Nostalgia, Hope, and Ideation: Exclusive Interview with CRi and his Debut Album, JUVENILE

A rush of unfiltered feeling charges through your body like an uncontrollable electrical wave. With it comes intense poignancy, hopefulness, happiness, and even barbs of melancholy. It’s the debut album from CRi and its magical, transformative experience.

The Montreal-native has crafted an incredible masterpiece of downtempo, melodic electronic music that is absolutely breathtaking. Juvenile shapes an experience that brings an intimacy that will slither over and speak to each listener in its own right, breathing life into nostalgic memories or forging hope for the future. It’s easily one of the best albums of the year and is deserving of all praise. It also shines a spotlight on an artist that has come into his own and has broken the cold, distant digital landscape to articulate his vision and voice with boundless spectacle. CRi has arrived and his brilliance is on display.

With the release of his debut album, we sat down with CRi to discuss how his native Montreal has impacted him, his artistic vision, and — of course — Juvenile. Here is our exclusive interview:

How has the Montreal scene influenced your sound?

I have a hard time defining the Montreal scene, probably because I’m part of it, but also because it’s very diverse. For my part, I am more familiar with the Francophone and Anglophone electronic scenes, and I would say that in some ways I have unconsciously tried to bridge these two solitudes. On one hand, an artist like Daniel Bélanger has had a huge impact on my musical identity and on the other hand a band like Bran Van 3000 or, more recently, Jacques Greene also had a direct influence on my sound. I like both scenes and through my project I try to create a form of encounter.

Are there any specific Montreal artists or anything specific to the city that you draw inspiration from? Besides those, what would you say are some of your other influences?

A lot of Montreal artists inspire me, Jesse Mac Cormack, Men I Trust, Patrick Watson, Karkwa, TOPS, Kaytranada and so on, it’s hard to be concise, there are so many talents that come from here. The city itself is also very inspiring, just fighting winter is an endless source of emotions. The rather calm atmosphere of the city and the proximity to nature gives me a kind of quietness that allows me to create. My musical influences are quite diverse but if I had to choose three I would say Moby, Caribou, and Saint-Germain.

Are there any rising Montreal artists that we should keep an eye on?

The term “rising” is very subjective and difficult to define, I can consider an artist as a legend while another one won’t even know what he is doing. I’m really surrounded by talented people so I’m going to namedrop my friends who are on my album. Jesse Mac Cormack, Sophia Bel, Robert Robert are three artists that I admire deeply. Otherwise, I really like Choses Sauvages, Lydia Képinski and Chivengi. And, to all those who will recognize themselves, get your music out! There are too many talented people in my entourage who leave their music in their hard drive.

How do you want your sound to be remembered?

I never really thought about it. I don’t make music to be remembered, I do it because I have emotions to express.

Walk us through your creation process. Did that differ or change when you began writing JUVENILE?

My creative process is constantly changing, I have to change my way of doing things quite regularly otherwise I get bored with what I’m doing. It is often the new and unknown that feeds my inspiration. I would say that when I composed Juvenile, I rediscovered my piano, several pieces on this album were first written on the piano. I used the Juno 106 a lot, on almost all the songs, however, I must admit that it is rarely very far away. What has marked the creative process of this album the most is the contribution of the collaborators. I learned a lot from them, each one brought a different way of looking at things, both on a technical level where Jesse showed me some of his secrets with some plugins but also on a more global level with Daniel on how to create an inspiring environment.

On the album, you explore themes of dreams, youth, nostalgia and uncertainties of the future. What made you want to explore these ideas?

These are really themes that have always been with me, I am a particularly nostalgic person, I very often cling to the past, maybe even too much! Uncertainty has always been a part of my life, but even more so in my life as a musician, you never know what’s going to happen, it’s a very unpredictable job and it’s even less predictable today with everything that’s going on. It was really unconscious on my part to talk about these themes, I didn’t have any particular intention, it’s once the album was finished that I understood. I was looking for its meaning, that’s what came out in the end, or at least what I understood from it.

What do you want listeners to take away from the album?

I want them to experience it and feel it without looking for too much meaning. That’s how I created it and I believe that it is with a “naive” ear that it can be appreciated even more. It’s an album that is understood through emotions, not techniques or references. Yes, there are a few references in this album, but I think that to appreciate it, you just have to let yourself go.

If you could choose anywhere for someone to listen to JUVENILE, where would it be?

I don’t want to promote the car and the consumption of fossil fuels, but I think it is by car or any other form of transportation that it can be appreciated the most. Travel, quest and movement brings an extra dimension to this album. I say that because I’ve listened to it a lot in my travels, it’s as if every moment of life becomes a little bit like a movie, a particular scene. For sure, in a concert, it will be really cool too, but let’s just say that I don’t know when will be the next time I’ll be able to perform in front of flesh and blood humans.

When you work with amazing vocalists or other artists like Sophia Bel and Bernache of Men I Trust, do you give them the production and let their creativity take over? Walk us through how these collaborations take shape and turn into brilliant records.

I would say that there is a different way of doing things for each collaborator, it depends a lot on what makes them as comfortable and as creative as possible. For example, with Sophia we love to improvise together and create on the spot, maybe because she’s my neighbor and we chill a lot together. Whereas with Bernache, we did it from a distance, I would send her an idea and she would send me others. Often, some singers don’t manage to write the lyrics on the spot, from a distance there are more possibilities.  

One of my favorite records of the year is “Never Really Get There”, where did the idea for this come from?

The creative process behind this song was pretty quick. Jesse and I met up at my studio cause we were supposed to put together a song for this Chinese phone company, OPPO. Without a word, Jesse went straight to the piano. He played a few chords and started to sing. That’s when I realized we weren’t going to do a song for an ad. Jesse had to go pick up his daughter at daycare, so we only had time to record the first verse. But I was feeling inspired, so I set down the kind of groovy bass line with my Moog Sub 37. It was like I was in a trance, and after about 5 hours with no break, I snapped out of it because I was starving. Since then, the song hasn’t changed much.

For me “Never Really Get There” is about being stuck outside yourself and not being able to get back in. This song is about setting high expectations in relationships and quickly jumping from one to another in denial. Pushing further the moment you will meet with the parts of yourself you don’t want to deal with.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I may be too corny, but follow your dreams and don’t let those who don’t believe in them get you down.

To stream Juvenile, continue below or follow the link here.