Thinking about… Vivek Shraya

28 Nov

Photograph by Zachary Ayotte

Thinking back on how I was first introduced to Vivek Shraya’s music, and the progression of not only the sound, but the person himself since then, it’s all terribly exciting and exhausting.

I first met Vivek in 2006 while he was visiting Boston working on his album If We’re Not Talking. Since that time, Vivek has released three albums, two short films and authored one book. He toured India a year ago with Tegan and Sara. He’s done a number of readings from his book God Loves Hair across Canada and the United States. He’s screened his first film Seeking Single White Male at various film festivals and events. And he’s always, it seems, looking to do more.

This month, the Toronto-based Shraya released his newest musical venture, an EP titled 1:1, available through iTunes. I talked with Vivek about it and some other things…

You’ve just released a new EP, 1:1. Should your listeners expect the same sound as your past couple of releases, or something different?

1:1 is a pretty big step away from the electro/synth pop sound of my last two efforts. The bulk of the songs were written during a heavy depression earlier this year and it felt important to preserve that raw emotion and spirit. So instead of layering and potentially losing the songs under all kinds of production, most of the record is directly lifted from the demos or retracked/recorded parts from the demos. This was a huge risk for me especially using the vocals parts from the demos. They aren’t “perfect” or pretty and at times even sound ugly or like exposed wounds. This whole project, from the songwriting to the production to even the photos, was an exercise in vulnerability.

Aside from music, you’ve also authored a very well received book, God Loves Hair. Can you tell me a little about it?

God Loves Hair is a collection of short stories that details my experiences growing up with immigrant parents as a gender queer kid in Alberta (which is sometimes referred to as “the Texas of Canada”). Each story is coupled with a beautiful illustration by the extremely talented Juliana Neufeld.

Any plans for another book?

When I first put out God Loves Hair, I didn’t really consider the possibility of a second book. But the confidence I have gained from the wonderful response to the book coupled with a desire to say more has inspired me to keep writing. I am hoping to have a rough manuscript completed in the coming months!

So, you’ve been busy, but I’m guessing you don’t like to remain stagnant. You’ve also made two short films this year. How has that experience been different from music and writing?

Music and writing for me is about working out an idea, an issue or an image with words (and melody). In a way, film is similar because you are always starting out with something abstract, something you experience in your mind. But as a visual person, I love the format because I get to explore working directly with imagery. Both my shorts have also included text and music and I love that film allows for the opportunity to build on my skills as a writer and musician but it in a completely different context.

And what is the subject matter of Seeking Single White Male?

Seeking Single White Male is about my experience in gay bars when I was first coming out, noting the ways in which to be seen, as a person of color, required assimilating to a form of whiteness.

Any other projects on the horizon?

I have spent most of the fall working on a new film project. While my previous shorts have been composed of text and photos, this was the first time I used actually footage, filming 35 people! Now that I am in the editing stage it feels like a huge undertaking trying to condense everything into a 10 minute, visually engaging piece, but I am very inspired by the content, excited about the challenge and hope to have it out by early next year.

Find out more about Vivek at VivekShraya.com

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