Canadian Musician - January / February - Page 41

discussion on that this time. We had to explore these themes together, and then each sit with it for awhile before coming to a consensus.” It’s understandable that the musical and lyrical evolution between Good Clean Fun! and Ms. Behave has the latter sitting a bit closer to their collective heart. “We’re much closer now as humans and artists,” Normand says, “and because of that, we could be more vulnerable with each other, and the music kind of opens to that, too.” “We all have really weird influences and backgrounds, and we put those to work.” STACEY KAY Eh440 A Cappella on Overdrive When Stacey Kay was first approached to join what would become Eh440, she didn’t necessarily jump at the chance. “To be honest, I thought in my head, ‘This is lame,’” she admits with a hearty laugh. “I mean, I pictured Pitch Perfect and men in a barbershop, and didn’t realize there’s just so much more that this could be.” What it ended up being is a five-member vocal group – Kay, Janet Turner, and Tafari Anthony alternating between lead and backing vocals and the rhythm section of beatboxer Luke Stapleton and bass vocalist Joe Oliva – that incorporates countless styles, eras, and influences into a unique sonic cocktail all their own. Their debut album, 2016’s Boss Level, showcases the wide spectrum of those indi- vidual components “Joe always says we’re five singers that have no business singing together,” laughs Kay – and make no mistake, that’s exactly what makes Eh440 such a standout act. Turner and Oliva were once mem- bers of a “traditional” a cappella group and were looking to push their creative boundaries. Through some existing connections and some pure serendipity, they put the pieces together and were soon a quin- tet creating a one-of-a-kind musical mosaic – all with just their voices and a few effects for good measure. “When people ask me about my influences, I’m like, ‘Tom Wait s and Busta Rhymes,’ which doesn’t make sense at all, but that’s been really helpful,” Kay reveals. “We all have really weird influences and backgrounds, and we put those to work.” Boss Level’s title track showcases the success of their union in spades. One would be hard-pressed to discern the all-vocal track from a slick new Black Eyed Peas production. What starts as an EDM-inspired rhythm track with a monstrously hooky vocal chorus soon kicks into Kay spitting some absolute fire on a super-speedy, syncopated rap that would put some of the genre’s pioneers to shame. Follow that with a massive dubstep breakdown and you’ve got a bona-fide banger. The slick production quality is the product of a few technolog- ical assists – for example, Oliva drops down an octave thanks to an effects pedal – but the source material is always a human voice, and the arrangements are incredibly imaginative. Considering the unique nature of the band, Eh440’s songwriting style is subsequently one-of-a-kind. In some cases, a lead vocalist might have a basic song idea and will ask Stapleton to lay down a beat into his iPhone – “essentially a karaoke track,” Kay offers. “And then I’ll take that and start writing on top of it.” In other cases, they’ll just be goofing around with melodies – or, in Stapleton’s case, a beat – that might catch someone else’s ear. “I mean, I know I can’t think of a beat that’s as cool as something Luke might come up with, so I can always give him ideas, but we really want to get everyone’s best individual ideas to the table, and then we’ll rely on each other to bring an arrangement together.” When it came time to choose a producer for Boss Level, Eh440 used the same approach they did when putting the band together in the first place. “We thought, ‘We’re weird, so we need someone that works with weird,’” Kay offers, and it turns out Hill Kourkoutis knows weird. Throughout her career, the multi-instrumentalist has performed with the likes of Serena Ryder, The Weeknd, Martha and the Muffins, and The Cliks. “She was right in the middle, where she accepted the weirdness, but also knew when to pull us back if it’d be something really cool in the end,” Kay continues. “She always knew what my sound effect was. I’d have to act things out because I don’t know how to musically say it sometimes, and she picked up on that. It was just perfect – having somebody that could understand this crazy language that we have.” They’re really only limited to what they can do with their natural instruments, and as the breadth of material covered on Boss Level makes clear, that means there are virtually no limits to their creativity at all. Andrew King is the Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Musician. C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N • 41