POP Montréal | Gayance Is On A Roll

Interview by Fabrice Beaucourt

Additional Information

Short-listed for the Prix Polaris 2023, Gayance, aka Aisha Vertus, launched Mascarade last March with the results we all know. Recently relocated to Amsterdam, the Montrealer continues her transhumance which has taken her regularly to Europe and Brazil. But given the recent celebrations surrounding the Polaris Prize, where she put in a solid performance, and Pop Montreal, where she performs this Sunday, a stay in the country was imperative, in order to reap the rewards of her increasingly inspired work. Needless to say, an interview was in order too! Here’s our interview with our very own Aisha Vertus, whose Gayance project is on a roll.

PAN M 360: How did this new cycle get started?

Aisha Vertus: In 2020, there was the pandemic. I was in Brazil, living in the Vila Magdalena district of Sao Paulo. I didn’t want to come back! But I came back to Quebec. I did research on TV shows, curated exhibitions and was really busy doing all kinds of things. Then in parallel, my way of getting everything out of my emotions was to make music.

I started the Masquerade album in November 2020 without really knowing I was starting something bigger, the EP came out a year later, in October 2021, No Toning Down which was a kind of sketch.

PAN M 360: What’s your gear like in the studio?

Aisha Vertus: Ableton, MK3 and Arturia Minilab. I made the demo in my apartment at Parc-Ex, which then gradually transformed. At the PHI residency in Sainte-Adèle, musicians came to accompany me and play the demos I’d imagined at home, and we added the blues and rock side. I completed the project in Amsterdam. I wanted to take it as far as possible, so we made a short film directed by Maëlys Poir le Sort. We went all the way to the Young Directors Awards in Cannes.

PAN M 360: After the pandemic, did you start travelling again?

Aisha Vertus: Oh yes. Spring came and I started touring Europe a lot. I was going back and forth a lot, so it started to get really intense. One month in Europe, one month here, one month in Europe, one month here. Finally, at the end of my European tour, everything was lined up, I got a job in a record store in Amsterdam, and I also found a teaching load at The School to teach DJing. I soon settled in Amsterdam. I understand Dutch better and better, and I have friends from Surinam and Morocco.

PAN M 360: In music, how have the branches of your tree grown?

Aisha Vertus: As a DJ, I don’t consider genres the way a musician might. For me, a style is really a colour, a mood that certain genres can bring. In this way, I really tried to play with styles in the album, to tell a story.

PAN M 360: Any examples?

Aisha Vertus: Lord Have Mercy is a really cheesy, R&B song about a naughty little story that happened in Berlin. I didn’t want to do it the way they do it in Berlin, i.e. with techno. I wanted a more languorous mood, so I opted for R&B. Masquerade, the title track, is a song with a certain sense of protest. There’s a certain sadness too, so why not the blues?

Moon Rising is also a celebration of the self. It’s about rebirth and transformation. So I thought, why not house?

PAN M 360: The stylistic colours are varied, then. Not really Haitian music, like your parents’?

Aisha Vertus: Not really, not so much. Hip-hop is an influence, but I’d say there’s a lot of electronic music in my work. That’s the basis. You could say English broken beat from West London, UK Garage, footwork from Chicago, afro-tech too. I really wanted to touch all these strings of electronic music. Even when I mix a lot of broken beats, I mix a lot of very New York house, soulful and all that. And yes, I really like British music, having recently hooked up with musicians from Ko Ko Ko, Ezra Collective and guitarist Oscar Jerome, with whom I’ve done shows in Europe.

PAN M 360: Great! Bravo, keep up the good work and enjoy the show at Pop MTL!

Aisha Vertus: Thanks!

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