prince innocence is toronto's anti-scene synth-pop couple
Prince Innocence make shimmering synth pop, sleek r&b and cold eyed soul. We journey into their world with an exclusive mix and interview.
Toronto-based singer-producer duo Talvi Faustmann and Josh McIntyre met in high school circa 2007. After graduation, the two found themselves in Montreal - Talvi for university, Josh for the Pop Montréal festival, where he was performing as his multi instrumental solo project Little Girls. Their relationship began as the most auspicious ones do: "We decided to hang out…and then just kept hanging out," they told i-D over Skype, with affection palpable in their voices.
But although their origin story is fittingly sweet, Prince Innocence is anything but naive. You'd never guess that their sleek output — 2013's glittery, enormously catchy synth-pop EP, Lapse— is the product of self-sufficiency, from the production to the art direction. After walking away from a sweet but ultimately soul-sucking deal with a management company last year, the two are more sure of themselves than ever, and set to release a rap and R&B influenced five-track EP called Easy Life. We talked about first impressions, the dark side of Florida, and the best Toronto bands you haven't heard yet.
What were your first impressions of each other in high school?
Talvi Faustmann: My first impression of Josh was that he was dressed in a really trendy way. He would wear these Palestinian scarves…
Josh McIntyre: I was really into streetwear and Wu Tang — it was a weird time for me. And Talvi was really into going to clubs. I remember Talvi would come to school the next day and would be like, "I was at this crazy party last night," and I would be like, "Who is this girl?"
How did you transition from dating to collaborating?
JM: One day, I was just like, "Talvi, why don't you try singing on this song I just made," and she took a lot of convincing, but eventually she asked me to leave the room and she recorded this little thing, which really blew me away. I said, "I think we should try to turn this into something."
Is it scary to self-produce all of your music?
JM: No! We had a really bad year last year. We worked with a management company and they offered us a lot of stuff, but we were making music that just did not sound like us. We would record songs that we wrote, and then it was as if they went through this black hole. The songs would come back sounding weird and soulless.
TF: When you have to really fight for something, or go to all these great lengths to describe why something is good to someone who doesn't really get it, you actually understand it that much better. So in a way, even though we wasted a lot of time, there was a silver lining in the sense that our musical identity became much stronger.
JM: I've always done all of my music without outside help. Even when I was doing Little Girls, all of those records were recorded by myself at my parents' house on my laptop. I recorded my vocals using the MacBook microphone and GarageBand. I think [independence] just gives you so much creative freedom. You don't have a million options and a million people working with you and all these distractions. It's the songs that count and not the expensive, flashy production.
Talvi, you have a lot of control over the art direction and music videos. Who or what inspires you?
TF: Jonny Negron - he's an illustrator who draws a lot of sexy girls, and his work is very dark. I used to be really obsessed with Cosey Fanni Tutti and her performance art. Tracey Emin's My Bed was the inspiration for the cover of one of our singles. There's an amazing cartoonist from Montreal named Walter Scott.
I heard that your new EP has a rap/R&B bent.
JM: When we first started, we were really into French cold wave, but now we're trying to make things warmer, prettier, more lush. I've always been inspired by rap production. It's really fun for me to incorporate some of those production styles into our music — anything from the drums to even just sounding like a sample-based song. It's pulling from the weirder side of production, like Timbaland working with Aaliyah — those are really weird beats, and I just like that stuff.
What's next for you guys after your upcoming EP?
JM: This EP was actually supposed to come out on February 3, but we recently went to this little town north of Miami and spend some time in a really crappy motel. It was weirdly inspiring so we scrapped a bunch of the songs and started writing new ones. There's something about Florida that inspired us to make new music, because it's such a strange place. There's an underlying darkness and sadness to the place.
TF: The dark, existential, brooding thing definitely comes into play on the lyrics. Our last song was really influenced by that Peggy Lee song Is That All There Is?
What do you think distinguishes Toronto's music scene? What bands and venues are you into?
JM: I like Toronto's music scene because it's so diverse. One of the best places to see live music is at this DIY venue called Double Double Land in Kensington Market, and another favourite place of ours is a tiny club on Dundas St West called Bambi's that hosts a variety of forward thinking DJs and parties. We don't fit into any real micro-scene, and all of our friends are involved in projects that are completely different from ours, but we still hang out together and mutually admire each other's work. We have a producer friend named Harrison who makes futuristic funk music, and then there's a weird synth thrash band called Cellphone. Not being part of any specific scene excites me. I don't want to be part of a scene any more.
Text Hannah Ghorashi