Vancouver’s Under-the-Radar Musicians

Discover someone new.

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Grimes. Michael Bublé. Carly Rae Jepsen. Dan Mangan. Many big musical names come out of the vicinity of Vancouver. But, alongside the headliners, there’s always an underground scene of music that hones an equally talented, charming, and creative mix of individuals. Find them amongst the layers of electronic venues in the city, or within the acoustic realms of venues like The Commodore. Either way, these artists are all worth a read—and a listen. Introducing the next generation of Vancouver musicians.

Fionn

From the beaches of White Rock, Fionn sister act Alanna and Brianne Finn-Morris have been singing harmoniously together since they were kids. Signing with Sony/604 Records in the spring of 2017, these identical twins are just 19 years old and draw inspiration from greats like Joni Mitchell and Sinead O’Connor. Within their own music, expect to hear bold vocals, synced harmonies, and an equally powerful acoustic guitar, traversing the borders of music genres—think electronic-pop mixed with folk-rock.

“All through high school we were writing songs, playing at restaurants, and gigging every weekend in little places,” gushes the outgoing Alanna, seated in the conference room of 604 Records in East Vancouver. Alongside the soft-spoken Brianne, Alanna describes their formative years spent writing and singing in White Rock, and their busking sessions along the beach boardwalk. It was there that a scout discovered their raw talent, setting them up with an audition at 604 Records, where they impressed the music managers with their wise storytelling through song.

The duo recently returned from a stint in Toronto to film the music video for their single, “Magazine Face,” off their very first album (which is currently untitled). “It was the first time we had the rockstar experience,” muses Brianne. Adds Alanna: “It was like a dream. We used to practice doing music videos in front of the mirror when we were nine.” The sisters explain that “Magazine Face” is about the unrealistic beauty standards placed on young people, especially women. Instead of succumbing to the pressures to look, act, and feel a certain way, Fionn is forging their own path, set to define their self-worth based on what can be found beneath the surface. “I feel like there’s a point in your youth when you start to notice things. And I realized that women are often looked at as objects more so than actual people,” says Alanna. Their first single, “Skeleton,” plays to the similar tune of female empowerment and was produced by Vance Joy’s John O’Mahony and musician Louise Burns.

Fionn’s music is influenced by many things. The duo’s father, who immigrated to Canada from Ireland in an Irish band, can be thanked for the Celtic notes found throughout their songs. “We’ve been to Ireland so many times,” says Brianne. The sisters also attribute some of their musical training to time spent in Nashville. “We actually went to Nashville numerous times when we were kids between the ages of 13 and 15, and did a lot of songwriting seminars to try to improve,” says Alanna. “I’ll always be happy our parents were willing to support us and take us there so many times.”

Now, the siblings are working hard in the studio to put the final touches on their debut album (set to come out later in 2018), and are embarking on a May tour with fellow Canadian musician Royal Wood.

Devours

Also known as Jeff Cancade, Devours has carved out a stage for himself in the electronic, house, and techno scenes in Vancouver. Calling himself a “bedroom musician” (he completes most of his songs in the comfort of his home), the producer, keyboardist, and singer brings a sound that many could parallel to the likes of Cut Copy and Hot Chip.

“I still perform with the same keyboard. It’s the most valuable thing that I own,” says Cancade gleefully over beverages in East Vancouver, explaining that for the past 10 years, he has spent hours hovering over his beloved 1990s instrument. “My music is just an amalgamation of pop culture from the last 20 years,” he adds, referencing artists like Moby, Enigma, Missy Elliot, and Timbaland as major influences. “It takes the basics like synthesizers and stuff from pop music, but I borrow a lot of pop culture references, ambient music, Hollywood soundtracks. A lot of it is rock, actually.”

Cancade released his debut album, Late Bloomer, roughly two years ago. With nine spunky tracks destined for the dance floor, and embellished with his soothing vocals, Late Bloomer is all about the journey Cancade took to become comfortable in his own skin. “It’s a lot of lyrics of my coming-out experience,” he says, explaining that “blooming” alludes to his sexuality, but also to taking on a more vibrant stage presence. “I decided that I wanted to embrace that queer persona,” he continues. “I think I have a very colourful personality, and wanted to show that in outfits.”

When Cancade is not producing and playing, he works as a music editor for the children’s cartoon Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. To maintain his singing, he regularly meets with East Vancouver choir group Eschoir at Toast Collective, with many of the members also laying down vocals for his upcoming projects. He is currently working on his next album, which is set to release in the fall.

Frankiie

Two years ago, Frankiie travelled to Baja California Sur in Mexico for the Todos Santos Music Festival at the Hotel California. Before heading on stage, the four-member ensemble took it all in: the radiant sunshine on the palm trees, the iconic sounds of Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism and Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. As an older musician strummed the strings of his guitar backstage, they danced around him to the music. What they didn’t realize at first was that the man was legendary John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin.

“It was quite surreal. He was playing guitar and we were dancing around backstage and didn’t even know that that’s who it was,” muses Nashlyn Lloyd, bassist and vocalist for Frankiie. Cool and collected, Lloyd and Frankiie drummer Zoe Fuhr meet on a cold January evening in Olympic Village to reminisce on some of the greatest venues they’ve ever played at—including the Hotel California and the Ace Hotel Palm Springs, but also throughout the Lower Mainland at Khatsahlano, among the Gulf Islands at Otalith Festival, and in Haida Gwaii at the Edge of the World festival.

They’re now known around town for being a folk band with dreamy harmonies and bohemian, soulful melodies, but they come from rather chaotic beginnings. “We got the band together really quickly,” says Fuhr, describing how it all started when lead vocalist and guitarist Francesca Carbonneau was feeling a bit anxious about a solo performance at an open-mic-night at the Vancouver Urban Winery in 2013. Calling up Lloyd to help her out, two became three with the addition of bassist (and Carbonneau’s roommate at the time) Samantha Lankester, and with the addition of drummer Fuhr, three became four. “We didn’t even bring amps, actually,” adds Lloyd. “From there, we had more shows booked right away. And then we were best friends.”

In 2015 the band released their first album, Girl of Infinity. Recorded at Vancouver’s Fader Master Studios, the six-track project was inspired by dreams and reality, life and death—but also by romance, and by social media. “We’re writing about philosophical things. I think it’s more ‘life things’ than it is necessarily broken-hearted things. But every once in a while, you gotta have a good broken-hearted song,” says Lloyd mischievously.

“A lot of it is just recognizing the silver lining in it all,” adds Fuhr. “Talking about the state of the world and what it’s like to be our age in such a weird time,” she says, describing the dating scene (or lack thereof) in Vancouver, as well as their inspiration drawn from the environment. “That comes up a lot in songs, too.”

The band is set to release their second album this spring, and come summer, they want to head out on tour. “The Vancouver music scene is very comfortable,” says Fuhr. “I think what we will do is release the singles and then in the summer, we’ll stick around B.C. Play as many festivals as we can. Maybe go to Alberta. Then in the fall, we’ve been talking about going back down the coast to California. Maybe Mexico in the winter—and then the whole world.”

Prado

Wearing shiny gold hoops and a green puffer jacket, Prado makes an entrance. Also known as Benita Prado, she doesn’t mess around with her look or her music.

A passion for building out beats, songwriting, and singing sprouted in Prado’s East Vancouver home. Still a high school student, her first mixtape was released on SoundCloud in 2013, blending together the drowsy elements of electronic music, the soulful pieces of R&B, and the provoking storytelling of rap. With a gentle strum of her guitar, and an interest in channelling internal struggles, Prado started making music as a form of catharsis. Yet her SoundCloud reputation eventually took her to stages across the city, including Celebrities and the Waldorf.

On stage, Prado adds the element of dance to her acts. “We do a lot of theatrics when we perform,” she muses, describing how her backup dancers, including her sister (who is also her photographer), work together every day, rehearsing the choreography for upcoming shows. Prado is all about empowering people through music—but she also doesn’t take herself too seriously. “I’d describe [my music] as really cute. But it’s a juxtaposition, as I’m not cute. I’m a really big, loud, and annoying person,” she says, with no reservations. “So, when they hear [my music], it’s really different and off-putting.” At the end of the day, she says, she wants “the energy to radiate to people.”

When Prado isn’t working on her own music, she’s building up other young female artists in Vancouver. “I wanted to make something that was accessible, comfortable, and something that was going to work for women specifically because there’s no spaces like that,” she says, describing the Kingsway studio she is set to open alongside some friends and colleagues. “We rent it out to artists who actually want to work in there for cheap rent, and supply the artists with recording tools.” Working with what she has to create something bigger than herself—it’s a very Vancouver sentiment.


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Post Date:

March 2, 2018