I've been a bad kitty. I've been sitting on my interviews from Mutek (see Earmilk's recap) for almost three months now. This isn't me. I'm a responsible adult human, except when I'm not. Like now. Anyway, while some might argue that three months is so long I should just trash these, I'm subscribing to the adage of "better late than never" and posting them anyway. First up we have this chat with Montreal natives Milo Reinhardt and Xavier Léon, alias Sibian & Faun.
We wrote about them in our Mutek crushes post so it was pretty cool to be able to sit and chat with them IRL (and on a pretty roof deck, to boot. Can all interviews happen like that?). At Mutek, they played at the Red Bull Music Academy stage. Thanks, energy drinks. Read on for their take on Montreal's music scene, Mutek, what they've been working on, and how they started working on music together.
EARMILK: You guys are from Montreal, yeah?
Xavier Léon: Yeah.
Milo Reinhardt: I'm from Ontario.
EM: Have you always been in Montreal?
XL: Yeah, actually, I grew up here and I moved in high school to Kitchener, Ontario. I moved across the street from [Milo] and within a year started making beats, and that was seven or eight years ago. And came back here for school and started taking music seriously about a year ago. Over a year ago. I mean it was always a serious thing.
MR: When I moved to Montreal, I got a chance to move in with this guy and kind of take things to the next level. Before that, it was strictly bedroom beats and like, I don't know. I moved to Montreal and Xav and I got to make music a lot more seriously, so just in the last two years of us being in the same city, we've been trying to go as hard as we can.
EM: What would you say is currently defining the Montreal music scene? How do you describe the atmosphere here for music?
XL: It's very eclectic. There's lot of different scenes. The city is so small that everyone knows each other, but it doesn't seem like anyone is really making the same music as anyone else, which is pretty awesome. So it's really diverse. And if you go to different pockets of the city and there are different scenes. If you go to St. Henry, there's this really vibrant DIY punk scene, and there's also like singer-songwriters and experimental artists. And everywhere, people are making electronic music. Yeah, but it's all been pretty diverse and so you kind of like get our own little spot within a huge backdrop.
MR: There’s a lot of crossover though, because it’s not that big. I mean we've got all our friends at all our shows and all those guys are all part of their own scenes, making their own music that we support as well, so it's a nice give-and-take here. It's not so big that you just get sucked into like one scene and you can't think or live anything else.
EM: What's your relationship with MUTEK? Have you guys played before at MUTEK or attended in the past?
MR: We haven't played MUTEK before. This’ll be the third year we've been at MUTEK. But yeah, I guess our connection with MUTEK this year – before even getting a chance to apply, Xavier attended the Red Bull Music Academy, so tonight we're playing the Red Bull stage. It's thanks to them that we're getting the opportunity to play what seems like it's gonna be a pretty awesome night.
EM: Yeah, seriously. Have you guys played at all with the other people here you're sharing the stage with before?
XL: No, actually, no. I didn't go to RBMA with Salva. He did the second term but we both attended this year, and so it's gonna be really exciting to play with that guy. Haven't played with Lunice yet, and he’s from Montreal, so that’s really exciting to play with him. Ango, PrisonGarde, big Canadian guys and – yeah, pretty much the first experience for everything.
MR: It's pretty cool that Prison Garde, Ango, and Lunice are teaming up. It's gonna be a pretty awesome premiere because all those guys are producing pretty live tunes, so I'm definitely excited to see their performance and see what they've got in store for us. Their project is Nouveau Palais, so it's the three of them onstage, going under a new moniker. That's tonight so I'm sure you're gonna catch it.
EM: Cool. That's awesome. What are you guys thinking you're gonna do for your set tonight?
XL: I guess it's a new live set for us, lots of new tunes that no one's heard, which is exciting. Tunes that we've made very recently and we've just kinda put together in a more interactive fashion than in the past.
MR: Yeah, it's gonna be as live as it has been, so that's good. It's always a challenge to translate your production into a live set when you don't necessarily make live music and record it. It's only getting better for us, though. Working in Ableton makes that kind of transfer back and forth really easy, so it should be good. Our set's actually gonna be full of solo tracks as well. We usually include – I don't know, it's usually about 50 percent Sibian & Faun and then the other 25/25 split between solo tracks that we're working on. It's always kind of a toss-up. I think people are generally surprised when they hear our sets 'cause they haven't heard a lot of our music. A lot of it's just kind of waiting to be released or really waiting to be actually finished, but –
EM: Yeah. How did you guys end up coming together creatively? What's the balance or dynamic between you guys?
XL: I don't know. It’s just natural.
MR: It just makes sense. We both started – like Xav started producing I don't know how much longer or how much earlier than I did, but as soon as my 15- or 14-year-old self realized what he was up to, it was only a matter of time before things got going for both of us on our own separate ends and we lived literally across the street from each other, so it was pretty quick to kind of team up. So really from the ground up, through all the different software, we've been working together, so it's just us doing that in the present and it's like six years later, so things are getting better.
XL: Eight years later.
MR: Eight years later.
EM: What sort of process do you go through when you're making a track?
XL: Start with the percussion.
MR: Yeah, these days, definitely the percussion.
XL: And I feel like once there's this sick percussion loop or like five, six percussion loops, it's really easy just to throw any sound on top of it and it'll sound good. So then we'll just try to find the right sound, tweak it, find some samples to work with and – yeah, man,
It's pretty explosive sometimes, making music.
MR: Sometimes it happens really quickly, and we work together and it's just like, ch-ch-ch-ch, back and forth, next thing you know, a track's done in couple days. Other times, it's like eight months of work together to actually finish a tune. So I mean, our process definitely varies, often enough I'll jump on a beat that Xav started or Xav will jump on something that I've started and then it transforms into an S&F track. It's usually as simple as that, like we're always – well, we try to always be producing stuff. There are countless files that just aren't songs but could be any day, so it just kinda works like that. Now we're working regularly enough that Xav and I get to go back and forth and we can – like tomorrow, I can pull up a project we haven't worked on or I haven't worked on in four months and Xav can get on that. Next thing you know, it'll be finished and it'll be a real track, so.
EM: Yeah. Let's see. Do you guys have any plans for new releases coming up?
XL: We just have a singlereleased right now. Yeah, I guess we have a release with Infinite Machine, an up-and-coming Montreal label run by our friend, Charlie, who’s also a full Russian, and yeah, that's pretty insane. He's getting so much attention. He's had some amazing releases so far. He's got some incredible up-and-coming releases we can't really talk about 'cause it's not at our disclosure but yeah, that's really exciting.
MR: We have a connection with Origami Sound, which is a really like-minded label to Infinite Machine, and we're working on some material for them. Nothing that's necessarily set in stone, but we've confirmed that we're gonna put out a release with those guys, or the sub-label, Dark Clover. So yeah, that's exciting. Those are kind of like our summer plans. Once we get this MUTEK set out of the way, we've got a lot of material to wrap up. We also have an EP coming out on UNO, which is a Montreal-NYC label. So that's soon to be confirmed and figured out also.
XL: Yeah, and we definitely would love to follow up something with Numbers once all these releases are wrapped up. We’ve got to finish the right tracks for those guys. They’re really picky, but only in the best way.
EM: When you're working with labels, do you find that they're sort of an influence on you guys, based on which label you're working with, what you might be working on?
MR: Yeah, definitely.
XL: Yeah. There's like some tracks that we would never send Numbers, for example.
MR: So many tracks. Or working with Charlie and with Infinite Machine, like we're so close with that guy and he's influenced our music production, our music listening, infinitely. His influence, it's just been really important, so when we're working on a release or a track for him, it's like –
XL: His personality will show through in the track for sure.
MR: Yeah, and it becomes really personal.
XL: It’ll be dark, it’ll be heavy, very emotional.
MR: Very, very, very emotional.
EM: What are you guys listening to casually lately?
MR: We haven't had Internet for a month and a half, so nothing new, that's for sure.
XL: I’ve been listening to a lot of Algernon Cadwallader, this band from Philly. They came to Montreal last week and they’re one of my favorite bands. They're kinda like this Midwestern funk with a pop sound so they sound like Cap'n Jazz but from now. Them a lot. I listen to another band called Castavet quite frequently, they’re from Chicago. As for electronic music, I haven’t really been listening to that much electronic music, other than like I just always listen to Sepalcure all the time.
MR: Heavy rotation.
XL: Those guys are like my favorite producers right now and have been for the past year and a half, so. Definitely strive to do what they're doing.
EM: What is it about them that makes them resonate with you?
MR: I mean anything and everything. It's funny, it's not that we necessarily set out to emulate those guys in any way, but they're just making real-as-fuck music. I feel like all their tunes are so emotional, we totally relate to the collaborative aspect of the music they're producing. It's so evident how each of their [Machinedrum and Braille's] character really gets infused into the Sepalcure sound. The percussion is amazing.
XL: Really crafting songs. They’re songwriters, you know, and they don't just make tracks for the club, which is fine. It's just like, we're less interested in making necessarily just tracks for a club. We wanna make great songs that will resonate both well in the club and on headphones and just really trigger some emotion for the listener. That's the most important part, so.
EM: Do you think at all about the club atmosphere when you're producing tracks?
XL: Yeah, for sure. Sometimes it feels like we're in a fucking club while we’re producing 'cause we got some pretty bass-heavy monitors and we play it pretty loud, much to the displeasure of all our neighbors. But yeah, we definitely take that into consideration because that's where we're gonna be performing most of the time or all the time, so –
MR: More recently, we've had a – I don't know. We've just had fun considering tracks in relation to our live set and how things can progress that way. So I mean, I have moments playing to a club full of people when you’re not playing dance music or danceable music or somehow, the beats we're writing and the songs we're putting together, they just never have been dancefloor friendly. We're making electronic music because we're listening to club music or dance music, but that's not necessarily the progression for us. So I think that shows through in a lot of our earlier production, which no one really has any ideas about at this point, but now it's just like being immersed in or being more immersed in a scene with dance music and having a chance to perform. I mean, I love danceable beats so I guess it's starting to come through more and more. The second half of our set will have a lot more dancefloor-type beats. The first half is just gonna be fucking madness, crazy.
EM: Where would you say the most innovative, exciting things are going on in music right now?
MR: The Internet.
XL: Yeah. It's all showcased on the Internet so it seems like if you go to Tokyo, everything is really advanced. If you go to LA, everything is really advanced. If you go to Berlin, everyone is really advanced. If you come to Montreal, everyone’s really advanced. Everyone is just doing crazy stuff and the ability to showcase it in an instant to everyone else is – I mean yeah –
MR: And collaborate.
XL: I guess we take it for granted, but it's pretty remarkable, so.
MR: Yeah. I mean that's kind of a vague answer, answering a different question maybe, but yeah. I think the Internet's definitely facilitated the scene that we've become a part of. I just moved to Montreal coming from a pretty small town with absolutely no electronic music scene, so it's just been two years that I've really been able to see electronic music and get involved with that scene, so aside from trips to like Berlin and London that have been an absolute pleasure, the Internet has been our playground where we've just been meeting other artists and getting exposed to all their sounds. We’ve made a lot of songs since our Internet problems started. There's not much else to do.
XL: I don't wanna get the Internet anymore, so maybe I guess we'll stop showcasing our beats and we'll just play them for ourselves and that’ll be that. [joking]
EM: What are you excited about during MUTEK? Are you gonna be attending a lot of the shows?
XL: Yeah. I just lied to my boss so I could not work tomorrow so I can go see awesome stuff. I don’t even playing tomorrow. Maybe A Guy Called Gerald is playing tomorrow. I’ll be at that, for sure. I guess Nicolas Jaar is playing at some point. That's tomorrow, so I'll be there as well if that doesn’t conflict. We have Clark on Saturday That's probably going to be my favorite set. That’s the one I'm most looking forward to.
MR: Pretty bummed we're missing Shackleton 'cause we're playing at the same time.
XL: Yeah, we’ve never been part of something like this so it's pretty amazing and we’re just going to live – well, the guy who runs Infinite Machine lives right down the block, so I'm just gonna live here for the next five days, stay at his house, go to everything I can. Just get completely immersed in this experience.
MR: Oh, you know, Kode9 is doing some crazy –
XL: Oh my god. Kode9’s playing twice? They're doing some visual stuff or whatever?
MR: He’s doing music for visuals that are some messed-up sci-fi movies, so I imagine it's gonna be pretty nuts. I'm pretty excited for the visual end of things 'cause like honestly, without the Internet, even checking out the MUTEK schedule and getting it engrained in my mind has just been a hassle because I haven’t had a program and I've only had limited opportunities to even look at it. It's just like, "Okay, well, I guess I'm going to everything and it's all gonna be awesome." But I really wanna – I’m really stoked for the visual end of things. Actually, our set's gonna showcase a friend of ours, Teo Zamudio. He's gonna do some visuals for us for our set. That's a first-time thing, so it should be exciting.
XL: Yeah, he's amazing. He's an amazing artist.
EM: Sweet. As far as the visuals, are you collaborating with Teo on that or is it mostly his artistic license?
MR: It kind of started that way. I've got a bit of a background in visual arts myself and I ended up --
XL: This guy is a visual artist. He's a great visual artist.
MR: I’m a visual artist of sorts so I worked with Teo a bit in the early end of things, but we've been so caught up with putting the live set together and just other shit that it's really all in his hands at this point. In the future, I'd really – like ideally, I would love to be working with someone like him, developing all the visuals with Xavier's input. It's gonna be like much more improvisational and hopefully exciting visually, but it'll be an experiment.
EM: Do you have any advice that you'd give to people who want to get into music production or break into music?
MR: Keep making beats. Don't stop.
XL: Yeah, man. Don't even – just do it. It's so easy to get started – like we started on GarageBand and started on FruityLoops. Just download it and spend 12 hours the first time and by the end of the first 12 hours, you'll have the basic idea.
MR: If you're not hooked, I don’t know what to say.
XL: Yeah, I guess making beats isn't for you. But yeah, no, I don't know. It's just – it's been really a very gradual evolution when it comes to like quality and getting – being able to finally make high quality music. We're still learning so much on that end. So yeah, I mean if people have a general interest in making music, I think –
MR: Make friends who make beats.
XL: Yeah. I think that's the most inspiring thing you could do, is surround yourself with other people who wanna do the same thing. Or want to do similar things who are just creatively minded, and then you’ll just realize that things will start erupting in your brain and you'll become addicted to making music. That's all it is, really.
EM: Sounds about right. Is there anything else that I missed that you wanted to like get out there? Or final words? Could be a total non sequitur.
XL: Milo has a solo release coming out on Infinite Machine. His name is Framework. The release is called It's Killing Me. It’s a two-track release with a remix by our friend Ryan Hemsworth. It's coming out on Infinite Machine in, I don't know, the next two weeks maybe? I hope. Within the next month, I guess.
MR: It's coming out pretty soon. Everything is wrapped up and ready to go, so it's just at Charlie's discretion.
EM: That actually reminds me. I wanted to ask – I mean you've probably been asked this before, but what's the origin of the Sibian & Faun name?
MR: That doesn't make it to the Internet.
XR: No, he’s just kidding.
MR: I’m pretty serious.
XL: Yeah, I guess. No, I don't know. Our friend Conad [?] is just like a really quirky and silly guy and I have no idea how it even came about or how we agreed upon it.
MR: It's a pretty weird name. And yeah, I guess Sibian with a "Y" is a like fuck machine, like a mechanical dildo. I didn't know that until post-name. Well, I don't know, I guess we decided on the name and then we knew and it's chill. Sibian is a name like somewhere in the world. There's a bunch of dudes named Sibian.
EM: So, can I actually not include that, or can I?
XL: No, no, no, yeah, of course.
EM: Okay. So, when you think of like the name, are one of you each thing?