I am fascinated by Mute Choir…
and what he is all about. Sam Arion is the man behind the moniker – he talks to me about his new music. I discover stories and ideas behind his debut album, Behind the Bars (out soon), and whether he has a standout cut. The Canadian artist talks about his influences and how music came into his life; new artists we should investigate – and whether he is coming to the U.K.
Behind the Bars’ title song is out now. It shows the talented songwriter is one of the most promising new acts around – as we find out in a revealing and personal interview.
Hi, Mute Choir. How are you? How has your week been?
It’s been good. Been keeping very busy in the studio getting the mixing done for this record.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Hi. I’m Sam. I have bigger hair than your dad in the 1980s. Hope you like the music…
When Did ‘Mute Choir’ form? Why did you decide to get into music?
Mute Choir has been a relatively new project; only really getting its legs in the past year. But, a lot of this record contains music from a few different time periods in my life - and it kinda feels like years and years of experiencing life and writing songs through all that has led up to this album and project. So, in a way, you could say ‘Mute Choir’ has always been there with me: it simply has been shaped into a more tangible form now.
I was a visual artist as a kid - so art, in general, was always a huge part of my life. Around thirteen, I started getting really heavily into some music that helped me through some really rough times. From there, I started writing poetry and trying to sing the best I could at the time. I wanted to be able to, one day, offer the same consolation to someone going through something as the music I listened to did for me. Then it, basically, just never stopped from there.
Behind the Bars is your upcomimg, debut album. What are the main themes explored through the record?
Behind the Bars deals heavily with themes of entrapment and freedom. That became a recurring theme as I wrote more music. It related, in some way, to every song on the record; whether it’s a love song or a socio-political commentary. It would always find its way back to this universal theme, both in my music and in my life…so it sort of became an accidental concept album.
Was it quite an easy and quick album to put together? What, typically, would comprise an average day in the studio?
I wouldn’t say so, no. Some songs were written, or partially written, years before the completion of the album - and took that time of putting them on the backburner before the finishing touches towards those songs were realized. The actual pre-production of the album comprised of me cooped up in a basement outside of the city, basically, writing and working on the tunes every day for about nine-ten months.
During that time, I was pretty isolated from just about everyone and everything; this gave me the time and peace to really reflect on my life, my emotions and my thoughts. Through that process, most of the album was written and demoed out. From there, we re-tracked all of the live instruments as well as the vocals in the studio; leading to where we are at now, in the mixing stage.
A day at the studio, for me, can be pretty chaotic and a frustrating process. Sometimes it really feels like I need to just get something out, like a splinter boring deeper with each passing minute and, if you don’t pull it out, it will go too far in and it gets lost under your skin. So, I tend to work at a very fast rate, throwing ideas all over the place; usually using about three-per-cent of them overall. But, that’s just kinda how my brain works and, somehow or another, I find a way to organize it and make it one cohesive thought at a certain point.
I never know how long it will take because, sometimes, you start a thought but you don’t have the necessary experience to finish it. Then, one day, something happens in your life that just teaches you exactly what you needed to learn before you could finish that lyric or song.
So; it’s pretty unpredictable and I try to never set a formula or force a song to be something it isn’t meant to be.
Do you have a favoured song off the album? Which one means the most to you?
A lot of the tunes on the record mean a lot to me in different ways, but Election Season is my jam. I don’t think I’ve felt a stronger sense of accomplishment and pride in my work with anything else I’ve done before that.
Which musicians did you grow up on? Were you raised in an eclectic household?
I grew up on just about every style of music you could imagine. I think the first thing that really caught my attention as a kid was The Beatles as well as Punk music. From there, my taste progressed to pretty much every style and variety of music you could imagine.
Both my parents were very talented painters and visual artists - so that was definitely a big influence on me as an artist. However, I’m the only musician in my family and no one was huge on music really. My father did show me some awesome musicians as a kid like The Beatles, Terry Jacks; David Bowie and a lot of really killer legendary classic bands - and that, definitely, had a pretty huge impact on me.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
As we’re finishing up the record, we haven’t been doing too much in the way of shows but we have a gig coming up in May…and I’m really looking forward to getting back into the live swing of things in the next couple months. Definitely going to hit the road once the record is out.
Do you think you’ll play the U.K. at all? Have you been over here before?
I plan on it: It’s just a matter of time. I haven’t been before but I’ve been yearning to go for quite some time now. So many of my biggest influences and absolutely brilliant artists have come out of the U.K. - and I’d really like to come and play and take all of it in.
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
I just want to share my music with people and hope they can take something away from it. If I can do that, it’ll be a good year.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
I saw LCD Soundsystem on once headlining a festival over here and that was probably the closest thing to a religious experience I’ve ever had. It changed my life; it inspired me and gave me a new kind of confidence that helped me, at the time, to take the leap into pursuing what is now Mute Choir.
What is Toronto like for new music? Is it a great city to play and perform in?
It’s cool. There’s a lot going on and there’s always kinda something for everyone here. The music scene is really diverse, but the scene is always very welcoming and I rarely feel a sense of competition amongst artists: more of a comradery than anything.
It’s a chill spot.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
As cliché as this sounds: just do 'you'.
I spent so long thinking about what kind of artist I should be and where I fit. Honestly, you don’t need to decide that stuff. If you just make music as honestly as you possibly can, it will find you. Don’t worry about your ‘brand’ or your identity: it’s nearly impossible to see from a first-person perspective before you get out there.
For me, I only really discovered the music that felt like ‘me’ and felt like ‘my sound’ when I stopped caring, or trying hard to find it. I just made stuff that sounded good to my ears, without too much of a filter. Albeit, I did this for years to no avail until it finally felt right but, work at it; work as hard as you can until you find something that feels like you.
But; also give yourself time to live a little: you’re probably not going to write a good song if you don’t have any time in your life to experience anything to write about.
IN THIS PHOTO: Deanna Petcoff/PHOTO CREDIT: Sabrina Carrizo Sztainbok
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Lately; not much, no. It’s been pretty busy and hectic over the past few months.
How do I unwind? I don’t know. I don’t imagine it would be vastly different than anyone else…I’ve never really thought about it; I don’t exactly have an ‘unwinding’ routine…I just live my life day-to-day and take it as it comes.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that)
Apartment by Rubéhill (it’s a jam)
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