5 Questions with Rags #71 - Frase

Like a lot of people, I fell in love with Frase the moment I heard him start singing. His voice is illegally-smooth and soulful – captivating. And he writes groovy, chill songs full of heart, full of feeling. I always smile seeing his name on a festival lineup, knowing no matter what is going on, I'm going to get an hour of Frase calming my soul. This past summer, I caught his incredible set at Bass Coast and realized that as he's played more and become a favourite of these big west coast bass crowds, that same bass has found its way into his live sets. But where a lot of artists who experiment in heavy bass can have their identities swallowed up, Frase has found a way to blend the pensive grooves of his music with the higher energy that heavy bass injects into everything.

“I think it was osmosis. The bass kind of just worked its way in. I recognized that when you're putting on a show at nighttime in a club, people wanna dance. They want to feel the bass. I find a lot of really heavy bass music doesn't have a lot of soul in it – I'm not saying everything, but there is a compromise right? The more bass, the less soul there is usually. It's been kind of a challenge to me to make something that will work in that club environment but is still something that I'd want to listen to, something that people could put on a chill,” says Frase, talking to me on a break from touring, at home in Ymir, BC. “As a solo artist, I needed the tracks to make the show hyper. There wasn't much myself or Emily could do to make our performance more exaggerated, it was the music that had to step up and be more hype. Her being my partner and a dancer has also had a big influence on me wanting to make more dance music. I'll be working on a beat for hours and it's pretty chill, I'll play it for her and she'll be like, 'Meh.' But if I make a house song or something that's more danceable and only spent 20 minutes on, she'll say, 'Yeah, that's amazing.'”

As his profile and his sound have both expanded, Frase's audiences have become increasingly diverse, playing a variety of venues and festivals around the west coast and Canada. This past summer included a life-changing stop at Koksilah, here on Vancouver Island in the Cowichan Valley. “Koksilah was one of my highlights, just in terms of my ethics and my values. I definitely want to give them a shout out. It's a mix of music and a lot of workshops about reconciliation and Indigenous rights. It's a more workshop-based festival than a party festival. There's so many conflicts in the world right now and it's really nice to have a festival like that that's really about progression, bringing these issues to the forefront and talking about them and working them out instead of blaming other people for what's happening. 'Koksilah' means 'thank you' in Cowichan language. The location of the festival was a former residential school and a few of the elders mentioned they can't go inside. There's a lot of trauma but that's what this whole festival is about – reconciliation and reclaiming these spaces and helping people work through this trauma and create allies to focus on the problems we're facing now – deforestation and pipeline drilling. The Indigenous are really on the pulse of that. Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Mob Bounce played, the lineup was definitely leaning towards Indigenous artists and artists of colour and as a white man I was really honoured to be invited and ask to perform in those kind of spaces. It was really powerful. I got the logo they used for the festival tattooed on my arms.”

The world is a groovier place with Frase creating music in it – in more ways than one. After a few years of grooving to his music and catching his shows, we're honoured to finally welcome this righteous bean as a guest on the 5 Questions.

If you're in Victoria this Friday (Nov. 9), make sure to go catch Frase at Capital Ballroom with the homies Illvis Freshly, Bousada and Sidewaysounds. Seriously. Do it.

1.Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

It was Fine Young Cannibals. I was 6. I remember I got a walkman – it was on tape – and I remember walking around to it non stop. I listen to that album now and it's still pretty sweet! The production and the vocals and the dance-y soulfulness it has...it's super cheesy, don't get me wrong, but I understand why my influences have gone the way they have. When I was a little kid all I listened to was dance music. Dance Mix '94 and '95, all of those, pretty mainstream poppy kind of dance music.

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#festivalseason - Rifflandia 11 rounds out the season in musically diverse style.

Another year of Rifflandia and another year of a densely diverse musical memories to help get us through the cold winter months. Unbound by any genre allegiances, Rifflandia is free to mine any part of the modern musical map they deem worthy and to their credit, each year they dig hard to bring something unique to the city of Victoria. Something different than the swaths of other catch-all festivals that flood the market each and every festival season. And in their 11th year, Rifflandia did not disappoint. With 150+ acts over three days, four nights and 14 stages, there was more than ever to take in. We didn't stop for the duration of the weekend and in amongst the chaos, these were the acts that left the biggest imprints on our ears over the four relentless days.

Best Non-musical Thing We Saw At Riff - KARMIK

We're don't necessarily advocate drug use at Rags Music, but we damn sure as hell advocate safety and and taking care of each other. Thankfully the good people at KARMIK made their first appearance at Rifflandia. Breaking ground is nothing new to the team at Karmik, so it only made sense they were the first organization to bring a mass spectrometer to Vancouver Island, and establish a legitimate drug testing presence at Rifflandia. To give you how big of a deal that actually is, the legendary Shambhala Music Festival (Salmo, BC) took years of fundraising and donations to be able to provide attendees with the technology – at an event that arguably has more drug use than Riff. But, Victoria definitely has needed something like this for years, and even with local law enforcement pushing back, the lovely individuals of Karmik stood their ground and provided a much needed service in Victoria that has been long overdue. Hope to see them back next year!

Gentle Mind

One of the first acts of Rifflandia weekend, Gentle Mind took the stage at Phillips Front Yard Thursday night to show how to kick off a festival right. With a small crowd and a chill in the air, the Vancouver soul (Acid soul? Jazz soul? Soul pop?) group started with a small smattering of people – more photographers than festival-goers – and by the end of their set, the stage was packed and the people were eating out of the bands hands. The bands originals, including their standout “Nighttime in Crema”, popped and pulled in the listeners with their slickness, their depth and their soul. A couple of choice covers sprinkled in to their set helped give a new audience familiar touchstones: A lovely rendering of Haitus Kaiyote's sultry “Nakamarra” and a groovy as hell cover of The Weeknd's “I Can't Feel My Face,” the latter of which took me way too long to recognize. We singled out Gentle Mind as a band to watch at this year's Rifflandia and they didn't disappoint, setting the tone for another great weekend of music.

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5 Questions with Rags #70 - J.F. Killah

5 Questions with Rags #70 - J.F. Killah

Talk to anyone in the know around Vancouver bass and inevitably SHAHdjs are going to come up. (Also, these days it's hard to talk about said Vancouver bass without eventually also getting Levrige at some point – of which J.F. Killah comprises half.) The collective is straight-up legendary at this point, with the various members all building their own reputations outside of the home base. I don't think I've had any other name from SHAHdjs thrown at me as consistently as J.F. Killah. I wanted to chat with the Vancouver legend before she rocked Bass Hive at the Copper Owl here in Victoria last December, but I didn't. Don't really know why. But no matter, because she's back to the city this weekend (Sat., Sept. 15) to rock some ears at Rifflandia (Four of the biggest music days of the year in Victoria) in the intimate brick embrace Lucky Bar. Drum 'n' bass often doesn't jump on my radar, but thankfully, after much prodding from a few choice friends, I listened, open heart and open mind, and BAM! I enjoyed it! Much tasty, grimy hip-hop vibes in amongst the drum ‘n’ bass wilds. Thankfully, in the midst of a move and prepping for all of her serious bass-dealings, she found some time to entertain my silly questions and give y'all a little reading material.

 Legit, the only photo I took for the entire

Legit, the only photo I took for the entire

1. Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money?

I was part of that Columbia House club where you could get a bunch of cassette tapes for like a dollar if you committed to buying a certain number more later on. Amongst them were Snow - Informer, MC Hammer - Too Legit to Quit, and I think some Janet Jackson and En Vogue... To be honest, I can't remember them all. I do remember the first time I heard the song "Informer" by Snow at a pool party at a local swimming pool when I was about 10 years old. From that point I really wanted to know what the song was and was stoked when I finally found out.

2. What's your best memory of a teacher growing up?

I had this one teacher, Miss Gonzalez who taught music and played the clarinet. She had a bathtub in her classroom and if it was your lucky day you got to sit in there with a friend instead of at your desk. That same teacher gave a test that said to please make sure you read through the entire test before beginning the questions. I of course didn't want to waste time so immediately began answering the questions. Everyone was panicking because of how long it was taking and time was running out. When the time was up and no one had finished she told us to turn to the last page. Sure enough, the last page said if you actually read through to this page you do not have to answer any of the questions! Definitely a good lesson on the importance of following directions and in such a sly way haha.

3. If you could spend the day with anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you do?

Shopping spree with Andre 3000. Haha but really I'd hang out with my partner Andrew, working on tunes.

4. When is the last time you did something for the first time?

Just started renting a studio space for the first time a couple weeks ago. Looking forward to being as loud as we want!

5. If you had one wish for the west coast bass scene over the next year, what would it be?

To continue on the path it's been heading. I think we've got a really good thing going! There are so many talented artists all just feeding off of one another. Many are making it to a world class level which is really inspiring.

6. Your Guest Question is from the homie DJ All Good... Can you give me one good, clean joke that you could tell to around a grandma?

How do you make a kleenex dance?

Put a little boogey in it!

#festivalseason - What's new, what's hot, what's good - what's up Rifflandia?

What’s new, what’s hot, what’s good – what’s up Rifflandia?

To nobody’s surprise, September has returned for another session of messing with our heads and our hearts. September – with its warm, almost hot, days; the deceivingly cold nights; plus the inevitable burden of carrying a sweater with you at all times yet never really needing it for more than five minutes. Thankfully, here in Victoria we have a way of dealing with the month that nobody seems to want. In fact, there’s a little phrase around town that you may have heard before – September Forever.

Yes, September means something entirely different in Victoria. It means Rifflandia is upon us! I’m not going to go into detail about what it’s all about because if you’re from the island you already know, and for those that don’t…well, that’s why Al Gore invented the internet.

I will however get into what there is to look forward to this year! Rifflandia is forever evolving, and there are some exciting changes that take place every festival, so it can sometimes be a challenge to keep up. But don’t worry – I know a good time when I see it, and Riff is always good for that.

Obviously the music is usually the number one priority at a music festival, and although the general theme of Rifflandia shifts a bit every year (for example, hip – hop was heavily featured a couple years ago), there’s still a ton of listening pleasure for everyone, no matter what you enjoy. The eleventh edition of Rifflandia definitely boasts a large electronic presence, and with Electric Avenue becoming more and more popular with every passing year, there’s going to be a lot of action at the Ave this weekend.

While the harm reduction movement has broken ground in many festivals we attend around the country, there are still many non camping festivals that have yet to make the transition. Thankfully, Rifflandia isn’t one of them. Harm Reduction will be provided on site at both the Royal Athletic Park and Electric Ave by a well trained staff from WILD Collective Harm Reduction Services, BCCSU, and our good friends at Karmik – BC’s leading harm reduction team. Karmik will be setting up a drug testing booth at RAP during the day, while others will provide outreach and a harm reduction tent at Electric Ave. Locate them at either venue for info, supplies, education, support, or if you just need a safe spot to chill!

It should go without saying that everyone deserves to party in peace, but unfortunately there are still people out there that don’t understand that concept. Rifflandia is going above and beyond to provide a safe space throughout the entire festival and encourages anyone who witnesses any disruptive or inappropriate behavior to report it immediately, either by reporting it to staff or security or emailing incidents@atomiqueproductions.com. We all deserve the best, so let’s take it upon ourselves to provide the best.

Rifflandia always hits the mark with their selection of artists, and with more than 160 live acts performing over the course of 4 days, there are sure to be some names you know, some you don’t, and it’s inevitable you’ll discover a few new favourites. Take the time to listen to some unknown artists on the app, or check out the list below for my favourites over the weekend!

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Handsome Tiger - Juggling EP (Review)

Handsome Tiger - Juggling 

Sometimes music just feels like it was made for a certain activity – driving a car, getting high, having sex, riding in an elevator, etc. If I was on a wild safari kind of hunt, far into some dense-as-fuck jungle, I would listen to Juggling, the latest offering from red-hot Vancouver bass-dealer Handsome Tiger. But this wouldn't be a hunt where I find and kill the animals, but like, I'd hunt them and bring them food and this EP and we'd have a big wild animal party. This right here is serious bass goodness.

Juggling drills down deep in the ears of those that hear it – relentlessly dense and swampy bass pulses and winds its way into your head, forcing your torso and hips to respond. As unflinchingly deep as Juggling goes, this is grimy bass music that doesn't ever fight the listener, instead drawing response with surprising warmth. There's a violence and darkness to the beats, but it's balanced by uhhh...pleasantness? Is that the word I'm looking for? Yeah. Pleasant violence. This is generally around the point in the review where I'd tell you which tracks are the best, which ones you should check out first. But honestly, Juggling is, thankfully, a cohesive whole with threads and ideas that run through the length of the runtime. It's a cohesive whole that demands to be experienced all the way through, at least on the first few run-throughs. In an overly fertile west coast bass scene, Handsome Tiger continues, with Juggling, to prove why he's one of the areas fastest rising purveyours of deep, quality bass music.