Montreal-based artist MAGS is busier than you. On any given day, she’s splitting her time between her band Strange Froots, beatmaking, illustrating, festival work and community promotion. MAGS’ latest project is leading a new regional chapter of the global Loop Sessions community – not in her current place of residence, Montreal, but a place where she has roots – the DMV (DC Maryland Virginia). Her guest mix is a compilation of incredible beats made by LSDMV members, including hip-hop, trap/dubstep, experimental pop, and a few Tommy Wiseau samples for good measure. Listen below, and read on as we ask her about maintaining a hectic creative schedule.
To start off, can you first just briefly explain what Loop Sessions is globally? And what is the DMV chapter all about? You founded it yourself, and not too long ago?
Loop Sessions (founded by Dr. MaD and Lou Piensa, aka the Loop Pilots, in 2016) is an event series produced by Artbeat Montreal, inspired by a weekly Brazilian event called Beat Brasilis. At Loop Sessions, the goal is for producers and beatmakers to sample the same provided record in a limited amount of time, and create a new beat. I founded Loop Sessions DMV in January 2021, with our inaugural online event taking place February 5th, 2021. This idea came about in late 2020 after S. Sweet, a DMV friend, attended two online Montreal sessions; they were blown away by all the talent and completely enamored with the concept, and having been a regular at the Montreal sessions, it dawned on me that I could bring this concept to the DMV. With their help I found Bliberation, who is our host and DJ based in Baltimore, and the rest is history.
In the 006 Instagram hangout you all were discussing a crate of records that you had to choose from for the session. I really love the beat you made, can you explain this one crate system, and how you used it to come up with your beat?
LSDMV6 had the particular honor of being our first session where the digital crate most resembled a real one, in the sense that instead of being given one album to work off of, we were given 7 distinct songs from different artists, genres, and decades. These songs were handpicked by residents at the Gemeinschaft Home in Harrisonburg, VA, via the Amplify Music program, a non-profit organization that facilitates music-making classes with folks who’ve been impacted by the carceral system. For my beat in particular, I chose to challenge myself by sampling one of three country songs in the crate; the string progression from Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” truly spoke to me and wasn’t one I was expecting, so I wanted to take advantage of this pleasant surprise and go the route of a trance/dubstep track.
You’ve also got some non LSDMV stuff out lately, can you tell us about “Koroba” and Age of Aquarius?
“Koroba” is a track I made in January 2021, utilizing Senegalese singer Youssou Ndour’s “Kirikou”, off the soundtrack of the eponymous animated French film based around West African culture and folklore. Both the film Kirikou et la Sorcière and Youssou Ndour have had profound impacts on me growing up, having a Senegalese father who did his best to make a well-rounded artist out of me. He had all kinds of music from his generation playing around the house, he got me my first guitar as well my first copy (and most subsequent ones) of FL Studio since I was 11, and for a short while got me into painting as well. At this point earlier in the year I felt like I was in some kind of musical rutt outside Loop Sessions, and for a long time had been too afraid to even go for such a prolific song to sample, but with some encouragement from my friend shmings (Artbeat Montreal/Loop Sessions) I finally got around to making something I was happy with, but didn’t feel the need to post at the time. This past April, my paternal grandmother sadly passed away, and I couldn’t be with much of my family including my dad, who moved back to Senegal about 7 years ago. With the pandemic, on top of her own long-standing wish for folks not to flock to where she was when she eventually passed, I was experiencing a mix of grief, empathy for my dad, and regret for not having told her what an inspiration she’d always been, as the easy but firm matriarch of the clan. I had channeled her in two of my looks in my band Strange Froots‘ music video for “The Wanderer” (produced by me with another Senegalese sample). With her last name being so similar to that of Karaba the Sorceress from Kirikou, I felt like this needed to be my last message to her. Just like Karaba, she had powers too.
Age of Aquarius is an album released in January 2020, in collaboration with my good friend JU!CE, a fellow producer and visual artist, as well as DJ based in Montreal, with whom I have many conversations about astrology. One day in spring 2019, we were having a conversation about video games and music and suddenly came to the conclusion that we should finally collab and make a beattape sampling various video game OSTs, and each song would be inspired by a zodiac sign. Some of the games and properties that can be heard are Super Mario Bros, Neopets, Cooking Mama, Tetris, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and even some media franchise games like The Lion King and Harry Potter. The album was then launched at the Lux Magna festival, in co-presentation with Also Cool Magazine, where I also released an Astrology 101 zine (complete with cartoon analogies, comparative tables and MySpace-age sprites) in limited physical copies for attendees, but still available online as a PDF. It was a wonderful bonding experience for JU!CE and I, and in writing the zine and working on the tracks I learned a lot more about astrology too.
Bliberation called you “Mags of many talents.” In the convo you mention a comic you drew recently, beatmaking, being in a band… how do you find time for it all? Is there a medium that you consider to be your first love or priority/focus?
How do I find time for it all? That’s an excellent question, and I’ll be sure to let you know when I find out!
But in all seriousness, the key is to not try and do it all at once at the same intensity, you gotta find peaks and valleys in all disciplines. Luckily for me, outside of the promotional and logistic aspects of LSDMV, I only need to focus on any given Loop Sessions at most 24 hours at a time. I have a lot of ideas for drawings but usually make the time for those with potent concepts and potential for crossover (and what 90s baby doesn’t love a good crossover?); for example, to commemorate Loop Sessions first year online, I reinterpreted their flyer mascots as Animal Crossing characters. My first love has always been illustration and drawing. I’ve gone through many a Crayola kit in my youth, several hours on MS Paint for over a decade, and have been an avid cartoon-watcher my whole life. I wouldn’t say I’ve seen every mainstream cartoon there is but the ones I’ve seen, I’d watch over and over, do my readings, and yes, even participate in some of the Tumblr fandoms. The twenty-teens were a wild time.
You’re also a co-founder of Lux Magna festival, and involved with Suoni Per Il Popolo?
I am indeed one of the co-founders of the Montreal winter festival Lux Magna (currently on hiatus). The way this came about is actually through my connections with the Suoni Per Il Popolo festival. Back in 2016, Strange Froots was booked to open for Elle Barbara’s Black Space, then again in 2017 to open their two Princess Nokia shows (first one took place before our trip to Senegal and sold out, the second one was an off-season Suoni show upon our return, nearly 2 months later). I had personally been approached to also curate some hip-hop shows for their lineup (acts including Witch Prophet, Miss Eaves, Hua Li and more), and through those experiences I was brought onto a smaller team from within the Suoni network, in the early stages of conceptualizing a new winter festival, in order to continue to bring experimental and underground art during the colder seasons. Age of Aquarius was actually launched at Lux Magna 2020, where we had a listening party, and our friend Cosmique Tea provided attendees with readings.
This year, I was formally brought onto the Suoni team as their head of social media, which was an interesting exercise in new aesthetics, learning how to better use social media tools, and just discovering new artists overall.
I was put originally put in touch with you by past SBC guest Grim of Spartan Jet-Plex and Richmond, VA label Grimalkin Records. How did you meet Grim and the Grimalkin crew?
I became familiar with Grimalkin Records when my friend Backxwash released her tape Deviancy through them; I was surprised to later find out that they were actually based in Richmond. Fast-forward to winter 2020, I was looking for DMV orgs that might be interested in telling their followers about LSDMV, or that could help me tap into the local artist community. Despite being born and raised in the DMV, my artistic career was entirely based out of Canada. I was able to get in touch with Grim who was super down to help, we got on a call with Bliberation and got to know each other and go over expectations and ideas. I also thought it was super cool and important to have an eclectic label, that expressly focuses on QT.BIPOC artists, reach out to their network and share the good word about Loop Sessions which, despite being very open and welcoming, is born out of a mainly cishet hip-hop environment. Grim has been so helpful in making folks excited for upcoming sessions and even being a prime example (through new releases and experimentations) of how Loop Sessions benefits artistic growth and bridging communal gaps.
Tell me about the mix! Is it comprised entirely of Loop Session beats?
So this mix is entirely made of Loop Sessions beats, and kind of split into an A and B side. Side A features LSDMV tracks from sessions 5 down to 1, then around the 30 minute mark we transition into LSMTL with a beat made by DMV’s Sweet aka Shugsline; all beats are from lockdown onwards. I picked some of my favorite submissions, as well as tracks that beautifully demonstrate the concept of different beatmakers giving their own takes on the same sample, in each respective session. For a short while later in the first year of the pandemic, we as participants would pick random inside jokes to insert into our beats at any given session; the first of this instance was the “Oh Hai Mark” edition at Loop Sessions 54, where we inserted the infamous line from the Tommy Wiseau film The Room, in reference to the DJ/Host Mark the Magnanimous.
Who are some of the others making beats for LSDMV? Can you tell us a little bit about a few of them?
Some of our regulars include Rafa Espiritufrom Mount Pleasant, DC, who last month released a mini-beatape Samasama Manila Sounds sampling Filipino music from the 70s and 80s. Next, repping for Prince George’s County, MD we have Shugsline, who is widely known as the band leader and bassist for jazzy space-soul band Black Folks Don’t Swim?, a band that Strange Froots has had the privilege of sharing a bill with in 2019 during our first U.S. show; Sweet also has debuted a new online music series, Shugsline Radio every Thursday at 9pm EST on Instagram and Clubhouse. And of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Grim, whose artist alias is Spartan Jet-Plex. They mostly work from an esoteric folk standpoint, and has been a vocal advocate of Loop Sessions being a space where folks who aren’t the most confident in their skill or style, because it’s a learning environment for everyone and one where inspiration is constant. And with every livestream they have more things to promote on behalf of Grimalkin Records, allowing everyone tuned in to discover new artists.
- LSDMV_005 – Delorean McFly (0:00)
- LSDMV_005 – Rafa Espiritu (1:25)
- LSDMV_005 – Ahli (3:04)
- LSDMV_004 – Bliberation (4:33)
- LSDMV_004 – Miqx (6:13)
- LSDMV_004 – Joni Void (7:53)
- LSDMV_004 – Evan Shay (9:35)
- LSDMV_004 – Spartan Jet-Plex (11:07)
- LSDMV_003 – SHOGO (12:37)
- LSDMV_003 – Sabrina Sabotage (13:56)
- LSDMV_003 – Nik Brovkin (15:36)
- LSDMV_003 – MAGNANIMOUS (17:36)
- LSDMV_002 – Image Club (19:10)
- LSDMV_002 – Ryshgang (20:33)
- LSDMV_002 – Mosaic the Animated (22:01)
- LSDMV_002 – Mags (23:25)
- LSDMV_001 – shmings (24:54)
- LSDMV_001 – Wren Dove Lark (25:48)
- LSDMV_001 – Joni Void (27:13)
- LSDMV_001 – Woven In (28:45)
- LS_060 – Shugsline (29:56)
- LS_060 – FRASE (31:08)
- LS_060 – J.u.D (32:49)
- LS_038 – SENZ (34:10)
- LS_038 – Maxtone95 (36:54)
- LS_038 – Dozhoff (38:21)
- LS_038 – Marabout (40:12)
- LS_038 – Toast Dawg (41:42)
- LS_038 – PRO-V (43:03)
- LS_060 – Rylan Kreps (44:42)
- LS_060 – Pierce Dyrlie (45:41)
- LS_060 – Dallamano (46:47)
- LS_058 – Ramehs.eS (48:42)
- LS_058 – Rekha (50:32)
- LS_058 – Simb0 (52:39)
- LS_056 – FLIX (54:09)
- LS_056 – Rekinsa (55:06)
- LS_056 – Koungasan (56:19)
- LS_056 – Dr. MaD (58:28)
- LS_055 – Mags (1:00:03)
- LS_055 – Loopy MNSTR (1:01:06)
- LS_055 – Sabrina Sabotage (1:03:19)
- LS_055 – Tony SOS4 (1:05:13)
- LS_054 – Ryshgang (1:06:22)
- LS_054 – Viv Imara (1:07:51)
- LS_054 – Lowpocus (1:08:33)
- LS_054 – Friikks (1:09:38)
- LS_054 – Mags (1:11:30)