After more than ten years in the music business, Quebec DJs and producers Charles Cozy (Charles Cadieux) and Fruits (Gabriel Cyr) decided at the start of the pandemic to join forces under the name Or Bleu. Under the Disques 7ième Ciel label, the two men recently unveiled Beaucoup, a first offering of eleven collaborative tracks with local and international artists such as Fouki and Mike Clay. For the occasion, PAN M 360 spoke to the duo to find out more about the creation of their new project and their future ambitions.
Over the years, Charles Cozy and Fruits have carved out a place for themselves on the Montreal scene. The two men have DJed at numerous festivals in Quebec and internationally, while also collaborating solo with numerous artists. Although the idea of joining forces had interested them for some time, it was only when their schedules were freed up by the pandemic that they had the time to create more together. Over the past three years, the two protagonists have worked hard to build up an impressive catalogue of over 200 productions, so that they can approach different talents and eventually bring their first project to life.
With Beaucoup, the two artists showcase their talent as producers with carefully crafted instrumentals in symbiosis with the various collaborators. From trap to boom-bap to R&B, Or Bleu gives its artists everything they need to shine and offer the best of themselves, one of the duo’s great strengths. Admittedly, this great sonic diversity somewhat detracts from the album’s coherence, but can we really blame them for choosing to demonstrate their great versatility for their first calling card? I don’t think so!
PAN M 360: Let’s talk about the birth of your duo. When did you become Or Bleu and why?
CHARLES COZY: Gabriel and I are childhood friends and have known each other for many years. We’ve always maintained a strong bond of friendship, and we’ve worked together before. At the start of the pandemic, we had more time to work as a duo, and that’s when we started producing a lot. The pandemic helped us a lot because we were able to create together on a more regular basis. Once we’d accumulated a lot of beats, we thought it was time to send some to different artists with a view to starting an album. That’s how Or Bleu came about.
It’s always been a wish to be able to do something like this. To be able to create a project like this with your best friend is really something incredible. It’s really motivating to get involved with someone you’ve known for a long time because you know it’s going to go well and we have similar ways of working.
FRUITS: That’s exactly right. We knew that the chemistry was there between the two of us and that we had the same visions. Let’s just say we complement each other really well.
PAN M 360: Last May, you announced your signing with Disques 7ième Ciel. How did this come about?
FRUITS: It’s always been a goal for Charles and me to sign with Disques 7ième Ciel, it was our dream label. 7ième Ciel really reflects our values and we love the community aspect of the label. Most of the artists on the label are our friends and part of our circle. When we approached 7ième Ciel, our album was about 80% complete and there were already several of their artists involved. That was certainly a good argument for Steve Jolin and his team to sign us.
CHARLES COZY: Also, we know Sam Rick, the manager of Clay And Friends and Jay Scøtt, and he was the first person we presented the project to. At the time, he was Steve’s right-hand man. That’s how Steve heard about us.
PAN M 360: How do you create as a duo? Do you have a certain way of working?
FRUITS: The way we work changes from time to time. Often, one of us will take control technically and sit in front of the computer while the other comes up with ideas. We like to alternate our roles. One of Charles’ great strengths is coming up with ideas. He really knows the trends and has an excellent musical culture. We don’t necessarily have a miracle formula, but that’s the way we usually work.
CHARLES COZY: We know each other so well that we’re not afraid to defend our ideas and disagree. There’s no ego in the room when we’re creating, everything we do is with the aim of getting the best music possible. Sometimes we start with a sample, drums or a composition. We don’t always start from the same place, and that’s very motivating. We approach each track differently and we’re never tired of creating.
FRUITS: I’d even add that often our best productions come to life when our opinions are opposed. We’re both ready to defend our ideas, and that’s what produces the best results.
PAN M 360: You mentioned that the productions on your debut album are versatile. What are your respective musical influences?
CHARLES COZY: We’re big hip-hop fans. We grew up listening to boom-bap and underground hip-hop. Those were certainly our primary influences. Through that, we discovered the art of sampling, jazz and funk. We grew up in musical families. I’ve also been a DJ for 10-15 years. My DJ career is more in electronic music, house, techno and Brazilian music. Let’s just say that my musical influences are very scattered. I listen to both indie music and rap tracks in my car. I try to listen to new music as often as possible. For us, good music is good music, whatever the style. So we don’t put up any barriers when we’re creating. The sounds on our album are very disparate. We wanted to show that we’re influenced by a multitude of things and that we’re versatile producers.
FRUITS: As Charles said, I grew up in a musical family. When I was young, I played a variety of instruments. My first influences were certainly Chet Baker, Mile Davis, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock and the great jazzmen of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. I was immersed in all that, and it certainly shows in the way I produce. Then there’s hip-hop, which has been very important for me. I was greatly inspired by guys like J Dilla and Madlib.
PAN M 360: Let’s talk about your album Beaucoup. What was the creative process like for this project?
FRUITS: When we started creating together in February 2020, we did studio sessions twice a week. Each time, we spent 10 to 12 hours in the studio, so we were making almost twenty hours of music a week, rain or shine. For several months, we worked non-stop. At one point, we had between 200 and 300 productions done. When we were interested in working with an artist, we would prepare a personalized collection of some of our productions and send it to them.
CHARLES COZY: The way we operated was almost military. We never missed a creative session, and there was nothing that could change our plans. I’d arrive at the studio in the morning with coffee, then leave in the evening when it was dark. We made two or three beats per session. The more we did, the more motivated we were because we realized the quality of our productions. As Gabriel explained, we had production files prepared for different artists. When we felt confident enough, we started sending them to people like Lary Kidd. After that, we received several demos and positive responses. The more beats we sent out, the more responses we got from different artists.
FRUITS: It led to a certain ripple effect where at a certain point some artists would write to us directly to be part of our project. They’d say, “Hey, we hear you’re working on an album, could I be involved? There was a buzz around the project, as we had a lot of talented artists already involved. The Quebec music scene is a small microcosm. Everyone knows everyone else. It’s not like American rap, where there’s a lot of violence and drama. People help each other and like to collaborate. That’s certainly worked in our favour.
CHARLES COZY: I think we’ve managed to cultivate our connections over the years. Even though we hadn’t released an album, we were still known by several artists, because we’d already spoken to them or even collaborated with them. That definitely helped.
PAN M 360: What’s the biggest challenge in creating an album with so many collaborations?
CHARLES COZY: The biggest challenge was that we had dates and deadlines to meet on our side. From the moment an artist agrees to collaborate with us, we’re waiting for their verse(s). For half the artists on Beaucoup, we were able to be with them in the studio, so it was easy for them. For the rest, we either couldn’t get together because of the pandemic or because they simply weren’t in Quebec. For example, Gabe ‘Nandez and Illa J are American. It was sometimes difficult to get the verses. They tell you they’ll send you their part in a week’s time, but it ends up taking several months to get the whole thing. That’s really the challenge with a project like this. There are about 18 artists on our project, which is a lot. Sometimes we have to go through the managers rather than the artists directly, which makes the whole thing even more complex. Otherwise, it’s also a challenge to make tracks that appeal as much to the artists as they do to us. I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved – there’s a lot of work behind it.
FRUITS: There was a lot of managing to do, from coordinating our schedules with those of the artists to producing and promoting our album. Fortunately, we were able to count on the best record company in the business to support us throughout the process.
PAN M 360: Which of the eleven tracks on Beaucoup are you most proud of?
CHARLES COZY: For me, it’s Kiss you right with falcxne. My favourite artists are Erykah Badu & D’Angelo, and this is a song that’s kind of in that style. It’s very soulful. falcxne is a guy I went to high school with in Toronto. He’s younger than me, and I had the chance to run into him again in Montreal a few years later.
One day, we went into the studio with Pops & Poolboy, two musicians from Clay and Friends, and created the music for “Kiss you right”. It’s probably one of the songs closest to my heart and musical tastes. We decided to send it to falcxne and I was so happy when he sent back his vocal track.
There’s also the track with Eman and KNLO that I’m really proud of. They’re rappers I really like and it’s always been a dream of mine to have a track with them. It’s something I’m very proud of. Both of them were really nice, they came all the way from Quebec City to join us at our studio. It was great.
FRUITS: The song with falcxne is the one I’m most proud of too. If I had to name another one, it would definitely be the one with Mike Clay and Kallitechnis, simply because there are so many people involved in the production. I think it’s the one where we did the best job. The track is well put together, the bass line is solid, the drums are crisp and the harmonies are good. I think the lyrics are catchy and everything is really good. We had Mike and Kalli in the studio at the same time. It was really good to see them working together and to be able to observe the creation of the track.
CHARLES COZY: You can hear in “You can have it all” that both sing the chorus at the same time in the studio. It’s great to have been able to do that, and it makes the whole thing even better. In fact, that’s what we’re most proud of, producing a project and not just acting as beatmakers. I think there’s a distinction to be made between the two. When you’re a beatmaker, you create an instrumental on your own, whereas when you produce, you’re in charge of all the creative stages. You try to put the best elements together to create the best tracks. You have to be able to find the artists who are going to take your art to the next level.
PAN M 360: As a producer, what’s the best feeling you get when you’re creating?
FRUITS: Personally, the best feeling is when we’re in the studio and the artist nails the verse perfectly on the first try. When everything is perfectly in tune with the production, the feeling is indescribable.
CHARLES COZY: Oh yeah, definitely. If not, it’s probably when the rapper looks at you in the studio and you realize that this recording is the one. There’s also the moment when you finish a track and listen to it seven or eight times in a row in your car. That’s when your track comes to life and you realize what you’ve created. You feel so good.
It’s also an incredible feeling that our project is finally available. We’ve listened to it over and over again over the last few years to perfect it, and it’s like bringing a long-awaited child into the world. It’s great to finally be able to weigh in on play on online listening platforms and share it with the public.
PAN M 360: What’s next for Or Bleu?
CHARLES COZY: With this first project, we wanted to “put ourselves on the map” as a producer duo. What we want to do next is get artists to contact us and produce for them. We want to work with as many people as possible and explore different styles. We’re definitely going to make a second album, and we’re going to start on that right away. We’ve been very focused on getting our album out, and it’s been a long time since we’ve been in the studio together to create. We’re certainly looking forward to getting back out there. Also, we’re going to be doing some shows, so we’ll be able to tour a bit with our project!
FRUITS: We’ve already talked about the second project, and we’d like to collaborate with European artists. It’s one of our goals to have French, Belgian or other rappers and artists on our next project.
PAN M 360: You mentioned that you wanted to broaden your horizons and work with European artists. Do you already have any names in mind?
CHARLES COZY: Right now, I’d love to do a collaboration with Swiss rapper Makala. We’re big fans of French-language rap, and the Swiss are gaining in popularity. We listen to a lot of Swiss artists.
FRUITS: That would be along the same lines as Charles. I’d love to work with Gracy Hopkins, an artist who works with Makala. Over the years, he’s become one of my favourite rappers. If we can have Makala and Gracy Hopkins on the second Or Bleu project, it wouldn’t be a problem at all!
Photo credit : Louis Robitaille