Far beyond the McGill bubble and deep in the Mile End on Boul. St-Laurent, musicians and fans escaped the bitter January cold this past Saturday at Le Cagibi. Tucked away in the back room, three musical acts—two of which are McGill students—joined together for a night of indie folk, classic rock, and pop.
Playing after Vermont-based band J Bengoy, Sun Astronauts and Emmett McCleary represented McGill’s music community and showcased their diverse repertoires.
Her first performance in almost a year, solo act Sun Astronauts—U4 sociology and archaeology student Janice Ngiam—graced the audience with her delicate voice. Sun Astronauts breathlessly sings of relatable everyday experiences. “Glue of My Sticker” reflects on crushes you see from a distance—that content moment where “it’s just too easy to dream you up,”—before their flaws are observed. One untitled and haunting track accompanies lyrics written by the singer’s brother, Adrian Ngiam, whispering of frustrations one experiences when feeling excluded.
The transcendent vocals of Sun Astronauts’ indie folk songs are ideal for a relaxing Sunday afternoon. Using loop pedals to construct layers of dreamy vocals lends a whimsical quality to her music. After her single “A Little Little” found success on Hong Kong radio charts in 2011, Sun Astronauts toured throughout China and the U.S. before coming to Montreal to attend McGill.
Boston native and U2 Arts student Emmett McCleary has been playing the drums since the age of four and releasing music since he was twelve. Previously producing tracks under the alias Easter.—a childhood nickname bestowed by his grandfather—the transition to Emmett McCleary was less of an artistic shift and more of an effort for search optimization. The adoption of his real name, however, shows a growth in confidence. The musician was previously insecure about some of his lyrics, but he’s now proud to put his name behind his produced tracks.
McCleary was raised listening to classic rock, R&B, and Motown. Inspired by artists such as The Beatles, his most recent single, “Dream Lover,” is reminiscent of their cheerful and timeless pop classics.
“I’m firmly a pop guy,” explains McCleary. “I like a verse, a good chorus.”
Observing the community of McGill musicians, McCleary hopes to see more events where McGill musicians can get together and have more internal support.
“There are a lot of people at McGill that play music and write and I’m always surprised to find a friend,” he said. “So I think there’s a good amount of people producing music, it’s just missing a stronger sense of community and hopefully that will grow in the coming years.”
Suggesting more student concerts at Gerts or simply having McGill-funded student performances could be a means for artists to gravitate towards campus events. McCleary clarified that most of the shows he plays don’t feature student artists, but he’s optimistic about the ability of McGill’s musicians to band together.
Keep an eye out for McCleary’s forthcoming album, set to be released in May. In the meantime, he’ll be touring the States throughout February. Sun Astronauts’ first performance after a brief absence suggests an upcoming release of new music soon.
A previous version of this article incorrectly named the artist otherwise known as Sun Astronauts, whose name is Janice Ngiam. The Tribune regrets this error.