GROJ is an electronic musician, singer-songwriter and live act. Coming from a family line of artists and craftsmen, he is an instinctive creator and his music has a true long-lasting impact on listeners. He currently resides in Montreal and in his other life he is a researcher in music and cognitive science.
We caught up with GROJ to talk about his recent release ‘Bunk Up’ on microCastle.
Electronic Groove: Hi GROJ, thanks for your time to chat today. What are your first memories related to electronic music?
GROJ: Thanks for the invite. Coming home from school, racing down my street on a skateboard listening to ‘Music: Response’ by The Chemical Brothers.
EG: When did you decide to become an artist?
GROJ: I think I made that decision when I was about 2 years old. There are photos where I was trafficking cassette tapes then and was hitting on all sorts of percussion instruments. I don’t remember a time when I stopped doing that. My family values were strongly centered around art – my mother is a photographer, my brother is a videographer, my father and uncle are sculptors, my cousin is a musician, my half-brother graduated from art school, my stepmother is a painter and my ancestral home was decorated with basically all of my grandfather’s hobby paintings.
EG: You are about to debut on the respected microCastle label with the ‘Bunk Up’ EP. Are you excited about it?
GROJ: The microCastle imprint is a very good place for this EP. The owner Mitch never had second doubts about releasing ‘Bunk Up’, even though it meant taking some risks. I liked how confident he was about the music and he has been giving the EP the care and attention I was hoping for. I’m also glad that everything is very Canadian.
EG: What’s the story behind these tracks?
GROJ: I remember feeling nostalgic and a little wry when I wrote ‘Bunk Up’. The track brings back feelings of lust from a juvenile crush, and how those feelings can also take you somewhere disastrous. I’m still with girlfriend mind you, so there is hope. Several genres come across in all three tracks on the EP, new-wave, techno, maybe even dance. Many genres develop for contextual reasons, and they are often very rich. By that I mean, once the political reasons behind a genre fade, there may be secondary messages that people didn’t see clearly initially. For example, aside from the obvious defiance behind punk and new-wave, the movement also showed that it was possible to cut a popular track with very limited means. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy, I think it is even more difficult, but its possible. I like those values, it’s youthful thinking and I wanted a certain kind of roughness and rawness to come through in my tracks. The dance genre was still quite popular when I was a teenager, so I wanted that early 90s nostalgic vibe in the synths to drive ‘Bunk Up’” forward. The techno design of the beat adds maturity to the music and mirrors the emotional pain that can result from giving in to passion. Altogether, I think these nuances give depth to the music and supply it with a bearable lightness of being.
“I wanted a certain kind of roughness and rawness to come through in my tracks”
EG: Where they were recorded? It was a lineal process or suffered changes to reach the final versions?
GROJ: As an artist I approach music with a sensitivity to emotion and movement. I’m also a very reflective person and emotions help me translate my busy thoughts into something accessible. When I was working on ‘Bunk Up’ things went very fast, I finished 95% of it in a day. I love working like this, I feel close to painters who are able to tell a complex story with only a few heavily charged brush-strokes.
EG: Clarian is on the remix duties. Are you happy with his reinterpretations?
GROJ: A Clarian remix made sense given his connection with new-wave music. He was able to bring out a different side to the original while staying very artistic. I like how he picked up on the retro feel as well. He was able to express a different facet to the emotional side of the music.
EG: How did you link with microCastle? Why do you think it is the correct label to release this new material?
GROJ: I have always been drawn to castles for some reason. Maybe that’s the connection. People that know me, they would easily say that my emotional essence is probably buried somewhere deep inside an intricate fortress of stone. So, being on microCastle, I think is makes me sound a lot more approachable? The link goes back to 2015 – I had worked with them for a ‘What’s in the box’ chart, so Mitch already knew I was on the map. When I joined the label fryhide and began working with a team, my manager rekindled that connection. I like how microCastle gives musicians space and freedom to tackle emotions and leaves expression unchecked. I also think it is important to release on a certain diversity of labels to fit a wide emotional and musical range of ideas and influences.
EG: You are a Montreal, Canada resident. How’s the scene over there?
GROJ: Montreal’s dance music scene has always been quite vibrant, especially since the rise of Richie Hawtin. I remember there was a little low season from 2008-2013, but My Favorite Robot was doing well. A number of event-organizers sprouted around 2014 (La Bacchanale, OCTOV, FrontRite, 8Day, Husa Sounds), frustrated that several iconic after-hour venues got shut down and that the club curfew hour here is set a 3AM. This gave a new impetus to the scene and I think it is now growing quite fast with a budding independent scene as well. Many indie rock musicians from here, inheritors to Arcade Fire, have been turning their attention to electronic music and this ultimately spawned Grimes. There is now a healthy and interesting scene mixing together shamelessly. It’s a good place to be a musician, it still feels fresh and inspiring, there’s plenty to go around.
“I like how microCastle gives musicians space and freedom to tackle emotions and leaves expression unchecked”
EG: Any recent gig worth mentioning as a highlight?
GROJ: I really enjoyed playing live at Heart Ibiza last summer for Jean Claud Ades’s ‘Be Crazy’. The place is owned by Guy La Liberté, a very successful Montrealer who founded Circle du Soleil. Until midnight the dancefloor is a restaurant with live circus acts and a live band playing funky music. In a way it was perfect to showcase my live because it already had that crazy live energy in the air. I was also delighted to play at the Société des Arts Technologiques for the Montreal fryhide showcase with HOSH and Tone Depth.
EG: What’s planned for the rest of the year?
GROJ: There is a new fryhide EP planned for early 2019. At the moment I’m regrouping, reflecting on where I want to go next and then will be back in the studio.
GROJ’s ‘Bunk Up’ is already available on microCastle. Grab your copy here.