The quami.xyz story is one of gradual dispersion, rippling through Lake Ontario from its author's hometown, Oakville: a part of the Greater Toronto Area. quami's assumption of his creative outlets is an unlikely one. While the Toronto Scene of the last decade or so has seen a massive outpouring of commercial viability and stylistic influence, his sound is something different. Ostensibly, he offers a similar, fresh take on R&B production and intimate songwriting, but his genre-blending final product considers acts like Erykah Badu intermingling with Radiohead and Portishead, but also Blood Orange and Brent Faiyaz. Now preparing for the release of his new second EP, No One Asked, he chats with EARMILK about the early moments in his career that helped shape and forge his creative process.
Expression through music began at an early age for quami. He shares, “I’ve always been playing drums. I started playing the drums in elementary school only in music class. Later on, when I started listening more to rock and punk music, I got a guitar for my birthday and I started teaching myself how to play. My mom didn’t have the money to buy full on drum kits nor did she want to deal with the noise, so she thought guitar would be a safer bet. When I started getting back into hip-hop and the experimental side, listening to Low End Theory and things coming out of the L.A. scene on MySpace and things like that–I was listening to a lot of new thinkers and I started getting into the whole production thing.”
While the passion had always been there, the path it would take him was blurry at times. He found himself in a bit of a vacuum as opportunities to find like-minded collaborators were few and far between. quami commented on his early days in saying, "There isn't much of a music scene. I was trying to get in touch with as many people that were musical. I wasn't sure how this music thing could happen for me."
That uncertainty started to become clearer when quami met who would soon become his right-hand man and producer, dru.xyz. “Dru comes from a super small town where there's no hip-hop culture," he shared. "He felt like he really couldn't talk to anyone about music: the same stuff I was up on. He started going to the same university. At the time I was starting to get frustrated with myself.” The two ultimately met after one of quami’s instrumentals had been used without his permission and played for dru by happenstance. He immediately took to the track, dm’ed quami, and the rest was history. “The next morning, dru sent me fifty beats. We just started emailing for the next couple months. We just started working on Et Cetera. We even lived together for a year too. We’re like brothers.”
quami's debut project, the Et Cetera EP, showed the pair’s natural cohesion and ability to craft ornate, immersive instrumentals and featured blunt characterizations with lines like, “When’s the last time you felt alive? / My grandma sees my face and thinks I’m dying.” quami characterized this confessional take to songwriting in saying, "All the music I’m writing is pretty personal. When I'm saying the things I'm saying in my songs it's like a diary out for the world to take apart and listen to. I strive for that kind of honesty. It's not the easiest thing to do because you feel really vulnerable. I feel like I've found a lot of appreciation for the people that were vulnerable with me and the world with their music and it gave a lot to me as a man.”
quami's music is experienced as an open extension of himself. He describes the songwriting process as frequently like satisfying an impulse or scratching a creative itch–hit with impromptu inspiration and rushing to record it. “I could be in any situation and I just have to stop and work through what I'm thinking and feeling. What's important to me now is really trying to express myself in the moment. And if I ignore these thoughts that come, they don’t come back. People take care of my mental, they handle my art with care because it's fragile. Everyone needs someone looking after them."
The new year looks to continue on his momentum of “running away” and “luh me weak,” all anticipating his second EP, No One Asked. "It's a part of a message I'm going to convey later on in the year. Essentially half of a message. No One Asked is me focusing on all the negative things without being purposefully inflammatory or vindictive. A lot of questioning self-worth and the worth of others and how you treat people around you: all about being human. It's me admitting a lot of negative stuff in the most tasteful way I can because I don't want to come across as someone that's always down and out. No One Asked is just me focusing on working through all those negative emotions. Trying to be more empathetic.”
No One Asked is just around the corner and comes along with a host of exciting releases in the xyz universe. “I have a lot of other things coming–visual aspects of the art that support the music that I'm creating," he shares. "Endlessly more music. A deeper analysis of myself and the human concern and the people around me, the things I like and the things I don't like. I hope to see North America, the world come out the other side of this pandemic a little wiser; a little less self-destructive. I hope that at least music can give something to someone out there where they feel a little bit more comfortable.”
The first of these teasers is available now via the visuals for quami's "Running Away." The track deals with escapism, letting days go by, and finding the means to fight back. Lines like, "I feel like I'm losing control," and "I feel like I'm about to implode," outline a powerless sense of the unsolicited passing of time. The music video lines up with this theme as quami is in motion: steadily moving forward against his will, shots held close to his silhouette. Brief, vibrant images of saturated alternatives feel like wishful thinking as they interject black and white shots of quami running through a void.
Keep up to date on No One Asked and further quami developments via the links below. And, in the meantime, check out "Running Away."