Interview: Ordinary // Colours

Ordinary // Colours is a musical project with a unique sound, appealing to those into their more experimental music. Pacific Division shows their musical style off well – if you haven’t checked it out yet, you can find it at the end of this interview!

By Jane Howkins

You recently released a single titled Pacific Division, which we reviewed. What can you tell us about the song and where can it be purchased

Pacific Division started from a demo where I improvised some guitar chords and glockenspiel melodies over top of a drum loop. The lyrics came from me singing stream-of-consciously while imagining a story of someone leaving their hometown to escape a series of existing problems by going to another city for new opportunities. When they arrive though, reality ends up hitting them in the form of a crappy job/life situation, so they end up falling back into a similar predicament and cope by distracting themselves with a cycle of consumption and consumerism. Since the lyrical themes are a little depressing, I wanted to contrast the musical accompaniment by making it more upbeat and pretty sounding, especially with the presence of the glockenspiel.

The song can be streamed from Spotify and Apple Music by searching for Ordinary // Colours. You can also out-right buy it on iTunes, Amazon and Bandcamp. I’m a big fan of Bandcamp because it has the most artist-friendly revenue model.

This is your first single release. How has the reception been so far?

The reception has been pretty nice so far! In the past, I released music under my own name and was pretty self-conscious about sharing it. It’s been encouraging to receive so many positive vibes regarding the song, especially as I initially thought that only a couple of friends would hear it.

Has the pandemic hindered your work much?

Probably the opposite effect, since it became somewhat of a catalyst for returning to work on music that I’d previously put on hiatus. The chaos surrounding the pandemic was obviously something I’d never want to go through ever again, but it did provide the silver lining of pushing me into re-evaluating and re-prioritizing the things I value in my life. That was one of the few positives I took from the entire experience.

Do you have any plans to release an album or EP in the near future?

I’m currently working on a set of 8 to 10 songs, with the aim of releasing a full length album sometime in 2023. Before then, I’m thinking of releasing a small EP of covers, sourced from some older archival recordings.

What is the writing and recording process like for you?

I don’t really have a consistent process per se, but I do tend to record a lot of quick guitar/piano sketches on my phone, as well as keep a journal of lyrical scraps, which serve as repositories for future ideas. When I start a project, I usually approach it by imposing a loose set of restrictions/guidelines, in order to challenge my creativity. Past examples of this would be like ‘use only this synth’ or ‘record only acoustic instruments with this one mic’. For the current set of songs I’m working on, the guideline I used in initially making my demos was to start by using a singular drum loop recorded into a cassette multitracker and then building the track around that element. Using cassette tape forced me to make creative decisions right then and there and when it came time to record the actual tracks into the computer, I didn’t modify the song structures too much because I wanted to maintain the original spirit captured within those demos. In a future project, I’d like to try going the opposite way, by having unconstrained flexibility with regards to arranging and composing. I’m thinking that I’d work solely with MIDI and software like Ableton Live, in order to explore making a song in a more non-linear fashion.

Do you plan to release any more singles anytime soon?

I will look to hopefully release another single or two by the end of the year, probably with the next one in October/November.

You’re based in Toronto. What is the local music scene like?

When I was first inspired to make music, Toronto was in the midst of a mid ‘00s cultural renaissance where the local media was proudly championing a variety of new bands, DIY record labels and performing spaces that had popped up. It gave the feeling that anything was possible and that an audience could be found for your act, one way or another. Eventually, the hype around that died down a bit and I’d characterize the scene as undergoing various ups and downs since that point. On the upside, it’s currently much more diverse and representative of the city’s innate multiculturalism, since we’re finally seeing more and more BIPOC/racialised artists of different genres and styles having the opportunity to showcase their talents and find success. On the downside, a lot of the smaller venues have closed due to economic pressure during the pandemic, so it’s sometimes harder to find spaces that help to encourage new artists or those who delve into more experimental music.

You describe your music has having a lo-fi bedroom sound. What/who influences you most as an artist? What have you been listening to recently?

I feel like the definitions of lo-fi and bedroom have evolved a lot since I first started, as nowadays, those descriptors could apply to anyone making music with GarageBand, regardless of actual genre. For me, I initially imagined an Elliott Smith-like situation where the songs are barebones and the person is recording themselves on a four track within a poorly insulated room, with a lot of noise in the background. Based on that vision, I’d say Elliott, Sufjan Stevens and Shugo Tokumaru have likely been my greatest influences, because they’ve demonstrated that if you have strong writing and arrangement skills, you can still make great records despite the technical limitations of recording at home.

Regarding stuff I’ve been listening to recently, Nilüfer Yanya, Ginger Root, Beach House and Luna Li have been on heavy rotation as of late.

Do you have any plans to tour in the UK

At the moment, I’m still working on building up a bit more of a following but eventually, after I’ve released a bit more material, I’d like to start booking some shows. If the opportunity ever comes up to tour the UK, I’d love for that to happen, as I haven’t had the chance to visit yet and it’s been a long time dream of mine to soak in some of the art, music and culture coming out of there.

Any last words for the fans?

I just want to give my thanks to everyone who has taken the opportunity to listen to my music. It’s important to keep supporting independent artists as they progress, so I’m grateful and appreciative of all the support I’ve received so far. I hope for your continued support for my music in the future!