“The sky is your canvas; it’s your daily life, and the light is what you bring to the world,” says Gabriel Malenfant, one-half of Canadian electro-hip-hop duo
“Not only as an artist, but whatever you are,” he continues, en route to Toronto from Montréal. “If you write like you do, or you sweep the floor, you’re bringing that to the universe, you know? That’s how you’re changing the frequency and the vibe of the environment.”
He’s discussing Light the Sky, the new album from he and bandmate Jacques Doucet, but introspective musings about the heavens is only part of the equation.
“I’m 35, and you can still kind of question things; you can still see that there’s stuff that’s unjust if you want in life—or you can be mad at something, but there’s always a way to put humour and a different spin [on it],” he adds. “[It] takes time to see stuff like that, to see life like that, and I think we’ve been doing that for awhile.”
The synth-powered record delivers all of this in English, a first for Malenfant and Doucet, who rapped all of their previous lyrics in an English-influenced Acadian-French dialect called Chiac. Malenfant is from New Brunswick—the only officially bilingual province in Canada, he points out—so it made sense to write an album in English, considering the influence it had on him growing up.
“We were expecting some flack from people that think that we’re turning our backs on our culture,” says Malenfant, who began writing songs in English a couple of years ago to see how it felt—the response from fans has been predominantly positive this touring cycle, too. “I’m used to growing up with the English culture—TV and everything—so for us it’s second nature. I learned to speak English before going to kindergarten, so it’s been part of my identity for awhile.”
Regardless of the language Light the Sky was written in, it continues the lyrical approach that has been the impetus of Radio Radio’s music since it formed in 2007. On the surface, the catchy beats can feel like your standard party anthem, but closer examination of the lyrics uncovers more serious topics and a healthy dose of social commentary. Light the Sky in particular tackles modern dating and Tinder on “Tonight’s the Night,” being confident within yourself on “Solo Dance Party” and human integrity on “Cause I’m a Hoe,” in the sense of not compromising oneself for the promise of financial comfort. There’s even a song that pokes fun at keeping up with the Joneses and Holmes on Homes star Mike Holmes titled “Remodel”—Holmes has since heard the song and given it his approval.
But all of this is delivered with satirical flair, which has become something of a signature mechanism for Radio Radio—Malenfant ties it back to a quote by Peter Ustinov that states “comedy is simply a funny way of being serious,” which he adds is often missing in hip-hop. He and Jacques are constantly questioning aspects of society, he notes, and that’s remained an important component of their music, in addition to making it entertaining for listeners.
“I think it’s like taking medicine, but it’s like when kids have medicine it’s banana taste or whatever, so [in] your conscience and your subconscience, you’re repeating a message that you’re identifying with that could often be challenging when put into context or in another way,” he explains of what makes satire effective. “But in this way it’s coming down with love, it’s not coming down with fear. It’s diluted with distance and understanding, and it’s kind of like with a grain of salt, but even more fun than a grain of salt. It’s spinning [it] in a positive way, so with satire I think you have to be able to question at one point, but at the same time have distance to laugh about it.”
Wed, Mar 23 (9 pm)
With Stevie Raikou, the Neighborhood Band