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A Splendid Talk with... NAVI | First Contact

NAVI (L-R): Trish Joong, Matthew Romerein, Justin Huang Ford

Artist: N A V I

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Peanut Gallery: Sound


Greetings to you! Let us begin our first contact between fellow human_friends by introducing its members.

Hello Peanut Gallery. NAVI consists of Justin Huang Ford and Matthew Romerein, and are at times joined for live shows by Trish Joong.

How did you all meet and form this entity? Where does the name NAVI come from? Does it stand for anything?

Justin and Matthew met as DJs in a previous life, primarily spinning the dark and futuristic side of drum and bass. The name NAVI comes from an anime called Serial Experiments: Lain, where the interfaces the characters use to access the internet (which has become akin to another dimension parallel to reality) are called navi’s.

What is NAVI’s instrumentation?

Coming out of a long history of different stylistic interests, we use a combination of electronic and acoustic instrumentation to create our compositions. Piano, guitar, bass guitar, synthesizers, drum machines, samplers, and modular synthesis are blended to create a unique sound palette.

NAVI is distinctively intriguing and of its own universe when compared to other artists I have listened to and interviewed thus far in the PG family. What sort of music do you perform and why are you interested in the production of such radience?

2 ½ of our members are architects, so we aim to compose pieces that bring our understanding of spatiality and place to the auditory realm and there is a constant desire to explore new ways that this can be achieved. Where earlier works focused on elements of narrative and mood, and the use of samples to bring those concepts forward, more current endeavours have attempted to find a way to directly translate visual proportions into harmonic ones setting the framework for the sonic pieces. And if we are trying to evoke fictional worlds with our music, for the most part those worlds tend to be dystopic and futuristic, a gritty future full of dusty ruins. Often architects believe that the best buildings will make beautiful ruins.

By the sounds of it, there seems to be crucial multidisciplinary aspects to your works. Are there multimedia aspects entangled in your music, both recorded and in a live performance setting?

We often begin work on a new piece with a visual narrative, like a storyboard that a film director might draw up, or sometimes visual precedents that we work towards. This visually artistic integration is incredibly important to our writing process as we believe the cross pollination of ideas between artistic disciplines can create beautiful and unexpected results. In live situations, we have often used video or animation based projections based on the themes that went into the particular songs.

What kinds of themes and stories are you drawn to in your musical creations? Can you provide a few examples?

Each project brings out different themes and stories as well as characters, however similar environments have begun to emerge as favorites. Many compositions seem to draw from a desert climate for example. The new EP, Cartography, has a song influenced by a trip to Granada, Spain (“Beneath the Sky II”), one that was based on a discussion with a film director for a new project he was developing (“Black Sand”), and one that was a hold-over from our previous EP that is a character sketch of the Queen Bee (“Empress”).

Awe yes! NAVI has a new album out, the Cartography EP, last month on April 21st! Would you care to share with us some interesting stories that went into creating this new collection of musical works and unique features that makes it stand out from your previous albums?

Where previous work all attempted to have a running narrative through the tracklist, Cartography is more of a mapping/evolution of the various styles we’ve developed, and so each song stands out individually. In general, we are lovers of releases that do tell a story when listened to front to back, which unfortunately with the way we consume music now is happening less and less. With new music only a click away, our attention deficient minds tend to be thinking of the next thing, not allowing ourselves to be taken away by what the artist is currently presenting. Anyways, certainly there is a stylistic theme that runs through the EP, yet the songs were not written that way. In a way it felt kind of liberating.

It seems like you two take inspiration from so many different artistic mediums and individuals. Who are your main influences in the music, art and video worlds?

Currently our main influences musically would be as varied as modern classical artists like Nils Frahm and Max Richter, doom metal artists like OM and True Widow, electronic artists like Loxy and FKA Twigs, rich textures from the likes of Abul Mogard and Loscil, and soundtrack composers like Jóhan Jóhannsson (RIP). Graphic art from Tsutomu Nihei, Stéphane Lavallois, Brodsky & Utkin are some of our favorites. Films by David Lynch period.

Because you mentioned it previously, what are your favourite animes? I was engulfed in Bleach, Death Note and Naruto growing up, and more recently, I have seen Hetalia, Yuri on Ice! and movies like Mamoru Hosoda’s Mirai and The Boy and the Beast, and Markoto Shinkai’s Your Name.

We haven’t been watching too much anime of late but Ghost in the Shell, both the film and the soundtrack, were huge huge huge.

How did you find out about Splendid Industries? Why did you decide to join this new music community? What do you think needs to be done to make it a successful wholesomely weird scene?

We were approached by someone at SI at one of our Toronto shows (sharing the bill with 2 other SI artists) and were really impressed with the community that was being fostered there, it seemed like a great thing to be a part and were really happy to be invited to join! To be successfully different and weird, but also wholesome, artists need to keep doing things from a place of passion and never look over your shoulder to see what everyone else is doing. Keep doing your thing and keep an open mind towards all art.

What can we expect from NAVI in the near-distant future, to support Cartography and beyond?... Certainly one Guelph live concert performance comes to mind which I am co-hosting!

Yes Yes! We have a few gigs lined up this summer to support the EP. First being a show put on by SMK and 3 Nines in Guelph on June 20th at the ANAF Club [3 Nines & SMK Presents: Berry Wall | GMT | Mouthfeel | NAVI], the second being our EP release show and the first show we’ve curated ourselves called Analog_Futures on June 22nd at the Trazac in Toronto, and the third being a yet to be announced show in Montreal!


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