KROY’s debut album, Scavenger, is a treasure of a record; a deeper trip with each listen. A beautifully crafted collection of songs unfolds into a stimulating experience. Sex, assertiveness, regret, loneliness and self-destruction are all here woven within her lyrical spells among brilliant arrangements.It is both haunting and seductive thanks to KROY’s otherworldly voice and her use of instrumentaation and dynamics. This record is meant to be listened to loud.
For some, this may not be the first music they’ve heard from Camille Poliquin. In addition to her 2014 EP Birthday, she released Little Mourning last year under Milk & Bone, her duo with Laurence Lafond-Beaulne, which earned her nominations for both a Juno Award and the Polaris Music Prize. Although the first full-length KROY record is just about to be released, most of the songs on Scavenger were written before Milk & Bone was even a thought. After listening to both of Camille Poliquin’s projects, it is obvious that she has a clear and realized sound, aesthetic and identity as an artist.
Scavenger introduces KROY as a visionary artist. The record fully immerses the listener into another world the way only great albums do. To listen to the entirety of Scavenger at full volume is like receiving a gift. It immediately offers you a journey. From the moment the album begins with “Hull”, we are invited into its dark tunnel of sound. KROY’s vocals create a trance-like state through the darkness as we follow her siren song further inside her constructed world. Strobes of light and bass-heavy vibrations stimulate the darkness. Her cathartic poetry, through her delicate high register, is deceptive voodoo stardust. KROY’s lyrics are an arsenal of gutting statements that speak from the deep recesses of hurt. Fighting and succumbing to desire, the defensive walls built by rejection – these emotional purgatories are the foundation of the album. Scavenger‘s theme of desire vs. rejection is delivered within the dark electronic dreamland of exhaling electric keys and drum machine heartbeats. KROY’s ability to convey the dim, lonely environment her lyrics were born out of is brilliantly juxtaposed by a handful of songs that burst out of the soundscape as individuals. It is the album’s simultaneous unpredictability and cohesiveness that makes this such a stellar debut record. Scavenger is a true tour de force.
I want to start right from the beginning and talk about the name “KROY”. I know you always put a lot of thought into your aesthetic so I’m curious to hear how you came to choose this artistic identity.
KROY: I wanted to have something that would really represent what I do and it was very hard to find a name for it. I had a few names in mind – I even had Milk, that’s where that [Milk & Bone] came from. I’m really into four-letter words in general and I wanted something that was gender-neutral so that when you see the name it doesn’t give me away. I liked the way that it kind of sounds aggressive. I liked that about it because I feel that my music and my voice is kind of the opposite of that. It’s very feminine and it’s very smooth so that’s kind of the opposite. I feel that it also describes my aesthetics very well. Graphically, it’s beautiful and it’s kind of spooky.
K: Actually… (laughs) There was a picture and it said “New York” and in a puddle, there was a reflection and KROY is York backwards. It has nothing to do with New York in general, I just loved that word. It’s just a beautiful word that doesn’t exist.
Your first EP as KROY, Birthday, was released in 2014. Then Milk & Bone’s Little Mourning came out in 2015 and now your first full-length solo album, Scavenger, is coming out this month. I know that two of the songs on Scavenger also appeared on Birthday (“River” and “Monstrosity”); when were the rest of the songs on the album written?
K: Around the same time. When I chose the songs for the EP, I had half of the songs on Scavenger already written. They just didn’t make the first cut for the EP. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so special to me because it’s very hard for me to write new material while I still have those songs that have yet to be released. I have to put these out there in order to move on from them and to move forward. But there were a couple of songs that were written along the way. “Days” was written later and “Go” is the most recent.
K: Well, it’s not that I wasn’t ready. I worked in music before – I used to be a backup vocalist for a few bands – and knowing a little about the industry, I thought it was important for me to test the waters before I actually released something that was going to take me a lot more time and that was going to cost me a lot more money and I wanted to get to know exactly who liked the project right away and who didn’t. Because, I mean, you can record an album and then go and pitch it to labels and you have no idea who you’re dealing with until you’ve seen them react to your material for at least a little amount of time. And what I liked about this is that I self-released my EP, I didn’t do any promo for it. I did a few shows here and there and then I saw right away the people who stuck to it even if there was no money involved. It’s much more simple to see what the connections are that you want to make. And then with that, it was easier for me to know exactly who I wanted to work with, how I wanted to do it and when I was going to do it. So I think that I did exactly the right thing and that’s exactly what I should have done, which I’m very happy about.
K: Very much so. Especially since they haven’t been released, I feel that what I have to say has not been said to the person that they’re destined to.
K: Yeah. (laughs).
K: But I know that when that person is going to hear them, it’s going to be like, that’s what I had to say and that’s what I felt and that’s what I feel. But I’m excited, it’s nothing dark, I just need to put that to rest.
K: Um, it’s a strange mix of feelings. You know when you have a really exciting night and then you come home and you’re in such a great mood and then you find yourself alone… It’s just like, well, that was fun, but I have things to say. If I don’t, I feel like I couldn’t sleep. I still need to put things out there, just for me. And it’s so much more fun when you come home after a few drinks and you just go ahead and let things come out.
K: We were in the studio recording the album and when I first put all of the songs together and I knew what it was going to sound like and what the emotion was going to be, it was the first word that came up when I thought about my album. But it wasn’t confirmed until very recently.
K: Well, musically, what’s fun with KROY is that I don’t have to think about what anyone else wants. It’s just whatever I want to do. I didn’t even think of “What do I want to be?” because that’s just how I always sound. I think you can’t really describe how you are musically if you don’t go into what you’ve listened to all your life and what has caught your ear. I can name you exactly what I’ve listened to my entire life, every album that I’ve loved, and then you’d get it. I think that’s how you can describe any artist in general. That’s my opinion.
And visually, I’m such a fan of architecture and very minimalistic graphic designs. A great friend of mine, Catherine D’Amours, is the graphic designer behind everything that came out as KROY. I love to always work with the same people to keep the aesthetics very strong. I also feel a lot more confident because we’re all growing together and it’s always going to make sense if I keep working with these people. We’re always going to push things further and everyone is going to know exactly where we’re coming from within the team.
What I really love about the album is how surprising it is. There are four songs that really stood out as individuals on the album and I felt like you could’ve taken any of those directions and done an entire record with any of those individual sounds. What makes this album so strong, for me, is the fact that you included all of those sonic explorations. It’s not monotonous for a moment. You get into the groove and sound of a song and you think the next track will continue in that vein but it suddenly surprises you with how different the rhythm and instrumentation is and yet, there are musical elements that tie it all together and keep it cohesive.
I wanted to start with the third song on the album, “Learn”. It’s also at a third of the way through the song that it completely changes with a rush of bass and a dance beat that hits you out of nowhere. Then your vocals come back in with the line, “You’ll be dead and I’ll be happy”. Can you talk about the decision to juxtapose that big dance sound against the mood of those lyrics?
K: The song, [is] very simple melodically. It’s very childish and that’s what I love about it. And that’s not what the song says. The song is a bit patronizing but it’s also a demand and it’s also super sweet. I find the dancey part is just a release of “I’m not fucking sweet. I’m being serious right now.” When it comes back at the end, the chord doesn’t change for like three bars when it’s supposed to and then [comes the line], “You’ll be dead and I’ll be happy”. That’s what I love about it. It was kind of like, “I’m trying to get this message out to you. It’s not working out. I’m going to go crazy and tell you another way. Okay, let me collect myself but I’m going to tell you exactly what I’m thinking now.”
K: That song I wrote from beginning to end in one sitting. I think it just came very naturally because obviously I wrote this song literally. Like, I didn’t write separate parts. I love the [line], “You’ll be sleeping and I’ll be married”. It’s a very simple form. I just repeated everything and then [the “You’ll be dead and I’ll be happy” line] just came to mind and I was like, “That’s fucking perfect.” (laughs) So that’s how it happened.
So the next song that surprised me came two songs later with “Stay” which is completely stripped down with just your vocals and piano. It’s so exposed and vulnerable. It’s also the song where the theme that I got out of the album of desire vs. rejection really hit me the most with the way the first lines of “Stay / Stay with me for awhile” contradict the next lines of “Go and leave nothing behind / Go and take it all when you pack”. Can you talk about this song?
K: Of course. “Stay” is exactly like you just described it. It’s like this poisonous relationship where you’re like, “Please stay.” and then it’s like, “Leave me alone, I can’t do this anymore.” And then that’s the final decision like, “I never want to see you again” until it just comes full circle to “Stay”.
K: I just couldn’t touch it. The only way that we could touch it was when my keyboard player, during a live show, started doing these little textures in the back. That, I thought, was just perfect. It just puts you in another world for a second. But other than that, I would never have done anything to it. It’s the only song on the album that has proper grand piano on it.
It stands out because of that. The song doesn’t hide on the album. It’s like this perfect midway point on the record and that grand piano sound is gripping even though it’s so delicate. It doesn’t just shy into the middle and disappear.
K: But I feel like in such an album that’s very electro and with a song that’s so slow and very simple, it’s very comforting to have that sound of the piano there.
K: It’s the kind of moment where… Well, right now I’m opening for Cœur de pirate a lot and what I like about opening for other people is that people don’t show up for you, most of the time. Sometimes they do. And what’s great is that it helps so much to open for someone before doing your own shows because you can gauge exactly how people will react. People who aren’t fans. They haven’t agreed to like you yet. And what I like about “Stay” is that during our opening sets right now we get pretty loud because it’s a pretty loud album and it’s fun to play and “Stay” is one of those songs where everyone shuts up. And it’s comforting to me too. It’s the song that I never rush. Even if I take a lot of time between the phrases and I just play the piano. If I feel like playing the piano for a longer time, I will. And I love feeling people going, “That’s new. We haven’t heard this at all. What’s that about?” And they’ll never hear it again and I love that.
After being in the delicate world of “Stay”, you go directly into “Days” which just creeps the hell out of you! To me, it sounds like a nightmare with the organ and the scratchy intro.
K: Exactly, I love that. Yes it does. And it also has morse code.
K: (laughs) I can’t tell!
K: That’s what I love about it! I told the guys in the studio that I wanted to put morse in the song and I didn’t even tell them what it was. In an album, what you say, everyone who listens to the album will know. But to be the only one who knows, I love that.
It’s like a secret message! And the line, “I’m losing days thinking of the ways I can make you hate me too”. Wow. There are so many strong lines on this album that are so memorable. This is definitely one of my favourite tracks on the record.
K: Me too. I think that for a lot of people it’s not going to be their favourite one right away. I think it’s my favourite to play live, honestly. And I thought it was going to be the most difficult to translate in a live show but it turns out it’s the easiest and it’s the most fun.
After the eeriness of “Days” suddenly you’re hit with this warm island rhythm that is so unexpected with “Cold”. It’s unpredictable and yet so welcomed! Can you talk about the musicality of “Cold”? It’s another song that is so unlike anything else on the album. Where were you drawing from to get to these musical choices?
K: I love that song. Well, hmm… About two years ago I was invited to do my first full-length show in Montréal, which was fantastic, but with my band I had to put together a show. Some of the songs we didn’t have time to arrange so I just did my piano version of them and “Cold” was one of those songs that we just started playing together and we just had this kind of, like you said, island “doom-dat-dat / doom-dat-dat” and that just stayed. I just thought that was such a weird fit with “Cold” because what that song says, it’s kind of weird. So I just liked the fact that we just went the other way with the mood. But then again we have this beautiful treatment on the voice that sounds very creepy.
There is a VENTS article about you that said, “Camille Poliquin believes that she was born out of melancholy.” Was this taken from a quote of yours? Do you believe that?
K: I didn’t say that, for sure. For sure I didn’t say that. I’ve never written a happy song and I think that a lot of people can see that. You don’t write when you’re happy, you write when you’re fucking desperate and you can’t do anything. But I wasn’t born out of melancholy. Maybe the band was. Maybe KROY was, you know what I mean? But, no. I was a very happy child. But I was a very emo child. Being an adult today and looking at kids who are very sensitive and intuitive, who have a very complete interior world, that’s exactly what I was. And you can’t tell when you’re a kid. You don’t even know because that’s just you. I wrote my first song when I was like, I don’t know, six, about this boy and my sister bought the rights from me for $2.00. I was like, “That’s fair.” (laughs) She did! She was like, “Can I buy those rights from you?” and I was like, “Sure. Let’s talk.” and she said, “I can offer $2.00.” and I was like, “Alright.” and I remember thinking, “If I ever need them someday, she’ll give them back.” and then later realizing that that’s not the way the business works. (laughs) So she has the rights to that song. (laughs)
“I just love your interpretation of the album so much.” – Camille Poliquin
Twitter: @kroyworld Instagram: @babydeathy
Check out our interview with Milk & Bone: Rattling The Walls with Milk & Bone | The SBTS Interview