Artist Interview: “Hangnail” by WOTTS

Q: I love the fusion of genres on this track. Traditionally being a hip-hop group, what was your creative process in creating a more rock/punk focused track with “Hangnail”?

WOTTS: Really appreciate that. Over the few months we’ve made a conscious effort to expand on the type of music we make. We listen to a lot of genres and absorb little drops of inspiration from all over. So while we’ve mainly done hip-hop, we’ve given ourselves the green light to follow other creative threads. “Hangnail” at its core is actually about making a tough choice for a better long run. The hard choice for us was releasing songs that fall outside of hip-hop because we felt comfortable in the little bubble we’d made for ourselves. But when we finally decided to do it, which was around the time production for this started, it felt super liberating and this frantic punk vibe was what poured out.

Q: Being a huge horror fan, the synths in the background gave me slight nostalgic 80s horror film vibes. What was your inspiration for the instrumentals with “Hangnail”?

WOTTS: That’s so cool! When production started, I was listening to MGMT’s “Little Dark Age” a lot and that led me down a crazy rabbit hole of listening to a lot of goth pop, like The Cure and early stuff from The Horrors. We used 80s analog synths (Juno-106 and a DX7) which I think helped nail the vibe we were going for.  


Q: What has been one of the highlights of your music career so far?

WOTTS: We’ve had a lot of cool moments, but I think one of the biggest highlights for us was playing Ottawa Bluesfest. Bluesfest is a super legendary festival in our city, so to get picked to play it was a dream come true. I soaked up every second and it’s still a trip to think we played on the same bill as some huge artists we look up to. I’ll always hold it near and dear, long after I hang up my mic. 


Q: How is the music scene in Ottawa? Do you have any favorite venues that you love to perform there?

WOTTS: The music scene in Ottawa is constantly evolving. I think we’ve begun to come into our own over the past few years, especially in comparison to our bigger sister cities, Toronto and Montreal. We’ve also had a huge uptick in the policy landscape that has tried to enable artists within the city to grow and develop their skills, and create more opportunities for them to network or find funding. Sadly, we’ve been losing a lot of venues in the past year due to the pandemic. Our particular favorites in Ottawa would have to be House of Targ, Live on Elgin, Black Squirrel books, and the now-closed-down venues of Cinq-hole and Bar Robo. 

Q: Walk me through your writing and production process in making “Hangnail”.

WOTTS: For us, 100% of the time the music comes before the lyrics. I’d been playing around with the Juno-106 and that creepy synth lead you hear in the song came to life. We hit the melody first, and then came the drums, bass and other synth parts. M83, who is a big influence, uses a lot of visual elements to guide his production. I’ve tried to mimic that recently and I find it really helps me map where I’m going with a song. I think I worked on this track with Evil Dead or Stranger Things in the background. When the music part was done, we both felt the track screamed a theme of anxiety; like a bittersweet feeling someone could get when they’re about to hop on a plane to go on an epic vacation, but they have a huge fear of flying. So we tried to capture that feeling with the lyrics, which is basically, close your eyes and do what you got to do.


Q: Your music videos are very unique and somewhat cryptic. I noticed that you wear a ski mask in a couple of your videos including the one for “Hangnail”. What is the reasoning behind this?

WOTTS: We’ve definitely been a bit cryptic on the video front since day one. Aside from keeping that approach alive, wearing the ski masks in the latest videos speaks to a theme that ties all the videos for the next record together. We’ll be dropping one more, but the trilogy tells a story of a relationship gone bad where neither person really showed the other who they truly were.


Q: What was your favorite moment in creating the music video?

WOTTS: It’s always fun just getting out and seeing what ideas we can find. We typically have a story in mind but we’re capable of being flexible when a new idea pops up. Of course, there’s also the aspect of random people walking by while we’re filming and being extremely curious as to what we’re doing. I like that a lot.


Q: Your music blends different genres. In your own words, how would you describe the music that you typically create?

WOTTS: We’ve always been hard to label but right now I’d classify us as an alternative pop band. I think we’ll always have a hip-hop foundation but the music we’re making now is what we’ve always wanted to do. That’s not to say we shun our beginnings, we just never had the confidence to sing and two years ago, we’d never even touched a synth. Seeing some blogs or people say our new songs sound like New Order or Tame Impala is insane because to me, they make timeless music and to capture a vibe like that, even for a moment, has always been the dream. 


Q: If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?

WOTTS: The first artist that comes to mind is Björk, even though I’m not even that particular about her music. I think she embodies the idea of creative freedom and has throughout her career, and I think it would be magical to see her in that process. Plus she’s probably pretty strange and I love people like that, especially if they’re surrounded by incredible music equipment. I’m sure we’d make a unique track!


Q: What’s next for you? Any projects currently in the works?

WOTTS: Given the bonus free time the last 12 months, we decided to buckle down and drop a record. It’s going to be called ’COLONIES’ and will be out later this summer. “Hangnail” is one of the lead singles from it. And after that, more, more and more music to come!

Interviewed by Melissa Cusano

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