Interview

Helena Deland

It’s always special to witness the first steps of an emerging artist – and that’s especially true in the case of Helena Deland, who we’re relying on to add a breath of fresh air to our (fingers crossed!) upcoming Indian summer. The young Canadian has released five EPs so far, and has opened for familiar faces like our favourite weirdo Connan Mockasin and autumn boys Whitney. After giving us a sneak peek at Liège during a European tour, Deland is set to record her first full length album, for which she’ll do pretty much everything – DIY in full splendor. Since we thirst for Deland’s blend of tender folk, electro-pop and ’80s-inspired alternative, we grabbed a little Facetime to see what she’s up to these days and hear what’s going on in the land of beavers.

Interview by Hadrien Panelli
Photos by Vinna Laudico, shot in Montréal

 

When did you start making music and how?
I guess I’ve always been playing music and as a teen I was already writing songs. I regarded it as a fun hobby. I started taking it more seriously about four years ago when I realised that it was what I wanted to do with my life.

I remember being a bit overwhelmed when I started touring before I finished my degree

Did you go to college?
Yes, I was studying French literature in Montreal. It was a fun degree but I remember being a bit overwhelmed when I started touring before I finished my degree. I had to write an essay about a George Perec novel while my friend was driving us from venue to venue. We were in the green room and I was in my glasses highlighting passages in the novel. I remember the other band didn’t know I was in my finals and they were thinking, ‘Wow, she’s an intense reader!’ My first tour was in support of Whitney. They’re a pretty huge band from Chicago. Such sweethearts! It was a very lucky first experience because they’re killing it and personally we got along very well. 

If you could restart one episode of your musical life, which would it be and how would you change it?
There isn’t any part of my music life that I regret or that I would do differently because everything was a learning experience and I’m quite happy with where I am now. I really had to learn to not be as self-conscious as I was and be less preoccupied with how things should be and how they would come across. It’s a coming of age in general to realise that the only way that makes sense is the way that feels right as long as it’s obviously respectful. If I could tell my younger-self anything, it would be to worry less about what I come across because it doesn’t matter. I think that being genuine is so precious. It’s actually hard to not do things artistically for hype or for other people but it’s crucial. 

I think that being genuine is so precious

You’re still at the beginning of your career. Have you set yourself goals?
Yeah, for sure. I just started recording my first full-length album. It’s kind of a reaction to what I’ve just been telling you about. So, I’ve decided to reel it in. At this point, I need to make something that depends as much as possible on me, where I have as much control as I want. I’ve worked with producers who I admire a lot but I feel like I have to prove something to myself. Now, I work with a friend who acts as co-producer and sound engineer but I’m writing all the arrangements and also playing them. It’s a lot of work but I feel pretty confident about what’s coming up. Studio time is planned just after we come back from the next EU tour in September. 

We often meet indie bands that go on tour for a long time and come home broke. What’s your situation?
We’re lucky for that in Canada, because we get government support to promote our culture abroad. It’s very helpful. If I didn’t have that, I would have to work a side-job which at this point seems impossible because of the schedule. It’s a tough conundrum. You’re too busy to have a side-job but you’re busy with stuff that doesn’t bring in any money. It’s always a struggle in the beginning, but I have the positive sensation that it’s going to get more stable for me in the future.

I think the way to get ready is to find a lot of reading and download a lot of podcasts

How do you get ready for a tour?
I usually get stressed out a couple of days before leaving. I think the way to get ready is to find a lot of reading and download a lot of podcasts. You also have to be very open about what you’re going through with the other musicians so that people know what to expect from your energy level. Being open and having stuff to do in the van is the right method…

Are there some artists of the past that inspire you?
I really love Joni Mitchell. She wrote some of the songs where I’m just like, ‘Wow. I really wish I wrote that.’ I think she has a playful relationship to music. Her themes are really common but very well described. She’s just an overall badass.

 

Helena Deland plays Hybrid Night on 3 Sep at Reflektor in Liège.
Free for Subbacultcha members. Join Subbacultcha here.