Angel Haze has lived a life that most people couldn’t imagine living, much less understand. The young artist was raised in the Greater Apostolic Faith, which she’d sooner refer to as a cult than a community. She was raped between the ages of seven and ten while living in an insular environment that frowned upon communication with the outside world, including music. When she was 16, her family broke free of the church’s rules and relocated to Brooklyn, New York. It was then that Haze discovered music for the first time.
“You can imagine not consuming something for such a long amount of time, and then feeling like a crazy, gluttonous hunger for it,” she says of her initial attraction to music. It wasn’t long before she decided to make it her career. In early mixtapes such as 2012’s Reservation and Classick, Haze confronts some of the sordid and desperate moments of her past, broaching topics like sexual abuse, depression, drug addiction and insecurities. She signed to Republic Records and released her debut album, Dirty Gold, in 2013, and then parted ways with the label in 2015 following a yearlong hiatus. Now, she’s recaptured control of her destiny, and has not only taken back her career, but also her health and happiness.
“I learned only in the past two years that music and life circumstances are for a reason. Everything I’ve ever gone through has shaped this path for me,” she says. “It feels like I’m starting a new life and turning over a new leaf, and being able to say, ‘Yeah, my past doesn’t define me.’ It created who I am now, and it helped me get to where I am, but it’s not where I’m going. I think it’s cool. I’m a lot more calm and patient… positive and optimistic about my life because of music.”
The creative process involved in Haze’s latest release, Back to the Woods, took advantage of her sound-to-colour synesthesia – a sensory condition in which affected individuals see colours upon hearing musical notes. The album was recorded in a dark space with colour strobes illuminating the walls; particular colours were chosen based on the palettes she perceived from the songs. Stylistically, Back to the Woods marks a return to the stripped-down sound Haze had when she first came into the industry. “The reason Back to the Woods is a lot different than Dirty Gold is that I had the opportunity and also the privilege of making it by myself, with my brother… The recording process is different because when I was with Universal and making Dirty Gold, there were a lot of other people involved,” she says. “I’m talking teams and teams, and flying me to Spain and doing this with this person and whatever, and it was more of a job. [Back to the Woods] was just about expression, and as clear and plain as I can put it, just expressing myself.”
Reflecting on her brief mentorship with Kanye West, Haze remarks: “Sometimes you get so caught up in thinking about what you need to do, what you’re supposed to do, or what people are expecting of you that you don’t do what you want… I played [Kanye] some stuff that I hadn’t played for anyone when Dirty Gold was out, and he was like, ‘Why aren’t you doing this? This shit is crazy!’ When he told me to do what I wanted to do, I basically did what I wanted to do – and here we have Back to the Woods.”
With a new outlook on her career, as well as a healthier state of mind, Haze is paving her way to an illustrious career – including a new label and the goal of releasing a new album and two mixtapes by the end of the year. With a confident tone, she concludes: “I think because I have my head screwed on so tight, that my future is the brightest it’s ever been. Artistically, I’ve got a vision for everything that I do, everything that I am.”
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 I was
Swedish electro-pop mainstays Little Dragon have been around the block. The four-piece band first formed over a decade ago and in that time steadily rose to become one of the world’s biggest indie electro-pop acts. Touring in support of their fifth studio album, Season High, we spoke with bassist Fredrik Källgren Wallin about evolving band dynamics, love of music and inspiration behind their latest release. Georgie—You released your fifth album, Season High, earlier this year. How do you feel about this record in comparison to your previous one? Fredrik Källgren Wallin—It is different, but it is hard to pin down how. We worked a little bit with a producer for the mixing parts, and we have never done that before. We have also become better at communicating and making decisions. I think we fight less; it’s more civilized [laughs]. G—You’ve also worked on some interesting collaborations with other artists, but these tracks didn’t make it onto any of your albums. Was this a conscious decision? FKW—It was a conscious decision; it is such collaboration between the four of us. We did have a friend who appears on the first track of the album – he’s an old high school friend,
Los-Angeles pop artist Billie Eilish began writing and recording music at the young age of 14, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to her. Her lyrics are seasoned with insight carried by a voice that softly and soulfully stretches over dreamy soundscapes. The result is a compelling collection of contrasts, both musically and lyrically, which is on full display on Billie’s debut EP, Don’t Smile At Me (Billie’s debut EP, Don’t Smile At Me (Interscope Records/Universal Music Canada)). Co-written and produced by her brother Finneas O’Connell, the Eilish siblings prove they have no shortage of talent. When we spoke to Billie she was on the road and had just begun her North American tour. G—You started singing at the age of 4, what at that time got you interested in music so early on? BE—I started singing before I could talk, and since then I have been singing all the time, every day. Music has always been part of my family, I guess a part of the way that I think, so it has never come as something separate from my brain. Music and my brain are just one and the same. G—Now, at the age of 15 you have a