Silla and Rise | Photo by Tangent
Silla and Rise have just released their new single: Pandemonium, a song featured on their third album that will debut later this fall. The group now comprises DJ Rise Ashen and Inuit throat singing trio Cynthia Pitsiulak, Charlotte Qamaniq and newcomer Charlotte Carleton. Pandemonium’s accompanying music video is a colourful and contemplative illustration of today’s current political climate highlighting the effects of resource extraction and Indigenous sovereignty on the land. It is the work of Inuvialuk/Gwich’in artist Darcie “Ouiyaghasiak” Bernhardt who created 9,000+ watercolour animations for the video. The song is based on a sonic interpretation of two traditional throat songs: Nirliit (geese) and Naujaat (seagulls). The group pushes boundaries in creativity. To me, their music feels like a celebration of modern Indigeneity, that’s filled with good energy seamlessly woven with melodic beats. Before the debut of Pandemonium, I got to talk with Silla and Rise about their new music and what their fans can expect from their third (still untitled) album this fall.
Erica Commanda: In the media release, it said that the video was a call and response. Can you talk about the statement behind the video?
Rise Ashen: When we initially created the song, it was a sonic comment on the state of the world at the time. We felt like this pandemonium was breaking out. The pandemic had just started and we were just kind of playing on pandemic pandemonium. I think Darcie took it in a different direction, something much more focused on current events, especially with the conflicts around mining in the north. That was her vision that she brought to it. It’s also a beautiful visual document of the north. If you’ve ever been that far north, you know how the colour palette is. It’s just absolutely unmistakably northern. I think that was the call and response. We were actually the ones putting the call out. Darcie was the one who was doing the response. So her response was that and it ended up creating this other thing I don’t think we had ever really thought about. It kind of landed in our lap. Thanks to Every Seeker for putting us together with Darcie! They brought a whole other thing to it and created this beautiful visual work. Then I was blessed to be able to remix their work as well. So, yeah, it was this fortuitous thing that happened. We’re blessed to have it happen.
EC: Charlotte [Carleton], can you talk about what it was like to join Silla and Rise?
Charlotte Carleton: I’ll just say when Charlotte first asked me I wasn’t expecting it at all. I got asked to help out with Bluesfest and was so excited. Then Charlotte approached me a couple of weeks later. We went out to a restaurant and she asked me. I was crying like it was the biggest honour. I had. It’s such an honour to be part of this group. I felt and I still do feel very honoured, but it was a little bit of a challenge. There was work to be done. They were already a group. Once I got comfortable being part of the group and getting to know everyone-, I had never met Rise before-, I became more comfortable being myself. I love it. I love it so much. I’ll just give a little bit of background. I’ve never done this kind of thing before. It’s so cool. I’ve never throat sang without a set in mind, without knowing what I’m going to do with one other person. I’ve pretty much done traditional throat singing all my life. Silla and Rise are so fun. It’s so fresh. It’s like a remix of throat singing and I’m all for it. I’m learning more from what I’m capable of doing. When Charlotte and I get together, we just make new stuff without even knowing that we could reach these parts of us. That’s why it’s so grounding, spiritual and emotional because you’re finding parts about you like your inner soul, your ancestors, things that have already been before you. I feel like I’m bringing it out. Charlotte’s bringing it out. Rise is bringing it out. And it’s amazing.
EC: You worked on the album during the pandemic. In what ways did the pandemic and other world events from the past year influence the creative process for your music?
RA: Normally we’re playing multiple shows a week. It’s a process of constantly doing sound checks and a lot of our jamming happens during those sound checks. The songs are constantly growing because we’re playing so much. So it was pretty challenging with the stay-at-home orders because we weren’t able to get together as much. What we did is as soon as the orders were lifted and were allowed to get together, we would always just jam. The album is not done, by the way. We’re still working on it. So we have the one single that’s out. We have a good chunk of the album done. Whenever the restrictions loosen, then we’ll do it. We have been blessed to play about three shows since the beginning of the pandemic that were real shows with audiences. They separated everyone with plexiglass and had contact tracing. We played so many shows like that. Most of them have been virtual shows. Certainly, it’s not the same as when we’re getting together to jam two or three times a week.
EC: Now that we are opening again, as artists what are you looking forward to the most?
CHARLOTTE QAMANIQ: I’m looking forward to live shows, not just our own live shows, but experiencing other live shows. That’s one of the things that I’ve missed so much since the pandemic started because it’s such a huge part of our lives and there’s so much more to music than just listening to it with your ears. There’s the experience and sharing energy with other people. So being able to provide live shows is amazing. We’re continuing to grow all the time and Charlotte [Carleton] just joined us in August, so we, unfortunately, haven’t had many opportunities to do live shows in front of audiences with her. I’m just excited to continue growing as a musician and experiencing music live again.
RA: Because the music we make is very improvisational, every show is always different. So often a song could be very mellow sounding and chill until you get the energy of a whole bunch of people in front of you and then they’re dancing and we’re moving with them. This other dimension takes over and it ends up being something completely different depending on the crowd. So, yeah, the music is alive when it’s live.
CC: For myself, I’m excited to do live performances with Rise and Charlotte [Qamaniq] and also to get outside of my comfort zone. As Charlotte said, I haven’t had very many opportunities to do live shows and how Rise would say every show is different, every audience is different. You kind of feed off the energy and vice versa. So I’m excited to get out of my comfort zone a little bit and challenge myself going live, doing super improvisational songs and music with them.
EC: The music video for Pandemonium features the work of Inuvialuk/Gwich’in visual artist Darcie Bernhardt. How did that partnership come about?
CC: We were contacted by Every Seeker. It’s a festival in Halifax. It was a collaborative opportunity for us to work with another artist. They asked if we could send them a video of us performing a song and then they would link us with another artist who would create something based on the music that we sent. They had connected us with Darcie Bernhardt who also lives in Halifax. She created this really powerful piece that we all fell in love with instantly. We did the live broadcast with Every Seeker when they premiered the video and then afterwards we just decided that we would love to have it as a music video.
EC: What can fans expect from your third album this fall?
CC: They can expect a journey. Every song is different. Every song has a different energy and emotion behind it. I want to say it’s open to interpretation. This is my take on it. Rise and Charlotte [Qamaniq] have different ones I’m assuming. Especially the work that we’re doing. It’s very impromptu, but it also has a very specific purpose. It’s very grounding. It touches your soul.
RA: CQ, did you want to talk about the coming back to Earth thing?
CQ: Yeah! So we like to say our first album was like a skeleton. It’s the bones because we came together not expecting to put together an album or even form a group that was going to continue for all of these years. We just came together, were jamming and realized that we were creating something very beautiful and something that we wanted to continue working on. There was no plan for it. It just was kind of born. It presented itself. So we like to say our first album is the skeleton of Silla and Rise, all of our live music, all of the songs that we performed from the first album we performed it live.
There’s a lot more meat on it now because we’ve had the chance to work on it and to give it that little bit of extra. Then the second album, we kind of blasted off into space because we were so excited. We were getting to know ourselves as a band, as Silla and Rise. It’s called the Galactic like it’s a play on words. It’s a Galactic Gala, like going out and having a gala with extraterrestrials. We like to say we have alien hip hop music. Then we found our personality. We had tons of fun. We just kind of blasted off. Then this album is kind of like we’re coming back down to earth after spending some beautiful time with the universe, getting to know ourselves and exploring our personalities. It’s a lot more earthy-toned. It’s a lot more spiritual. We’re kind of going inwards. We went outside and explored the universe and now we’re coming back and exploring ourselves in a more in-depth way. Because we have so much more experience we’re becoming a lot more confident and more settled. I feel like it’s just expanding.
*To find out more about Darcie Bernhardt’s amazing art follow her on Instagram: @ouiyaghasiak.