Meyer Billurcu co-founder, Blue Skies Turn Black : As someone who has seen many friends come and go in this city, I can tell you that this is not a uniquely music-related phenomenon. When I go to other cities, even within Canada, I notice that the pace of everyday life is just way faster. That's not to say that Montrealers are lazy, we're not—it's just that many of us will spend as much time hustling to have no job, as a New Yorker would have to hold down five. I think for a lot of people there's an expiration date on that kind of lifestyle.
Or London even. Wasiu: Musicians come and go in every city or scene. As far as I'm concerned, even if they may have residency outside of here, the ones who are really successful still spend a lot of time here. The ones who feel the need to leave, and who have left for the purpose of attempting to blow up in a difference scene, have probably all failed. Trust me, the ones who are making dope music are getting noticed.
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If you're meant to make it, then you have all the means right here at home in MTL, to make it. Some people hack it out for a while without a lot going on myself included!
A-Trak: Montreal is a very easy place to live. Rent is so cheap. So in a way it fosters an artistic community because people can work on their craft without too much pressure. That uniqueness is probably the reason why other people stay. Natalia Yanchak The Dears : The same can be said of any city - musicians need to find their muse, and sometimes that means staying put or moving away. Montreal has a two-tone scene but the dual language thing keeps things quite separate.
We took three questions and asked them to every significant artist in Montreal.
Certain festivals and events bridge the two, but many bands can have an entire career in Quebec simply by singing in French. That said, there is a history of artists feeling the need to move up and out, and Los Angeles is often a favourite destination for the Queebs, Anglos included. But I think that wherever a musician or band chooses to stay has nothing to do with the city. Relationships play a bigger role in making art, because ultimately music is a form of communion and has to eventually be shared with others.
Travelling isn't fit for everyone. When I'm on the road, I sample life so-to speak; I use all my senses and save it in my mind. I usually get to making beats once I'm back home. For now I'm based in Montreal, but I'm not limiting myself to living here. There's a whole world out there and opportunities. The music was playing in every bar and restaurant. At that time, they could make a living out of it without having to systematically leave the city.
They want the glamorous success. They come here because Montreal its well known for its music […], and rent and jamming spaces are cheap. I do not think Montreal is perceived as a city where you stay while awaiting success to come. It cannot be located on a map. It's all about the reach. Black Emperor who have founded communities labels, studios, bars, restaurants and have added cultural value and resources to the cities artistic community.
The difference for me is that some artists feel connected to particular communities, to Montreal as vibrant city as source of inspiration and as a great place to live and some artists are more transient and on more of a personal journey and less connected to a specific rooted sense of community. But we strongly and almost exclusively define ourselves as a Montreal band. We're not really a Canadian band, just a Montreal band. I think "respect" is a good term—there's no lovey-dovey-ness in the city's relation to music, but I like it that way. Austin Tufts Braids : Some people really get excited when a Montreal band gets international recognition, they feel like they are bringing the scene to higher places, acting as ambassador to the city and helping everyone grow.
But I have definitely seen the exact opposite happen in the past too. Especially with Claire Boucher getting so much attention as Grimes. It became a rift in the community, which I think is very unfortunate. From my perspective I just wish everyone could have been more positive about watching one of our peers rise up.
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Lunice: There's a definite sign of pride and support for all the artists breaking out of our city and that hugely comes from our lack of unhealthy competition. We'd only compete to better ourselves and everyone around us. There's no instances of people trying to shark each other out of opportunities. When you're starting out, people largely leave you alone to develop your music the way you want to.
There isn't a sense of corporate intervention pushing you to be a certain way. Artists like Grimes and Arcade Fire started from nothing here—they built up their creative direction from the ground up in the small venues that all other Montreal artists have to play too.
Sebastian Cowan founder, Arbutus Records : I feel there to be a big divide between the city of Montreal, and the scene in which I'm a part of. Particularly as an Anglophone, who has moved here and still cannot really speak French, my day-to-day existence is entirely within this bubble of the Mile End. Coeur de Pirate: I've always felt some kind of support from my city.
It still is, but thanks to events like Pop Montreal, or Osheaga, or bands like Arcade Fire etc […] the city still has an individual conscience about music. Andrew Barr Barr Brothers : The media seems to take note if Montreal musicians are out in the world having success. At times it's almost as if it lends some credibility to their success at home that otherwise might be questionable.
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When artists go the extra step to connect to the city, people feel it and when these artists are out in the world sharing their music, naturally the city stays connected to that. I mean the governments of Quebec and Canada are extremely generous in their support of Quebec music and have held interest in disseminating it's seed around the world.
You get the sense that when people out in the world dream of Montreal they get a sense of rebellion, fragility, a work-to-live ethic and a DIY spirit. Gabriel Malenfant Radio Radio : I think so. People get stoked about that. And I think everyone from Montreal French and English are equally proud to see how far Arcade Fire has come since their beginnings, or Kaytranada hanging out with Rick Rubin. Sean Nicholas Savage: I think there is a great deal of respect in the artist community in Quebec, I think it's one of the most open minded artistic communities in the world.
Kandle: Montreal is a proud city and if you manage to grow as an artist within the city then the people of the city will always support you. Montrealers are excited about music and discovering new artists and the more success you gain the more pride they feel. Meyer Billurcu co-founder, Blue Skies Turn Black : There's a real ceiling here in terms of how much a band or musician can grow.
There are not nearly enough grant opportunities in Quebec for artists working today. The cultural funding that is "accessible" is often bogged down by purposefully opaque application requirements or admissions criteria. There's also just a general lack of music industry presence here.
Good music sells itself, but the fact that there are fewer labels, fewer management and publicity companies, and fewer booking agencies definitely hinders a local band's ability to thrive internationally. When someone who gets their start here finds success and moves onto another city, I cheer them on because I fucking get it. I think most Montrealers would tell you that they feel same.
Fame is not frowned upon.
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I assume you are referring to Grimes, Arcade Fire, and Mac Demarco in this conversation and I think those guys are still very very loved here on a real level in the lives of their friends and fans who have remained. Wasiu: Every city or scene respects their artists who achieve success outside of their own city. However, our Piu Piu beat scene legit created local producer stars who have blown up online afterwards.
No one in MTL is like, "oh, this person's music gets love outside of the city, I'm not gonna fuck with them! The more attention they see an artist get, the more interested they become.