By Bella Savignano | June 26, 2022
Oscar Louis has cracked the code to creative fulfillment. Torn between his love of writing, performing, photography, and design, the Toronto native’s underlying appreciation of music revealed the perfect creative endeavor. Since childhood, Louis has been connected to music, devouring the gospel of revolutionaries like Al Greene and The Beatles. He’s enthralled by their innovation, gushing to us over FaceTime about the brilliance of their songwriting and the speed with which music progressed during the 1960s and 70s golden era. But don’t get into Louis’ discography expecting some copy-and-pasted, generation-blurred guitar music– his references are more obscured, amalgamated with his contemporary love of hip-hop artists like Kid Cudi and the mellow psychedelia of Mac DeMarco.
He’s created something of his own–a sort of lo-fi, beat-driven indie rock-meets-rap kinda deal. Take the first two singles from his new record, Ghost in the Apartment, for example–the diversity of the tracks is colossal. “Higher” is a sentimental, stripped down ballad, just Louis and a piano, while “Juan Song” is a groovy synth and guitar-forward track with vocals in the style of Childish Gambino’s “Redbone.” The common thread that will inevitably run through this record is the fear of being forgotten. The story behind the concept is about a couple living in an apartment in their twenties. One dies, trapped in their home as a ghost, and is forced to watch their partner work through the mourning process and inevitably, move on. The record channels existential fears of being forgotten–in larger contexts like the threat of “being obliterated” by climate change as well as the more personal matter of leaving home and watching your friends go on without you. It’s a poignant subject, one that invites distinct responses and reflections, and we are eager to see how those play out.
After a fortunate placement on Spotify’s “Chill Vibes” playlist, one of Louis’ first singles, “Hell of a Ride” blew up. The single perfectly demonstrates his varied approach to songwriting– the sound has a long rap section in the middle, but the ending, Louis revealed, was inspired by Billy Joel’s classic, “Uptown Girl.” Though he was thrilled with his music reaching such a large audience, he made clear that he has no intention of trying to replicate that song in pursuit of similar exposure. It’s about authenticity–Louis told us that ultimately, he is just “getting to know [himself] as an artist every day.”
We sat down with Oscar where he answered a few more questions for the groovement:
What was your first concert?
The Who, I was in 7th grade, and it was at the Air Canada center.
How did you first get started?
I started writing songs when I was in high school after I heard Kanye’s Graduation album, and I was really passionate about it, but I spent some years through high school and university dabbling in different kinds of writing and art. I thought I wanted to be an actor, thought I wanted to be a screenwriter, thought I wanted to be a journalist, thought I wanted to be a playwright, a short story writer. In 2015, I started making R&B hip-hop music with a few friends of mine, and we formed a group called Adhoc in Montreal where I went to school. I just decided to funnel all of my creative energy into music. We ended up breaking up a few years later, but it was a very formative few years of learning a lot about music. And then I started coming out here to work with a friend of mine who is a producer named Secret Vacation, who is also an awesome indie rock artist. The intention was to start my own solo project and kinda create something that was a bit more representative of all of my interests, all of my experiences, so I started talking more openly about things that are more vulnerable, about shame and queerness and religion. And also just trying to pull from more of my musical influences– I love hip-hop but I also love Sarah McLachlan and Carole King and Simon and Garfunkel and Al Greene and Pink Floyd, and so I listen intently, set the intention to meld it all, and then I just make what I make.
How would you describe your music
Genre names obviously can be helpful, but I feel like when you’re actually passionate about a genre, you realize how limiting and silly genre names are. I will say, in general, my MO is trying to bridge the gap between the music of the 60s and 70s, Carole King, Al Greene, CSMY, and my modern influences, like Kid Cudi, Mac Miller, Frank Ocean, Mac DeMarco, and just trying to make retro things sound modern and modern things sound timeless. If I had to describe the music, I’d say: wavy, warm, and heartfelt.
Who do you hope to inspire?
Fuck. Whoever it resonates with, it will resonate with. People who feel that there’s something in their life that’s stale or monotonous, I want my music to inspire a creative refresher. That can mean being more honest with themselves, picking up what they really want to be doing. I want to inspire that. I found these influences from looking into myself, and I really am trying to make something that is authentically me, and I want that to inspire other people to make something that is authentically them. A sort of chain of inspiration.
What’s your dream venue to play at?
If we’re thinking dream of all dreams, the Sky Dome in Toronto. I grew up going there for baseball games.
What’s your favorite city to perform in?
New York is the best. But I haven’t performed as a solo artist in Toronto, my hometown, so I’m excited about that.