Austra's "I Love You More Than You Love Yourself" Video Is A Compassionate Portrait Of An Astronaut's Depression

This post ran originally on THUMP Canada.

Toronto synth-pop outfit Austra have shared a new video for “I Love You More Than Yourself,” off their latest LP Future Politics, inspired by the story of former US astronaut Lisa Nowak, who made international headlines in 2007 when she was arrested and charged with the kidnapping of US Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman.

The M Blash-directed clip follows Nowak, played by bandleader Katie Stelmanis, as she wanders through the city in her NASA jumpsuit, before purchasing a gun and a wig, and ending at a strobe-lit bar.

“M and I were both fascinated by the story of Lisa Nowak but wanted to explore it through a lens of compassion. We wanted to use it to explore issues of mental health and depression, things so many of us experience, in the hope of further de-stigmatizing such conversations,” said Stelmanis in a press release. “We’ve decided to focus the actions leading up to her final arrest, and have tried to convey what it may have been like to be her, and what she was feeling. The final chapter of her story is much less interesting to us than that.”

Watch the video above and read our recent conversation with Stelmanis about the making of Future Politics.

Max Mertens is on Twitter.

Austra Wants Listeners To Shake Off Apathy And Build A More Utopian World

All photos by Renata Raksha.

This post ran originally on THUMP Canada.

Led by the luminous vocals and multilayered songwriting of Katie Stelmanis, Austra is a synth-pop project that has always been future-minded. Since Stelmanis founded the project in Toronto in 2009working with musicians including drummer and producer Maya Postepski (aka Princess Century)Austra’s version of the future has been warm and reflective, aiming to make sense of the world while exploring personal topics like love, loss, and queer identity.

Austra’s debut album, Feel It Break, was released on Domino Records in 2011. Shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize and named “Album of the Year” by New York Magazine, the release took the band (also featuring multi-instrumentalist Dorian Wolf and keyboardist Ryan Wonsiak) to prominent club and festival stages worldwide. They followed it up with 2013’s critically-acclaimed, emotionally rich Olympia, which went deeper and darker even as many songs dared listeners to dance.

Now, the classically-trained singer and pianist has set her soaring voice and sculptured synths on stun with the group’s third release, Future Politics. The album was written and produced while Stelmanis spent periods living in Montreal, where she combatted loneliness and depression by reading a great deal of sci-fi and political theory, and Mexico City, where she soaked in bright colurs, rich culture, and danced to a lot of electro-cumbia.

Austra’s music has always had a political charge, but it’s more pronounced and urgent than ever. Austra’s synthetic sound is equal parts gothic and modernisticintrospective, hopeful, and, above all, deeply passionate. Stelmanis’ powerful voice leads the charge on Future Politics, pulling us into songs of both darkness and light. Tempos range accordingly, but with its rich production and vibrant mix, this album is their brightest and boldest to date.

Coincidentally released on the same day that Donald Trump officially took office, Future Politics asks us to imagine and createa better world. We recently spoke with Stelmanis about the books, beats and cities that served as inspiration.

THUMP: In many ways, this album begins in Montreal so let’s start there. Why did you choose to relocate to that city from Toronto?

Katie Stelmanis: I wanted to move to Montreal because it’s a lot cheaper to live. I think that after traveling and touring for five years, I would have moved to the forest in the middle of nowhere, that was how I was feeling. I felt like I needed to reset. I needed to be quiet and get bored and, really, get sad and lonely. And so I moved to Outremont in Montreal, which is a more residential neighborhood. At first, I thought it was amazing, but within a month, I realized that I was living too far from everything and it really did become kind of lonely.

You did a lot of reading during this period; was that a change for you?
To be honest, I hadn’t really read a book since high school. It’s crazy, but I started to notice that I was losing my vocabulary so I decided that I needed to start reading again and I went in full force. In high school, I hated both English and French class, but now, learning languages and reading books are two of my favorite things in life.

Why did your reading list veer so heavily toward topics like political and economic systems?
I just didn’t like the idea of feeling as though stuff was messed up and not really knowing anything about it. I wanted to be better informed about why climate change is happening and what can be done to stop it. I wanted to be better informed about a lot of basic stuff. I also didn’t go to university so I had to learn the foundation on my own. When I went on my reading binge, I messaged the smart people I know and asked “What are the foundational books?” or “What is the classic literature that I need to read to bring myself up to speed?” That’s what I was doing for a long time, but all of the economics stuff was something I have a genuine interest in and was kind obsessed with reading and learning about.

What are the two or three books that most resonated for you and that you’d recommend?
I really enjoyed reading A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey. It sounds really boring, but it’s actually kind of an easy read and it’s a really, really good explanation of the economic system we’re living under right now. It’s an economic system that’s existed since the 80s that isn’t really talked about in the same way other systems, like communism and fascism, are.

I also really liked Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams. That one is a bit about neoliberalism and stuff too, but it’s mostly about the future and that was what directly inspired the song “Future Politics.” They believe that technology will free us from the constraints of capitalism because it will eliminate the need for labour and also eliminate scarcity. It’s obviously flawed, but I find that the text is subversive and somewhat revolutionary at the same time.

I was also really into reading sci-fi, and I recommend the book Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy. It’s one of the feminist sci-fi books that I especially loved. Someone mentioned it in passing, and so I read it almost randomly, and was completely blown away. It’s still so relevant, probably even more so, to where we are at this moment.

How did all of this reading help you move from a somewhat solitary place to ideasand songsthat are a lot about collective feelings and action?
I think it was a matter of focusing my energy on something that wasn’t directly related to my personal life or my career. Putting the emphasisor switching around what I considered to be important to mewas what made me able to eventually flesh out this record.

I’ve never felt completely apathetic; I generally am an optimistic person. I always feel resentful when people call millennials “apathetic.” If our generation is at all apathetic, I think it’s a product of us growing up in a fabricated world where everything is a lie.

You’ve also said that it was a lot about overcoming apathy; how so?
I’ve never felt completely apathetic; I generally am an optimistic person. I always feel resentful when people call millennials “apathetic.” If our generation is at all apathetic, I think it’s a product of us growing up in a fabricated world where everything is a lie. If you’ve watched the . At the very end of the mixing process, we also sped three songs up to five or six BPM faster. The album would otherwise have felt very different.

Who are some electronic music artists you’re appreciating right now?
I’m going to name all women. I’m really into Avalon Emerson, who is American but lives in Berlin. I also really like this producer Rrose; I’ve been listening to her a lot. Ikonika, who did a remix for us, is a UK producer who I love, and have been listening to for years and years.

Do you spend much time on dancefloors, either in the cities you live or while on tour?
I find I spend way more time on dancefloors everywhere other than Toronto. I guess it’s because when I’m in Toronto, I’m more into relaxing. I loved going out in Berlin, and really loved going out in Mexico City. That was very eye-opening because I was exposed to a genre of music that I never knew existed, which is something I hadn’t experienced in probably about 10 years. My friends there were like “Oh yeah, we get drunk and listen to cumbia” and I was like “What’s cumbia?” Their response was, “Are you kidding me? You don’t know what cumbia is?” I didn’t really know, and I definitely didn’t know what electro-cumbia was.

Basically, there’s this trend with producers in Mexico and also all over Latin America who are taking old folk and traditional musica lot of it is indigenous folk music from Peru and Argentinaand they’re remixing it to work on the dancefloor. When you go out there, you’re always hearing electro-cumbia. It’s the smoothest, most amazing music to dance to. It’s a really unique genre of music, particularly this guy Chancha Via Circuito from Argentina. I’m a huge fan of him.

And now it’s time for your fans to get to see Austra. You guys have an intense schedule52 shows over three months!
I know, it’s crazy. To be honest, my brain is in chaos right now, but once the tour actually starts, it’s easy. You’re like a monkey on the road. A monkey who gets directed around, and then it’s fine.

What are you most looking forward to in touring this album?
We haven’t played a show in a year-and-a-half so I’m just so excited to play live again. We’ve remixed a lot of the older songs, from the first record, which I’m really happy about. The new record is quite a bit more chill in some ways, but I feel like when people come to our shows, they generally expect a dance party so we’ve been remixing a bunch of stuff to have a balance of chill time and dance time. I’m excited to try that out.

Future Politics is out now via Domino Records and see Austra’s upcoming tour dates here.

Denise Benson is on Twitter.

THUMP Mix: Austra

Artwork by Harry Gassel and Eric Hu

It’s been three years since we’ve heard new music from Austra, the highly beloved Toronto synth-pop project of Katie Stelmanis. Now the groupwhich also includes Maya Postepski (of Princess Century), Dorian Wolf, and Ryan Wonsiakare gearing up to release their third studio album, entitled Future Politics.

We’ve already heard the driving, dystopian first single “Utopia,” and the rest of the record is built for both dancefloors and headphones, with galvanizing, minimalist beats and contemplative, piercing lyrics. Inspired by the vocalist and producer’s time spent living in Mexico City and Montreal, the eleven tracks address world turmoil with hopefulness and positivity, while sonically being influenced by European club culture.

Fittingly, Stelmanis’ hour-long THUMP Mix includes tracks by Norwegian avant-gardist Jenny Hval, German acid and electro mainstay Helena Hauff, London-based techno producer Karen Gwyer, alongside 2016 material by Canadian compatriots A Tribe Called Red (with Tanya Tagaq), Nautiluss, and Tasseomancy.

Stream the mix below, download it via WeTransfer, and read a short email interview with the her about the making of Future Politics, and why it’s important now more than ever to be politically engaged.

THUMP: Where did you record this mix?

Katie Stelmanis: I recorded this mix at my temporary home in Brooklyn, NY.

How are we went to enjoy this mix? What’s the perfect setting?
This is somewhere between a dinner party mix and a 4 AM mix. It’s mostly pretty chill, a lot of ambiance, but with moments of intensity too.

Is synesthesia a real thing and if so, what color is this mix?
I think synesthesia definitely exists, and I believe this mix is a direct mix between blue and red, resulting in an overall purple.

You’ve said that Future Politics calls for a “a commitment to replace the approaching dystopia,” can you elaborate on how this became a mission statement of sorts for the album.
When I started out making this record, I was feeling a deep sadness about the world, the destruction of the planet, and our idiotic politicians. It started out as a very dark record, but eventually I was able to find optimism through reading about peoples’ ideas of the future. And I think when times are especially bleak, it’s more important than ever to keep imagining a new future that can always become real, and stay focused on that goal while weeding through the obstacles.

You open with a track by Chavela Vargas, how did you discover her music?
I discovered Chavela Vargas while living in Mexico. I’m quite sure she’s actually Costa Rican but definitely found her success in Mexico. I love her because she is a woman singing in the ranchera style, which is traditionally sung by men, and she is a lesbian who on her deathbed confessed to never having ever slept with a man, and saying “what could be more pure than that…”

There’s two songs on here by Canadian indigenous acts, A Tribe Called Red and Buffy Sainte-Marie, and I know you’ve spoken out on what’s happening in Standing Rock right now. Why do you think it’s important for artists to help spread the message when it comes to these issues?
If artists aren’t spreading the messages, who will? We can’t depend on the news, and I’ve recently learned we can’t depend on social media bubbles for information. I think artists offer a unique perspective on political issues, because they are able to talk about them emotionally through their work, and thus people are more open to listening.

What’s your advice for keeping mentally positive in light of recent political events like Trump becoming the president-elect, etc.?
I think it’s important to focus on your friends, your community, stay engaged politically as much as you can. Most importantly, never stop imagining the potential of what our world could look like, because our imaginations and ideas for a better future are what will scare people like Donald the most.

TRACKLIST:

Chavela Vargas – Adoro
Helena Hauff – Dreams in Colour
B12 – Untold
King Koya – Villa Donde
Jenny Hval – Untamed Region
Nautiluss – Odyssey
Nicola Cruz – Sendero
Dorothy Ashby – Moonlight in Vermont
Toxe – Determina
Peter Van Hoesen – Nefertiti / Always Beyond
A Tribe Called Red – Sila (feat. Tanya Tagaq)
Buffy Sainte-Marie – Universal Soldier
Tahres One – Entre Receurdos
Karen Gwyer – And Again Those Eyes
Tasseomancy – Gentle Man

Austra’s Party Politics comes out Jan. 20 via Domino/Pink Fizz Records, pre-order here.

Max Mertens is on Twitter.


THUMP Mix: Austra

Artwork by Harry Gassel and Eric Hu

It’s been three years since we’ve heard new music from Austra, the highly beloved Toronto synth-pop project of Katie Stelmanis. Now the groupwhich also includes Maya Postepski (of Princess Century), Dorian Wolf, and Ryan Wonsiakare gearing up to release their third studio album, entitled Future Politics.

We’ve already heard the driving, dystopian first single “Utopia,” and the rest of the record is built for both dancefloors and headphones, with galvanizing, minimalist beats and contemplative, piercing lyrics. Inspired by the vocalist and producer’s time spent living in Mexico City and Montreal, the eleven tracks address world turmoil with hopefulness and positivity, while sonically being influenced by European club culture.

Fittingly, Stelmanis’ hour-long THUMP Mix includes tracks by Norwegian avant-gardist Jenny Hval, German acid and electro mainstay Helena Hauff, London-based techno producer Karen Gwyer, alongside 2016 material by Canadian compatriots A Tribe Called Red (with Tanya Tagaq), Nautiluss, and Tasseomancy.

Stream the mix below, download it via WeTransfer, and read a short email interview with the her about the making of Future Politics, and why it’s important now more than ever to be politically engaged.

THUMP: Where did you record this mix?

Katie Stelmanis: I recorded this mix at my temporary home in Brooklyn, NY.

How are we went to enjoy this mix? What’s the perfect setting?
This is somewhere between a dinner party mix and a 4 AM mix. It’s mostly pretty chill, a lot of ambiance, but with moments of intensity too.

Is synesthesia a real thing and if so, what color is this mix?
I think synesthesia definitely exists, and I believe this mix is a direct mix between blue and red, resulting in an overall purple.

You’ve said that Future Politics calls for a “a commitment to replace the approaching dystopia,” can you elaborate on how this became a mission statement of sorts for the album.
When I started out making this record, I was feeling a deep sadness about the world, the destruction of the planet, and our idiotic politicians. It started out as a very dark record, but eventually I was able to find optimism through reading about peoples’ ideas of the future. And I think when times are especially bleak, it’s more important than ever to keep imagining a new future that can always become real, and stay focused on that goal while weeding through the obstacles.

You open with a track by Chavela Vargas, how did you discover her music?
I discovered Chavela Vargas while living in Mexico. I’m quite sure she’s actually Costa Rican but definitely found her success in Mexico. I love her because she is a woman singing in the ranchera style, which is traditionally sung by men, and she is a lesbian who on her deathbed confessed to never having ever slept with a man, and saying “what could be more pure than that…”

There’s two songs on here by Canadian indigenous acts, A Tribe Called Red and Buffy Sainte-Marie, and I know you’ve spoken out on what’s happening in Standing Rock right now. Why do you think it’s important for artists to help spread the message when it comes to these issues?
If artists aren’t spreading the messages, who will? We can’t depend on the news, and I’ve recently learned we can’t depend on social media bubbles for information. I think artists offer a unique perspective on political issues, because they are able to talk about them emotionally through their work, and thus people are more open to listening.

What’s your advice for keeping mentally positive in light of recent political events like Trump becoming the president-elect, etc.?
I think it’s important to focus on your friends, your community, stay engaged politically as much as you can. Most importantly, never stop imagining the potential of what our world could look like, because our imaginations and ideas for a better future are what will scare people like Donald the most.

TRACKLIST:

Chavela Vargas – Adoro
Helena Hauff – Dreams in Colour
B12 – Untold
King Koya – Villa Donde
Jenny Hval – Untamed Region
Nautiluss – Odyssey
Nicola Cruz – Sendero
Dorothy Ashby – Moonlight in Vermont
Toxe – Determina
Peter Van Hoesen – Nefertiti / Always Beyond
A Tribe Called Red – Sila (feat. Tanya Tagaq)
Buffy Sainte-Marie – Universal Soldier
Tahres One – Entre Receurdos
Karen Gwyer – And Again Those Eyes
Tasseomancy – Gentle Man

Austra’s Party Politics comes out Jan. 20 via Domino/Pink Fizz Records, pre-order here.

Max Mertens is on Twitter.


Jessy Lanza Announces 'Oh No No No' Remix EP, Shares Morgan Geist "I Talk BB" Rework

Photo by Aaron Wynia

Hamilton synth-pop singer and producer Jessy Lanza is set to follow-up her 2016 album, Oh No, with a remix EP titled Oh No No No.

The three track release features reworks of songs from the Canadian artist’s 2016 Polaris Prize-nominated release by New York-based dance veteran Morgan Geist, Teklife member DJ Taye, and London’s DVA . The first offering is the Metro Area producer’s spacey, downtempo version of “I Talk BB,” which you can listen to below.

Oh No No No comes out Dec. 9 via Hyperdub, and you can watch Lanza’s recent live performance on Annie Mac’s BBC Radio 1 show here.

Max Mohenu is on Twitter.

Toronto's DIANA Unlock The Secrets To Their Sophomore Album With Exclusive Dance Mix

Photo by Laurie Kang. This article ran originally on THUMP Canada.

When Toronto’s DIANA released their 2013 debut, Perpetual Surrender, the synth-pop trio never expected the album to be so well-received. Bolstered by lead single “Born Again” and the title trackthe latter of which even received an official remix from none other than Four Tetcritics praised lead singer and guitarist’s Carmen Elle’s powerful vocals, which perfectly complemented drummer Kieran Adams’ Balearic house-tinged production and Joseph Shabason’s sultry saxophone grooves. It even earned them a 2014 long list nomination for Canada’s Polaris Prize. They set out working on the follow-up shortly after, not anticipating that it would take them three years to complete for a variety of personal and political reasons.

“I would say one of the factors for me contributing to how long this new album took was actually my own mental health stuff,” Elle tells THUMP, admitting that she struggled with anxiety while on tour. “It’s one of those things where you have an estimate in your head of how long it can take you if you’re being generous, but it always takes longer,” adds Adams.

Their sophomore effort Familiar Touchout Nov. 18 on Culvertis well worth the wait, with the group focussing more on rhythmically driven tracks, and taking newfound inspiration from electronic music. In anticipation of the release, Adams (who also DJs under the moniker Vibrant Matter) made us an exclusive 60-minute mix of their dance-oriented influences, which includes songs by all-time house and techno greats (Larry Heard, Theo Parrish), plenty of THUMP favorites (D. Tiffany, Funkineven, Via App), and more.

Listen to the mix below and read an interview with Adams and Elle at Toronto’s Blockbuster Recording Studio.

THUMP: What dance records really grabbed your attention when you were making Familiar Touch?

Kieran Adams: Theo Parrish’s First Floor was really important to me. I didn’t know much about dance music when I first heard that album. It’s cool because it crosses between these beautiful ambient textures, but it’s still deeply rooted in the dance floor.

Carmen Elle: Bjrk is huge for me. I don’t listen to that much dance music, just what Kieran plays for me. My thing is more vocal melody-driven stuff. My favourite part of the process is when Kieran, Joseph, and I sketch out a melody, but when I go to track it, seeing what else can happen within that.

Kieran, you also DJ in your spare time, how did the music you play in your sets influence this album?
Adams: When I was digging for tunes to put on this mix, I thought to myself, “What dance music relates to how we worked on this new DIANA album?” A lot of the tools we used, certain drum machines and synths I was sequencing resembled certain types of dance music. There’s a lot of that in there, but there’s also a lot of organic sounds, Carmen played more guitar on this record. That danceability comes through in the music, but I think it’s more about the headspace.

Something I realized as I got into DJing was that I have a strong connection to funk. I know the term “funk” has been twisted in so many ways, when people use it now it’s like “oh my yoga class has this really funky instructor” or something. What really drew me to music when I was really young, even before I started playing the drums, was music that had elements of funk. When making the mix, I was trying to find things that have that feeling, whether it’s a weird bass line or a vocal sample.

There’s moments on Familiar Touch that feel spontaneous, similar to when somebody is DJing and they’re in a zone where they’re consistently playing the right tracks.
Adams: I think we have been really trying to identify with those spots in songs where you want to feel that drop, but it’s not there, so you’re figuring out how you hit that and get to that place. Reading the energy of what you’ve DJed over the last hour and what’s it’s leading to is all about trying to make that arch happen. We were mindful of that both within the songs and over the course of the album.

Elle: It happens to us live as well. Now that we’re starting to play shows, we’re having to re-interpret the album one more time again as a live band, which is a whole different thing. I don’t personally DJ, but I’m way more in everyone’s face when we’re on stage. I’m always five feet closer than you are.

Adams: You’re that conduit. I think that’s much more your job.

Elle: There are moments where I’m like “this section isn’t working,” because people aren’t feeling it and I’m not feeling it. We have jammier sections like with “Slipping Away.”

How did it feel to have Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis reach out on Twitter after hearing “Confession”?
Elle: It was like taking a warm bath of accomplishment, we geeked so hard collectively.

Adams: Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have been doing stuff so constantly for a long time. They’re maybe not in the spotlight as much because production styles have changed, and the big artists they worked with aren’t making music, but they’re still doing amazing things with so much energy. I think that’s an interesting lesson too because within both the DJ and production world, it’s a lot less about age. There’s always been this strange feeling that when you’re in a band, you’ve got be young and get it while it’s good, and I think it’s really shitty that exists. There’s obviously examples of people in popular forms of music where that doesn’t apply, but there’s an obsession with being a young, hot musician that you see within different genres.

Elle: I think about a lot of this age stuff as a woman. It resonates with me a lot. I’m going to be 30 in a few years, which is retiree age in pop star years.

Adams: We’re going to replace you.

Elle: Ha! Yes. My replacement is being born.

How do you as a band shed that pressure surrounding ageism in the industry?
Elle: I feel like our entire generation is going to be eating humble pie when we’re 40, 50, or 60, and changing careers every five years. I don’t yet know how this generation is going to look, we have no security. It’s a pretty volatile world we’re living in. It’s expensive and it’s terrifying. I just think we’re all going to be living like we’re in our 20s for longer than we think, so fuck it!

Adam: “Fuck it” is right. I think it’s a really capitalist notion that you get to this place where you’ve got the job, and the family, and a dwelling set-up. I think trying to combine that with being engaged in a creative practice should not be normalized as much as it has been. I’m 37 and lots of people my age are much more settled in certain ways. I have to accept that I’m doing something that might not necessarily allow for that so I have to find new ways to get excited about creating new things.

DIANA Mix Tracklist:

DJ Gilb’R – Concrete Guajiro (Version)
Theo Parrish – Heal Yourself And Move
Jump Chico Slamm – Feel Free
Boo Williams – The Firmament
International Smoke Signal – Oh Yes (Freedom)
Trackman Lafonte & Bonquiqui – Pacific House
The Maghreban – Wonder Woman
Funkineven – XXX
Via App – Exterminator
Armando & Steve Poindexter – Blackholes (The Sun of God Remix)
Dresvn – A1 (Acido 14)
Africans With Mainframes – Can U Hear Me Now
Larry Heard presents Mr. White – The Sun Can’t Compare (Long Version)
Mr. G – Balance
Florian Kupfer – B2
Machine Woman – I Can Mend Your Broken Heart (Kassem Mosse Remix)
D.Tiffany – Orange Crush (Plush Managements Mix)

Familiar Touch comes out Nov. 18 on Culvert, pre-order the album here.

Max Mohenu is on Twitter.

Toronto's DIANA Unlock The Secrets To Their Sophomore Album With Exclusive Dance Mix

Photo by Laurie Kang. This article ran originally on THUMP Canada.

When Toronto’s DIANA released their 2013 debut, Perpetual Surrender, the synth-pop trio never expected the album to be so well-received. Bolstered by lead single “Born Again” and the title trackthe latter of which even received an official remix from none other than Four Tetcritics praised lead singer and guitarist’s Carmen Elle’s powerful vocals, which perfectly complemented drummer Kieran Adams’ Balearic house-tinged production and Joseph Shabason’s sultry saxophone grooves. It even earned them a 2014 long list nomination for Canada’s Polaris Prize. They set out working on the follow-up shortly after, not anticipating that it would take them three years to complete for a variety of personal and political reasons.

“I would say one of the factors for me contributing to how long this new album took was actually my own mental health stuff,” Elle tells THUMP, admitting that she struggled with anxiety while on tour. “It’s one of those things where you have an estimate in your head of how long it can take you if you’re being generous, but it always takes longer,” adds Adams.

Their sophomore effort Familiar Touchout Nov. 18 on Culvertis well worth the wait, with the group focussing more on rhythmically driven tracks, and taking newfound inspiration from electronic music. In anticipation of the release, Adams (who also DJs under the moniker Vibrant Matter) made us an exclusive 60-minute mix of their dance-oriented influences, which includes songs by all-time house and techno greats (Larry Heard, Theo Parrish), plenty of THUMP favorites (D. Tiffany, Funkineven, Via App), and more.

Listen to the mix below and read an interview with Adams and Elle at Toronto’s Blockbuster Recording Studio.

THUMP: What dance records really grabbed your attention when you were making Familiar Touch?

Kieran Adams: Theo Parrish’s First Floor was really important to me. I didn’t know much about dance music when I first heard that album. It’s cool because it crosses between these beautiful ambient textures, but it’s still deeply rooted in the dance floor.

Carmen Elle: Bjrk is huge for me. I don’t listen to that much dance music, just what Kieran plays for me. My thing is more vocal melody-driven stuff. My favourite part of the process is when Kieran, Joseph, and I sketch out a melody, but when I go to track it, seeing what else can happen within that.

Kieran, you also DJ in your spare time, how did the music you play in your sets influence this album?
Adams: When I was digging for tunes to put on this mix, I thought to myself, “What dance music relates to how we worked on this new DIANA album?” A lot of the tools we used, certain drum machines and synths I was sequencing resembled certain types of dance music. There’s a lot of that in there, but there’s also a lot of organic sounds, Carmen played more guitar on this record. That danceability comes through in the music, but I think it’s more about the headspace.

Something I realized as I got into DJing was that I have a strong connection to funk. I know the term “funk” has been twisted in so many ways, when people use it now it’s like “oh my yoga class has this really funky instructor” or something. What really drew me to music when I was really young, even before I started playing the drums, was music that had elements of funk. When making the mix, I was trying to find things that have that feeling, whether it’s a weird bass line or a vocal sample.

There’s moments on Familiar Touch that feel spontaneous, similar to when somebody is DJing and they’re in a zone where they’re consistently playing the right tracks.
Adams: I think we have been really trying to identify with those spots in songs where you want to feel that drop, but it’s not there, so you’re figuring out how you hit that and get to that place. Reading the energy of what you’ve DJed over the last hour and what’s it’s leading to is all about trying to make that arch happen. We were mindful of that both within the songs and over the course of the album.

Elle: It happens to us live as well. Now that we’re starting to play shows, we’re having to re-interpret the album one more time again as a live band, which is a whole different thing. I don’t personally DJ, but I’m way more in everyone’s face when we’re on stage. I’m always five feet closer than you are.

Adams: You’re that conduit. I think that’s much more your job.

Elle: There are moments where I’m like “this section isn’t working,” because people aren’t feeling it and I’m not feeling it. We have jammier sections like with “Slipping Away.”

How did it feel to have Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis reach out on Twitter after hearing “Confession”?
Elle: It was like taking a warm bath of accomplishment, we geeked so hard collectively.

Adams: Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have been doing stuff so constantly for a long time. They’re maybe not in the spotlight as much because production styles have changed, and the big artists they worked with aren’t making music, but they’re still doing amazing things with so much energy. I think that’s an interesting lesson too because within both the DJ and production world, it’s a lot less about age. There’s always been this strange feeling that when you’re in a band, you’ve got be young and get it while it’s good, and I think it’s really shitty that exists. There’s obviously examples of people in popular forms of music where that doesn’t apply, but there’s an obsession with being a young, hot musician that you see within different genres.

Elle: I think about a lot of this age stuff as a woman. It resonates with me a lot. I’m going to be 30 in a few years, which is retiree age in pop star years.

Adams: We’re going to replace you.

Elle: Ha! Yes. My replacement is being born.

How do you as a band shed that pressure surrounding ageism in the industry?
Elle: I feel like our entire generation is going to be eating humble pie when we’re 40, 50, or 60, and changing careers every five years. I don’t yet know how this generation is going to look, we have no security. It’s a pretty volatile world we’re living in. It’s expensive and it’s terrifying. I just think we’re all going to be living like we’re in our 20s for longer than we think, so fuck it!

Adam: “Fuck it” is right. I think it’s a really capitalist notion that you get to this place where you’ve got the job, and the family, and a dwelling set-up. I think trying to combine that with being engaged in a creative practice should not be normalized as much as it has been. I’m 37 and lots of people my age are much more settled in certain ways. I have to accept that I’m doing something that might not necessarily allow for that so I have to find new ways to get excited about creating new things.

DIANA Mix Tracklist:

DJ Gilb’R – Concrete Guajiro (Version)
Theo Parrish – Heal Yourself And Move
Jump Chico Slamm – Feel Free
Boo Williams – The Firmament
International Smoke Signal – Oh Yes (Freedom)
Trackman Lafonte & Bonquiqui – Pacific House
The Maghreban – Wonder Woman
Funkineven – XXX
Via App – Exterminator
Armando & Steve Poindexter – Blackholes (The Sun of God Remix)
Dresvn – A1 (Acido 14)
Africans With Mainframes – Can U Hear Me Now
Larry Heard presents Mr. White – The Sun Can’t Compare (Long Version)
Mr. G – Balance
Florian Kupfer – B2
Machine Woman – I Can Mend Your Broken Heart (Kassem Mosse Remix)
D.Tiffany – Orange Crush (Plush Managements Mix)

Familiar Touch comes out Nov. 18 on Culvert, pre-order the album here.

Max Mohenu is on Twitter.

Scott Hardware’s 'Mutate Repeat Infinity' Is A Dance-Pop Meditation On Capitalism And Queerness

Album artwork courtesy of Banko Gotiti Records

Scott Hardware is the new synth-pop incarnation of Scott Harwood, who previously recorded as Ken Park. His new six-track EP, Mutate Repeat Infinity (out June 24 on Banko Gotiti Records), finds the artist connecting his love of both dance music and new wave pop, while subtly taking on queer political issues in his lyrics.

“This record is the summation of a years-long obsession with capitalism’s slow and frictional courtship of queerness: of the focus on marriage instead of healthcare, of erasure where remembrance is due, of an inflamed prejudice among the first let into the club,” Harwood told THUMP via email.

“Most of all I hope this album serves as a tribute to a generation of people who were left to die of a vicious plague and an indictment of their would-be heirs who choose to forget. Throughout, I imagine dance music as hallowed ground. The soundtrack and battle cry of a group of martyrs suffering for all the things I take for granted as an M4M in 2016.”

Stream the full EP below, preorder it on cassette or digitally here, and check out Harwood’s upcoming Canadian shows.

Scott Hardware Show Dates:

June 24 – The Velvet Underground – Toronto, ON (w/ Odonis Odonis & Prince Innocence)
July 7 – Incline/Decline Fest – Guelph, ON
July 28 – Bar Datcha – Montreal, QC
August 17 – Arboretum Fest – Ottawa, ON
August 20 – Camp Wavelength on Toronto Island – Toronto, ON
September 22 – Club Ballatou (POP Montreal) – Montreal, QC

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