writing: I didn’t use a character, and didn’t try to come up with stylistic devices. I just said the first things that came to me, and the result is quite weird, with references to Jean Leloup’s album Les Fourmis and KC LMNOP’s ‘Ta yeule’… He’s the first rap artist from Québec that I really listened to, paying attention to the lyrics. I knew his song by heart, and it’s the song I would use when I took the stage during improv matches in high school. In any case, I wasn’t trying to look cool, I just wanted to let my raw feelings out, while giving a nod to the music I listened to when I was a teenager. Then we re-did Yen’s beat entirely with Ruffsound, and that’s when we added the Caribbean vibe and syncopated snares. The tune got a good swing out of those changes, but I still felt a little fragile and vulnerable because of it. I wasn’t sure it was any good at all until Hubert Lenoir heard the album and told me it was his favourite. I really dig his music, so his opinion was very important.”
“Slick Rick” (featuring Rowjay) “When we started rapping with Dead Obies, we were the new kids on the block, the up-and-comers. We saw the guys from Alaclair Ensemble as models and idols. Same for Loud, Lary and Ajust, who were roughly the same age as us but had a lot more experience. We really saw ourselves as kids, and now there’s a whole bunch of kids who are ready to kick the ant hill, just like we did a few years ago. Rowjay is one of the guys I saw coming, and who I’ve followed on Soundcloud ever since he started out, back when everyone thought he was funny, or ridiculous. But as time went by, his songs were getting stuck in my head, and I grew really fond of his character. I’ve always liked myths and bigger-than-life personae in rap, and, at least in Québec, he’s definitely the one who plays that game the best. I immediately thought about him when vxnyl sent me a beat entitled Post Malone feat. Migos Type Beat. I’d come up with an airtight chorus centred around the Slick Rick persona, who’s one of the most highly respected American rappers, a kind of untouchable royalty that all American street rappers like to name-drop from time to time, because of his swag and jewelry. I was quite proud of the chorus, but I had no inspiration for the verses. It constantly sounded like I was dragging the beat down. Rowjay really gave the song a new lease on life. He came to the studio empty-handed, and like a true legend, he smoked backwood after backwood and completed his part in two hours. It was amazing.”
“Over” “This one went through a lot of stages. It’s based on a beat vxnyl did a year ago. When Yen Dough heard it, he immediately wanted to record a hit with it. In the end, he made an improvised, three-minute-long demo, be he never managed to finish it. A good while later, when we were looking for more melodic and pop stuff to round out the album, we stumbled upon it again. I felt like giving it a try, and right away, I was able to latch onto a raw feeling that I felt, relative to people who insult me on Facebook. The sentence ‘Qu’est-ce qu’ils feraient pas pour me garder au sol juste parce qu’ils ont peur des hauteurs ?’ (‘What wouldn’t they do to pin me to the ground just because they’re afraid of heights?’) set the tone, and I thought the image was quite powerful. But I got stuck again, and a little while later, I woke up one morning with the idea for my verse, where I talk about how I dread popularity contests. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a fan of music and dreamt of being onstage, but now that I am living that life and I go on TV shows like Les Échangistes, I feel like I don’t belong there, that I’m an outsider to stardom. The result is an uber-pop song, but one with a strong and real authenticity.”
“Désirée” (featuring Cape Tula et Yen Dough) “It’s quite a cartoonish take on Désirée, a character based on that idea of desire, the dream being sold by American rap; think Kylie Jenner or Amber Rose. The girl doesn’t really exist, but the roots of her world come from a universe I’ve often rubbed shoulders with. When I was on tour, I realized how omnipresent coke was among the younger generation, especially outside of major urban areas. It’s often easier to find than weed! When I’m onstage and I look at those kids high on blow, speaking super-fast, eyes wide open like zombies, I find that very intense. It’s not really my vibe, so I thought it was interesting to put my vibe of a guy who just wants to light it up in contrast with the vibe of that debauched femme fatale. Again here, there’s a bit of that notion of the forbidden, of a shady grey zone. I sincerely didn’t expect this song to be such a hit. We had a really hard time finishing it, and I must’ve rewritten the first verse at least 10 times. Yen and I thought it was all jumbled, so much so that we were close to calling it a complete failure. But we decided to roll with it, begrudgingly, and we released it the day after I told the guys in Dead Obies that I was quitting the band. We spent a super-intense evening in a true break-up atmosphere, really deep; the next day, my song was No. 2 in Canada, over The Weeknd’s. I couldn’t make sense of it, and felt bad for the guys, who surely thought it was all planned. But the truth is, I had absolutely no idea.”