With the emergence of Montreal as a hotbed of indie music, a number of up-and-coming musicians have migrated here, looking to make it in the plethora of bars and clubs the city has to offer. Montreal still holds the title as one of the independent music capitals of North America, and has attracted a number of creative minds to the Milton Gates. U0 Arts students Elliot Sinclair, the musician behind Alright, Lights, is no exception.
Coming from Kingston, Ontario, the singer-songwriter’s impressively sophisticated and haunting album, Bloom was released this past January via Soundcloud. For him, coming to McGill wasn’t just about getting an education, but was also about finding a bigger stage for his creative voice.
“Really [I wanted to come to McGill] because of Montreal,” Sinclair said. “I really wanted to break onto the music scene over here [….] I really like how it’s a hub for music in Canada.”
While Sinclair notes that he is spoiled by the number of venues in the Montreal music scene, he has yet to play any live shows outside of McGill-run coffee houses. Instead, Sinclair is choosing to wait on finding a band before looking for venues to play.
“I haven’t made much of a conscious effort to search out for ways to expand on my music here, but there are so many places which I can start out,” Sinclair acknowledged. “Right now I’m in a bit of a lull because I’m playing on my own. I enjoy the energy of playing in a live band where people are building off each other’s energy, so I’d really like to find some people to play with first.”
Sinclair’s fascination with the Montreal music scene comes off the back of years of musical experience. After starting to play piano when he was six years-old, Sinclair began writing songs when he was 13 or 14—mainly “because of girls.” Since then, Sinclair has been writing avidly, yet sporadically. Bloom is in fact a compilation of his best works throughout high school up to this point. It reflects the adolescent angst and emotion that many feel at that time, and writing seems to be a therapeutic outlet for these emotions.
“I didn’t start writing [Bloom] with the thought in mind that I would be creating an album, but then sometime last year, I thought that high school was a pretty crazy time, so I wanted to tell the story of what had happened over the last four years,” he said. “There aren’t clear linear stories or anything like that, but they’re very reflective of times when I was feeling stressed out by things. That’s when I typically find writing easiest.”
While Sinclair’s album may deal with reaching maturity, his awareness of his own creativity is already markedly precocious. He labels his work practices as “scatterbrained,” and readily acknowledges how Bloom is a project that can’t be replicated, given how tied up it is in his past experiences. This kind of outlook is indicative of the organic nature of Sinclair’s music, an entity which develops with his own growth, and is never forced.
“It seems these days, so many young musicians try too hard to appeal to what’s popular, and the stuff that they feel they have to be making in order to gain more listeners,” Sinclair said. “But, I think you just make the music you truly want to be making then it becomes a lot more fun, and less restrictive.”
Sinclair really does seem to be having fun. Whether it’s his occasional partialness to dancing in his bedroom to ’80s hits, seeing punk bands called Diarrhea Planet, or remixing “lullaby” versions of ’90s rap hits, there is a carefree feel to the way Sinclair both consumes and creates music. Because of the kind of organic and comfortable creative process Sinclair has, it might mean that another project won’t come out for a while. Yet behind the scenes it seems like his creative engine is constantly whirring, even though the results may not be as prolific.
“I’d really like to make a concept album at some point,” Sinclair said. “I really like the idea of actually connecting a full on story through an album.”
While this strange mixture of relaxation and passion for music means Sinclair probably won’t be releasing something else for a while, what listeners will see will most likely be a very thoughtful and meaningful project.