"I was drinking a martini… don't ask, I don't know why," laughs Nicholas Arvanitis while shaking his head. The Waterloo, Ontario producer, known as Shagabond, is a natural storyteller. "I was drinking this martini and decided to turn on my computer. I had this idea to make a series of eighth notes, that stabbing synth sound. From then on, it's been my wave," he declares. "I guess the credit goes to drinking martinis."
Between his sophisticated beverage preferences and armoire of self-made productions, the underage bracket Arvanitis resides in is a bit shocking. But as Shagabond, 18-year-old Arvanitis has been churning out an unwound style of beats-based electronic that's of a craft well beyond his current nascent years. That particular martini-driven Ableton session brought forth his breakthrough track "Coral Soup" and consequently a spot on Bondax's compilation album Bondax and Friends in 2014.
A wide, boyish grin consumes his face at Bondax's mention. "They followed me on SoundCloud and that was a heart attack moment for me," he says. "Then, a friend of mine posted on Facebook saying, 'Yo Nick, check this out.' Bondax had posted 'Coral Soup' on their Facebook. I basically had a second heart attack in my kitchen." No time for second thoughts, Arvantis signed "Coral Soup" to the compilation at their request. He landed a few shows with the Lancaster duo soon after. "I didn't want to leave when I met them because they had so much to tell me," he says. "I'm just blessed to have met them and crossed paths with them."
Arvanitis grew up in Waterloo, a suburb city a few hours from Toronto. With less than musically inclined parents, he says it was his guitar teacher that nurtured his interest in music production. "I remember the first The Weeknd mixtape coming out," he says, "I had one of those 'Wow, I could do that' moments." Once he had a firm grip on Ableton, the output came naturally. Minimal drum patterns, down-tempo lullabies, ethereal R&B and hip-hop vocals are all a part of his musical conscience as Shagabond.
"For a while, I thought about what music is and why people are drawn to it," he says. "When it comes down to it, I think that there's only two real types of music: music for thinking and music for dancing or movement. I'd like to think I fit into the former."
Shagabond's "U Should Know" by Haute remix, premiered today, is reflective of his philosophy. Similar to prior releases like "Fu Manchu," the song floats within the ambit of elegant simplicity. "With SoundCloud these days, I feel like it's a constant competition for complexity. It's about who can make the craziest track. Music isn't just about that, to me," says the astute 18-year-old. "Sometimes you need to know when you should bring the heat and when you should take the back seat."
Growing up in the era of SoundCloud is not all it's cracked up to be, either. Arvanitis says the pressure to live up to the glory of "Coral Soup" is high and it often leaves him stuck in limbo while producing. "I'm constantly questioning myself. Everyone knows me for this down-tempo stuff," he says, "but that makes showcasing my versatility hard. I don't know how it's going to work with the audience that I've worked so hard to build."
"I remember in the beginning, watching the number of plays go up. It was great. It was all about the little successes, like, 'Yes! Someone commented! Amazing!'" he says. "I've stopped now, it's can be too much of a game." Not that he has much to be wary of, at the time of writing this, his SoundCloud boasts of 8.5K followers and 60K plus plays on "Coral Soup" alone.
Arvanitisalso recognizes that growing up away from the Canadian music meccas of Toronto and Montreal has been a positive factor in forming his approach on music and the industry. "Growing up in Waterloo allowed me to be alone and figure out what I was into," he says. "Places like Montreal have so much influence on a lot of people. After a while, if you're here too long, you don't even know what you like anymore."
Though just over a year into his musical pursuit, Arvanitis knows what he likes and obviously, what he wants. Don't you wish you had this much self-actualization at 18?
"I know that I'm not going to take off tomorrow. It's going to be a long road and it's going to be a hard road," he says, acknowledging Shagabond as embryonic. "But I'm more excited for that than opting to make some one-off hard beat of-the-moment that everyone eats up."
Here's hoping he doesn't unhook from that martini filled IV any time soon.
Shagabond will perform alongside Hoodboi at The Hoxton on September 4, more information can be found here.
Rachael is more of a beer drinker and is on Twitter.