Housing costs are ballooning in Canada's major cities. Driven out by the high price of living, many of the country's working creatives have scattered to the outskirts in search of affordable living.
Wave producer Evan Passier, better known as Dyzphoria, counts himself among this group. He currently lives on Bowen Island — a small island in the Salish Sea, reachable only via a ferry from Vancouver's Horseshoe Bay. Being separated from mainland Vancouver's music scene hasn't dulled his work ethic though; Passier has a non-stop release schedule, and drops tracks both independently and via London wave label Liquid Ritual. And his songs are maximalist, to say the least. Consistent with the wave sound, Passier's tracks are a mesh of melancholy, trance-inducing synthesizers, booming 808 low-ends and heavy trap drums. When he does layer vocals into his tracks, they blend into the back of the mixes, keeping his instrumentation right at the forefront.
Wave music has so far been overshadowed by adjacent electronic genres like witch house and trap, but it has not gone without its fair share of controversy and criticism. Some critics have maligned wave music as a "marketing tactic" that cloaks old cloud rap tropes in flashy buzzwords. Passier disputes this, though; in conversation, he says that "there's just a certain vibe that wave music has that's really distinct from any other electronic genre."
NINETOFIVE recently caught up with Dyzphoria and got his thoughts on wave music's defining traits, the unique lifestyle he has as a Bowen Islander, and his favorite artists in Vancouver's burgeoning hip-hop scene. Get to know him — he's one to watch.
Wave music is a loosely-defined genre. What characteristics do you think set wave songs apart from related forms of electronic music like trap, future bass and witch house?
I think above all, wave music is defined by the feeling it gives you; there's just a certain vibe that wave music has that's really distinct form other electronic genres. It's really emotional and melody-based and I think it often feels darker and sadder than most other forms of electronic music. I think wave music also tends to also be a lot more atmospheric, trippy and ambient in its sound design in comparison to things like trap and future bass. Witch house is definitely quite similar to wave at times; I'd say that witch house feels darker, spookier & grittier that wave music so it's definitely its own distinct genre.
You're also close with a lot of artists in Vancouver’s hip-hop community. How did you get connected with that scene?
I'm not really sure to be honest! Some of my closest artist friends are just good homies that I've known for years, since before any of us were actually releasing anything. Some of my other friends I just met through other mutual friends, at shows or parties, etc. I'm big on collaborating and especially big on supporting my homies, and I think that helps me build strong relationships with people. I'm a huge fan of rap music; it's the type of music I listen to like 80% of the time, so it makes sense that I'm involved in the local rap scene.
Who're your favourite artists from around Vancouver?
It's tough for me to pick favourites, but I can definitely say that Chapel Sound has been one of my favourite local collectives for years now. They've been at it for a long time and they've always been pushing forward-thinking art. All the artists from Didn't Die are really dope as well. But my top favourites are: Tommy Bronson, Sprint Connor, Auto, Bains, Howl, Polo Brian, Anklegod, Angst, Yurmsauce, Coldtvrky, and of course bbno$. I lowkey wish these guys would all try to work together a bit more, but it's no big deal. I know at least one of them is bound to blow up huge, and that's hopefully going to bring some attention to our city.
How is life on Bowen Island different from life in mainland Vancouver?
Well first of all, it's super quiet and peaceful here; Bowen only has a population of about 3,600 people. It's actually really interesting because since the population is so low, basically everyone knows each other. There's a tight-knit community and people definitely try to look out for each other, which I love. It can be weird at times though — people love to gossip and if anything significant happens, everyone is going to find out about it. It can be hard to walk around outside without bumping into people you know, which again, can be both good and bad.
There are also tons of dope lookout points, which is a huge plus for me; I love nature, hiking, camping and all that sort of stuff. So overall, the culture is super laid back and definitely way less busy and chaotic compared to Vancouver; I definitely prefer the Bowen lifestyle hands down.
How does living there affect your collaborations with Vancouver-based artists?
Well, the biggest downside to living on Bowen is just being so disconnected from the city; it's only a 15 minute ferry ride away, but you have organize your plans around the ferry schedule, and if you decide to make some last minute plans in the city it can be a big annoyance sometimes. Life on Bowen is really chill though. I spend pretty much all of my time working on music, kicking it with the homies or exploring the outdoors. I definitely plan on moving to the mainland just to be closer to everything shows, studio sessions, parties, friends, etc) but I definitely appreciate the peace and quiet of Bowen. Ideally I'd love to have both a place in the city and a place on Bowen so I can bounce around back and forth, but I don't think that's going to happen any time soon.
Do you find more creative inspiration when you’re on the mainland or when you're more isolated back on Bowen?
A bit of both. I'm definitely more productive while I'm on Bowen, but I try draw inspiration from pretty much every aspect of life whenever I can. Nature tends to be one of my biggest inspirations; going on a good hike or just chillin' at a lookout point never fails to inspire me. The city is also very inspiring, though; it has a totally different vibe & culture compared to Bowen, so it's cool to change things up and experience some different things instead of doing the same stuff all the time. Sometimes I'm most inspired after going to a really good show or party; it all just depends on the vibes. If I catch the right vibe it's always going to inspire me though, and that's definitely something that happens both on Bowen and in Vancouver.
What’s your currrent studio setup like?
Right now I just produce in my bedroom. Just a few months ago I got the Apollo Twin and some decent Focal Alpha monitors; this was a huge upgrade from my blown-out B&W speakers. As for software, I use Ableton as my DAW, and Xfer Serum in pretty much every single song. Almost all the synths that I use now are patches I made in Serum.
What other projects can we expect from you in the rest of 2018?
I want to work with vocalists a lot more, and perhaps mess around with recording my own voice. Definitely going to be dropping more singles, too. And as far as bigger projects, I'm considering putting together a short EP this year - if I do drop an EP this year it'll probably be in the later half of 2018, though.