5 Montreal-Based Musicians You Need To Know


These were some of the standouts from last month’s M for Montreal festival

Fun fact: Arcade Fire, despite all the attention they’ve brought the Montreal scene, aren’t originally from Quebec. Then again, as I learned during M For Montreal, a festival celebrating the city’s varied musical output, many artists specifically move to the city to pursue their craft, making the creative scene something of a musical melting pot.

“Not only is there so much support for artists from the Canadian government, but it’s also so easy to get by that musicians don’t have the same kind of financial stresses,” reasons Brigitte Naggar, who performs folk under the name Common Holly. “I think the artistry can remain and flourish. Montreal’s musical economy and lifestyle, it helps the positive outlook. It’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself to just pursue music. If there’s a way to do it and not be scared of whether or not you’re going to eat tomorrow, it’s a pretty amazing lifestyle.”

It’s true. The city has a deep pool of talent. Enough that, after four days of shows, it became clear this list could have been written a half dozen times over. But never the less, we persist. From broken-hearted balladeers to electronic masterminds and the band that the Bee Gees wish they could have been (fun fact: disco isn’t dead), here are our five picks for Montreal’s next big musical export.

Tess Roby is being coy. Which she immediately apologizes for. It’s just that in a time of overexposure, the 23-year-old musician-photographer is obsessed with her debut album, due out next spring, being experienced properly. Small hints slide through our conversation. The album has the same name as a street on Catalina Island, where they shot an upcoming video. Coincidently, she also found a golf range in the California desert with the name of one of her songs stamped on them. (Roby believes we receive signs we’re on the right path—so this was a big one.) But ultimately, her initial foray into hazy electro-pop owes less to the cosmos and more to boredom.

“I was in a band called She Divides as the frontwoman for two or three years,” Roby says. “I was writing the songs. Guitar-based with drums. While I was in that band, I was feeling a bit stunted. I just felt that in order to break through that, I needed to work as a solo artist. I had always written songs on my own. So, I thought, Why not try?

To date, Roby has two tracks online. The melancholy “Ballad 5” and sparse, vocal-free B-side “Glimpse.” Both have a darkly lit, neon quality to them—think: halfway between the film Drive and every late-night excursion you’ve ever taken. The vibe was enough to impress tastemaking electro-pop label Italians Do It Better, home to like-minded acts Chromatics and Glass Candy.

“Johnny Jewel found one of my songs on SoundCloud, actually,” Roby reveals. “What else was happening in the universe that day? It’s crazy that could happen.”

Photo courtesy of Balenciaga / Photo via @McDonaldsSverige Instagram

I'm cackling

Last year, Balenciaga released bright red square-toed mules which bore a striking resemblance to McDonald's french fry cartons. Now, the chain has fired back at the designer, threatening to release its own version of the shoes.

McDonald's Sweden posted a photo to its Instagram of a person wearing actual McDonald's fry cartons as shoes, and honestly, if there weren't yellow M's printed onto them, I'd have a hard time distinguishing them from the Balenciagas from a distance. Though the post doesn't directly reference the Balenciaga shoes, one can only assume that's who they are trolling.

McDonald's version actually makes for some pretty fly slip-ons, if you ask me. Good thing the Swedish branch of Mickey D's seems to be considering releasing the shoes if the post receives enough attention. The caption of the Instagram post translates to, "If we get 103042 likes we release these for real," though it only has about 17,000 as of publish time. These would likely cost much less than the Balenciaga shoes, which cost $545.

Internet, do your thing. I want a pair.



Photo by Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images.

It marks her third duet with Nas

Here are some words that I never expected to read or hear again: There is a new song with Amy Winehouse. But here we are in 2019, and Salaam Remi has granted me a wish. On Valentine's Day, the Grammy-nominated producer and frequent Winehouse collaborator (also responsible for hits like Miguel's "Come Through & Chill") released "Find My Love" which features rapper Nas and that powerful and haunting voice that I have come to love and cherish so dearly.

Representatives for Remi said that the Winehouse vocals were from an old jam session the two had. Remi was a producer on both of Winehouse's albums, Frank and Back to Black. "Find My Love" marks the third time Winehouse and Nas have done duets under the direction of Remi. They were previously heard together on "Like Smoke," a single from her 2011 posthumous album Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures, and "Cherry Wine" from Nas' 2012 album Life Is Good. Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011, before they could complete production on her third album. My heart is still broken about it as she is by far my favorite artist.

"Find My Love" is set to appear on Remi's Do It for the Culture 2, a collection of songs curated by him. Check it out, below.