Prince Innocence

PUBLISHED IN ISSUE 13
INTERVIEW BY CLAIRE BARGOUT
PHOTOS BY MAYA FUHR

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I first met Josh and Talvi in Montreal about four years ago. Shortly after that they began releasing music under the name Prince Innocence, a project which has slowly yet continuously evolved over the last few years. Weirdly, I feel like their music has grown to be this perfect sonic equivalent to my initial impression of them as people. Their sound is unconventional, but not alienating; confident, but not cocky; stylized, but not excessive. And this was exactly how I found them a couple weeks ago when we met up at a Toronto diner to talk about their upcoming album.

So, what’s up with the band?

Josh: At the moment we’re recording our upcoming album. We put out a track in December that did really well and received a lot of positive attention, which forced us to really start working on something bigger.

Talvi: We put out that song during a strange time. It was right after we had severed ties with this music management team that we had been working with. We had been talking with them about a potential contract for about a year.

Josh: We were offered this thing about a year ago, and on paper, it was the best opportunity we could’ve ever asked for. There was a lot of financial backing and it led to some really crazy experiences. We were able to work in studios that Drake records had been mixed in. We were given a budget to shoot a big music video. But in the end, we started feeling really weird about the whole thing. It just wasn’t right. We started feeling pressure to change our taste and make shit that we didn’t want to make. At a certain point there are only so many times you can tell someone they aren’t understanding your vision.

Talvi: The first red flag was when the initial people who had brought us on board left the company. Then a bunch of people were hired who didn’t really get it. They just had this very old school perception of the music industry. Their business model really revolved around Canadian radio play and writing that one big hit that is meant to climb the charts to number one. They took one of our songs that had a really catchy, earwormy hook and sped up the BPM to this really manic level. They took my vocals and made them sound extremely flat and processed. And the thing that was most frustrating is that Josh and I love pop music. But their idea of pop music was just really dated, especially in a world where pop culture exists on the internet and evolves at an insane rate. It’s become necessary for pop musicians and their creative teams to take stylistic risks in order to keep up with what’s new and interesting.

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So, what do you think is new and interesting? Do you have a shared idea about what kind of music  you’ll be making in the year 2015?

Josh: I mean, turn on the radio. There’s some crazy shit on the radio right now. It doesn’t have to  be just three dudes with guitars and a girl singing some catchy lyrics. There are people doing really interesting things with production right now, especially in pop music.  My favourite thing right now is Miami radio. It’s the best. There’s this one station that is just the craziest mix of things. It would switch between insane club rap and latin club reggaeton. I just fell in love with the radio there and realized what radio could be. I don’t really listen to radio in Canada because you’ll hear a couple songs that you like and then they’re forced to play a bunch of Canadian content.

What does your forthcoming album sound like? Is it written for the radio?

Josh: A lot has changed since our last release (Lapse EP 2013). We’ve started to distance ourselves from the cold wave sound that defined our earlier work. The music on our new EP is a lot warmer. As far as production goes, I’ve always been inspired by rap and r&b production. I wanted to really show that in our new material. The new songs also pull a lot of inspiration from club music. We’ve spent a lot of time DJ’ing this past year and wanted to make music for people to dance to.

Talvi: In terms of the production, I definitely agree with Josh. However, my singing feels very different. I usually try to sing in a kind of lounge style, which at times is almost even in the same vein as bossa nova. I think that our new material has also changed in terms of the way I write lyrics. At the beginning of this project, I wrote lyrics that were primarily about Josh and our relationship. That’s not to say that I don’t do this anymore, but lately I’ve tried to look at different subject matter. I’ve been making a really big effort to avoid writing about a specific thing or person, and focus more on a mood. I’m trying to shift from first-person experiences to a more image-based sense of lyricism.

You guys have a strong fashion aesthetic, can you talk a bit about your style inspirations?

Talvi: Josh’s style is inspired by 90s hip hop but in a more minimalist way. He wears a lot of black and white. Every now and then he sprinkles in some bright colours like orange or red. I feel like my style is kind of similar.  I like monochromatic outfits – like a dress and jacket that match. I really like artificial looking fabric or latex and have a huge collection of neoprene things. There’s definitely a bit of an anime influence. Once a friend said I looked like I was dressed like a villain from a James Bond movie and I think that kind of sums up how we try to dress. Like Boris and Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle.  Lots of long shiny coats and turtlenecks and sort of evil looking outfits.

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In terms of your shared creative process, how do you resolve the discrepancies in your individual musical tastes? What does the songwriting process look like for you?

Talvi: We tend to break up the process. Josh will usually send me something really simple, then I’ll add a melody to it and send it back to him. It slowly starts to take form. But we’re starting to try new things. I get frustrated when the initial track isn’t simple enough because it means I have less control over where it goes.

Josh: In terms of the production process, we’ve always just made music with what we have. We don’t have a lot of gear or resources, but we make it work. Sometimes there’s a beauty in limitations. I’m equally drawn to really grimey production styles as well as big-budget, glossy rap records. Working in large studios this past year really showed me the things I don’t like. For example, I really love the imperfections in Talvi’s voice. I don’t want to hear an auto-tuned version. We want it to sound like she’s whispering into your ear. Technology is also moving forward so quickly that you really don’t need a giant studio to make things sound good. You can record almost everything on your own and then if you want, you can spend your money on mixing and mastering in a proper studio. I just watched a documentary about Migos, who I’m obsessed with, and they still record all their mixtapes in their basement. They record their vocals in a closet.

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So now that you’ve had this disillusioning experience with big-budget management, what’s your future game plan for Prince Innocence? If the old dream of being scooped up by some industry hot shot and made famous on the radio is becoming increasingly obsolete, how are new musicians like yourselves able to measure their success, aside from the obvious success of personal fulfillment?

Talvi: I am really excited for the day I have people around me who are comfortable letting me take the lead with art direction.

Josh: I’ve always been one to dream big, so there’s really no limit to what I want to accomplish. I won’t be happy until I have a production credit on a Kanye record, a billion youtube hits and a Drake-style billboard on the highway.