Montreal’s Homeshake On R&B Influences, Songwriting and Anxiety

Peter Sagar makes ambient R&B that’s so chilled, it’s hard to believe it comes from someone who experiences any sort of anxiety. Indeed, it’s rattling to uproot one’s life and move away from the comforts of home — Edmonton-born musician Sagar is currently based in Montreal, and spent a number of years in between as the touring guitarist for Mac DeMarco. Thankfully, though, for anyone who’s listened to his music, the deft songwriter has been channeling the nervous energy into his art. Recording under the name Homeshake, Sagar released two full-length albums (2014’s In The Shower and 2015’s Midnight Snack) to widespread acclaim for their bedroom vibes and slinky production. Now, on his newest effort, Fresh Air, Sagar has found himself more settled and soothed than ever, delivering a honeyed collection of songs that are relatable, poetic, and, of course, incredibly easy on the ears.

Listen To Homeshake As You Read Along >

YOU’VE CITED SADE AND PRINCE AS INSPIRATION. DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST ARTIST THAT REALLY GOT YOU HOOKED ONTO R&B? It would actually probably be Sade. My dad had this mixtape that had “Hang On To Your Love” on it and it would play all the time when we were driving around. I don’t know why, that song just sort of stuck in my head. And I really didn’t like most of the songs on the mixtape I don’t think, and I remember thinking that I was surprised that I liked it because, I don’t know, I was probably listening to Limp Bizkit or something at the time. And it was just so good and undeniable.

SHE HAS THIS AMAZING, INTOXICATING VOICE. Yeah. I mean, I don’t know what it was exactly, but now I’m pretty convinced that she has invented love. And we all have to thank her every day.

YOU’VE OFTEN SAID THAT FRESH AIR FEELS LIKE PART OF A TRILOGY. WHAT STORY ARE YOU TELLING AND WHAT IS THIS PARTICULAR CHAPTER ABOUT? Everything I write is fairly introspective, so [it was] just the third part in that story since I moved away from home. I don’t know. I spend a lot of time on the road and then I stop doing that and then I have a lot of anxiety and stuff. But, for Fresh Air, I guess feel like I found more balance or something. It’s all a little calmer and clearer.

WHAT KIND OF HEADSPACE ARE YOU GENERALLY IN WHEN WRITING AND COMPOSING? Work. I feel fully driven to work really hard, actually. I would post myself up in my recording space at home and try to write at least one song everyday for weeks, maybe a couple months. And I was just trying to get enough songs that I could cut ones that I wouldn’t be pleased with later — because usually I just make an amount of songs and then record them and then later I’m like, ‘nah, that shouldn’t have been there.’ And I guess I still feel that way — there’s no really avoiding that. It’s kind of the only time I really feel like working. The only work I really like. I get pretty serious about it.

SETTING ASIDE TIME TO WRITE OUT YOUR FEELINGS AND ANXIETIES CAN REALLY BE THERAPEUTIC. DID YOU FIND THAT HELPED YOU, IN YOUR PROCESS? Yeah, that certainly takes your mind off whatever — well, it helped me take my mind off whatever trivial thing I was worried about. I don’t know, dumb shit like that. [It was] calming and a good escape, and then after you start working and I found myself more of a functioning person. You know — you got a problem, write it out. You can feel it out into the song and then feel better.

YOUR BIO DESCRIBES FRESH AIR AS BEING CREATED TO CLEAR YOUR LISTENER’S MIND OF NEGATIVITY. I think I wrote that after I made the album. I wasn’t considering it at all. [laughs] They just ask for little blurbs and stuff on your record. My music is not so thought of in advance. I find, for each album, I’ll make it and I’ll be surprised afterwards at an overarching theme that I did without really thinking about it. And, for this one, the same thing happened at the end of the album, but then also it fit into an arc, in my mind, with the other ones. And that’s sort of where it fit in — going from the most anxious to the least anxious. The most stressed out and worried about everything to not really worried at all and feeling pretty nice. It’d be really nice to help other people with their problems. It’s the best thing I can hope for.

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IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR ALBUM THAT DOES THAT FOR YOU? All of them, probably. That’s why I listen to music. I can’t have it not on. I get really nervous when there’s silence in the room or something, whether I’m alone or with people. It’s probably a pretty bad habit, actually. When I was a little kid, I couldn’t fall asleep unless there was music on. I can’t remember how I stopped doing that, I don’t do that anymore. I feel like the first album that did that to me was probably Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis, when I was, like, 14. I listened to it every night for at least a year. It calmed me down.

DANCE IS ALSO A CREATIVE OUTLET THAT CAN CLEAR YOUR HEAD. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO USE DANCERS WEN-HAO CHANG AND HAN NING IN YOUR MUSIC VIDEO FOR “EVERY SINGLE THING” AND HOW DO THEY ILLUSTRATE THE SONG’S NARRATIVE? They did such a good job, it’s crazy how good it is. I feel so lucky to have a video that good, I was really blown away when I watched it. But, yeah, they really captured the mood with the tension between the two of them. Good actors, as well as dancers. And the dog is so cute. I sent her [Han Ning] some t-shirts and a record and stuff, and she wanted a t-shirt just for the dog, so hopefully the [size] small will fit the tiny dog.

WILL YOU WORK TOGETHER AGAIN? Yeah, sure. They’re so great. I always had the idea that I would love to have dancers onstage, but that’s a whole other thing. Salina, my partner, she really wanted to do that, but she didn’t know who else to dance with.

YOU COULD HAVE BOTH DANCERS AND THE DOG — EVERYBODY ONSTAGE TOGETHER. Oh, yeah. [laughs] I’d love to get that dog onstage.

homeshake.bandcamp.com

By Yasmine Shemesh

This interview has been edited and condensed.  

On Repeat: Meet Montreal’s Ryan Playound

Full confession: we’re kind of obsessing over Ryan Playground. She’s a musician who is doing things differently, taking complete control of her creative output and vision, and is straight-up one of the coolest women we love right now. Not only is she a singer, songwriter and producer (aka the holy trinity) but this rad woman also has strong ties to the fashion industry. She has modeled for Vera Wang, ELLE and Rudsak and created her own capsule collection. Featuring two t-shirts that read “Jeune Pour Toujours”, which translates to “Young Forever”, the collection is simple but perfectly reflects Ryan’s easy going approach. As such, living and working in Montreal as an artist seems like the way to go. The city’s arts community works closely together and they always have each other’s backs. By surrounding herself with like minds, Ryan is constantly inspired and pushed to new creative levels. Her signature sound of crisp drum sounds, loud bass and soft airy vocals, will get you moving to the tempo in a matter of seconds. Here, we chat with her about music, inspiration, Montreal and of course style.

Listen To Ryan Playground While You Read Along >

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Photo by Scott Pilgrim

HOW DID YOU GET INTO MUSIC? I was into music at a really young age. Both of my parents are classical musicians so I’ve always been surrounded by music. Everything started for me when I got my first guitar and mini drum kit when I was five!

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT BEING AN ARTIST? I feel I’m free to do whatever. Like there’s no real convention or way to do music, every musician has the freedom to reinterpret music and find his own way of doing it. It’s super relieving somehow but it also can be kind of weird because it’s limitless and having no boundaries can bring a feeling of insecurity.

WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS? It really depends. It depends on the place and the time I start to create something. I usually start by messing around with my guitar or my bass then I add drums and finally vocals. But then if I’m on the bus for example, the process will be different. I will maybe start with drums or maybe I’ll try to create a specific texture or whatever or simply write lyrics or ideas that will bring me to the next step.

WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR BIGGEST MUSICAL INFLUENCES? My biggest influences are the bands I used to listen to when I was a kid. I’m talking about Blink 182, Sum 41, Billy Talent and Hawthorne Heights, for example. I also have a soft spot for A$AP ROCKY.

ANY ARTISTS IN PARTICULAR YOU LOVE WORKING WITH? I definitely enjoy working with my friends Robert Robert, Thomas White and Ryan Hemsworth. I mostly work alone, but I easily connect musically with these people and it’s a lot of fun to share music with them as well.    

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Photo by Scott Pilgrim

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT LIVING IN MONTREAL? I love the peaceful vibe in Montreal, although it can be a little too slow sometimes. When I come back from cities like New York I realize how cool and chill Montreal is, but at the same time I have the urge to be more productive. Montreal will always be my favorite city though mainly because I feel free and inspired and it’s a very easy going city.

Psst… Ryan reveals some insider scoop on Montreal. Find it here>

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD? I live near the Jean-Talon Market and Parc Jarry. It’s a very fun and quiet neighborhood, there’s everything you need around here really and it’s beautiful. It’s fun to just walk around and I actually quite like doing groceries and Marché Jean-Talon makes it easy and fun. There’s also this Italian grocery store called Milano that I love.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PLACE TO PERFORM IN MONTREAL? I think École Privée because the sound system is amazing and it’s something really important for me to enjoy a performance. Both times I’ve played there the crowd was super into it too.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE? Quite simple, too big for me and a little bit colorful.

WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO OUTFIT? Black loose straight pants, t-shirt (it really can be anything, one of my favorite one is a vacuum company t-shirt), white socks and a color baseball cap.

TELL US SOMETHING NOT MANY PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT YOU? I’m really good with numbers and math in general.

Bonus: Ryan put together a Soundcloud playlist for us with some of her fave songs.

TRACK LIST 

“Changes” – Antonio Williams & Kerry Mccoy
“Ohio is for Lovers” – Hawthorne Heights
“Your Best American Girl” – Mitski
“What’s My Age Again” – Blink 182
“Don’t Give Me Grapes” – Happy Doghouse
“I Hear You Calling” – Gob
“Handle This” – Sum 41
“Responsibility” – MxPx
“Delete Me” – Posture & The Grizzly
“Hear You Me” – Jimmy Eat World
 

The Insiders’ Guide To Montreal

Montreal is renowned for its energy, creativity and eccentricity. As the longstanding home of a tight-knit community of talented artists and designers, the city is cultured, diverse and boasts travel-friendly regulations, like enjoying wine in the park as long as you have a food pairing. Plus, as one of the only French speaking cities in North America, it offers up something truly special. It’s easy to feel like you’ve jumped the ocean over to Europe when strolling Old Montreal on the winding cobblestone streets. Whether you decide to visit during a blistering-hot summer or below-freezing winter, this city will not leave you hanging with things to do. But before you pack your bags, we asked some of our local fashion friends for the lowdown on where to find the best eats, drinks and live music, plus their personal seasonal survival tactics. 

 

WHERE TO EAT

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Photo by @labanquise_resto

There is no shortage of amazing restaurants in Montreal, but what we really do right is diners, greasy spoons and lunch counters,” says Davis Guay designer of Cartel Footwear. “Nothing feels more Montreal than having a poutine and Pepsi sitting at the counter of a greasy joint.”

Boutique Unicorn‘s Zola Martin-Lim also swears by the city’s poutine. She recommends La Banquise (above) which is open 24/7, bonus! 

La Banquise, 994 Rue Rachel E

Montreal musician Ryan Playground hits up Rotisserie St-Hubert for hands-down the best chicken. With locations in almost every part of the city, it’s a Montreal classic.

Rotisserie St-Hubert, 6355 rue St-Hubert, Montréal, QC

The Stowe’s designer Molly Spittal feels most at home with casual-fine-dining. “I like to be able to show up in jeans and a t-shirt but be able to expect a meal you’ll talk about later. I highly recommend Agrikol, which is a Haitian restaurant with an unbelievable menu and cocktails.”

Agrikol, 1844 Rue Amherst

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Photo by Satay Brothers

It’s easy to find food from a variety of cultures in Montreal. Caroline Pham, designer of Ora-C, swears by one of her favorite restaurants Satay Brothers (above). “It serves South East Asian cuisine, owned by two brothers from Singapore. Beautiful, cheap food, always packed.”

Satay Brothers, 3721 Notre Dame Ouest

“I love Dinette Triple Crown (southern style food like fried chicken, ribs etc., comfort food) for dinners and Chez Buvette for the best Greek salad,” reveals designer Eliza Faulkner. She is also really into Dépanneur Le Pick-Up (below) for lunch. “Their Halloumi sandwich is the best.” 

Chez Buvette, 4869 Av du Parc

Dépanneaur Le Pick-Up, 7032 Rue Waverly

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Photo by Dépanneur Le Pick Up

“I don’t eat meat so my choices in Montreal are a little limiting,”explains Mérida Anderson the multidisciplinary artist behind jewelry line YYY. “But there are some standbys like Jardin du Cari on St. Laurent run by a couple that makes the best roti I have EVER eaten.”  

Jardin du Cari, 5554, boul Saint-Laurent

The ladies at The Sleep Shirt gave us their go-to brunch spots. “As sleepwear enthusiasts, we love a good brunch. Le Vieux Vélo and Sparrow serve some of our favorites.” Find delicious buckwheat pancakes and any kind of fresh pressed juice imaginable at Sparrow.

Le Vieux Vélo, 59 Rue Beaubien E

Sparrow, 5322 Boul St-Laurent

“We see so many tourists doing foodie trips to Montreal and just spend the whole time eating. Montreal has the second most restaurants per capita after New York.” Well said, Alex Danio, owner of the rad shop Rooney.

WHERE TO DRINK

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Photo by Mariel Rosenbluth

“For fun drinks I’d recommend this speakeasy Tiki bar in Chinatown called Le Mal Nécessaire (above),” Caroline says. You can spot the place by its famous neon pineapple sign and once you’re inside you’ll be sipping on delicious drinks served in a pineapple. Need more? Caroline continues: “Kazu, Loic, Tacos Frida, Junior, Big in Japan, and Harricana.”

Le Mal Nécessaire, 1106 B Boulevard Saint-Laurent

Kazu, 1862 Rue Sainte-Catherine O

Loïc, 5001 Rue Notre-Dame O

Tacos Frida, 4412 Rue Notre-Dame O

Junior, 1964 Rue Notre-Dame O

Big in Japan, 4175 Boul St-Laurent

Brasserie Harricana, 95 Rue Jean-Talon Ouest

Eliza has faith in two bars: “Best drinks are at No Name bar on Avenue du Parc, or Bar Henrietta on Laurier.” Known for amazing cocktails and delicious eats, Bar Henrietta (below) is the perfect spot for post work relaxation on the lovely terrace. 

Bar Henrietta, 115 Avenue Laurier O

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Photo by @barhenriettamtl

Molly doesn’t have to go far when happy hour hits. “I’m a sucker for a dive bar. My favorite neighborhood pub is Idee Fixe, a local hangout in the Mile End. I guess it doesn’t hurt that it’s right around the corner from my apartment.”

Le Petite Idée Fixe, 4857 Av du Parc

Ryan gives us insight on where to go for both the best alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks: “For non-alcoholic I love L2 Lounge and for alcoholic Suwu is the place to go.”

L2 Lounge, 71 Rue de la Gauchetière O

Suwu, 3581 Boul St-Laurent

WHERE TO CATCH A LIVE SHOW

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Photo by Yanick Grandmont

“On any given day, you can pop into Casa Del Popolo, check out their monthly calendar and see a handful of bands you’d likely recognize,” Molly recommends. “They’re a great little venue that’s always got a show going on. There’s also these tiny little venues that feel more like someone’s living room. These venues fill up their calendar with local talent and it’s always really fun and really intimate.” Caroline also loves Casa Del Popolo and adds Vitrola and La Sala Rossa to her list of classics. 

Casa Del Popolo, 4873 Boul St-Laurent

La Vitrola, 4602 Boul St-Laurent

La Sala Rossa, 4848 Boul St-Laurent

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Photo by Yanick Grandmont

Intimate venue Divan Orange (above) is Alex’s go-to when in need for some live music. The small space is a great way to discover under-the-radar bands and experimental DJs. It is one of those places that turns from a chill hangout pub to a hardcore dance party in a matter of minutes.

Divan Orange, 4234 Boul St-Laurent

Davis loves the venue Turbo Haüs in Saint Henri which hosts all kinds of events, from spoken seminars for alternative businesses to punk rock shows. “Coupled with a great bar downstairs and perfect decor, this is an easy win.”

Turbo Haüs, 5011 Rue Notre-Dame O

SUMMER VS. WINTER

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Photo by Lauren B

“Summer in Montreal is a special thing, tons of street festivals, lots of music, comedy, and excuses to get out of the house. To experience a real Montreal summer day just walk out your door without expectations and you’ll find what you’re looking for,” says Davis.

The summer can bring seriously hot temperatures… like stick to your seat hot, but according to Molly there is a simple solution: “Head to one of the local pools (my favorite is Piscine Laurier (above) at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park) to cool off from the extreme heat we get here in the summer months.” Afterwards hitting up any local park for a BBQ is ideal. FYI: “Drinking in public is allowed here as long as you have something to eat. It’s called the picnic law,” explains Caroline. 

Piscine Laurier, 5200 Rue de Brébeuf

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Photo by Benoit Rousseau, Montreal International Jazz Festival

The summer is really the best time to visit because Montreal has so many of the best festivals like the International Jazz Festival or Just for Laughs to name a few,” says Alex. Osheaga, the Mural festival and the Beer Festival are Zola’s musts. 

International Jazz Festival, Quartier des spectacles

Osheaga, Parc Jean-Drapeau

Mural FestivalBoul St-Laurent

Beer Festival, 2236 Rue Beaubien E

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Photo by @inayali

In winter, Montreal has many exterior skating rinks with great views like Lac aux Castors on Mont Royal (above), Parc Lafontaine and in the Old Montreal where they all rent ice skates,” says Zola. However, others prefer using the cold winters to stay inside. Caroline loves to “catch up on old movies at various movie nights hosted by small local venues.”

Lac aux Castors, Mont Royal

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Photo by Marie-Reine Mattera

A spa day is another way to spend a cold winter day. “I like driving to the eastern townships and visiting one the many nordic spas,” Eliza recommends. “There’s also Bota Bota (above) in Montreal which is an old boat converted into a spa.” Hot tubs, massages, manicures and pedicures? Sign us up.

Bota Bota, Entrée McGill Coin De la Commune et McGill, Promenade du Vieux-Port

Ryan has one simply advice in order to survive winter, “Get to know Kanuk”:  a Quebec clothing brand that is known for their signature winter coats that are guaranteed to keep you warm in the crazy cold weather.

Kanuk, 485 Rue Rachel E

WHAT TO WEAR

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Photo by @boutiqueunicorn

Montrealers do it right. Layers, accessories and footwear are always very well considered,” says Davis. The ladies at The Sleep Shirt admit that Montreal “is a city that values comfort, ease, and classic vintage inspiration.”

“There is also a lot of support of local brands here, which has benefitted us in so many ways. Quebecois like to support their designers,” they continue. Merida adds, “It’s a mix of old and new, and this city loves to support its local designers.” 

HOW TO HAVE A PERFECT DAY IN MONTREAL

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Photo by @loriechater

“Perfect days in Montreal are definitely during summer! A little sunbathing on a terrace drinking a glass of tequila on ice and lime with good friends, sounds pretty dreamy right now,” Caroline says. These sunny vibes continue with Molly’s dream day: “Definitely summertime! Riding my bike with a group of friends along the canal up to Atwater Market and then carrying on to the St Ambroise Brewery (above) for some afternoon pints on their giant dog-friendly terrasse”. 

St Ambroise Brewery, 5080 Rue Saint-Ambroise

Alex agrees. “Walking around the city in the spring or summer then having an amazing dinner and good wine with friends at a restaurant with a terrasse to just soak up as much outdoor time as possible!”

Ryan explains to us that the “top of Mont-Royal when the sun comes up.” is the must see visitor spot and going up there right at that time can make any day in Montreal perfect.

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Photo by @cafeolimpico

Eliza has her perfect day down to a tee. “I’d start with coffee at Olimpico (above) in Mile End, then a walk down St. Laurent to check out the shops and stop by Eva B (amazing three-story vintage shop), lunch would be at Le Pick Up in Mile Ex where I’d have a Halloumi sandwich and then find a park to walk through. In the evening, I’d grab a picnic box from Triple Crown and have drinks and food with friends in the park… a lot revolves around food as you can see!”

Olimpico, 124 Rue Saint Viateur O

Eva B, 2015 Boul St-Laurent

Dépanneaur Le Pick-Up, 7032 Rue Waverly

Triple Crown, 6704 Rue Clark

And where to shop? We’ve got you on that front. Click here to find out.

Montreal designer Brit Wacher blends fashion with science

Brittany Wacher is one to watch in Canada’s evolving fashion landscape with her out of this world designs. Based in Montreal, Brit’s garments are influenced by the globe-trotting first few years of her career. After she graduated from university in Vancouver, she spent some time in Asia working as a stylist for various magazines. Later in Arnhem, working under Dutch designer, Pauline Van Dongen, Brit learned to refine her approach to making clothes by merging with ideas of science. The designs from her eponymous collection are a careful consideration of life’s dualities and bringing the notion of science into art. We had to find out more.

Shop Brit Wacher >

WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT TO YOU TO START YOUR OWN LABEL AS A DESIGNER? It just happened that way. I enjoy staying in and creating day after day and soon there was enough volume for collections each season. I really love what I do.

Montreal photographer Patrick Laroque on finding inspiration

We fell in love with the gorgeous imagery captured by Montreal-based photographer Patrick La Roque and were compelled to get in touch with him. He shoots portrait, editorial, commercial, and motion. Patrick’s a member of the Kage Collective and is an official Fujifilm Photographer. We felt inspired just looking at his photos. So we had to ask him where he gathers his inspiration from.

WE ASKED, HE ANSWERED: WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

Inspiration has never felt like anything tangible. I don’t do conceptual imagery and I don’t get any fully formed precognitive visions… I admire those who do, but that’s not me at all. I rarely move on a preconceived idea. I do however get very wild urges to just pick up the camera and shoot. Not necessarily because I see something, but because I HAVE to shoot – I need that rapport to the world. I long for the hunt. I strongly believe in being ready, as much as possible, for the possibility of an image. Instead of waiting around for inspiration to strike; I’ll take the camera and point it at something. Eventually this will take me somewhere, I’ll find a kind of groove no matter where I am and images will start to happen. Sometimes just a few, sometimes many.

Motivation however is a different matter… I have this visceral need to bring life at a full stop and stare at it, like a gem in a glass case — or an insect trapped in amber.

laroquephoto.com