About returning to SXSW and the inability to find acid in Montreal.
Montreal’s Arbutus scene hasn’t ceased expelling prodigiously talented, idiosyncratic pop acts over the past couple of years; it has just taken some of them a little while longer to get here than Grimes. I got an instant crush on Mozart’s Sister, Caila Thompson-Hannant’s skewed pop at SXSW last year when it was just the lady herself and a boombox on the floor. By Pop Montreal in September she had added a bassist, a table to put her synths on and had considerably upped her production game. Last month Thompson-Hannant’s debut EP, aptly named Hello, came out on Merok and she played a launch show at the Shacklewell Arms. While here she also spent time in the studio on her first record so it seemed an ideal occasion to see how she was feeling about her journey so far.
So after a year with it, is Mozart’s Sister something you still feel is going to be a really long lasting project?
Definitely. I want to it to be the thing that leads my life. I want to do music my whole life, and this feels like it’s just the beginning.
Which area do you feel you’ve progressed in most as an artist?
I tried to balance between what comes really naturally, which is emotion and honesty and digging really deep with my voice, and being someone that wants to make really sonically well composed music. I’m a producer now. People see me as a singer, but I spend way more time on production than I would on singing or even writing now.
What was it like working in a real recording studio on your first album?
The first few days I was a little nervous because I felt like I needed to know exactly what I was doing all the time, but it's not like checking off a list. I learned a lot. I feel way more in possession of my own powers after that experience.
Are you going to keep expanding the live show as you gather material?
Yes, I’ve already added a singer. I want to make it a very vocal heavy show but I also always wanted to make it a dance party. I'm constantly looking for new ways to open things up and let things be a little looser live.
Do you feel the EP is a closed first chapter now and the LP is a totally new beginning?
The EP is somewhat closed because the songs are from a time in my life that is over, but I am not closing it off aesthetically. The first stuff of any project is always really special. However clumsy or confused or poorly recorded, it’s the energy of the genesis that draws you in.
When we spoke in Montreal we talked about how much more chilled out people seem. Even at parties at 2am, no one is really that drunk. Have you found London to be as grossly inebriated on this trip?
You know, I went out twice during the whole five week trip this time so I don't feel totally qualified to answer that from this visit, but from last time, London is more an 8am place. That happens in Montreal, but there’s less of a drug culture. Sometimes you’re looking for certain drugs and you can’t find it. I wanted to do acid so bad there and I just couldn’t find it.
That’s got to be better for actually creating work though.
Totally and I think the scene, the Arbutus scene, is populated by artists, so they’re all contributing as well as partying. You need to be, not even necessarily clear headed, but your work needs to be afforded time and some sort of openness, so you’re not thinking about the night before.
And not feeling paranoid or bummed out.
Yeah, not bummed out and not hung over. It’s really hard to make music when you’re hung over, so the party scene is populated by people who are focusing a lot and like to get really wasted once in a while. It’s not that cool to get wasted in Montreal, especially drinking.
Well, it’s not that cool anywhere, it just happens a lot more here. Finally, how are you feeling about heading back out to SXSW again? Any pressure?
No pressure. I think it will be way more fun than last year when I was alone a lot and didn't really have a solid place to sleep. I'm ready to have a crew with me for company and support.
Mozart’s Sister ‘s Hello EP is out on Merok / Arbutus.