From classical music, to jazz fusion and discovering synths in Electronic music, Anomalie shares the journey of his album Galerie, touring around the world and how social media has led to a fanbase without borders
Interview by Daniella E.
From playing the piano at just four years old to the electronic, jazz-infused and hip-hop inspired rhythms that are so prevalent in his discography, a childhood admiration for music has taken Anomalie from Montréal to cities around the world. Fusing together genres, he draws inspiration from legends like D’Angelo, J Dilla and Herbie Hancock. He does so while cementing his own sound, through experiences that immersed him in the live performance scene in Montréal to the creative ideas he showcases on social media that have catapulted him in front of varied audiences. As his music continues to travel across borders, cities and provinces, I caught up with Anomalie ahead of his European tour (which has now begun) to discuss his album Galerie, the journey to becoming a full-time musician, the impact of social media on his outlook, the honest truth about touring and much more.
Daniella: It was interesting to learn that you started playing the piano at four years old. And with your mum being a piano teacher, it seems like music was all around you growing up. Can you take us through some of your early encounters with music, as well as the albums and songs that made you go, ‘damn, I want to make something like that’?
Anomalie: Absolutely! I was very fortunate to grow up in a musical family. Both my parent’s professions were linked to music. My mom is a piano teacher and a music theory teacher. She introduced me to the piano when I was very young, but it was never forced. It was always an interest of mine, but she also let it happen with minimal guidance and intervention. My dad for more than twenty years was a radio host. He had a show that basically focused on classical music. So, that’s what I was initially exposed to. Both my parents were also big jazz fans, so we had a lot of records. I remember very early on at family dinners; a lot of Oscar Peterson records would be playing. He’s also from Montréal and he’s definitely one of my biggest piano heroes. Basically, I’ve always been drawn to improvisation and composition. It’s an incredible part of my playing today.
During high school, I started doing a lot of production on a very amateurish level. I was introduced to jazz fusion, R&B and hip-hop. I was exposed electronic music and heard synths in electronic music for the first time. I was like this is really cool and something I would like to be able to perform live. I had no idea that most of what I was hearing was programmed and not being played in real time, which is just another set of skills. And then with jazz fusion with pioneers such as Herbie Hancock, I was like wow, these legends are like shredding these crazy sounds in real time. It’s like an extension of jazz, but with the kind of crazy tambre palette that I was looking for. All these sounds and experiences, including being part of a live hip-hop collective here in Montréal led to my musical exploration as Anomalie.
Daniella: It’s really interesting to hear how your music palette has evolved over time. I watched a video interview you did in 2020, where you explained that you started producing beats on the computer at 15-years-old. How has your production process changed and what have you learnt since you started producing music?
Anomalie: There’s definitely some elements that stayed. I bought my first MacBook with my heard-earned money when I was 15 and at the time that was a milestone for me. I started with Garage Band and eventually moved on to Logic. Today I work in Ableton Live, because it’s a software that I use both for the production of my albums and it’s also what I bring on stage when we’re touring with the band.
There’s also a lot of stuff that I am more knowledgeable about now and so much that I don’t know. My process very often starts with an idea, which is explored on the piano. Then I’ll add a basic percussion or drum pattern, I’ll loop that for a while and jam over it. This leads to a main melody, riff or an idea. I’ll start to build on that and then I’ll have an arrangement with several layers, counter melodies, base movements and take it from there. Once I have an initial canvas, I’ll do some back and forth to reharmonize and punch in some other variations for the different sections of the song. No matter what ends up happening in terms of sounds, it always starts with rhythm and then the keyboard part on top of which I’ll layer stuff.
It’s a constant evolution of discovering new processes or learning from my peers and mentors and that really never stops.
Daniella: And obviously, diggin’ the crates is such an important aspect of music and hip-hop culture. I guess I do it in a more digital sense, where I kind of spend a lot of time on SoundCloud and YouTube. There’s this platform I really like called GodsConnect…
Anomalie: How do you say it?
Anomalie: Okay. Got you.
Daniella: Yeah, I love that platform. It has showcased so many producers like Knxwledge, Tuamie, mndsgn, Iman Omari…etc. When I was in secondary school, which I guess is high school for you, I’d spend a lot of time watching videos on their YouTube channel and listening to releases on SoundCloud. I was wondering, what’s on your playlists at the moment? What streaming services do you listen to often and what do you find yourself being inspired by?
Anomalie: Like you mentioned, I’m very digital with crate diggin’ too. Sometimes, I’m in the YouTube tunnel vision or rabbit hole where the algorithm keeps on feeding me interesting suggestions. And Spotify too, because I feel like it’s one of the well-built algorithms. But then I also directly support artists on Bandcamp. I have a Tidal account too, because I know that they have a better royalty rate. So, I keep it equally balanced in that regard.
I think every week there’s always some Herbie Hancock in my playlist. I’ve been really falling in love with the sounds of this producer called Sam Gellaitry.
Daniella: Oh yes! Sam Gellaitry is talented.
Anomalie: Yeah, I discovered him back in the SoundCloud era, but the recent stuff that he dropped during the pandemic – Duo. The new thing from that record is that he’s singing now. If you haven’t heard it, it’s absolutely fantastic! I’m also listening to lots of Butcher Brown. Kaytranada is one of my heroes, so he’s always in my rotation and he’s also from Montréal too. I also listen to Blue Wednesday, a producer from Vancouver and always some Stevie Wonder. Hiatus Kaiyote are one of my favorite bands ever. I try to sometimes find a cappella gems and add them to my playlist. There’s an a cappella, it’s basically Michelle by The Beatles, but sung by an ensemble called The Singers Unlimited. It’s an absolutely gorgeous version that I’ve been listening to for several months. It was also sampled by Masego for his song Navajo.
I also really like Benny Sings, Devin Morrison, Joyce Rice, Moonchild and shoutout to slowya.roll (Mitchell Peterson). He is an amazing producer, who did a lot of the animation work for me for the release during the Galerie campaign. He’s a full on, complete artist. He creates visual, videos, music and everything he touches just turns to gold. So, check him out if you don’t know him!
Daniella: Wow, all really great musicians, producers and artists you’ve mentioned. Also, congratulations on the release of your album Galerie, that you dropped this year! It’s a beautiful album. I loved the melodies in it. The collaborations felt right. I really like Memory Leaves with Masego. Can you take us through the process of Galerie, how long it took for the songs to be recorded and what you want people to feel when they listen to the album?
Anomalie: Thank you for the kind words! I guess with most records, singles or even remixes that I put out, the ideas actually start way before I even go back to properly produce, record and mix them. Galerie is a mixture of stuff that were just in my vaults that I ended up grouping together. There are some ideas that started during the whole recording process and then the collaborators came in much later. I had some motivation and mental health challenges, as a lot of people faced during that period. So, Galerie was me reconnecting with the creative process after the pandemic.
Me and my girlfriend moved into a new space and I built a studio in the basement. What you’re seeing right now – these instruments are the main characters of that project. They were my sources of inspiration.
I hadn’t had access to a real piano since I was a teenager, so I was reconnecting with that side of things…what feels like a living thing that responds slightly differently every time I play. It was a big revelation to me and a blessing. Galerie is softer than the previous stuff. It’s still produced and has some electronic elements, but less so. The addition of singers and collaborators was a very inspiring part of the process and a new part of the process for an Anomalie project.
The Masego session happened in like three hours. He just wrote his verses, courses, bridge, harmonies, back vocals, lyrics…everything was recorded and done in that amount of time. It was incredibly inspiring to witness. I then rearranged some solos around what he did afterwards and finished it. All the other collaborations were done at a distance, but it was all equally inspiring. With India we talked about working together, I sent her this idea that I posted on social media. I developed it into a full-on song and within like 48 hours she sent over these huge stacks of harmonies and lush chords that just took it to another level! Then we got to perform it in real life as well for the video that we released.
The piano was such an important element of the process, so much so that I’ve been tempted to do a solo piano project for Galerie next year. I actually released a piano version of one of the songs on the album called Bond. Having just the piano as like the essence of what I’m able to do, just opens up different possibilities and ways to connect.
Daniella: Wow, it’s so great to hear how it all came together. So, when it comes to social media, there’s obviously pros and cons. I definitely think It’s important to be honest about both sides. I will say, what I really enjoy about social media is seeing the different ways instrumentalists and producers share their work. You’ve got Kaelin Ellis, who shares these amazing videos on social media that feel like music videos. You’ve got The Kount and the challenges he encourages singers, rappers and other producers to take part in. And I really love your piano solos on TikTok that give audiences glimpses into what your live performances are like.
Anomalie: Thank you!
Daniella: What do you enjoy and not enjoy about sharing music on social media?
Anomalie: That’s a super interesting question! I’m really happy that you gave Kaelin and The Kount shoutouts. They’re both legends and they’ve been killing it consistently for a long time now. But yeah, I agree with you. I most likely wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for social media. Montréal is part of Quebec, which is like the French speaking province in Canada. It’s very rich culturally. I’m so happy to have grown up here and there’s a fabulous underground and music scene here too. But, it’s also a closed market and because of that it’s very hard to enter that closed circuit of like press and shows and stuff. I don’t think I would have got signed to a label or got opportunities, if it weren’t for the internet and the opportunity to find an audience without borders. There’s not much demand for that genre or that niche, at least in terms of the scene here.
I say that while also being fully aware that I do get coverage here. The shows that we play are amazing. But, without social media I think it would be a completely different thing. Social media is a wonderful tool depending on how you use it. It’s been easy for me to be super transparent and show what the music is about. The negatives are that social media can be very superficial. And I do think that it does contribute to a lot of challenges on the mental health side, no matter what you do in life. It’s important to keep in mind that social media is not life and it’s also very important to keep a healthy distance from it, as it changes quickly as well.
Daniella: Very valid answer. I personally love live performances, jam sessions and open mic nights here in London. There’s so much talent in the underground scenes across hip-hop, jazz, R&B and neo-soul scene genres here too. As someone who has been on tour and with live performance being such a crucial part of the music you make. Do you have any surreal or unforgettable memories of live performances in Montréal or other parts of the world?
Anomalie: Absolutely. I think one of the experiences that definitely influenced me the most and led to me going full-time with Anomalie is the hip hop live collective that I mentioned earlier. It’s an event that still takes place. It’s called Le Cypher here in Montréal. It’s a collective ensemble of musicians that there’s like an inner rotation hosted by Urban Science. It’s led by an amazing person called Vincent Stephen-Ong. I joined in 2015 or 16 and was doing events like two or three times for almost two years. And it actually started well, not technically, it was like the first time it occurred was like, in a different venue. When I joined for very long period of time, it took place in an amazing venue called Le Bleury-Bar à Vinyle. There’s a track that I named Le Bleury after that venue, because it felt like a second home for a while. It’s also where I started dating my current girlfriend and we’ve been together for eight years, so it has a lot of significance.
Daniella: Wow, that’s super sweet and eight years is a long time! I feel like there’s this perception within music and creative industries that this is a journey that you can only do alone. Personally, I’ve always felt that you can be a creative person and still have a partner alongside you who’s growing with you and who’s part of that journey. With your career doing so well and touring too, can take us through what that is like and how you’re able to nurture your relationship whilst also nurturing your love of music?
Anomalie: Absolutely! It definitely does represent some challenges and it doesn’t work for everyone. I think communication is the key. That is also true in friendships and just relationships in general, whether it involves love or not. She’s also my best friend. We do a lot of things together. There are certain periods where it definitely gets harder, if she’s away for a long time and I’m away from a long time. But we also live together, so we have a lot of shared experiences in that kind of domain and a mutual understanding of our own visions. We also think alike in many areas and even when we disagree, it just leads to interesting conversations. So yeah, communication is mostly the key. It doesn’t mean it’s always easy, but I definitely think it’s worth it.
Daniella: True and thank you for that honest answer too. It’s really exciting to hear that your European tour to promote your album Galerie is starting this month. How do you feel about being back on tour, following a global pandemic and all the isolation that came with that?
Anomalie: It feels incredible, even though it’s still weird. We did a North American tour in May and June and I was worried at first. But, I did release a record in April and so it’s something that I believe we had to do. It was an amazing experience and it was nice to see people, play for them and travel again.
There are artists that are selling out tours and I’m super stoked for them. But, no matter what scale you’re on. Whether you’re Drake, Bieber or an artist just starting out. Ticket sales are down across the board, because people are still reluctant to go back to events. There’s just so many different factors to consider.
With this European tour, we had a lot of challenges. It was initially supposed to be in July, but it was postponed. It’s also a shorter run than what we did in the past. But, it was really important for us to still do our best to make it happen. So, I’m really stoked that it’s happening. It really is a privilege and I’m really fortunate to be able to share it with some of my best friends as well.
Daniella: I appreciate how honestly you spoke just then, because there’s been a lot of conversations about touring for musicians lately. I saw that a musician actually cancelled a show, because he didn’t get enough ticket sales. Then a while back, Little Simz spoke openly about how she wasn’t able to tour the US due to financial restraints and being an independent artist. Are you able to share some of your thoughts on the financial, emotional and mental pressures that musicians face when it comes to touring? And can you share any feelings or difficult situations you’ve had to overcome?
Anomalie: Of course. It is extremely demanding and whether it’s in terms of logistics planning or the toll it takes on your body.
We don’t go out much and we keep alcohol to a minimum. Obviously, you can do whatever you want and I am not being condescending of anyone who does that. I think there’s a time and place for everything. The little amount of sleep you’re able to get is extremely precious, then the schedule fills up very quickly and you need to keep up on top of stuff. It can be very hard. On the financial side, I’ve always been interested in doing budgets and planning logistics as soon as I started touring with the band. There are costs involved, which has meant that I’ve had to take out loans in the past to make sure that I could pay for everything. I’m in a position where I was able to do that in the first place. The focus is on the performance too and I also give master classes prior to the show. People can come in early and have a 1-hour group lesson.
With touring there are risks that you’re taking on every time. You can either make a profit if it’s entirely sold out and it goes according to plan or you can have a huge deficit if it doesn’t work out. And we’re talking very big amount. It can be stressful and when you come back you kind of just want to sleep for like 1000 hours. But, it’s also an incredible experience and there’s nothing quite like it.
It’s not feasible for every artist at any given stage of their career. I think it’s important to be surrounded by people that are able to point you in the right direction, give good advice from their experience, having good agents, a good manager, partner and a label that backs you no matter what. People that you trust have to back you up and help you make it happen. I think that is the most important part in all of this.
Daniella: That’s really interesting and great to hear your perspective and experience too. Other than touring, what are you focusing on at the moment and what are your hopes for the future?
Anomalie: Wow. So, right now, I’m working on this piano project, which I’m planning to release in 2023. I’m also working on a holiday project that I’m going to be releasing before the end of the year. For the past six years, I’ve been doing these yearly arrangements of holiday songs that I share on YouTube and social media. I have quite a few now, I’m so adding new ones and organizing them into holiday EP. That’s something I’m planning to do. I’m also working on a project which involves a big event at the end of the year in Montréal, which I won’t say too much because it’s not finalized. Mainly, I’m working on the upcoming tour, the holiday project, a piano project and then after that I’ll come back to beats in some way. I’m also working on new material too and just trying to keep with ideas. I’m honestly just trying to push this as far as I can and I’m so grateful to be able to be doing this full-time in the first place. Keep on doing touring with the live band, sharing new experiences, making memories and seeing where the music takes me…