Loose Lips

Anzola’s lo-fi groove, from Caracas to Toronto


Anzola’s lo-fi groove, from Caracas to Toronto

They say home is where the heart is, but for an immigrant, the dual nature of nationality can make the concept of ‘home’ more confounding than comforting. In the effort to straddle the divide between two cultures they can lose footing in both, viewed as having vacated their country of origin but also a foreigner in their new one. It’s an internal struggle many immigrants are all too familiar with.


The 3878km distance between Anzola's birthplace, Caracas, and Toronto, where he moved in his early 20s, is rectified through his music. 


Just like his groove-heavy 2020 EP, ‘Caracas’, his upcoming sophomore album, ‘Bodega’, pays homage to his Latin American upbringing: “It’s called ‘Bodega’ in the same kind of aspect as ‘Caracas’. I am very much my background as a Venezuelan Latin American immigrant here in Canada. I’ve been here for 12 years now… I named it ‘Bodega’ in the aspect that, let's say you listen to my record, you can grab a little bit of something for yourself and there's variety. So there's a some of my background but there's also a bit of what I'm listening to now, some my influences and a little bit of what I’m projecting myself for the next few projects,”


Anzola speaks to us, via zoom, from his home studio in Toronto. The scene is littered with music paraphernalia; upon a quick pixelated glance two keyboards, a bass guitar, synths and multiple mics flank Anzola, patiently waiting in the wings, as he discusses the process of making his upcoming album. It's fitting given the smorgasbord of instruments that are used to stitch together the loops in his songs, spanning multiple genres: Hip Hop, Electronic, Jazz, R&B, Latin. “The upcoming album was written all in this studio, using all the gear that I have, but I used a little more vocal samples than I had in the past… We didn't really know the specs of when we were going to release this, so I kept working on songs and songs; then I landed on the final six, sent them out and started the whole process of mastering, dedicating dates and stuff like that,” he adds, just ahead of the release of Bodega’s lead single ‘Cinco Bets’. “Funnily enough, ‘Cinco Bets’ is the first track I wrote over a year ago. It’s one of those loop ideas of live performances I keep in my social media, then I realise the ones that really stick are the ones that I kind of want to push forward and take elsewhere. So, you know, I wrote a lot of songs, then I started noticing that there is a little bit of cohesiveness and a narrative between them.” Casually reclined in a black swivel chair gesticulating nonchalantly, Anzola makes the process of writing and self-producing entire albums sound like happenstance; I'm almost convinced of its ease. 


Yet, like many creating music during a pandemic, Anzola’s process has had its fair share of ups and downs. “Luckily, at the time I was working at a media distribution agency, that was my 9 to 5. And so, when COVID hit they sent everyone home which was great because, you know, it gave me time to be at home, play around with more gear. But releasing that 'Caracas' EP last year was probably one of the hardest things: to put out six songs, two singles, two videos and not have a single date to promoted it; not having single opportunity to talk to people; to, you know, play a show and then not be at the merch table and interact with fans and people who are associated to the scene that we're creating here, so it was quite a struggle. Luckily I was employed throughout it. I'm no longer at that position, right now I'm only doing music full time. It was tough, you know? COVID hit everybody in a different way. I, unfortunately, lost my dad this summer… it was a big shock and also one of the biggest motivations for me to take the leap of faith and dedicate myself fully to my music, rather than just playing shows after work. It is what I wanted to do but now, luckily, I have enough of a cushion to take that leap and dedicate myself to it fully.”


Since signing to URBNET such dedication, Anzola tells us, has already begun to reap its rewards. “What I'm really excited about is we're actually going to press a 12 inch with both EPS, ‘Caracas’ and ‘Bodega’. I sold 7 inches of the two singles last year, and that did well. I think we did 200 and we sold out internationally and we sold out here locally. So this was an opportunity to release both bodies of work and have them available on vinyl; that’s really one of the goals that I’ve had from the beginning.” 


Anzola also cites FACTOR, a Canadian non-profit aiming to assist the development and growth of the music industry, as “Key” for the success of his vinyl releases: “FACTOR is a fund that you can apply as an individual or the label applies on your behalf/as your representative and the government basically supports and funds a portion of your project, as long as you present receipts.” 


Funding from FACTOR was also used to create Anzola’s first music video, for his 2020 single ‘Say That Again’, where even aliens in an animated space nightclub can’t help but surrender to the influence of his groove-infested soundscape. Operating under the pseudonym Really Really, the video was created by film-makers Fezz Stenton and Jamy Steele: “Fez used to be my neighbour here in this building, he is a musician as well and an all around savvy, visual, incredibly gifted individual. And I asked him to listen to the song and just come up with something. The only thing that I ultimately wanted was something completely different and something reactive to the music, and they came together with this concept of me being an astronaut and landing on this space nightclub, playing a show with characters in it. Then it kind of took off that the show itself was suspended in Caracas. So they ran with it completely and it was a beautiful result and, yeah, my first animated video.” 

 Watch ‘Say That Again’ here.


Even for Anzola’s animated alter-ego Caracas is a recurring theme, his Venezuelan roots holding strong. He tells us about the difference between the Canadian and Venezuelan music scene as well as his experience moving: “There’s a huge, huge difference… in Venezuela I was a little bit more involved in bands, and had a couple of projects where I was at the vocals and playing guitar. But the scene there is more band driven towards bands that gravitate towards punk rock, punk, ska, reggae. Being a country that is facing right into the Caribbean we’re very much influenced by Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and all the reggae, dancehall and ska that is just pouring into Venezuela. You have the examples of bands that have been there for decades creating this melting pot of styles.”


Moving to Canada was, you know, a challenge on its own but I was a fan of a number of local bands here who were kind of catching my attention… I've had the fortune to work as an assistant recording engineer for a radio host here called Strombo, who is a legend here in Canada. Through them I had a chance to work with a lot of artists, and I noticed that there is a vast love for the music here.” Despite that, making it as a musician comes with its own difficulties in Toronto. “It's almost like Toronto has small little pockets where people will only go to the shows that their friends play, or will only go to shows that they know, and they stay within those pockets. So, there's almost this sense that Toronto will love you as a fanbase once you’ve ‘made it elsewhere’, once you've proven your track record or your performance skills elsewhere. And so, it does have a little bit more of a competitive nature to it.”


It was in Toronto where Anzola first discovered his love for producing electronic music: “When I landed here I realised it was not necessarily bands that were catching my eye, I was a part of a project where I played guitar but it didn't really fulfil me as much, and I started making electronic music just by myself using Reason (DAW). Then I started a night called Subtle Blend, about seven years ago, where I was focusing only on the production and no vocals, so only instrumentals. That kind of opened up the aspect of what was, at that time, a little bit of the genesis of the whole lo-fi scene that was growing here, people using samplers, drum machines even their own laptops… But my focus was very much a live performance, or a production-based performance, of your own material. Remixes were welcome but I didn't want people to come in and do covers, I wanted them to showcase their own work.”


That I did for a number of years, at one point I was doing two shows per month here in the city. It’s quite exhausting to be a promoter compared to anything else but I learned a lot about the scene and I learned a lot about the Canadian music taste… I found that they are very open to a number of genres, especially in the electronic scene. Like, they won't have that many barriers when it comes to what they're listening to and how they're affected by it… Through those circles, through creating those parties URBNET saw me perform live and they decided that I would be a good addition to the roster. They signed me last year.”


Last year in 2020 was also when Loose Lips first reached out to Anzola which led to a special feature on our ‘Picks’ series, a weekly installation where musicians share ten tracks linked by a theme of their choosing. His ‘Daytrip Picks’ reveals a mutual love of saxophonist, and all-round-legend Kamasi Washington as well as jazz supergroup Dinner Party: "I've watched a lot of interviews of Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington, 9th Wonder and Thundercat, and the fact that Terrace and Thundercat went to high school together. I find their whole approach towards music and their careers incredibly inspiring. Glasper becomes the keyboardist he is, Terrance is a sax player but then he ended up producing more with Snoop Dogg and then Kamasi obviously became the legend that he is, you know, kind of evoking a very Coltrane spirit with his playing and wearing this huge amount of gear and necklaces; it's all very mystical." He even dubs their debut as one of the one best releases of 2020, "At that level, they all have incredibly fulfilling careers, in their own style… and I really think that was one of the best projects because it was just about the music. Having four individuals of that calibre and not bringing any of your egos to the table, not being like 'we're definitely doing a sax solo here we're definitely doing a piano solo here. No, we're just going to service the song' and it really was one of my favourite projects from last year… as well as SAULT, a project from the UK, they are amazing." 

Anzola's instalment for our 'Picks' series also featured many sonic influences for his upcoming album 'Bodega': "On my new project, it's funny like, those 10 songs that I picked; I was kind of listening to last year very much focussed on a combination between hip-hop jazz and a little bit of R&B and indie. But I would say recently, not that they’ve found their way into my music, I've found Black Midi out of the UK incredibly interesting. They're violent but just like also incredibly organised. You know, there is a part of me that still has a little bit of a fantasy to have a project with members where we could explore that era, I wouldn’t call it free jazz but it is a fusion between rock and jazz, just going by pure visceral feeling… I definitely love Benny Sings, not necessarily something I would incorporate into my own music, but I love what he did with Mac DeMarco. The new Hiatus Kaiyote is a great return for them… Harvey Sutherland, a cat from Australia, who fuses house, jazz and electronica. Those have been on my rotation lately.”


Despite the range of musical influences in his ‘Picks’ article, Anzola’s cites his Venezuelan culture and the electronic scene he has discovered in Canada as key: “Ultimately I feel my Latin background, my electronic background, and my love for hip hop and jazz will make its way into everything that I do,” his music carving out a complete space for all aspects of his identity to coexist. Just like the locales that Anzola calls home, the upcoming album’s tracks are split with, “Three danceable, fast BPM and three more downtempo.” If his previous music is anything to go by ‘Bodega’ will blend distinct sounds with such artifice you begin to doubt the divides between them ever existed; metamorphosing into something new altogether, but just as wonderful. 


Anzola’s next album ‘Bodega’ is out later this year. Listen to his new single, ‘Cinco Bets’ here.

Banner Image: Julian Ross courtesy of Anzola