Published Sep 03, 2019On a quiet corner in an unassuming building in the heart of Toronto's Corktown sits Soleil Sound, a multi-use space for recording studios and post-production that houses Hive — a six-studio cluster that many artists, including Ivana Santilli (among a host of others), once called their creative home. Founded by Oliver Johnson in 1997, it stands as one of the city's oldest studio spaces still operating.
It's here that artist Junia-T has been working on his new album, Studio Monk, for the better part of the past two years.
"The Hive has housed many of Toronto's most significant musical talents from a variety of genres," Junia says of the space. "The owner, Oli, has been a staple in Toronto's music scene. It's an honour."
Brimming with a vintage feel, the particular room Junia sits in has various guitars adorning a wall that sits adjacent to another wall covered in multiple keyboards. According to him, the studio's space for collaboration was a necessity.
"Not having a time limit and having a space to house a lot of people makes all the difference. It's so dope that four or five people can be in a room and there's enough space to walk around or pace. There is this physical room for energy to flow.
"I like the fact that there are keyboards on a wall, so people don't have to ask for a turn; as ideas come, people can just touch stuff and add to what's being made," he explains.
Working with a live band is key to Junia's rich sound. Collaboration, in general, has long been a part of his process — and led to some of his best material. He describes the single "Ooowee" as being created during a stay in Chattanooga, and working in the Motown-esque Flock House with Flock (a collective of artists that includes the song's featured artist, Elijah Dax).
His studio space was a polite (but necessary) demand that Junia had as he entered into his situation with Pirates Blend, an imprint that counts acts like A Tribe Called Red, Young Empires and Saul Williams as part of its roster.
When not feverishly touring with Jessie Reyez as her DJ, Junia has been taking full advantage of his creative home, amassing well over 230 recordings — which he's slowly and carefully chopped down to just 13 tracks.
"It's hard, 'cause every time you make some new shit it becomes your new favourite. I noticed that a lot of the songs have some mantra tone to it, meaning they say something that you can remind yourself to be strong in a variety of ways," he explains. "I pulled the songs that have that feeling to it."
Studio Monk in its final iteration includes Toronto artists like singer Faiza, Sean Leon, Miloh Smith, Julian Thomas, and rapper Adam Bomb, plus South London artist Benjamin A.D, Montreal MC Nate Husser, and more, among the 13-song tracklist.
Another wonderful by-product of his situation with Pirates Blend was a budget that afforded him the ability to source out roles, allowing him to focus more on his creative process as opposed to logistics. "Slakah the Beatchild was my ultimate pick to help me do this project," he says excitedly, noting that he's been a longtime fan of the Sarnia-born producer who's worked with artists like Shad, Melanie Durrant and Drake. "He's a vintage, analogue guy like I am — so he understood the style I was going for. He brought a reel of one-inch tape, and we mixed the project slowly and meticulously."
Slakah is someone he plans to keep in the fold, he adds, walking over to the console to play a few cuts from the new album. Though the collection is done, Junia's creative process isn't slowing down anytime. In fact, he recently took another trip to Chattanooga (to the Flock House) earlier this month to film a visual for "Ooowee." His stay resulted in several songs — notably work with longtime friends YG Tut (a founding member of TheHouse with TDE artist Isaiah Rashad) and platinum producer Tiggi, who worked on (among other things) Khalid's debut album American Teen.
But, as Junia says, you can't fast-track art, and though he almost added at least one of the new tracks to his album, he decided to save it for what's to come. "I'm just taking my time, and not rushing through."