A chat with Canada's Laroie...
Montreal’s Laroie burst onto the scene in 2020. A singer, songwriter, dancer, DJ, and modest producer, whose image is as robust as her sonics. Visually striking, her art house videos would put most Youtube clips to shame! Laroie explores themes of relationships, desires, love, queerness, and intimacy; her arresting vocal performance drawing inspo from the loved-up, sweet-tasting 90s RnB and Street Soul sounds. While her honeyed lyrics are sweet, they delivered with much sass and bags of swagger! Here we sit down with this highly engaging artist to talk about growing up in Canada, the heavy re-tweak package on her ‘Tragedy Remixed EP’, and the fact she is so terribly bad a drawing…
It’s a pleasure to talk to you, Laroie. Where are you and what are you up to today?
I’m in London right now, I’ve just moved into my friend’s apartment for the next couple weeks.
How is the view from you window? What’s going on around you?
There’s some construction around the building I’m staying in, so that's my view right now! But I am right next to London Fields which is a better view for sure!
Where is it you were you born?
I was born outside of Montreal in a small city called St-Jérome, but I grew up in Montreal.
Can you paint us a picture of where you grew up?
I grew up sharing my time between my dad and my mom. One was located downtown Montreal, near Concordia and the other one more North of the city. I went to an ‘all-girls’ high school and made some very special friends that are still part of my life.
What is it you love about Montreal living?
I’m still based in Montreal but have been travelling a lot more to London as I am on a mission to expand my music project abroad and feel a strong connection to the music scene here. I love how easy it is to be in nature and get out of the city when you live in Montreal. So many forests and lakes and open spaces where you can find a peaceful environment to charge and reconnect. I also love the strong sense of community I feel when I’m there and the underground music scene.
How is the local music scene there?
I feel like so much is going on in the music scene, especially the underground electronic scene! I wish Montreal was more aware of all the talent and unique sounds that arise from it… It seems a lot of the time, artists and music events are noticed outside of the city before actually making their way there.
Someone said recently – when they were a kid they heard their parents playing Stevie Wonder ‘ Songs In The Key Of Life’, and it changed their world. Is there an album that sticks in your mind?
I have that come to mind, which are two very different vibes, but 1st one would be Bob Marley / Could You Be Love and 2nd one is Aznavour / Best of :)
Did you know early on that you wanted to be a performer?
I’ve always loved singing and was always singing when I was younger. I participated in all the talent shows but I could never see this as an actual career. It’s only when I was at University that I started writing my first songs with a friend and that the idea of being a singer-songwriter could become reality.
Did you study Art or Music?
No, not really. When I started high school, I was part of this music school and did classical music and was taught opera, but it didn’t last long as I was attracted to soul and R&B.
What did you do straight from studies?
I wanted to be a specialised educator and work with people with disabilities. I worked during the summer at this camp outside of the city where I would take care of people, kids, adults, with intellectual disability.
Who were the artists and DJs you were into in your teens and early twenties.
The Fugees, Mary J Blige, Robyn S., Janet Jackson, Ultra Naté.
Tell us a bit about Heartstreets?
Heartstreets was the first band I was a part of when I first started making music. Emma Beko and I were this Hip-Hop/R&B duo and made music for almost 10 years together before going on our own separate ventures.
When did your career as a vocalist begin and how did it start?
It all started with Heartstreets really back in 2011…
How long has the Laroie project been going?
It’s been about 3 years now.
Singer, songwriter, dancer, producer… can you tell us about the different parts of Laroie?
Well first off, I am no producer! haha! I surround myself with very talented ones, but my main focus and passion has always been about singing and writing songs. I also take great pleasure in bringing to life my music and producing visuals to enhance the music pieces. Dancing and acting in the music videos I release directed by Maïlis have become part of my creative work.
Are you a DJ too?
I do DJ and I love it! My last gig was at the Montreal club called Système. It was actually a hybrid set as I called it because I also performed some of my original songs. I love to play dance music, house, deep house, dancehall, r&b and rep some of my Montreal artist friends and people I look up to.
You’ve been performing at festivals in Canada right?
Before coming to London, I played Osheaga festival which was really fun and exciting!
Tell us about the live set up and what it encompasses?
I have a different set up for my live set. I love playing with a band (drummer, bass, backup singers), but most of my shows I have a DJ and backup singers.
When travelling, I also have a very simple set up where it’s just me and my backing tracks. I dance a lot on stage and try to connect as much as possible with the crowd, so I find it doesn't really matter if it’s just me on stage.
What is it you enjoy about performing live?
I love sharing my music with people in a setting that can only be experienced once. There’s something so special about live gigs because it forces you to stay in the present moment. I always try to stay connected to my music in the moment I share with the audience and there’s always so much emotion on stage that it’s healing and very beautiful.
Your aesthetic is strong! The visuals are just as impressive as your music. Tell us about this storytelling side of you and why it’s important in your releases.
Thank you!! I love taking the time to make nice visuals. I don’t think it’s so much about the storytelling but to complete the creative universe around a musical piece. I find it important that it all be approached in a professional and unique way.
You’ve made a lot of incredible videos working with Mailis Roy Messard. Tell us a little about her and your relationship with her?
Maïlis and I met at the beginning of 2021 and have worked continuously on my music video since then. When we did our first video for Can’t Let Go, she hadn’t directed anything yet and we both took a leap of faith by working together and seeing where it was gonna go. It ended up being one of the best experiences of both our careers and opened up a great adventure and friendship between the two of us.
What was your first release as Laroie?
My first release was my self-titled EP Laroie that I releases August 2020.
Your sophomore record was produced by Gene Tellem. Tell us a little about that.
Gene Tellem actually produced both my Eps - Speed of Life (2nd official release) and my latest EP Tragedy. I feel so grateful that our music paths have finally crossed and how fruitful this encounter has been.
Gene and I went to high school together and when I was part of Heartstreets, it was never really a thought that came to mind to work together. When I started exploring the musical direction for Laroie, we started working together and now we can’t stop haha!
Your new drop is a remix of Tragedy. Can you fill in on original track and release?
Yes, so I’m releasing an EP of 4 remixes of original songs from my EP Tragedy. There will be a remix of my song Friend or Lover by Manuel Darquart, a remix of the focus track Tragedy by Regularfantasy, a remix of Why Don’t Ya ? by Hugo LX and finally a remix of my song confusion by Toribio.
Tragedy Remixes has a strong 90s / RnB vibe. Who are the artists who have inspired you from that era?
So many!!! I was born in the 90s and it's ingrained in me forever. But to name a few, Lauryn Hill, Janet Jackson, Madonna, Cece Peniston and more…
Your lyrics are based on true thoughts with real emotions. What are some of the themes you have covered in your songs?
This latest EP is mostly about my identity quest into finding my way to integrity. Through themes of relationships, desires, love, queerness, and intimacy, I created an EP embracing my process in finding myself again.
You have produced this EP in collaboration with Robert Robert.
Robert Robert actually worked on my EP Speed of Life and produced my first eponym EP Laroie. I love his musical style and the way he can make a song so catchy and pop, yet so niche and underground. Always love having his input on the musical pieces Gene and I create. It’s always refreshing!
The Hugo LX mix is ridiculously good. How did you hook up with Hugo and what do you feel he has brought to the track?
I have to thank Gene Tellem for putting me in contact with Hugo LX and for making me discover his music and talent as a producer! I feel so grateful he wanted to be part of the project and I love his take on the original song. I feel like his remix could have been the original song too in a weird way! I’m really glad we met and I am excited to collaborate with him on more music!
You’ve got another rising star remixing - Manuel Darquart. How did he come to your attention?
I knew of Wolf Music which I know Manuel has been releasing music through, but again, Gene Tellem is the key to these amazing new collaborations! It was always a gamble as I reached out to different producers and didn’t know if the person would be interested or if I would hear back from them, but I’m really happy Manuel was keen to work with me on this remix!
Are there some other artists you’d be keen to collaborate with?
For sure! Would love to work with artists like Erika de Casier, Korea Town Acid, Sassy 009, ML Buch, Caroline Polacheck, Ama Lou and more!
What else are you working on that you can share?
I am slowly starting to work on my debut album which I’m really excited about!
Are there plans for you to tour in Europe?
I did a first little UK tour back in April and March, but I definitely want to play more shows in Europe and will actually be playing my first gig on Sept. 12 in Paris at the vinyl shop ‘Balades Sonores’.
Where you’re not making music and videos, what might we find you doing to kick back?
I love to spend time with my friends and family and enjoy quality time in nature! Yoga, books, movies, meditation, food… <3
Tell us something we might never know about you?
I am really bad at drawing even though I can be creative with it, but it's something I love to do just for fun and for my own enjoyment! Love to get my hands dirty with some paint on a canvas I will never show anyone because a three-year-old would have probably done better!!
Laroie’s Why Don’t Ya? (Hugo LX rework) is out now. Buy/listen to the release here
Keep up with Laroie on Instagram here