Interview: Good Information
In Edmonton, Good Information almost certainly doesn’t need an introduction. One of the city’s premiere Jazz bands, the trio have made a name for themselves playing what they term “Jazz with a beat aesthetic.” You can catch them playing their recurring and wildly popular RE:JAZZ series, in which they re-arrange popular Hip-Hop artists, and you might have caught them last month, when they played a tour of Alberta’s Winterruption Festivals.
If you don’t like to leave the house, you can check out their latest single Fringes, or hold your breath for the release of their debut album, about which there may be some “good” information below.
Biboye, the drummer and driving force behind the project, was kind enough to sit down with me and talk about the band’s recent tour, getting the album ready, and what it means to be an artist.
Interview conducted and edited by Devon Acuña.
What's your elevator pitch for Good Information?
Oh man, okay. Our elevator pitch is that we're just Jazz with a beat aesthetic. That we're marrying Jazz and Hip-Hop in a way that a lot of people have in the past 15 years. Then, another part of the elevator pitch, which I guess doesn't make it an elevator pitch because it's going to be like three minutes long, is that I think me and a lot of other people are just really inspired by other young communities making contemporary Jazz in other cities. It feels like every major city in the world has a hub of young people making—in any genre—boundary pushing music and bringing people together, in a way that I know you're familiar with. It felt like Edmonton just didn't have one that was Jazz-oriented, and I think Good Information was my first way of saying “oh, I want to do that.” I want to bring young people into the realization that they like music played by instruments, often improvised.
Are you sick of getting compared to BADBADNOTGOOD?
No, because they've changed, so I just feel like the comparison is no longer relevant if people are actually listening to what BADBAD is playing right now. Also, they were three young Canadian kids, and I never want to be angry at being compared to trailblazers. I'm never going to be mad at being compared to people that did a great thing.
You guys just got off a little tour, was that your first time traveling to play music?
It was with this band. I think Connell, on guitar, has done a few tours with some other bands. I've played out of town with other projects, but it was the first time with this band. We were really stoked because we were planning on setting up our own tour, and then we were really honored that all the Winterruption festivals kind of banded together and said “let's get these guys on the road a little bit.” So we were stoked on that. That was awesome.
So they kind of just started hitting you up like, “hey, do you want to play?”
Oh, we did apply. But a lot of music is who you know, and it kind of seems like everyone producing the festival in each city got to rep a few bands from their city and say “everyone should book this band.” I think we were one of the Edmonton bands that got the co-sign and so a lot of people booked us, which is nice.
Were you surprised at all that a bunch of people wanted to hear Jazz music?
I don't know if I was surprised because I think, in so many ways, what got people really into the band was when we would basically play Hip-Hop, or arrangements of Hip-Hop music. I heard a drummer I really admire once say “don't worry about feeling like you're biting someone because when you're looking at any great, you actually just can't bite them.” It's literally impossible, you will never sound like them. You can't be mistaken for them, they're just years beyond you. With that being said, borrow from them as much as you possibly can. Don't ever worry about feeling like someone's going to compare you to them. So I saw things happening in other cities, and I was like “we should just do that in Edmonton because it's not happening here.” People clearly love it, and it's not really about us. It's about opening people's ears and creating communities in Edmonton.
When you guys started playing, there were, at points, like seven people in the band. Do you think that you're at a place now where these are the people that are going to stick around for a while?
Yeah, honestly, that was in some ways just not defining what the band was. Maybe not immaturity, but just figuring out what a band is, and not having clear definitions. We were kind of a collective at the beginning. It was just a bunch of people that I liked, and we all liked each other, and we wanted to make music together. There was still a core band, and then, with now not focusing as much on playing live, and recording, it has become like “okay, this is the sound we want to put out on a wider scale, the sound we want to put on the internet.” We ran into a few people that we used to play with in that capacity in the past couple of weeks, and I think we all feel the same way, that we would love to make more music with them. And we plan to.
I saw you guys open for Tempers [at Winterruption], and Lukas mentioned that you guys were trying to lean into a bit more psychedelic vibes for that one. Do you guys ever feel like you need to be a little bit less Jazz and a little bit more something else to fit a certain vibe?
That’s actually one of the things we really like about this project, I think a lot of bands are kind of just what they are. We pride ourselves on that we could play a show at the Yard Bird as a trio, and Lukas will just play upright bass, and we'll be improvising the whole time, or, in Calgary, it was a bunch of Electronic/Rock projects. We can change to fit that sound. Then you can put us on a Hip-Hop night, and we'll change and just be chameleons in that way.
So you have an album coming out.
We do. We just finally finished recording, so we have one more day of edits, and then we can finally move on to mix and master and stuff like that. It's a full length, but in Jazz terms, so eight songs, but, you know, they're long.
When you're in the studio, are you improvising too or is it kind of more structured?
In some ways, this feels like our first time in the studio. Fringes and Frenetic, what we put out before, we recorded them at MacEwen, and it was a student’s recording project, a friend of ours, basically his first time recording. There's no click on Fringes, it's literally a miracle that we stayed in time, it's one take with just guitar overdubs. So this is our first time really intentionally going into the studio and trying to make something of it. We came in with some fully-formed songs, that have changed, and sparkles and different little things have been added to them. A few songs, I think, were actually born in the studio, and some of our favorite ones, like Lukas would play something for literally 10 seconds, and we would be like, “okay, you’ve got to loop that,” and then we'd go from there. I think a lot of things will change for next time. We've now seen what it takes to take one of our songs from idea to fully formed, final recording, and before we actually go to the studio, we'll get further along in the process next time. I think we thought some songs were at 75% or 80%, when really they were at 50%. So we'll try to get songs to actually 80% or 90% and then go to the studio.
Any plans for another album? Or are you just focusing on this one right now?
The big thing we want to do is remix this album, like a ton, because we just like every little piece. Maybe that's actually because of the way we recorded it, [we] like every little piece that we've recorded. We just want to combine different songs and send it to different people, and we want to have different rappers on different things, and we want to have vocals on songs that don't have vocals. So I think we're all brainstorming different ways we can remix the album right now. We have a bunch of other projects on our mind too. We think we actually want to record the RE:JAZZ stuff that we've been doing. We kind of feel weird about formally recording other people's music, but I guess it's pretty normal. A lot of people are pretty excited about it, and it's fair to say that we've done it in our own way. So that's another thing coming down the pipe and, honestly, we're also pretty ready to get a second album ready.
So are you doing a bunch of research on submitting to Spotify playlists and stuff right now?
Yeah, we're in that kind of headspace now, but honestly I think I've been crippled by the fact that I went to music school and they taught me how to properly release music. There's just so many steps, and we're trying to do a really good job of it. We're reaching out to labels, and we do have some label prospects and all this kind of juggling which ones we want to take and finding a manager and all that kind of stuff. Maybe this article is going to be the place to break the news. I thought the album was going to come out this summer, this fall latest, but the way things are looking, you know, when you get in touch with the label, they kind of have their own schedule. So it might be next spring. It just gives us a lot of time to be like, well, if this album is going to come out in a year, then we should just start working on the next one so we're ready to go right away.
What's your favorite show that you've played so far?
Actually, we recently talked about this, and I think we all have different ones. We played one, kind of in the first eight months [of the pandemic], like November of 2020—where it was 50 people to keep people safe—at the Aviary. It was very Jazz forward, two sets, mostly original music, and we all played solos. Not solos where we were playing in front of the band, but solos where it was just solo bass, and it was three to four minutes of Lukas just playing the bass. I know that's Lukas’s favorite show, or he said that at some point. I really enjoyed the Tyler show, that was just really fun. Andre was the piano player at the time, and we were all going to Europe basically the next day. It just felt like a really good send off. Musically, everything went right that night. I can't remember what Connel’s favorite show was, but I know we were all pretty stoked on the little run that we just did, especially the Calgary show. It just felt like everything was clicking in Calgary, so that was really fun.
I want to ask more questions about this remix of your album you were talking about, it made me think of the Madlib album with Blue Note records, where they gave him access to their whole catalog and he remixed everything.
Totally, Shades of Blue. That's literally the definition of Jazz meets Hip-Hop. There's a drummer named Makaya McCraven that Blue Note basically did the same thing with. For the past few years, he's been playing entirely improvised with different people around the world, and they'll record each individual instrument when they improvise. Then he'll go and take these totally improvised sets and basically remix them. He calls it recontextualizing them. I always thought it sounded incredible. Recently, Blue Note basically gave him the catalog to do that. So yeah, I don't think we even thought about that when we were thinking about doing the remix album, but we probably will lean into those aesthetics now.
We're also going to be pretty open handed . I think we're going to put some open calls out like, “hey, if you want the stems to any of the songs, just let us know and you can have them. Please make whatever you want with them.”
Have you guys ever tried to make someone rap over a 5/8 beat or [non-standard time signature]?
No, but I have some really fun favorite raps that are in odd times. Do you know that Clipping song? I think it's called Story 2. They start in basically 1, and then they go to 2/4, and then it's 3/4, then 4/4, then 5/4, 6/4, all the way to 7/4, and then they stay there. I thought that was crazy innovative, because it doesn't sound bad. You think “oh, that would sound like an exercise,” but it sounds really good. Even Pharrell has a new song with Travis Scott that was just in 6/8. I say “just” in 6/8, but in Hip-Hop, that really doesn't happen, where you put stuff in anything other than 4/4. I love that song. I'm like, “wow, this just feels so good to hear rap in a slightly different context.” It's still a trap beat, it's just in 6/8.
Do you still do a lot of photography? I know you were really into that.
No, I think I kind of consciously gave that up because, honestly, I was not very good in the first two years of music school. I kind of fell into music school by accident. I basically found out that the audition at MacEwan was free. I didn't even plan to go to MacEwan. I didn't take drum lessons, I just played in Junior High and high school, and honestly, wasn't very good. I think I had the natural knack but didn't really practice and didn't have a teacher or anything. Then, when I got to MacEwan, it felt like I went on a whim. I didn't know what I was in for and didn't really practice and, yeah, by the second or third year, I just needed to give up other aspects of my life. Photography was kind of another artistic thing, and it felt like I couldn't do two things at the same time.
That's so wild that you just walked into MacEwan on a whim and auditioned. I thought that the drumming was always kind of your plan.
No, actually. I want it to be, but I wanted to be a teacher. In grade 11 I had early admission to do education. I was kind of coasting through grade 12, and I was like “I'm going to teach math,” and I was stoked on that idea. I still actually do want to teach. My parents were like, “what?” I'd been telling them I wanted to be a teacher for five years.
So what made you want to go audition at MacEwen?
Legitimately, I wanted free feedback on my drumming. I just thought they would give me some free feedback and I would be done with it. But, by the end of it, they were like “okay, we'll see you in September,” and then I had to think about what I was going to do all summer.
It seems like you kind of threw yourself into drumming once you accepted the program.
Yeah, it felt like every year—because I was pretty shy when I was younger, I was soft spoken, relaxed—It felt like every year I went through MacEwan, the more I found I liked playing drums. Honestly, it felt at times like I didn't even like performing or playing drums, and then [with] all the experiences of school and studying in Finland, the more and more I liked playing drums and then the more I kind of committed to playing drums
Have you compartmentalized the pandemic yet? Are you guys in the studio now thinking “we should have done this three years ago?”
Honestly, the pandemic is why we're in the studio. I don't have any regrets about how things went down, but we had no intention of putting out music. We were just so stoked on bringing people in Edmonton together around a certain brand of music and playing it as a team. We were just like, “let's play shows,” and honestly, I bet at some point in that process, I was like “can a band get big without putting any music out?” That'd be really cool, because it felt like a lot of the people that came to our shows, it was just a friend who told them “Hey, you’ve got to check this out.” I call it a mid-tempo night out. It's not like a club, and you don't have to drink to have a good time, you can just be there and experience live music. So yeah, we only put music out because we couldn't play shows, it was illegal, you know, and then it was unsafe. So I'm grateful for the pandemic for changing our minds.
And now you guys are thinking about your five next albums.
Totally, yeah. And we're having a lot of fun in a different context of music making. I don't know if it's more fun—I really enjoy playing live and, especially in the Jazz tradition, my favorite albums are live albums. I think live Jazz is just different than studio Jazz and I think that's probably similar for anyone. JPEGMAFIA’s recordings are great, but live, it's a totally different story.
Especially because you have a little bit of an educator background, is there an aspect of you playing music that you see as a kind of community building?
Absolutely. So much so that it's been to a fault at times. I guess bands can have residencies, but we're putting on a monthly Jazz night for the community. If we had a manager, they'd be like “dude, you can't play every month, you're going to thin out your audience.” New Standards should be its own thing, community building should sometimes be separate than a band, or maybe it's a fault of the music industry that says the aim is to get big instead of to bring people together. So that's really important to any of the work I do. It's really focused on bringing people together.
Especially because you guys have such a niche in the city, you're a very Edmonton band, if you're spending a bunch of time building yourself a platform, even if that's what you need to do, [I assume] there's a little bit of “what could I do with this that would be beneficial.” Not that just playing good music in itself isn’t beneficial, but I feel like you have that kind of approach a little bit, where you're like “how can I get a bunch of people to be together?”
Yeah, it is complicated, but as you get a little bit older, you're like “oh, we're not the youngest people at this show anymore.” You go to some shows and you're not even in the middle. I'm older than half the people. With you guys, Absurd, too, it's now no longer like, “oh, we were in high school and we're friends and we just want to do a thing.” It's like, “oh, we're putting people on,” or, you know, this stands for something in the city. It's a weird thing to reckon with.
[Releasing music is hard because it’s so easy to release music and not promote it anywhere].
I empathize. Especially just getting to the minutiae of our album, I'm like “I just want this to be out.” I think we all do. I talked to Aladean recently, and he was kind of like “no one cares when it comes out.” Which is a good sense knocking in my head, I care more than anyone when it comes out. There's some value in sitting with it by yourself and enjoying the art by yourself. It changes when it's no longer yours. It kind of becomes everybody's.
Every time I release something, the second it comes out, I can listen to it again and it'll sound totally different to me. The context of it just totally changes when something comes out. I think that's something about the creative process in general. When you're working on something, when it's not finished yet, you can kind of see everything that it could be, and then the second you can't change it, you have to see it for what it is.
Yeah. You should include this, your words. There's a real beauty in completion. This is something I talk about all the time. I have profound respect for artists who finish things, [and] you can infer the opposite, but I feel like people just don't finish things. I'm like, “man, if you don't, what are you doing?” It's almost disrespectful to the art sometimes. Obviously you can go back and finish things, but I think it's a priority of mine to finish things.
I definitely see that in how you've maneuvered. You're very meticulous, everything gets its due attention.
So many of the people I respect view whatever art form they do as a thing of itself. When people ask me questions, which you didn't and I’m kind of stoked on that, like “why do you make art?” Art doesn't need a reason to be made. It can just be because it's beautiful. Because it's art, because I like beauty, it's as simple as that. I think just out of respect for the art, there's a certain way you have to treat it. You have to treat it like a living being. Especially as the artist, it's like, you got it. You're the expert.
[A very organic segue that was cut.] I think multi generational houses should make a comeback, honestly.
I'm big on that. I think, historically speaking, it's a pretty modern concept that we have the family structure that we do now. Work has been moved from the home to downtown, people have to drive to work. If you were a carpenter, the shop was in your compound, and the other people that worked as carpenters with you lived in that compound too and you were like a family. I'm big on that vibe. We lived with our grandparents. It's a pretty Western thing that people are like “I'm 18 or I'm 23, I should be on my own.” Maybe it says something about the value we give age and parents in the West. We don't value that as much, that kind of lived wisdom.
There's more of an emphasis for sure on “just gotta make it by yourself.” I feel like that's kind of true of the music scene to an extent. It kind of stays generationally segregated a little.
Totally, I think about that all the time. I have a swing music gig, and I'm almost ashamed by the fact that I booked a band that’s basically all within five years of my age. I should give myself some credit, there's people that are definitely a few years older than me, and then there's people that are a few years younger than me, I feel like I'm at least bridging them. In the Jazz community over the years, people in their 40s have started asking me to play drums for them, even Arlo asking me to play drums for him, and I learned so much, not even talking about the music industry or the scene, literally just playing with them. I learned so much.
[Talking about how cool Arlo Maverick is]
I honestly don’t know if I’ve seen someone that works harder, he inspired me to work harder. He's just not stagnant. He's actively trying to get better at so many aspects of music. I know that he's gotten better as a rapper in the past year, which, aside from maybe Kendrick where I can tell that he's actually working on his rapping, [even big artists don’t get better that consistently]. A lot of artists just stay the same once they make the threshold, they’re like “this works. I'm going to stick with this.” I know Arlo is working.
When I became aware of him, it was immediately a blueprint for how you can be in Edmonton or in your community still, and make a career out of it and make positive change.
Totally. I don't know if you do this too, I started dreaming in a weird way, envisioning like, “okay, what do I want my life to look like if I stay in Edmonton until I'm 60?” And then “Okay, what does that version of me need to do at 24 to make that happen?” Or looking at someone like Arlo, it's like, “okay, those are the options.” And it's actually been really good for me, instead of maybe doing some of the lofty dreaming that young people do, like it's either nothing or touring the world. A lot of people are like “you're either broke or rich in music.” Actually, there's a lot of people who have middle class incomes and they have a family and they're musicians.
I always think about the Folk Fest scene. The fact that there's just an Albertan festival circuit you can do that supports a lot of musicians by itself. Even with that, you're living off your music, people are listening to your music. You can’t beat that. It's relatively attainable. Obviously it's hard to make money off music in any sense, but there's definitely ways to do it.
Absolutely, yeah. It's pretty inspiring, or even having a day job you enjoy and then making music, I think that's valid. I think, you know, we always kind of big up people for just doing music and, actually, it [should be] congrats if you're working and doing music.
This interview took place on Treaty 6 territory.