Kim Villagante, better known as Kimmortal is a queer Filipinx visual artist and rapper from Vancouver known for her story like rhymes. She touches upon social and racial injustices, discrimination, and representation. Valuing education, inclusiveness, and liberation, Kimmortal coneys the messages in creative and storybook ways with captivating visuals. Fusing visual art with music, she uses it as an aid to decolonize, teach, and heal.
Kimmortal has played the Queer Women of Colour Festival, Filipino Arts Festival, Junofest, and SXSW. She’s currently working on an album that will be released in August.
Ev: DIY Spring is hosting one of your events, seeing as it’s an intersectional inclusive festival, how did you feel in regards to them hosting it?
Kimmortal: DIY Spring has been consistently supportive and truly DIY which means grassroots and well connected to artists in authentic ways. Bridging the possibilities artists dream up to reach a lot of the QTIBIPOC community in Ottawa, I believe it’s so essential for me to do my thing when I have trustworthy bookers and show producers around me. I’m very grateful for DIY Spring.
Ev: Yes of course! So I heard you studied visual arts and art history, how do you think that knowledge has affected your art or helped it develop?
Kimmortal: I’m inspired by the way I am a visual artist in the world of music. In art school I studied about performance artists like Dana Claxton, Peaches, Coco Fusco, while also listening to poets and emcees like Blue Scholars, Ian Kamau, Gina Loring, Climbing Poetree, and Invincible. My art is influenced by various artists in different mediums. I am working to tap into the same freedom I get when I’m doodling in my music. How I’m planning to do this is to time myself for like 2 hours max to produce tracks, and then write lyrics and record them in another hour.. 1..2..3… And then release the track online. Spontaneous art making is really good for me.
Ev: That being said, and watching your music videos and knowing that you’re a visual artist as well it makes me wonder if you built your own set for “I’M BLUE” and if you animated the video for “Brushing by Heaven’s Shoulder”?
Kimmortal: I animated the entire video for “Brushing by Heaven’s Shoulder.” I’m so proud of that thing. That film came about when I was sick for a good 2 weeks and was bored at home so I decided to film a music video for this song in my living room. It started off as an experiment. The white background is literally a white canvas that I nailed into the wall and filmed myself in front of. The animations are made up of drawings from my sketchbook that I taught myself to animate in After Effects. It was a lot of hours and I lost a lot of files. I wanted to throw my computer against the wall countless times but it turned out swell and has my black and white aesthetic. “I’m Blue” was directed by Entertainment Forever. All the art on the walls are my paintings and the book featured in it is my Visual Arts grad thesis project! The symbols on the trees are my work replicated by the Entertainment Forever team. I am ecstatic when I get my DIY on and pair my art with my music.
Ev: As a queer artist of colour, how did you find the journey to getting to where you are today?
Kimmortal: It’s hard to find other queer artists of colour “out there”. A lot of my friends who are local are queer and/or bipoc and so it’s been a very local journey if that makes sense. I usually meet other queer artists of colour through underground lofi shows I’ve been booked at abroad. I love being a part of punk, hip-hop, experimental, and DIY underground shit because I think that’s where I can cultivate the same intimate feel I get when I’m creating.
Ev: Well that’s certainly a real positive outlook. You have a clear and unique voice for what you do and you tell stories through your art. How did you come about finding that voice?
Kimmortal: I really value education for liberation because it’s where I have found myself and my community and the root to a lot of pain experienced individually and collectively. I am nurtured in conversation and my wisdom is from my ancestors and the people around me. I’m still finding my voice but I try to ground it in honesty. A friend and emcee recently told me that the best way I can stay authentic is by speaking from my experience and from what I know. As I get to know myself deeper, my voice inevitably becomes stronger. I am raised by the bold voices of mainly fierce Filipinx femmes in my life and QTIBIPOC poets, crafters and emcees. I am informed by my friends who are my extended community, who are agitators, healers, teachers, and outspoken voices.
Ev: You clearly address dire issues in our society that seem to be brushed aside, what made you decide to rap and sing about them instead of following the same path others do? Do you think your identity plays into that?
Kimmortal: The late Filipino Canadian youth alliance based in Vancouver was one of the first spaces I witnessed and got connected to radical brown and black emcees and poets. Dagamuffin, a friend, and activist who passed away was an outspoken rapper who was one of many Filipino activists who pushed me to keep repping. I have experienced what it feels like to see someone represent on stage and feel reflected. I want that to continue in this art so that we all feel activated to create. I see how art is not just a tool for activating and educating people, but it is also a wellspring for us to get the energy to keep going.
Ev: That being said, what do you see as the biggest and most important issue you’ve addressed through your music and art and why do you think it’s the most important issue you’ve addressed?
Kimmortal: I think all the issues are really connected. I can’t talk about my relationship to being Filipino without talking about my relationship to being queer and fluid and an artist, etc… I think the power is in the sum of our layers. Sometimes shows are geared towards one aspect of our identities, like a queer show, or like a women of colour show… for the first time, I get to perform on a stage on June 16 that will be featuring Filipinx nonbinary artists based on unceceeded coast Salish territory, aka Vancouver, and put on by Pinoy Pride in Vancouver.
Check out Kimmortal as they headline a DIY Spring show this Wednesday June 13 at The Origin Arts & Community Centre featuring King Kimbit and Throne Seekers, more info here.
Last year around this time, Vancity folk troubadours The Long War were crowned victors of the CBC Searchlight competition. Since going far with their track “Breath In Breath Out,” which they won the contest and made CBC Music’s Top 100 songs of 2017, the band has taken things to a new level. Not only did they write their debut full-length, Landscapes, but they’re also embarking on twenty Canadian tour dates and bringing their songs to audiences across the country.
Their album Landscapes is true modern Canadiana, containing songs that pay tribute to the land and provide a soundtrack to the painted memories of Canadian scenery in our minds. Songwriter and lead vocalist Jarrett Lee draws upon his own experiences with the landscapes and environments that influenced him throughout his life and channel those into his music. The band transforms Lee’s powerful lyrical imagery into beautiful harmonies and a lively experience for listeners, giving us a canvas on which to paint our own memories of Canada.
Last time we spoke, you were fresh off winning the 2017 CBC Searchlight competition and about to play the NAC. How was that experience?
JL: I still can’t believe we played the NAC, it’s such a reputable venue so many talented artists have performed on that stage. It was a special night and really summarized the whole Searchlight experience. We were joined by the other finalists The Wolfe, Jaryd Stanley and Will. Royal Wood hosted the night and played a song with us. The place was full of family, friends and fans. Chad and I spent a lot of time in Ottawa so returning to a city which was home for so long in that context, you really can’t ask for more.
Did you get to spend some extra time in Ottawa and reconnect with any of your old favourite places in town?
JL: Yes, I went to some local pubs checked out some live music in the Market said hi to some musician pals. Went a to a brewery, had a burger at Chez Lucien, went back to Fresco on Elgin where I used to host an open mic. Chad used to work the bar at Café Nostalgica I think he popped his head in there. Ottawa has changed quite a bit, at least it seems that way after being away for so long. I feel at home there and always enjoy coming back.
What have you been up to since the summer of 2017?
JL: We’ve been putting all our focus on our debut album Landscapes which was officially released on April 20th. Obviously we booked a pretty large cross Canada tour, we’re heading all the way to PEI playing over twenty shows, we’re back in Vancouver at The Biltmore May 31st. We have a music video coming out for the song Landscapes so keep a look out for that. It’s been pretty full on since last summer to be honest.
How was working with Kevin Dietz at the infamous Metalworks Studio to record your debut album Landscapes?
JL: Kevin is a brilliant, talented Producer and has a way of bringing out the best in people with his positivity and creative energy. You’re in the studio for hours upon hours daily and you hope that the person at the helm is at the very least a good hang. He made the album soar and I think the end result speaks to his talent and overall sonic vision combined with our desire to push ourselves and keep the music authentic and unique to our sound. He did a fantastic job and we can’t wait to work with him again in the future.
Many people know the single “Breathe In Breathe Out,” but what can fans expect for the rest of the album?
JL: The album has a bit of everything, from soaring folk rock ballads like our title track ‘Landscapes’ to acoustic vocal driven sing along songs that pull at the heart strings like ‘Downtime’. The album closes with a rock tune called ‘Lake Louise’ that has a strong Canadian music vibe but ends in a hooky pop chant. The album is very eclectic but the songs certainly live together.
What motivated you release Landscapes independently?
JL: We would love the opportunity to work with Management and when that day comes we’ll absolutely take that opportunity. We released ‘Landscapes’ independently because we didn’t really have an option. It’s a bit of a perception dilemma, while we did win Searchlight and that certainly gave us a lot of coverage very early in the bands existence, we however look at it as an opportunity. It’s up to us to make the best of this and while we’ve gained a lot traction and gotten The Long War name out there, we need to continue pushing on. Searchlight awarded us for example two days in Metal Works to record, we put the extra money and effort in parlaying that two days into eight and what would have been a song or two EP into a full length album. We take pride in how hard we work and that work ethic is synonymous in how we define The Long War.
Your currently on a 10 stop cross Canada tour that if I understand correctly you are booking yourself. How did the process of handling all your own booking go?
JL: We’re actually on a 20 stop cross Canada self booked tour. I handled most of the bookings myself with some help here and there from bandmates. We found it was best to keep each band member on top of one job while the other handles another and keep things streamlined to avoid any confusion with promoters. Booking the tour included scheduling, routing, money, support acts so it’s certainly a handful and a huge responsibility. But I learned a lot doing it, moving forward we’d love to look at working with a booking agency. But we booked some really great venues like The Blacksheep Inn, The Empire Theatre, The Carleton. We’re really excited about it.
Can you tell me a little bit about the two shows you are playing in the area, one at Pressed and one at the Blacksheep?
JL: We’re playing Pressed April 25th. It’s a newer venue at least since Chad and I lived in Ottawa but I’ve heard nothing but good things. Mountain Eyes and Rory Taillon are joining the bill for that one and I expect an intimate setting which is always nice. The Blacksheep is a legendary venue, I remember seeing Joel Plaskett play there and it was so engaging, the crowd was mesmerized. Again we’re being joined by Rory Taillon and Old Man Grant is on the bill. It’s a Saturday and we have a lot of friends and family taking part in that show, April 28th come say hi!
And for tradition sake, last time we asked you about the when the Vancouver Canucks will win the cup, this time I ask what would you call a tribute song written about the Sedin twins who recently announced their retirement?
On a sunny day in June during Ottawa Explosion Weekend, I caught up with Vancouver self-proclaimed powertrash band Needles//Pins. Their new album Good Night, Tomorrow was released in July of this year, and signaled a shift in the band’s sound and production. It’s more polished, and more grandiose than anything they’ve done in the past. But the grittiness quality of songwriting is still there, and fans old and new will fall right into this record.
They’re set to play House of TARG on Friday, August 25th along with Steve Adamyk Band, Audio Visceral, and NECK. Check out this candid interview with the trio, where they talk about the new album, Ottawa roots, and throw themselves under the bus.
Interview with Needles//Pins
You guys have played Ottawa Explosion Weekend before and stopped in Ottawa many times on tour. What’s your relationship to the city?
Adam Ess: Tony and I grew up in the Ottawa Valley, so we grew up about 45 minutes outside of Ottawa. So we started coming to the city in our teens to see shows, and I was in bands since I was fifteen years old playing places like Club SAW. I’ve known OXW organizers Emmanuel (Sayer) and Luke (Martin) for fifteen years or so as a result. I know Emmanuel from when he used to live in Windsor, we played with his old band called Searching for Chin. Then he moved to Ottawa and joined Buried Inside and others.
I guess the first time we played here as a band was the first ever Ottawa Explosion, it was our first cross-Canada tour. We’ve played every year since except last year, that was the only one so far that we haven’t played.
Do you get to spend much time in Ottawa when you’re here?
Tony X: It’s pretty much in and out. Usually it’s between Toronto and Montreal so we don’t have much time to take the extra night in Ottawa, we can’t lose that prime night of playing in other cities. I kind of wish we could just be here all weekend to be honest.
Needles//Pins played with The Smugglers at OXW for the Mint Records Showcase. How did that come about?
Adam: I think one of the impetuses for doing the Smuggs thing is because of Grant Lawrence’s book. It’s all part of the presentation of the book, and with the Mint Records connection we played the Vancouver show and it kind of took off from there.
Tony: Mint probably leaned on them a bit for us to play the show, I don’t think The Smugglers were begging us to play with them haha.
Your new record Good Night, Tomorrow is a bit of a different direction for the band. What is it that you are most excited for the bands to hear?
Adam: The general sound of the record, I think. It’s just such a huge sound, and that’s what we wanted out of it.
Tony: Just like you said, people are noticing it’s different and in a positive way and that’s really great.
Adam: And for us there’s no worry about that, I mean if you liked the band before then you’re going to like the band now. It’s hands-down way better, there’s no doubt about that. They’re the best songs we’ve ever written, the production is so much better, just everything. We took almost a year and a half to write and record the album, we took our time on it and wrote it in chunks, and recording as we went.
Tony: At some point we were recording and thinking, “oh good, it’s only been a year,” and then our producer Jesse told us we started in June… we were like, “oh, fuck…”
If I remember correctly, the last time you guys played Ottawa Explosion before this year there was something that literally exploded on stage.
Macey Bee: Oh shit, I forgot about that.
Tony: Yeah an amp! That was two years ago!
Macey: I think I was also on fire.
Tony: I just remember Adam was out of tune and he blamed me for it, but it actually was him. I just want to clear that up. He blamed me, but it was him. IT WAS NOT TONY, for the record. I don’t know about the amp though.
Adam: Ok then, since we’re going on the record, I am the one that coined the nickname “12 Grain” for Macey.
Tony: Oh I guess we’re recording everything now, airing the grievances. What is this, Festivus?
Have you had any other disasters happen while on tour?
Macey: I think touring with these two is a fucking disaster in general (laughs). I mean I’ve been doing it for a while now and I guess I’ll just have to keep doing it until I die.
Adam: Or until one of us dies, at least. There haven’t been any major disasters though, really. Knock on wood!
Tony: We’ve played shitty so many times, though. The worst show we ever played was in LA, and I’ll go on the record by saying it was all my fault.
Matias: You’re really throwing yourself under the bus here.
Macey: I was going to say that I played really well that night. You fucking blew it man.
Adam: That was a doozy.
Tony: I just didn’t play the right notes. There might have been some technical issues, I don’t know.
Macey: Yeah, technically your fingers didn’t hit the right notes on the bass.
Logistically, as I headed into my Thursday I knew this was a marathon and not a sprint. Thursday and Friday, back-to-back shows topped with everything else life was throwing my way turned in to what I can only describe as a whirlwind couple of days. This is whirlwind, part one.
My musical journey with We Are the City began a couple of years ago when another artist I was listening to went on tour with them as their openers. Since then, I have done my best to keep up with their music and when I saw they were passing through Ottawa, I made sure I would be there. Based out of Vancouver, We Are the City brings high energy with an electronic rock fusion set. Having just released their new album Above Club in November, this show was a must-see.
A similar story for HIGHS, I don’t remember exactly what or who put me on to their music in the first place, but I enjoyed their album and decided that, after missing them once, the next time they were in town I’d find a way to make it out to see them. It came as a happy surprise when they were added to the line-up for a show that I had already placed so much anticipation around.
I had not heard Rebelle before, but arrived promptly as they were starting their set. They were more on the pop/rock side of the rock-electronic fusion theme the evening had going and fit very well with the visiting lineup. During the set, House of TARG filled with an eager crowd awaiting the next two sets and happy to take them in. Siblings David and Rylee Taggart and their band have really been making a name for themselves, and previously known as The Strain. After seeing their set, have officially entered my artists to watch category as they make their way further into the scene.
HIGHS at House of TARG (Photo by Elizabeth Durford)
When HIGHS took the stage, it was clear that the majority of the crowd was well aware of their music. Those who were clear fans pressed to the front of the crowd, but the nice thing about TARG is the ability to have a good view of the show from pretty much any vantage point in the place. Personally, I’m a side stage kind of gal. HIGHS bring a unique light sound with their mixing vocals and tempos. They matched their music’s energy with movement and mixing up instruments, the addition of a second drum in the front added an extra element to the set.
We Are the City set themselves up for a similar high dynamic stage. Big lights, similar to those you’d find in an office or school ceiling, crowded the small stage. They flooded bright changing colors onto the musicians and into the crowd. This group made it clear the talents within each individual as they changed up who took lead on different songs. Despite the crazy fusion between pop/rock/electronics their music is very easy to keep up with and sing along if you so desire.
Each group brought all their energy to the stage, and judging by the crowd, their energy paid off. As night one drew to a close, I left feeling satisfied with finally seeing two groups I had kept my eye on for a long while, and equally as happy to add another group to that list.
Amped to say the least, anticipation for whirlwind, part two, began to grow.
We Are The City at House of TARG. (Photo by Elizabeth Durnford)
*NOTE* – This contest is now closed. Congrats to winner Aaron C. for winning two tickets to this show Feb. 25.
Vancouver-based progressive/experimental band We Are The City are on tour and are making a pit stop here in Ottawa on Feb. 25 at House of Targ. Their two-month road trip included multiple dates across Europe, finishing things off in March here in Canada.
They released their third, and most recent album Above Club in November 2015, which is breaking new ground and a clear progression in the band’s overall sound and aesthetic. Produced in the back of a bike shop in Van City, WATC take disparate musical elements that range from pulsating, raw percussion, reverb-laden guitar spatterings, and synth layerings that make for an incredibly impressive mixture of pop, experimental, and art rock sensibilities. Above Club is a fun, yet complex composition with rich textures and elements that go deep. Fans of Tame Impala and Vampire Weekend will feel right at home, but WATC’s music has mass appeal. And what better band to pair with than HIGHS? HIGHS has exploded into the Canadian indie music consciousness since forming in 2012, bringing with them their brand of afrobeat rhythm mixed with irresistibly catchy guitar hooks.
So basically, don’t miss these band when they roll through town. We’re giving away two tickets, here’s how to enter to win:
Q: We Are The City placed first in heated competition in 2009 meant to assist emerging artists from British Columbia and Alberta through education, development, and promotion, which helped garner them international recognition. What was the name of this competition?
Contest closes on Saturday, February 19 at noon. Winner will be announced at the top of this post and on twitter (we will contact via the method you entered).
We Are the City HIGHS Rebelle
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Doors: 9:00 pm / Show: 9:30 pm
House of TARG
$10.00 @ Vertigo Records or online here.
New local female folk duo Dogwood recently released their debut album Crows.
Chloe Perrault and Ellorie McKnight (formally of Marabou) decided to record a few songs this past spring, while out on the west coast. The nine-song album is full of absolutely beautiful melodies and harmonies. The girls’ voices compliment each other so well and the harmonies make me melt. The music is also quite captivating, as the duo blend guitar and violin masterfully to create smooth dream-like folk music. On top of all that, I believe that the strongest elements of Dogwood’s sound are their lyrics, which paint such wonderful pictures of hope, sadness, love and dreams. The song that has me clicking repeat is the tremendous song “Woolen,” which takes me on a trip of the rollercoaster of love through the mountain tops and valley lows of the beautiful west coast.
Ellorie explains that “Our album is called Crows, in dedication to the murder of crows that roosts in Burnaby and commutes to downtown Vancouver and back every day. We spent many afternoons drinking earl grey tea on the porch, playing slow music, and wondering about those black birds that swept the sky. They made us dream, and indeed, we believe this is the feel of our new little album: a dream of sorts.”
They used to be based in Ottawa but studies and opportunities have separated them to almost each end of the country. Chloe is now in St-Albert, Quebec, for the summer interning on an organic farm, and tending to her very own flock of chickens. Ellorie is spending a few months doing field work in the wilderness of Alaska, studying white spruce trees amongst the caribou and wildflowers of the Brooks range.
The album is streaming below and on bandcamp where you can download it for a mere $5.