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20 Questions With Drae

The dynamic Ottawa duo talk musical fusion, manual transmissions & layered dip.

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Drae invited us to Take Cover when they showcased their funky single and video HERE back in September. Today the dynamic duo they fail to heed their own advice and come out of hiding to tackle my ridiculous questions. Let’s see how they did:

 


 

Introduce yourself:
We are Drae, an alternative hip-hop duo from Ottawa, Canada. We blend blues-rock guitar riffs, hip-hop lyricism and electronic music arrangements to create a unique sound that’s drawn comparisons to Rage Against The Machine and Grandson. Individually, we are Andre Thibault (vocals / production) and Matt Robillard (drums / percussion).

What is your musical origin story?
We have been playing together in various bands spanning various genres for over a decade. We both attended the same high school together but never really became friends until afterwards. We started playing in our first band, The Second Silverado, through a mutual friend, and began with covers before beginning to write original material. During that era, we attended The Audio Recording Academy together in Ottawa. This time allowed us to hone our studio and production chops and keep all our recording, mixing and mastering in-house. Since graduating from the program, we have played together or seperately in other acts, culminating in what you see and hear now with Drae.

What do we need to know about your latest project?
Our latest single Take Cover is the first release from our upcoming project Tardigrade. It encompasses a lifetime of mutual influences, both musically and otherwise. We wanted to start using more live instrumentation and get away from synthesizers, sampling, etc. to create a more raw, soulful sound.
We both have very strong, outspoken views on the state of the world right now. So naturally this translates into nuanced takes on current affairs in our lyrics. Take Cover in particular speaks of a hypothetical world where systems designed to protect us — specifically law enforcement — turn against us. Unfortunately, we’re seeing this become less and less hypothetical by the day; both with our neighbours to the South, and watching our own police here dealing with Indigenous peoples and minority groups.

What truly sets you apart from other artists?
We’re real, raw, and in your face. So much of the music industry is curated to suit a particular target audience, or “put on a show” so to speak. It seems to be about creating a brand, but that brand often ends up being bigger than the person/people it represents. We take pride in staying true to ourselves and speaking our minds, and this reflects in our art. What you see is what you get, and it allows us to connect with listeners on a deeper, more personal level. They see the human element in us, and can relate to that same humanity in our music.

What will I learn or how will my life improve by listening to your music?
Listening to our music, particularly our new material, is like holding up a mirror in a way; there’s a lot of self reflection and introspection. But we also try to use our music as a lens to the outside world. We hope that by listening to us, you gain new perspectives; both of your surroundings, and your contributions and responsibilities to those surroundings. Whether it be politics, social issues, personal struggles; we touch on a number of external and internal factors that affect the human experience.

Tell us about the first song you wrote and / or the first gig you played and what you got paid.
The first song we wrote together was called Climbing Mountains, and it also happened to be the first song we recorded together in Andre’s parents’ basement. It was basically a freestyle, lyrically and instrumentally, and came together during a couple rehearsals. We were playing around with the idea having a rap song in a set that was very much rock; our guitarist at the time started to play a riff, Matt got into a groove, and Andre started into a verse he had written as a joke. We realized pretty quickly afterwards that we could incorporate hip-hop into our sound, and haven’t really looked back since.

What is the best / worst / strangest / most memorable performance you have given?
We’ll go with most memorable: As funny as it sounds, even with bigger / more noteworthy shows under our belt, our favourite is still playing JUNOfest here in Ottawa at the Bourbon Room. It was the first time that we saw total strangers as invested in our music and our performance as we were. It was a definitive shift in our progression as musicians, knowing that we were connecting with people strictly through our art.

What is the best / worst / strangest / most memorable performance you’ve seen another artist give?
We’d probably have different answers for best or most memorable, but we would both have the same for worst. We won’t name names, but a fairly prominent hip-hop artist who we both loved got about halfway through his set before he was too inebriated to continue, and his hype man had to bring him back on stage and get the crowd to reassure him. We walked out after that, first and only time we’ve left a show like that. It was quite sad actually; tainted his music for us going forward.

What do you want to be doing in 10 years?
This, but on a bigger scale. Writing, recording, travelling the world to perform. We’re both very passionate about music and have sacrificed so much to make this a viable career. There’s no plan B for us.

What living or dead artists would you collaborate with if you could?
Andre: Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. He’s always been my number one. Such a multitalented artist and a brilliant mind. Would love to have a day or three in the studio with him. Also, I think Matt and I would both agree that writing with Travis Barker would be a VERY fun time. So much energy in his work, and he has production credits on a number of records from artists that we idolize.
Matt: John Bonham. We couldn’t really collaborate per se because we play the same instrument, but he’s the man. Also, Dave Grohl, because he’s the God of rock and roll and seems like a genuinely kind person in a word full of egos. Getting in the studio with him would be refreshing.

What artist or style of music do you love that would surprise people?
We’re both pretty into hardcore and emo. The music is always so technically sound and you can find some of the best melodies in hardcore music. You can tell the artists have really mastered their craft. Lyrically its very poignant and on the nose too, there’s a surprising amount of wordplay.

What are your favourite songs / albums / artists right now?
Favourite artists: Run The Jewels, Fever 333, Dance Gavin Dance, Grandson, Two Feet, Twenty One Pilots, Glass Animals
Favourite songs: 2X2Beam; Prey For MeFever 333; Out Of SightRun The Jewels, 6:00Grandson; Lyrics LieDance Gavin Dance; The FightThe Classic Crime; Your Love (Deja Vu)Glass Animals

How about some other favourites: Authors, movies, painters, you name it.
We’re both big into the Marvel movies and the Fast and Furious series, so those are definitely our guilty pleasures movie wise. TV wise it’s a lot of comedy: Modern Family, Workaholics, Trailer Park Boys, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. We’re both avid gamers as well, and have a laundry list of games that we play together online. Add us on PSN: Andros2020 and Robillard6

Who would you be starstruck to meet?
Dave Grohl, Lebron James, Rick Rubin, Barack Obama. We’re firm believers that everyone is human, but these guys are at the top of their game and would have a lot of wisdom to provide in a one-on-one situation.

What do you drive and why?
Andre drives a Volkswagen Golf, manual transmission because it’s fun and there’s more control. Matt used to have one too, so it’s kind of a family tradition.

What superpower do you want and how would you use it?
Time Control. There’s so many things you can do if you control time. Think about Dr. Strange. Change the past, see into the future. There are a lot of potential consequences with altering time, but with great power comes great responsibility right?

If I had a potluck, what would you bring?
Layered dip, because you can never go wrong with layered dip.

What current trend or popular thing do you not understand at all?
TikTok dances. Period. Just why?

Tell us about your current and/or former pets.
Andre has a rottweiler/husky mix named Jaina, but we all live together so she’s kind of like a family dog now. We’ve both had multiple dogs and cats in the past as well; we’re very much animal lovers.

If you could have any other job besides music, what would it be and why?
Andre: professional basketball player. I played 20 years of competitive basketball, all the way into college. If not for a couple torn ligaments in my knee, we might not even have Drae. Also, a stunt driver, because I feel like that would be THE most fun job ever.
Matt: Drum tech or stage hand for any of my favourite bands. Would still allow me to combine my passion for music with making a living, and travel the world in the process. Also, a lawyer. I’ve been told I’d make a great lawyer.

What’s the best advice and/or worst advice you were ever given?
Best advice ever: Don’t dwell. What’s done is done, you can’t control it anymore. There’s only one way to move and that’s forward.

Check out their videos above, hear more from Drae below, and keep up with them on their website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.