Saskatoon-based artist explores all genres with debut EP

By in Culture

Beginning the process of writing both lyrics and melodies over two years ago, Saskatoon-based artist Xandrah and her musical partner JFP have just released their debut EP.

Entitled Vinyl Secrets, the EP’s sound is a unique mix of genres that all University of Saskatchewan students will want to check out. Xandrah and JFP sat down with the Sheaf to discuss the process of putting together their first EP and all things music.

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Xandrah (pictured with musical partner JFP) hopes to inspire other Indigenous artists to pursue their passions and express themselves.

With the theme of lust and freedom to love, Vinyl Secrets is described as being closest to jazz-pop, with a compilation of jazz vocals, hip-hop beats and electro-synth undertones.

Xandrah however, didn’t always have this eclectic sound — initially it was just her and a guitar with roots in country music.

“I feel as though this EP really captures my journey of growth and finding my voice … the entire EP feels like the lead-up from a lot of experimentation using various sounds and genres, and so this project is a stepping-stone that lays the groundwork for the direction I will take in the future,” Xandrah said in an email to the Sheaf.

After working as just a pair putting together songs, Xandrah and JFP approached Jesse Weiman, a Saskatoon-based producer who helped them push boundaries with their sound.

“Jesse would add beats or instruments, or synths, and help us restructure songs — sometimes we would change the tempo or the key, or turn a song upside down with a completely different melody — and so it was a lot of experimenting and the process forced me to define my sound,” Xandrah said.

Xandrah attributes part of the difficulty she had in determining her own sound to her vast range of taste in music.

“I started listening for commonalities in music that captured my attention. I basically enjoy any music that has beautiful vocals, a smooth beat and jazz atmosphere or bright instrumentals — that type of music to me is timeless … although I listen to a lot of mainstream music, my influences are outside of that definition,” she said.

Drawing from artists such as Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and Solange, Xandrah said, “Basically any song with beautiful female vocals will have my heart.”

The EP consists of six tracks with “Taboo” as the first song listed, even though it was one of the last to be written.

“‘Taboo’ is one of my personal favourites … for me, it is a song that makes you want to move but still has a chill vibe with some jazz atmosphere. The lyrical content echoes a feeling of escape, because to me, being in love is such a beautiful escape from harsh realities,” Xandrah said.

For Xandrah, music has always been a part of her life that she holds dear. It is a place of comfort and something that she hasn’t and will never be able to separate from.

“Singing is second nature and for me, it is a medicine, a healer — I feel like I am in a dream-like state when I express myself and it is the only space in my mind where I can make sense of my experience in the world,” she said.

Xandrah hopes that U of S students don’t feel as though they have to choose between academia and art, because like she did, it is possible to balance both.

“It was hard to fit music into my extremely busy schedule as an engineering student … but it’s important to just set some time aside every week to pursue your dream one step at a time,” Xandra said.

As a Nakoda woman, belonging to Carry the Kettle First Nation on Treaty 4 territory, Xandrah hopes to inspire other Indigenous people.

“I want to be a role model and inspiration to other Indigenous artists and youth to pursue their passions and express themselves and their reality through artistry,” Xandrah said.

Vinyl Secrets is available for purchase on iTunes, Google Play, Bandcamp, Soundcloud and on her website at xandrahofficial.com.

Bridget Morrison / Culture Editor

Photo: Tyson Anderson / Supplied