Photo courtesy of Eestbound
“My sound wouldn’t be my sound if it weren’t for her,” explains Bryan Van Mierlo, the 19-year-old Brampton-via-Holland producer better known to rap fans as Eestbound is the producer responsible for Travis Scott’s “Antidote” and Young Thug’s “Freaky.” He’s the latest Toronto producer making waves in hip-hop as the first signee under Brampton producer Wondagurl, her first artist. Together, the two artists are symbiotically shaping hip-hop’s sound, even though their combined age of 37 is younger than the entire genre of hip-hop. They sit together wide-eyed in our Toronto VICE office eager to commence Eestbound’s debut interview.
Born and raised in the Netherlands, Van Mierlo’s family moved to Canada in 2011, which is where his interest in production began developing. Approximately two years ago he got his first smartphone and began toying with basic production software. “I downloaded Garageband and started to just play around,” he explains. “I wasn’t taking anything seriously but I started to make songs.” Eestbound began sharing his creations with his peers who quickly embraced them, using them to soundtrack their lunchtime rap battles. The producer’s interest in beat-making continued to grow as he upgraded to FL Studio and continued to toy around with new sounds. But it wasn’t until he met Wondagurl that he started taking music seriously. The two producers met on Twitter after Wondagurl had gained attention for her placement on Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail. “My friend showed me the song “Crown,” I saw that it was made by a little 17-year-old girl and I was like what? So I followed her, she followed back and we started working.”
Eestbound and Wondagurl often work in tandem, and their sounds seem to reflect their pairing, with both of them utilizing hard slapping 808s over filtered, off-speed samples. “When we both make a beat or we work on something and we really put our time into it, it always ends up being so crazy that we don’t even know who to send it to, we don’t even want to play it for people.” In fact, they weren’t even aware that Travis $cott was using their beat for “Antidote” until the rest of the world found out. Eestbound heard the sample in the background of Cardo’s instagram video at one of Travis’ concerts and knew it sounded familiar. “I was like ‘I swear that’s my beat…’ and then later that night I saw a video of Travis performing the track, basically premiering it.” Eestbound and Wondagurl had made the track together only a week prior and had no idea he was going to record over it. “She sent it to Travis but neither of us knew that he was using it. That’s just Travis though.”
While dark and hard hitting beats have become synonymous with Toronto hip-hop and R&B, Eestbound is now looking to take a step away from that box. “I don’t want to be known for only one type of beat,” he explains, “if my beats sound exactly the same every time, people will get bored.” The two producers recently got back from Berlin where they were working with Bibi Bourelly (writer of BBHMM) to potentially put something together with Rihanna. “We did one or two tracks together which are really hard, and I don’t think either of those fall into that ‘GTA sound’ at all.” Eestbound mentions Jahkoy, Zepfire and Uvibe as examples of Toronto artists who are straying from the dominant sonics. “I see more producers doing that, stepping away from that Toronto sound because they don’t fit or they don’t do justice to that sound.” Eestbound describes the new music he’s been working on as a combination of the in your face Toronto sound and club-centric house music. “It’s a mixture of everything,” he states, “I try to make it sound very different yet simplistic.”
Eestbound and Wondagurl have done a lot together in a short time, yet they still feel like they have a lot to accomplish. Wondagurl produced two tracks on Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late which she says was a “a super cool experience.” She now has her sights set on working with Kanye. Eestbound on the other hand is still trying to put together a track with Drizzy. “I’ve sent him beats but… I don’t know, I can’t really say anything yet. But yeah I’m definitely trying to work with him.”
Noisey: Has anything changed in the past few weeks since “Antidote” dropped?
Eestbound: I’ve been definitely getting a whole bunch of followers on Twitter and Instagram and stuff like that. People have been hitting me up, people that I haven’t talked to for a long time are suddenly like “hey what’s up man,” so it’s really funny to see how people suddenly want to be my friend after that track but that track definitely gave me a lot of exposure, a lot of people like that song. I saw that Partynextdoor was on it and I thought that was really cool.
You had a tweet comparing music to paintings and you were saying that it wasn’t a competition.
E: That was really meant for one artist. It was definitely a sub-tweet, and I don’t really sub-tweet often. He was hating on the people that I was working with purely because of how good they are and how much recognition they’re getting. He was saying how music is a competition, no it doesn’t have to be. If you just do your music, people will fuck with it or they won’t fuck with it, it’s just as easy as that. There’s a reason why certain people don’t get enough recognition, it’s because they’re just not doing the right thing. Maybe they’re talented but that's not enough, you need to know how to strategically work with your sound and your music and your releases and your artwork. I’m not competing against her [Wondagurl] or Boi1da. If Boi1da puts out a track with Drake or Cardo just did a track with Drake and The Game, I’m not jealous or feeling like I have to work harder, I’m happy for them because I can imagine how it would feel for me. That’s why I really want to make sure that people know that if you want to be true to yourself and if you want to earn respect, don’t compete.
Wondagurl: That’s why I feel a lot of female producers don’t win, because they’re constantly trying to compete with men and that’s so stupid. I don’t believe in competing, I hate competing so much, I don’t even know why I was in those beat battles [laughs]. I just don’t think that that’s what the music industry is about and that’s what everyone says, they say treat it like a competition and I think that’s the worst advice ever.
So you guys work together a lot, what’s usually the process?
E: It’s always different, because sometimes we’ll just be in someone’s car using their speakers and we’ll just play around with the laptop and go back and forth adding parts in. But there’s also times where she’ll have made a full beat and I’ll just add something to it. Sometimes she’ll be at home and send something to me, sometimes we’ll be in the studio together. A lot of the time when it says produced by Wondagurl & Eestbound, the ratio isn’t always 50/50. Sometimes it’s 80% her and 20% me or vice-versa. It all depends.
Did Wondagurl teach you a lot?
E: Well she definitely influenced my sound the most. She taught me how to properly chop a sample up and how to make your drums smash more and from there I just took those basics and kind of made my own song. It’s funny because she would teach me stuff but here and there I would teach her stuff. I really got into making beats but I also go into mixing, mastering, engineering and recording. I wanna learn more, I’m really hungry to learn more because I know that there’s so much more I can do in music. But yeah, she definitely taught me a lot.
We were talking about your 808 sound, and dark R&B – that’s kind of the prominent sound that’s coming out of Toronto and the GTA right now, what do you think about that?
E: I think that there’s way more sounds than that coming out of the GTA right now. I think that, as humble as I am, that me & Wondagurl’s sound is the king of that sound that all of these Toronto producers are trying to do and have been trying to do for a long time. I also think that there’s a lot of talent here for some weird reason and it’s so weird, like, we all live in Brampton and all these people I work with, they’re all so talented and they literally live minutes away from me. I think Jahkoy is really someone who really stands out too right now, because he’s doing something completely different than that GTA sound, he’s got more of that house sound – he’s really really good. I’m working with him too, I don’t have any tracks released with him but I have this one track sort of with him, but he tries to step away from that kind of sound, and I see more producers doing that, stepping away from that Toronto sound because they don’t fit or they don’t do justice to that sound because we already do it so well. Like Zepfire, Uvibe.
Dean Rosen is a writer living in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter here.