With the premiere of his debut album Juvenile, CRi captures the unique essence of electronic music which comes from a combination of community and creativity. Inspired by his surroundings and the scene which has grown around Montreal’s diverse representation of artists, CRi has emerged as a distinctive voice that weaves harmonic melodies, upfront beats, and memorable vocals with energy and lightness. Preferring to play live with a three-piece band, CRi’s studio productions feature the impact of his performances in an intimate setting, where his focus is on creative freedom and inspiration.
In tribute to his city, his premiere LP features several collaborations with French-Canadian contemporaries such as Québécois legend Daniel Bélanger who lent vocals to the album. As CRi shares, “it was very important that my first album was a product of my environment.”
After decided to self-teach himself music, CRi quickly caught the attention of local contemporaries with his early singles, ultimately earning him a nomination for Electronic Release of The Year at the 2018 Juno Awards. Now with the release of his debut album, he further solidifies his place in the scene, while turning the page to bring on the next stage. By representing his culture and community, Juvenile is a way to gather his experiences into one place and then let them go:
“Juvenile is an ode to youth, innocence and dreams. The melancholy of the past and the hope of the future shape the mood of this album. The project revisits what resonated with me when I was young, and blends it with what drives me today. It’s a way for me to take stock of an era, and turn the page on something new.”
Watch the mini-documentary below and learn more about CRi by reading on:
What was your first experience like that got you hooked on the music?
I’ve always listened to a lot of music. At the age of 7 I was a big fan of Moby and Limp Bizkit. When I was young, I loved to accompany my grandfather in the choir. I would say that what really made me want to do music is that, around the age of 16, I had several friends who rapped; I got so fascinated by the “beats” that I started producing instrumental music so that they could rap on it.
How would you say the Montreal scene has influenced you as an artist?
I would say that it influences me without even realizing it, that’s where I live and that’s where I’ve met most of the people that I frequent. The Montreal scene is very rich and quite particular, there’s a Francophone scene and an Anglophone scene and the two don’t always necessarily mix together. I would also say that we often find in Montreal’s music a melancholy that I would describe as Nordic. I’m not saying that the music is particularly sad here, but there’s still a deep, introspective emotion that appears in many styles of music here.
Now that your debut album is nearly released, what are your thoughts as you look back on the process? Was there anything that went differently than expected? What were the most challenging and rewarding aspects for you?
I made an album without really thinking about making one. I realized that I had one when I had 8 out of 11 songs written. Collaborations certainly colours this project the most, without them, it wouldn’t really be the same album! Since I didn’t plan to make an album before composing, I didn’t really have any expectations about the creative process. I’d say the hardest thing about this album was finding its meaning, it’s like I had to analyse what was done to understand the result and express it in the right way. Certainly the collaboration with Daniel Bélanger, who is an artist I’ve been a fan of since I was 10 years old, was one of the greatest accomplishments of this album. It’s very special to hear the voice you’ve always been a fan of on your own music.
What would you suggest to artists who may be looking to produce their first album?
Think about your concept first, set yourself limits and don’t try to be the artist you’re a fan of, just be yourself.
What initially made you decide to take on this project?
Once I had a couple of songs that I liked in my hard drive, I told myself that it’s finally time. I’ve already released several EPs, releasing an album is now a dream come true.
Can you give us a little insight into your production process? What is your first step when you get into the studio? Do you have any habits or routines you follow?
I have several synthesizers in my studio, I sample very rarely. I usually start with the chord progression of my song, I do the harmonic “structure” first and then I add the drums. I don’t really have an exact recipe, sometimes it starts with a little melody or even just a sound. It’s just a matter of starting with the inspiration, no matter what’s the trigger. The most important thing is that nobody disturbs me and that I have no time limit to do the creation. My mind has to be completely free to create. I have several tricks to create those moments, like shutting down my phone and locking the doors of my studio!
How would you compare your in-studio production experience with your live performances?
It’s totally different, one is more personal while the other is interpersonal. When I’m in the studio, I’m alone with my own ideas that I’m trying to express, while when I’m on stage, I’m more interested in sharing a moment with others through music.
Can you tell us more about the collaboration with fellow Québéc artists?
They’re all friends, people I love and that inspire me. It was really important for me to make this first album with the people around me. It’s a 100% Quebec album and I’m very proud of it.
It seems like the Québec electronic music scene has been growing strong with some fantastic artists coming up these last few years – what are your thoughts on the current state of the scene?
I think the scene is indeed full of incredible talent, just think of Kaytranada, Jacques Greene, Marie Davidson and so on. On the other hand, I think each artist is doing their own thing, there’s no excuse to lean on each other, to rub shoulders and listen to each other. I feel like it’s hard to find “mentors” in the music scene, especially for those who want to get started. My dream would be to create a place where artists could come together, make music and help young creators.
How did you first connect with Anjunadeep? What has that relationship been like for you?
If I remember correctly, it was through my manager, Lucas Jacques, that I met them. Now, it’s really like a family, as much between artists then the whole team. We talk to each other about anything and everything, we support and advise each other, even if we live in different corners of the world. I’m really happy to be part of this family.
You have a beautiful collection of synths – they must each hold a special place for you. Can you give us a quick tour of what you love about each?
I have a bit too much to describe the history of each one, but I would say that my four favorites are the Juno 106, the Sub37, the Prophet 08 and the Arturia Minibrute.
The Juno 106 is the one I use the most, I love its simplicity in configuration and the sound is very powerful.
The Moog Sub 37 is a very complete synth and for the bass the result is always persuasive. Its filter is definitely what sounds best to me.
The Prophet 08 is also very complete, but polyphonic. The possibilities are vast and I find that it always sounds very wide.
The Arturia minibrute is not an “incredible” synth, but it was my first and I have a sentimental attachment to it.
Where do you see yourself going from here? What continues to drive you?
I see myself accomplishing new challenges, living unforgettable experiences and meeting new inspiring people. What I wish for myself is to be happy in what I do. I consider myself to have the best job in the world and I only hope it can last.
Photos by William Arcand