THE fascinating and delightful Chersea is a revelation!
The Canadian songwriter has been talking about her latest track, Murphy’s Law, and its background. I learn more about her music tastes and what we will get from her upcoming L.P. – she reveals some new artists that are worth our time and attention.
Chersea talks about a favourite memory from music; why Björk is such an idol; what the scene is like over in Vancouver right now; if she has any plans regards coming to the U.K. to play live – she discusses the three albums that mean the most to her and why they resonate so hard.
Hi, Chersea. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi, Sam! My week has been amazing. I just got back from Canadian Music Week in Toronto. Also, I had some interviews and a photo shoot. It was the first time my band and I travelled that far to play three gigs in sixteen hours; so it was pretty crazy but a lot of fun.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
My music is inspired by a lot of powerful female songwriters. I like to think my music is kind of a blend of Imogen Heap, Enya, Robyn and Sia, to name a few. My elevator pitch is ‘mood stabilizing Electro-Pop for all of your highs and lows’.
Can you reveal the story behind Murphy’s Law and what compelled its creation?
Murphy’s Law was intended to shed light on how it feels to be a victim of manipulation tactics in relationships. The adage ‘Murphy's Law’ means "Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong", especially if you let it. The abuse one feels isn't clear-cut, so the victim is constantly trying to feel their abuser; trying to find the good in the individual. I originally wanted to call this piece Stockholm Syndrome - because I wanted the listener to realize that you're trapped in this abusive relationship, but you have an affection for your captor who, in this case, would be your partner.
I've had first-hand experiences where I've let my partners manipulate me to a point where I completely lose control of myself within the relationship; thus, Murphy's Law comes into play because whatever can go wrong does go wrong…while trying to hold onto something that is inherently awful for your wellbeing.
There have been many culturally significant lawsuits which question the validity of a victim’s statements because of this reaction. "Why did you continue to text your abuser?", "Why did you continue to pursue the individual"; "Why did you engage in affectionate language and intimacy with the accused?": these are all questions asked by juries and attorneys in lawsuits surrounding physical, sexual and emotional abuse. While we may not have a definitive psychoanalysis as to why this is, we now know that this particular reaction has been experienced by many abused subjects.
My song, Murphy's Law, discusses these emotions and the need to feel ‘you’ - the abuser - in a way that unites victims everywhere.
Your debut L.P. is coming soon. Can you reveal any of the people you collaborated with and the sort of songs we might expect?
I’ve been working with Cody Taylor (of Fiend Recordings) for years now. A lot of the songs on this album have been a team effort with regards to writing, production and mixing. We took our songs to Ryan Worsley (Echoplant) who has worked with so many great acts like Dear Rouge and Derrival. He did some extra production and mixing on a lot of the tracks to make them feel extra-polished and industry-ready. As a multi-instrumentalist who writes and co-produces her own material, it has been amazing to branch out and have this awesome team standing behind me.
On this album, you’ll hear a lot of genre-bending as well as some pretty anxiety-driven pieces that’ll hopefully make you move and feel like your brain is taking you on an emotional rollercoaster. One piece of feedback we got was “This song sounds pretty schizophrenic” and, while I’m not diagnosed with THAT particular condition, I was thrilled to hear that the listener was emotionally jarred by the production and the piece. If these songs can put you in a frame of mind that you’ve barely observed or experienced, then we’ve done our job correctly.
How important were Fierce Panda Canada through the process? Did they provide a lot of guidance?
They have been incredible. While going through their own massive transitions, they’ve been a wonderful support system. They understand what I want for my music and myself and I feel like we’re building a really great connection through it all. At the end of the day, if you as an artist want to make your label proud just as much as yourself and your parents, you know you’re in a truly lucky position.
Is Vancouver a great city to create music is? What is the scene looking like there right now?
Vancouver is a great place to make music. There are so many talented songwriters and producers. Although we have a great songwriting city, we could use some work in the live scene. Vancouver is a notoriously tough city for performers because the current culture doesn’t really have a demand for live shows. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to get onto some festival slots which are kind of the best way to get artists out and heard. However, we have some provincial programs that are really helping this struggle; like Creative BC. They fund a lot of projects to give locals artists a break from financial burdens. Then, we have Music BC which aims to place artists in domestic and foreign showcases/festivals to increase our chances of spreading the music. Without these two associations, performing would be quite hard in Vancouver. So, we’re definitely fortunate to have these avenues.
Which artists would you count as influences? Did music come into your life at an early stage?
I mentioned several above but, when it comes to presenting myself in the business, I’m a big fan of Björk. I love how unconventionally conventional she is. Like, you get those super-experimental songs and then a Pop anthem for the radio. I love music like that, you know, that flexes with the ebb and the flow of the artist’s desires. She is also a queen of marketing imagery: like her music videos and her wardrobe stylings. I am inspired by her approach to cinematography; so much that the video for Murphy's Law will be heavily influenced by It's Oh So Quiet.
Another woman that falls into this category is Imogen Heap. Her genius in the studio and on the stage never ceases to amaze me. She got me into looping (which is something I was somewhat successful with in the early stages of my career) and introduced me to sampling organic sounds of day-to-day life. It kind of gives the music this realness. Like on one of my new tracks, we spent a fair bit of time trying to find the perfect door slam sound.
I like the idea of music telling a story of what the human condition is like and, by modelling digital sounds over some acoustic realness, you kind of get this nostalgia from tiny bits and pieces of recognizable sounds. I also like the idea of toying with ‘alien sounds’ and creating a lot of soundscapes that feels extra-terrestrial. I guess, ultimately, I want the listener to feel like you have two feet on the ground but your head is in the clouds.
Can we see you tour this year? What gigs do you have coming along?
I have some festival stops happening all summer and we're excited to improve our stage show as a new band. We’re really excited to share the stage this summer with Brian Wilson (yes, THE Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys) on July 15th as part of Rock the Shores in Victoria, BC. So, that’ll be a very cool experience for us. For the time being, these shows will be limited to Canada, but we're hoping to make moves across the border early in the New Year; especially after my album is officially launched in late 2018.
We're also applying to festivals in Europe so, if we're lucky, we may get to venture across the pond. I will keep you posted!
Might you come to the U.K. and perform here?
I’ve been dying to come to the U.K. for years! I have some fans out and about so I would love to do that. Hopefully, I get some opportunities that bring me there. As for now, nothing is set in stone.
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
I hope that people enjoy my creations and that they can feel them in ways that allow them to empathize and accept everyone around them for who they are. If I can make music to promote more kindness and patience around the world, that would make me very happy.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
It would have to be the first real show I attended. I was fifteen and I went to an all-ages show at the Pacific Coliseum with one of my best friends Kelly to watch Panic! At the Disco. It was incredible. It was all circus-themed and kind of S&M and a little creepy. It was the first time I got to wear eyeshadow as a youngster and I had recently pierced my nose. I was going through a typical teeny-bop phase. Brendan Currie was my ultimate crush at the time and his voice was even more insane live than it was on the album. He also played my favourite Beatles tune, Eleanor Rigby, which just amped up the moment for me.
Eventually, there was a tiny mosh happening and I got bumped and dropped the new T-shirt I purchased. I went to grab it and got elbowed in the nose - with a brand new nose piercing - and my nose started spewing blood. I had to run to the washroom to stop the bleeding but ran back out with tissues in tow. I felt like a total bad-ass and it just gave me more adrenaline to bounce around with the crowd. It’s moments like these where I know I’ll always worship live music. It can change your life in an instant and leaves a lasting impression.
Which three albums mean the most to you, would you say?
1) One of my favourite album of all times is Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens
I’m a massive fan of all of his work, but this one really spoke to me. This work is just indescribable. Listen to the whole album from front to back to get the full effect. It is (one of the most) unique creations I've ever heard. You do this several times over and you’ll always find something new and fresh to love about it.
2) Teen Dream by Beach House
It’s not necessarily my favourite music, but it marks the first time I really fell head-over-heels in love. To this day, I occasionally hop on the piano to play Real Love just to bring me back to that time. It makes me feel full. Spoiler: that relationship fizzled years ago, but we’re still best friends. When we get together, we always put on a song or two to reminisce.
3) Comfort Eagle by Cake
This band has been so important to me through the years. As someone who plays horn and loves a punchy synth line, these guys know how to do it perfectly while also bringing in complex arrangements that they somehow make sound simple. They are also always constantly ironic and sometimes politically-charged but, in most cases, you really have to delve into their lyrical content and melody to extrapolate their opinions. Unless you follow their Twitter feed...they’re pretty forthright on their socials.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Frankly, I’m still a new artist. My only suggestion would (to) be humble, love your craft and just be you. Gone is the age of Bubblegum Pop personas: people are becoming super-interested in authenticity. Although I write this, these are things I’m trying to constantly remind myself.
IN THIS PHOTO: Amber Mark
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
I recently got into Amber Mark - funnily enough, the above ex-boyfriend suggested I listen to her. Her E.P. is insanely good. This isn’t a new band but I’m obsessed with Department of Eagles. One of the members comes from the infamous Grizzly Bear, so you can hear a little flare coming out of that writing.
Lostboycrow is another project I’ve fallen into because of a suggestion from my fan/friend, Ryann. This is such a cool project that blends super-poppy beats and polyrhythmic drum samples to make a one of a kind listening experience.
IN THIS PHOTO: Lostboycrow
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Very little. Ahaha. I’m a musical director for theatre programs and do sound design as well. I also teach kids how to sing and how to write music. My life is endlessly about music. But, I’m one of the fortunate ones who can make a (humble) living doing what they love. If I really need to unwind, you’ll catch me swimming out in nature or making macarons. I love to bake.
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).
I’m gonna throw you a curveball. Maximize your window so that this music video takes up the entire screen of whatever device you’re on. Then, if you’re so inclined, you may imbibe to intensify the effects of this insane artistry: Portishead - The Rip