It’s point blank obvious that the internet has made a lot of the artists we're listening to now. Without it, the field wouldn't be open to many of Canada's most exciting bedroom producers. Artists can make music alone in their house, self-publish and make a living without a label. When the remix of a song feels just as important as the original, like a sequel to a never ending song you love, it’s a clear indicator that the times of music have changed.
Being a multi-talented artist in this climate has its benefits and challenges. The definition of the modern producer is unrefined and free, kilometres away from what it used to mean. While artist-praised platforms like Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and YouTube can seem like a producer’s heaven, it can get very over-saturated with similar sounds. But despite all the noise, many gems get discovered, and sometimes they go on to big things.
Chart Attack interviewed four promising young Canadian artists taking space in the producer’s community. All are in their teens and early 20s, all are taking advantage of the tools at their disposal, and all are making some of the best music the country has to offer, period. Two of those artists - River Tiber and Harrison - are playing the inaugural Toronto version of Bestival this weekend. Don't sleep. Literally, they're playing early, so don't sleep on them.
Read on for profiles on each of the four artists, then stick around for a fascinating roundtable discussion on what it means to be a producer today, the changing concept of music scenes, what it's like to be a young artist in a music industry still dominated by dinosaurs, and where they anticipate the new wave of young artists are heading.
River Tiber creates music that is sneakingly enticing. The multi-creative gem reels you in with layers of alternative R&B that can play in the background or take front stage. In the basement of a cosy house nestled in Toronto’s west end are the two rooms that make the enigmatic producer/songwriter's creative haven. One room is decorated with travel souvenirs, countless books, artwork lined against shelves, an iMac and stereo set positioned on a focal point desk, as incense burns an alluring calm. The second room is for live-tracking and is equipped with every instrument that makes Tommy Baxton-Beesley the one-man band of River Tiber.
2015 has been a good year for Baxton-Beesley, having “No Talk” sampled in Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late track "No Tellin'" and sessioning in studio with Toronto powerhouses like BADBADNOTGOOD and rising artists Tess Parks, and Sean Leon. The lone creative’s sound feature self-composed vocals, piano, synth, drums, guitar, bass, and cello. His earliest musical memory is watching Michael Jackson at the Super Bowl and listening to Dangerous on cassette, but all in all his influences are pretty diverse, ranging from rap, electronic to classics like Led Zeppelin and contemporary artists like Frank Ocean and James Blake. While his debut EP The Star Falls is extremely promising, River Tiber is mastering a new record to be released this year. Don’t snooze.
19-year-old DJ/producer Harrison creates the type of music that both your parents and unborn grandchildren can get down to. Harrison's staple is vintage R&B and funky disco synths infused with experimental retro-futuristic video-game electronica. In 2012, when Harrison was just a hungry 17-year-old budding with talent and still learning how to produce with his best friend Seamus Hamilton aka Yung Child, Chart Attack was the first publication to feature the teenage beatmaker’s music. That review, showcasing Harrison's earlier songs which have since been scrubbed offline, proclaims that "Harrison is eager" and promises that "if he continues on his path, this exciting, precocious and very new artist could carve a place for himself in the city's creatively blossoming hip-hop culture."
Three years later, like a fortune come true, the Toronto-made producer is shaking ground. He’s opened for pal and hit-finesser Ryan Hemsworth, SoundCloud remixer-made international sensation Cashmere Cat, debuted a glorious album titled Colors in April on Last Gang Records, and headlined at Canadian Music Week. He makes all of his music in a cosy loft-like room in his parent’s home in the east end of the city, loves grey skies and rainy days, and wants at least one person to cry over his next album.
Clairmont The Second is only 17 years old and performing in venues he normally wouldn't be let into, which is pretty much how he's always introduced. He’s a teen, with the typical mundane teen ish: hating transit, crushing on girls, and so on. Except he isn’t your average young adult. He has a deep desire and passion for music, obviously, and released his sophmore EP Project II January 2015.
The Toronto-born-and-raised kid raps over his own beats, which he makes on his computer in his bedroom. Sometimes he'll use his older brother's bass, hook it up to an audio interface and make playful minimalist production magic. He sounds like the good side of the internet, not the overly saturated cloned out aesthetic that’s divided a generation into selfie-kids and tech-savants. Raised in a Christian household, Clairmont owes his musical influences to his family (particularly his older brother that taught him how to produce at 6) and religious background, though he sways more to less specific spirituality now. His influences are funk, jazz, disco, "old-disco" and even gospel. Clairmont wishes kids were more driven to pursue their interests in creative avenues. But most of all, he just wants to create great music he’s happy with.
Montreal’s RYAN Playground creates vibrant trappy dubstep that sits comfortably between electronic and hip-hop. Having only been producing and DJing seriously for two years, Ryan’s style has quickly developed into a signature sound that combines her vulnerable vocals and production aptitude. The project started serendipitously when Ryan DJ’d for a friends party and fell in love.
When she isn’t spinning or debuting hits in Montreal’s underground, the 22-year-old is a marketing and communications student and a model. Her musical interests began as a child, playing guitar and experimenting with drums. She’s working on a new solo project that is 100% her own production and vocals, that you should definitely check out. It's also not hard to notice that she's one of too few female producers in the Canadian music industry. And to that she says: “I want people to get inspired and do what they love.”
What's it like to come of age as an electronic musician in the age of the internet?
I think the internet is there to allow really young people to show what they can do. More and more we see SoundCloud people putting their age [online] to show off how young they are and that they can do the same that a 25-year-old can do.
Harrison: [It influences me] almost exclusively. Like just getting into the YouTube holes and finding a song and it opens you up to another one and that stuff on SoundCloud, there are so many other people that make the same type of music.
RYAN Playground: For production it was something logical, just because I was using my computer and thought, I could create music on my computer and just practice. It’s not really me that wanted to do music, it kind of just happened, and I love it.
Is there more opportunity now for young producers, or does your age hold you back?
Harrison: I think it’s amazing, there’s so much art. Anyone can start doing it, and it doesn’t matter who, if you want to do it you can just do it. Sometimes it can be saturated but it doesn’t mean there isn’t good stuff.
Clairmont The Second: Me being young, I have so much more time than others who started later. Everything is automatically viewed as impressive. That's pretty cool. The cons? Well, first of all, if you're a young artist people are going to say 'this person sounds like this person,' so no matter what I'm going to have an influence. Also another con, people can overlook my mentality or how I think about certain things in life because 'you're young, you don't know what you're talking about.' I know my generation kind of sucks, but we're not all like that.
RYAN Playground: I think the internet is there to allow really young people to show what they can do. More and more we see SoundCloud people putting their age [online] to show off how young they are and that they can do the same that a 25-year-old can do. I think that's bringing people, whatever their age to collaborate together, and even hang together. Because in Montreal for example, I’m 22 and working with a guy that’s 17. There’s really no age limit and that’s pretty cool.
River Tiber: It seems really tight-knit, the youth up-and-coming scene. There’s dudes doing big things out of Toronto. The boy Frank Dukes is a killer and he does such dope stuff and I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s like the generation that’s one above, like me and BADBAD, in terms of where Toronto is at. He’s definitely my favourite Toronto producer by far.
How has the process of production changed now that the tools are so readily accessible?
River Tiber: The classic definition of a producer used to be someone that kind of directed an artist in a studio and got their best material out of them. You know guys like Phil Spector. Nowadays, obviously with beatmakers and laptop producers, a producer can be completely independent.
The classic definition of a producer used to be someone that kind of directed an artist in a studio and got their best material out of them. Nowadays, a producer can be completely independent.
Harrison: I'll start with a piano and then put it into whatever tempo and maybe change percussions and go from there or I'll start with a sample and recreate that sample.
River Tiber: Usually I’m just listening to music and I’ll just hear something, see it in my head, and be inspired. Or I’ll just sit down and mess around. There’s always a spark that you can’t control, and it happens spontaneously, and that’s the start of an idea. Working with other artists, I observe and listen and try to get the right energy and make suggestions where I can but the spark isn’t necessarily coming from me. When it’s alone, it’s like a frantic pursuit of this energy that’s just spontaneously coming to me.
With so much happening online, do geographical music scenes still matter?
Harrison: It’s more like meeting cool people that you know have good ideas in their head. The internet, and word of mouth, and friends, and just going out. And there’s also internet collaborations that I am not a huge fan of just cuz’ I just like knowing the person, who they are, why they want to do, what they’re doing.
River Tiber: Toronto’s music scene is insane. It’s super dope. I think that it’s really diverse. Definitely hip-hop is leading the way because of Drake, and all the producers coming out of the east side and west side. It’s cool to see stuff happening. I think most people from the States would have thought Drake is the only artist to come out of Toronto, or The Weeknd, and Toronto would just be a fad. But I think we’re following it up with some really cool people. I do think that we have a long way to go, a really long way to go in terms of developing into a city like New York, or LA, or Detroit or Chicago. They have legendary movements that have happened there and we are still in our infancy.
Clairmont The Second: This is Toronto's year. It’s so cool to even be a part of Bad Actors because there are a bunch of cool artists on that. Last year was the perfect lob and this year we're slam dunking it, you know. Music is great coming up out here too, like bizZarh, Brendan Philip, The OBGMs is a Toronto rock band my brother is in. He plays drums. This is the year Toronto can't be overlooked, like we have been in the past.
RYAN Playground: It’s really fun. People really just want to hang out and listen to what everyone does without being jealous. I know our type of musicians can be competitive because we’re all in the same market, on the internet, but really in Montreal we’re all friends, and when someone has a great new song we’re really happy with what’s happening with them. We’re all really open, trying to help each other with collaborations.