“I’ve had an itch to make a record for a really long time. You get to create your own world when you make a record. It was really fun.” As Chris Baio talks about his recently released solo debut, The Names (Glassnote Records), there is a hint of excitement in his voice. Better known as the bassist of Vampire Weekend, Chris steps into the spotlight as BAIO – the electropop music producer with art rock sensibilities and meticulous production.
“Once I started to write songs I knew I couldn’t look back,” explains Chris. “I knew I was good enough and that I wanted to put it out there into the world.” Although his own musical universe started to come into fruition, Chris sat on the project for a while until this past fall when The Names was released. “Making the album and then sitting on it was a different kind of crazy because I felt like I had made the exact record I wanted to – a record where I wouldn’t change a single thing, but no one else in the world had heard it. It was a bit excruciating, but when it finally came out I got to start playing shows and playing music for people. It made me really happy because this world that I created, this thing in my head, suddenly became a real thing that other people could experience.”
Currently on tour in Europe, Chris continues to carve a name for himself as a solo artist, something that is admittedly challenging after finding such success with Vampire Weekend. “It’s thrilling to have something that’s entirely my own. I think there have been a few challenges along the way but I’ve been enjoying myself so far.” As for the differences between playing bass on the side and stepping out centre stage, Chris remains ever the consummate performer: “I always have so much fun playing live no matter what. Playing bass on stage is a pretty wonderful feeling and getting to sing a song in front of an audience of people that are really enthusiastic is a wonderful feeling, too. I’ve been waiting to get out and perform consistently, and now that I’m doing it I’m a very happy person.”
The Names is a thrilling electropop record with art rock influences that take the listener on a musical journey from short, punchy electropop songs to sprawling instrumentation and experimentation – all within a concise 40 minutes. “I love records like that,” explains Chris. “I love art rock records where it’s not particularly long but there’s tons of experimentation. That was where I was coming from with my record.” The title of the record, The Names, is a direct reference to Don DeLillo’s 1982 novel of the same title. “The novel is about an American living in Greece and his experience in Athens. Many of the themes involve paranoia and the idea of how you carry your country in your identity when you live abroad. For me this really came together when I moved from New York to London about two and a half years ago. It was the first time in my life where I was regularly reminded of my “American-ness.”
From growing up in Bronxville (coincidentally, also the home of DeLillo) to Vampire Weekend and its strong ties to New York, to his current project BAIO (where he’s an American expat in London), a strong sense of place has been inextricably tied to his musical journey. “I think I carry a little bit of these places with me as I get older. My time growing up in Bronxville – a suburban New York town – will always be etched in me. There will always be a bit of New York in my identity and now I feel that there is a bit of a London imprint on me as well. Things constantly change and mutate every day. That’s the nice thing about being alive – there’s so much to draw inspiration from and get excited by.”
Duckwrth cannot be pinned down. The 28-year-old rapper, born Jared Lee in South Central, landed like a splash of mixed paints with his debut full-length I’m Uugly in fall 2016. Its 10 elastic tracks stretch across hip hop, chill wave, funk, and punk, all shrouded in a soft-focused haze. He aptly calls this impressionistic concoction “psych rap.” Early last November, Duckwrth released An Xtra Uugly Mixtape. Whereas I’m Uugly exalted the beauty that lives within the harshness and griminess of everyday life – from the physical to the political to the socioeconomic – An Xtra Uugly Mixtape encourages being unapologetically you. It is, as Duckwrth writes on his Soundcloud page, “the anthem for your rebellion.” Fittingly, the tape is higher in energy; the guitar sounds are cranked. An Xtra Uugly Mixtape is his attempt to put hip hop and rock on equal footing within the same piece of music. An Xtra Ugly Mixtape is also a gradual step towards fulfilling his stadium rock ambitions. Duckwrth had one of his most formative musical experiences at a stadium show. “I used to do the whole protest [thing] and be more politically driven,” he says. “But then there was a time when
Over the past four years, Halifax pop artist Ria Mae has accomplished dreams she has openly spoken about: being produced by fellow Nova Scotia success story Classified and touring with Tegan and Sara and Coleman Hell. Since creating her self-released demo of “Clothes Off” in 2013, she has signed with Sony Music and Nettwerk Management. The former has helped develop the careers of Avril Lavigne, Barenaked Ladies, Coldplay, Dido, Sarah McLachlan, and many more. The finished version of the song – her major label debut – earned Mae her first Juno nomination, for “Single of the Year” in 2016, which put her in direct competition against Drake, The Weeknd, and Justin Bieber. From Mae’s new home in Toronto, only two days removed from a cross-Canada tour with Scott Helman, she spoke with Georgie about her sudden rise, working with Classified, stepping up as a voice for LGBTQ groups, and more. G—As you’ve discovered, you can make a lot of unexpected connections in a small town. But that can be a good thing because working with people who differ from you in their approach forces you to create from new perspectives. Do you ever have reservations about working with people who
Three years after the release of his first EP, Augusta, Canadian singer-songwriter Scott Helman has unleashed his debut full-length LP, Hôtel de Ville, a collection of 12 alt-pop coming-of-age tracks. The 22-year-old Toronto native who successfully broke into the music industry in his mid-teens earned himself two Juno Award nominations, certified gold status for his hit, Bungalow, and began quickly fielding comparisons to the likes of Vance Joy and Jeff Buckley. With a new level of acclaim awaiting him, Helman has recently finished his cross-Canada Scott vs. Ria tour with fellow Juno nominee Ria Mae. We thought it would be the right time to ask him about his momentous musical journey. G—You got your first guitar when you were ten. Was this what led you to become a musician? Scott Helman—I used to mess around on my friend’s guitar, and really wanted to learn how to play. So, I asked my parents for a guitar for Christmas. I remember coming down the stairs and seeing it, and knowing instantly what it was because of its shape. I never put it down after that. G—What kind of music did you listen to growing up? SH—My parents are British immigrants, so