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Ladies of Pop: Elgin Skye

© Chris Zacchia of ForgetTheBox Media - Ladies of Pop: Elgin Skye
© Chris Zacchia of ForgetTheBox Media
Originally from Nanaimo, British Columbia, Elgin Skye, 26, has been living in Montreal for 5 years. She recorded her first EP in 2007, and was hailed by the recently defunct Montreal Mirror as one of the “best singer songwriters” in their 2011 Best Of review.

This is Skye’s second year playing Pop Montreal. We caught up with the petite, pixie-haired singer at Montreal’s Café Myriad to talk about melody, girl power, and dinosaurs...

1- Describe your sound in five words.

Dreamy, hypnotic, exciting, unusual, and...awesome.

2- Tell me some of your story. How did you get involved in music?

I started playing piano when I was a little kid and I hated it so much. My parents made me play piano and I was super resentful towards them for it. But then at some point during my early teenagerhood when I was listening to a lot of Nirvana, I was like,  “Hmm I’m gonna pick up the guitar.” I had this great guitar, it was a “Wayne’s World” edition Stratocastor, and it dawned on me that it is sitting in my parents garage somewhere. I totally want to get my hands on it. I didn’t realize how cool it was at the time.

In the last year and a half I’ve started playing more electrical stuff. Before that I was doing acoustic sort of singer-songwriter music and I was finding that it was getting a little bit old so I started doing more experimental stuff.  I try to always imagine myself playing with a band when I’m playing music.

3-  Now that you’re an adopted Montrealer, what’s your favorite spot?

My God, there’s so many of them. For different reasons. If I wanted to be creative, in Place-des-Arts, there’s a fountain that you can put your feet in--have you seen this?--and it’s so nice when the Jazz Festival is going on and there’s just so much chaos happening there but you’re in this peaceful little swimming pool. But other than that, I really like a lot of the venues that Pop Montreal gets for their shows. They have these venues that are not normally venues that you get to explore and check out.

4- What’s the first song you remember hearing?

It was “Bolero.” I was really into music when I was a little kid, and I had a Walkman and I would do my exercises in the morning with this Walkman and dance around the house. The first album that I owned was Celine Dion. And then the first album I bought for myself was Spice Girls. I had a pretty bad track record for a while. But then I remember there was a turning point; after having gotten my Spice Girls albums, I started listening to stuff that my older brother had and he had really good taste. I got teased at school once because some of my friends were getting into Green Day but my older brother had told me, “Oh, Green Day-- whatever, they’re old news.” So I said something like, “Green Day aren’t even cool,” to kids in my class and they never let me live it down. I was like a grade 5 hipster.

5- What would you say your main influences are?

I’ve been going back to a lot of music I was into a few years ago. It’s really nice, it’s like a nice warm glove. My life is changing so much that it’s nice to go back to these old songs and have old memories. I was really influenced by “Final Fantasy” more recently, though I’ve been listening to a lot of Bjork. I just bought Fionna Apple’s album too, and I love it. I’ve listened to it so many times since I bought it.

6-  You said that when you write songs you think of yourself playing them with a band. Would you like to eventually join a band?

Yes! Very much so. In fact, I was going to a recording this month and I was gonna hire a bassist and a drummer to play on it because it’s way cooler when you get a base drum in there, like over the moon. But there were some scheduling issues and Pop Montreal was coming up. But I’m hoping to in the near future and I’ve started to jam with some people. It’s fun to work with a looping peddle, but a looping peddle doesn’t keep you very good company when you’re waiting at sound check and doesn’t help you move the gear. It can’t share the driving!

7- Are you conscious of yourself as a female artist? Is there a stereotype you have to fit into to succeed?

It’s on my mind quite often. I really like girls when they’re more tough. I’m so impressed with the organizations that there are now, like Rock Camp for Girls. It’s this camp that young girls can go to and there’s volunteers and band trainers who are professional musicians who can pass on knowledge and wisdom and training to these girls. I find it can be really hard to have the balls to play with other people and to jam and start songwriting. A lot of female artists get big and all of a sudden they’re wearing tiny little outfits and it’s really disheartening. So I try to avoid doing that, although I do appreciate when people have theatricality in their shows. I’m constantly struggling with how to do this and how to play in front of people and put myself out there and to not just do what would be the stereotypical girl thing of doing whatever people want.

8- The Montreal Mirror named you number 3 in the best singer songwriter category in 2012.  What did you think about their sudden shutdown and what does that say about the arts scene in Montreal?

I freaked out when I saw that last year, I wasn’t expecting it at all. To see I was number 3 was like, “Holy S***, people like me!” But I was mourning a little bit when it shut down because it came out of nowhere, I wasn’t prepared for it and it was one of my favorite things about Montreal, actually. People may have different feelings about different columns and stuff, but the “Rant Line” was my treat for the week. I was so touched because when I moved here my goal was like, “I would go crazy if I had my photo up in the Mirror!”  And then three weeks before it shut down...

I don’t know what it says about the arts scene, I know what it says about corporate media... But I think that what speaks to Montreal’s art community is that so many people were so upset about it and the fact that people have been rallying behind different blogs.

9- Are there any themes that you hold dear when you’re writing songs?

Home, I think would be one of them. You move somewhere else and you’re homesick for your original home but then when you go home to your original home you’re homesick for the other place so I don’t know after living here if I’ll ever feel like I’m in the right place ever again. I wish quite badly that Montreal was closer to my family or that my family was closer to Montreal.

10- If you could travel back in time, where would you go and what time period would you choose?

OK, seriously, the movie Jurassic Park had a really big influence on me so I think I’d want to go back to the time of dinosaurs. That would be my favorite time to visit--if I could, you know, stay alive and not get eaten.

11- If you could collaborate with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?

I would love to record a ton of lo-fi songs with Danny Johnson. I’d plunk a tape recorder down and kind of have at it.

12- Musical guilty pleasure?

I like revisiting my Big Shiny Tunes albums from when I was a kid. I have a binder in which I’ve printed out the tabs to most songs from the Big Shiny Tunes 2 and 3 albums.


Anne Cohen
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