At some point, I remembered to hit record on the old device.
Josh Spencer: I graduated [from McGill] in December 2014 and I remember hating the library. I practically had post-traumatic stress from the library.
But I also really loved coffee, and began to realize that there were so many amazing independent cafes [to go to] around Montreal. It became my way of discovering the city. I’d go to Monkland’s Café de Mercanti, or Melk, or in the Plateau would go to Cafe Neve. You talk to anyone behind the counter, and they’re all artists or musicians.
I started making connections, talking to owners of certain cafes, saying, “Hey, this is a big space, you could fit thirty to fifty people in here for a show.”
In the summer we were doing these beautiful backyard shows, and people were really into it. I thought, Wow, I should do more of this. I began to manage bands, and because of these bands, I began booking shows at Casa Del Popolo and other venues.
Alright, so it’s the middle of winter. You live in Montreal, a city loaded with a trillion music festivals. Where do you fit into all of this? How did you add yet another music festival to our city, in the dead of winter, and pull it off successfully?
JS: I know we’ve got Igloo Fest, but I didn’t think there were any festivals that brought people together in intimate spaces.
I was in a long-term relationship with someone who battled anxiety and depression. I’ve had lots of friends who have battled with it. It is the worst in the winter. There’s little sunlight, there’s less motivation to get out…
And for someone like myself, I LOVE music, obviously, and I play music, but I HATE festivals. I don’t like twenty-thousand-people crowds, thirty-degree sun…
CM: That’s my Hades.
JS: Yeah. And it’s crazy to pay that kind of money, like four hundred bucks for three days or whatever it is now. It’s stressful, and it takes away from the music. I’d rather listen to music on a good sound system at home with friends.
I guess that was my motivation. I love shows that are between thirty to a hundred people. And those are the kinds of shows we’ve been doing.
As for [holding the festival] in January, I collaborate with students, and we draw a lot from the student community. By doing [the KickDrum winter festival] in the 2nd week of January, we thought it would work better around exams and assignments and stuff.
CM: Is that where you found your team, through school?
JS: Yeah. Our team is Pauline is our graphic designer, she’s a fine arts student at Concordia, and she’s been working with me since May. Gabriel did our blog content, and helped me get more connected to the music scene (he’s a musician that goes by Smileswithteeth). We had Neve doing our website and Jesse Daniel Smith does our videography.
It was a lot of, “Maybe an artist wants a website, I’ll take to Neve,” or “Maybe an artist needs some posters, let’s talk to Pauline,” or “maybe someone wants to make a music video, I’ll talk to Jesse.”
CM: You do offer a lot of services on the website. When it comes to providing, do you just reach out to other people in the community, and connect them?
JS: That’s the thing about being a young company, you’re trying to figure out what works. [It’s] an outlet for [artists] to also get some more work.
CM: I like the angle that KickDrum is taking, where you’re kind of being an artistic middleman, but you’re also offering cultural resources like festivals. This would be especially useful if you’re new to Montreal, or you’re just starting out as an artist, and don’t know a lot of people and or venues.
I also noticed that KickDrum has a long list of upcoming events that aren’t a part of the winter festival. You have Po Lazarus playing at Petit Campus and Smokes playing with Year of Glad at Casa Del Popolo, to name a few.
What are these shows a part of? Or is KickDrum just booking shows?
JS: There were over fifty acts in the festival, and I would say over half of them were existing connections, from either backyard shows or something. That made it easy. After that, it was a lot of me just cold calling. Facebook or something. It’s very chill. “Hey, it’s me Josh, we’re doing this festival,” you know? Most of them were café shows, so very low-key. I think Cagibi was the only venue that was a venue. And then we had our Casa and Divan Orange shows that were added to the festival…I just reached out.
Also, my friend Charles has been an angel to me. He’s interning at Blue Skies Turn Black, and he helped me out a lot. He set up a meeting for me with Meyer [Billurcu], who was so nice. I guess I was expecting something different. There’s so much ego in the music industry, so as soon as you meet someone who’s doing something cool in the scene…
CM: You expect them to be a dick.
JS: Haha, yeah! But [Meyer] is not at all. He’s a great guy. I mean, I’ve only sat down with him for an hour, but yeah. Great guy.
I told him I had a finale show I wanted to do [for the festival] and I kind of pitched the lineup first, and that did it.
CM: People’s music tends to speak for itself.
JS: Totally. The best part of the festival was that it allowed me to reach out to so many new artists I’d never worked with before. It was a lot of reaching out, but I think maybe people were open. I don’t know what was going through their heads, I think they checked out our Facebook page and went to our website, and maybe thought it was cool.
CM: Reaching out is the best. When it comes to hype, or successful artists, or people with bad attitudes, it can be a little intimidating. But I like the level KickDrum keeps it on. It comes across as community-based, which takes away a lot of the pretensions.
JS: That makes me happy to hear. That’s what it’s all about. It’s like, Everyone loves music. But don’t make us hate your music ‘cuz you’re a dick, you know?
CM: Haha definitely…we all have friends who are doing amazing things. Let’s all be a community together and do stuff. It’s simple.
What’s the future for KickDrum?
JS: That is a good question. I’m going to try and rest. But there’s a lot going on…
Musician and writer, Ceilidh likes to provoke your thoughts, make music, and challenge anyone who takes life too seriously. Her favorite quote from Lester Bangs says it best: “The real question is what to live for. And I can’t answer it. Except another one of your records. And another chance for me to write.”