Web Exclusives

NicholasKrgovich3_ForDiscorder_byAlistairHenning_Oct2018

 The prolific Vancouver musician (of NO KIDS, GIGI and P:ANO) talks about his musical past, and the story behind his emotionally raw new solo album.

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I waited for singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Krgovich on a bench in the Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood on a sunny October day. He suggested that we meet in this park, close to the water and the train tracks. I watched crows and children and couples and found myself feeling calmer than I usually do before an interview. I was possessed by that sense of false intimacy that certain art can lend you, art containing so much of its maker that you feel deeply acquainted with them.

I had spent the last two weeks listening to Krgovich’s newest record OUCH, and come away feeling like I had read his diary. OUCH tells the story of a specific experience that is widely relatable: falling in love and experiencing gut-wrenching heartbreak for the first time. “There’s a unifying field about it all,” Krgovich explains, “it made me feel like I was joining the human race in a way that I hadn’t yet.”

Working deftly within that “field,” Krgovich inserted his ubiquitous feelings of heartbreak into the tactile objects and geography of his specific experience: locations (the Lido), gifts he never gave (Hinoki Wood), and the art he consumed to feel better (Jonathan Richman’s music, Hafiz’s poetry, Alain de Botton’s TED Talks). In doing so, he has made OUCH highly personal and deeply relatable. Rather than couch raw emotion in pretentious discourse, Krgovich is honest about feelings that he describes with a smile as “base and teenager-y.” When I bring up how these sentiments play out on the track “Goofy,” he laughs — “it’s like I hate this room I hate this coffee I hate this food and it was true! Nothing brought me any happiness or joy in that moment.”

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Illustration by Ewan Thompson for Discorder

 

The experience, while devastating, turned on a creative tap for Krgovich. “When I wrote this record,” he explains, “it was not on purpose, and it was mainly for me, and I couldn’t help but do it. It felt like I had so many sides to turn over, and at the time that I wrote the record, my feelings felt infinite.” The 12 tracks of the album sift through the many feelings accompanying heartbreak: reflection, mourning, pain. However, the record’s instrumentation is not as somber as its lyrics. On “Goofy,” Krgovich musically mirrors the discord between his own melancholy and the sunny disposition of the weather, pairing the light and sprawling sounds of classical guitar and bursts of piano with the lyrics “I feel duped and robbed / and it’s at odds with the vibrancy of spring.” Krgovich’s dreamy pop oscillates between sounds that are sweet and sounds that are despairing, allowing for a variance in instrumentation despite the consistency in topic.

When I ask Krgovich what compelled him to be so open with his experience on OUCH, he explains it had to do with “a newfound interest in clarity and transparency, when that’s available. It feels so radical and right to me. It’s kind of that simple. Also, you learn that so much of the fear and anxiety that exists about letting people know what’s going on with you is so much your own thing — no one cares, basically.”

This ease seems to have eked into his practice as well. “I used to [put limitations] on my music and have genre parameters and things like that. And if there were ideas in music that were mysterious to me, or that I wasn’t very good at, I would try to write in that mode to figure it out. But now I am in no rush to do anything. I try not to put limitations on anything.”

 

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Photography by Alistair Henning for Discorder

Perhaps Krgovich is so able to follow his intuition with music because he’s been speaking its language from day one. His earliest memories of songwriting are from the first grade, when he created a band with his neighbour and recorded original lyrics to the melody and backing track of Roxette’s 90’s hit “It Must Have Been Love.” He started listening to bands like Bikini Kill and Beat Happening in 7th grade, when a broken arm had him stuck at home watching MuchMusic all day long. “I don’t have any memories where music is just something in the background,” he explains, “ever since I can remember I’ve cared about it.”

Krgovich’s output has been prolific since he began putting out records in 2002 at the age of 18. Over the last 16 years, he has dabbled with different sounds, genres, and forms. Yet despite having covered so much terrain with his music, he admits that OUCH is unlike anything he’s made before. The way he describes it, it sounds like he channelled OUCH into existence more than anything — it spilled out of him. “As miserable as it all was, it felt completely vital,” Krgovich describes, “and I’m grateful for all of it. I think there is something really jubilant about it now.”

 

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OUCH released October 26, 2018, and is available for purchase — along with more of Nicholas Krgovich’s music — through his bandcamp. For a taste of his new record, check out the music video for “October” below:

 

 

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If video games are rewiring our brains and  reprogramming our bodies… what will save us, if not contemporary theatre?

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This last Sunday, I had the pleasure of sitting down with some of the creatives behind the new local play Monsterkill 5: Remonsterkilled (Or: We Were The Empty Set) — writer and director Matt Horrigan, and cast members Charlie Cook and Tim Kozody. While Matt has written many scripts before this, and has won several SOCAN Foundation Young Composer Awards for his electroacoustic music, this is the first of his plays to go to production. The piece is being produced by a Vancouver-based performing arts company, the Cascadian Institute of Cultural Design.

The production follows five individuals who enter “the neon realm of Scapescape” through virtual avatars, and who proceed to continuously kill each other in the name of the game. But according to Charlie Cook, who portrays the character Blue, this play is about “more than fighting.”

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The inspiration for a play about video game violence came from an experience during Matt’s youth, where he saw “a friend instinctively stomp on another kid” in the schoolyard. Afterwards, his friend was in denial, coming up with excuses for the reflex that his foot had carried out. Matt associated this event with the game Super Mario, where characters stomp on the heads of the their enemies in order to win.

It was a scenario reflecting the idea of “kinesthetic empathy,” says Matt: with the friend acting totally on impulse and doing what he’d become familiar with, much as the arms of many people who play games like Call of Duty know how to carry guns. According to ideas of kinesthetic empathy, we internalize what we see and it becomes a part of our instincts and actions.

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Video games have been and continue to be a major component of our culture, and this play highlights the influence they have over our actions. As Charlie puts it, “so much of our life is online now, where we get to create these personas, like video game characters, [allowing] us to sort of disconnect from other people — everyone becomes very depersonalized.” For Charlie, this is where theatre comes in: “I think that theatre makes it harder to [disconnect] because it’s harder to check out when there’s a person in front of you, it’s easier for empathy.”

Tim, who plays the character of Hacksassin, feels that this play also reflects the “stop-repeat” mentality surrounding video games: the mindset of “going for the next level constantly” and “constantly wanting to build up.” This idea is reflected in his character but also more generally through the play, with the characters repeating violent acts throughout in an almost obsessive manner in order to win.

As ingrained as these attitudes may be in contemporary gaming, Matt believes that they won’t stick around forever. “I think there’s a movement — like I think that we’re coming out of the tail end of the most violent era that there will ever be, on at least two dimensional screen-based video games,” he tells me. I think that people are becoming wiser to the violent images in video games, and this play kind of mirrors that shift.”

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Monsterkill’s critique of the senselessness of video game violence is conveyed in large part through the use of humour and satire. It uses a very dark form of humour, with “part of the humour [being] the violence itself and the sort of meaninglessness of it,” Matt tells me. “But also the amount of meaning that the people in it think [there is]. There’s a dramatic irony between what the audience can see about the context of the violence, and what the characters are able to experience and the pride they have.”

This creative team is proud of the work that has been put into this production. “Everyone brings personal experiences, life experiences and also a lot of knowledge that I don’t have […] each member of our cast is able to contribute a lot to the sort of vision of things,” says Matt. The process behind the piece has been very collaborative, something that’s no doubt assisted by having a writer and director who is present and makes an effort to work with his whole team, allowing for greater freedom and sharing of ideas towards putting his words into action.

“It’s really humbling and then warming to know that we have a little micro-community and a culture,” says Tim. This kind of collaborative approach is facilitated by the personal touch and passion of each member of this creative team, something that stands out against more “corporate” theatre.

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While this may be a play centred on video games, the insight it offers on the way humans behave and interact makes this a play even those who’ve never been invested in the world of gaming can appreciate. Tim tells me this is a production that “anyone from their twenties to their fifties can enjoy.” For Matt, that might not even cover it: “I say teens and up! It’s for people in their 60s too!”

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Monsterkill 5: Remonsterkilled plays October 30 to Saturday November 3, 8:00 p.m. at the Havana Theatre. Tickets available online or at the door. Check out the facebook event for more info!