As a furious game of ping-pong was happening in the background at the Ping Pong Club, Randal of Montreal Rocks had a pint with Emma Beko and Gab Godon of Hearstreets.
These two women had the strength to take the longer journey towards success, which not only helped define who they are as a band but helped define them as individuals. A wise move.
We talked about early memories of music during their childhood, understanding your why, and a very brave discussion on how to battle the darkness in our lives.
I would describe their sound as Hip-Pop.
Their new album is available on all streaming platforms, and they are about to open up for Eddy de Pretto at MTelus.
Interview with Emma & Gab of Heartstreets
Montreal Rocks: Congradulations on your new baby! <<referring to the latest album “Why Make Sense”>>
Heartstreets: Thank-you…it’s our first…Firstborn.
MR: The labor pains are over.
Heartstreets: Yeah…sort of.
MR: You’ve known each other forever, since grade school. What’s your earliest memory of each other?
Emma: I have a memory. I’m not sure it’s the first one, but I have a memory of us sitting on the bus, in elementary school, going on a day trip and we were singing, I believe, Christina Aguilera. People were listening to us, like a mini show.
Gab: I remember that!
MR: It was your first performance!
Emma: Probably not the first one, but the one that stuck with me.
Gab: I remember us laughing in my bedroom. I know it’s in grade school because it was my bedroom then in Ahuntsic. You (Emma) were on the flip-flop on the floor and I was on the bed. We were just talking and laughing.
MR: It’s been a long journey until now. You must know each other very well. Gab, what’s your favorite thing about Emma and vice-versa?
Gab: I think Emma really makes me laugh a lot. I’m really giggly when I’m around her.
Emma: Sucks because the first thing that came to my mind is how much you make me laugh! We are so comfortable that everything that is going on in our lives, whether stressful or anything…when we are together, it’s never negative.
Gab: Everything is funny. It’s like life is life, so we’ll deal with everything that comes, but together it’s easier to go through it.
MR: You are not an overnight success. I’ve seen stuff online from at least 7 years ago. Do you find that since you know each other so well, that has helped along the years?
Emma: Helped the path we took? Helped us grow?
Gab: Helped with the industry?
MR: <<This is where I realized what an awful question that was…let’s regroup.>> Let me backtrack. When you are young, the topic is often about you. You will sing about “this boy said this”, or “this girl said this…they are mean”…it’s more self-absorbed. As you get older, you start thinking more about the world at large.
Emma: C’est drole. Yeah!
MR: I think that’s the evolution I’ve seen in your music. In the beginning, it was more about you guys. Now, it’s more outward.
Gab: For sure. It was cool to have each other throughout this path. It’s nice to have someone to lean on. C’était essaie/erreur all the way up. There were a lot of bumps and it was cool that we were two to go through them.
From the beginning, we wanted to just feel the experience of getting to know what we want to do in terms of music. What is Heartstreets, you know? We didn’t want to skip any steps. “Puerto Rican Mami” was one of the songs that was us.
Emma: It’s not available anymore.
MR: That’s where it gelled.
Gab: It was more finding out style and sound.
MR: That’s when you start to trust yourself more than what other people are saying.
Emma: Yeah, I think so.
MR: To me, Heartstreets is a juxtaposition of the harshness of the street and love. Put those two together and it relates to your sound. You have two different styles. Emma is more rap, and you (Gab) has this voice that really matured on this album. You took it up a notch!
Emma: C’est sick!
MR: Do you find that you complement each other, but remain distinct?
Emma: It’s also because we’ve never done music as something serious before the band. So, we started the band and got to know what the personality of the band was as a unit. Through time, also discovering ourselves, as individuals within that group. Gaining confidence in that as well.
MR: Your mom, Emma, used to be in La La La Human Steps. Was music a big part of your life growing up? Did she introduce you to anything that was outside the norm?
Emma: She spent time in the Congo, growing up. She played African music for me, as I grew up. Yes, she’s a dancer, I grew up around music, it was always on. Gab grew up with just as much music, even if her parents aren’t dancers.
We were lucky to have grown up in families that enjoyed music and respected it. It was around us constantly growing up.
MR: I find there is a certain time, as a child, where music goes from just being a sound you hear, to something that triggers an emotion. Is there a memory from your childhood of a song that made you go down that rabbit hole?
Gab: So many! I have this image of me in my backyard just walking around with my CD player and listening to “Killing Me Softly” from the Fugees over and over and singing along with Lauren Hill. That really stuck with me.
Emma: My dad was a delivery driver for Kilo Gateau. I may have been around 6. I remember doing deliveries with him on Sunday mornings. He let me sit on him, in a parking lot, and steer the car. I remember him playing “Fast Car.”
MR: Tracy Chapman.
Emma: Yeah. He had her tape. It wasn’t even the lyrics or what they meant. I really didn’t understand them. It was her voice. I felt emotions that I didn’t even understand, but I could feel it, in her voice. Until I was maybe 12, I thought it was a man. I heard the song and would say: This guy really touched me. I, of course, love hertoday.
MR: I find it interesting that you both remember different genres, but female singers with a certain strength. Back then, it wasn’t as common as it is today. It’s beautiful today that more women can show their strength because some before forged that path.
I found the album “Why Make Sense” is obviously very positive. The whole message shows a maturity where instead of reflecting inwards, you are reflecting outwards. What is the message that you want to extend to your fans who listen to you?
Emma: To me, the album is a whole of all these different messages, an entity that represents many things. It’s hard to think of just one particular message to be in the forefront.
Gab: I’m thinking of the message we recorded for our launch. We were talking about why make sense and what it means to us.
Emma: Not just the album, even just the sentence.
Gab: Asking ourselves why would you want to make sense? What is sense? What I think is important in the message is that you need to do you, whatever sense that is. Fait tes affaires. Fait ce qui te tante. Fait ce que t’aime. Soi la personne que t’a envie d’être. Porte ce que t’a envie d’être. Mange ce dont t’a envie. Il n’y a pas de cadre qui sont obligatoire pour tout le monde. Il n’y a pas une boite spéciale pour tout le monde. On remet en question un bigger picture de la société. Sort de ta boite.
MR : Don’t follow what everyone else wants you to or what is expected of you.
Gab: Exactly. Do you. C’est tellement petit…mais c’est ça.
Emma : Like you said in the beginning about overnight success. We made choices that brought us to where we are today. Choices about the way we got here. From the beginning, there were labels that wanted us to join them. Who knows, it may have gone more overnight success. But success is different for everyone.
MR: They may have wanted the band they thought you were, maybe not the band that you are.
Gab: To each their path. Why make sense?
MR: There is a book called “Start With Why” from Simon Sinek. Just that word WHY is very important. If you are doing music, why are you doing it? You have to truly answer that question. Are you doing it to be popular? Are you doing it because you have a message that needs to come out? It’s good to examine that, because if you do it for the wrong motives, you might have success, financial success or popularity…
Gab: But have little demons.
MR: I’ve met artists that are truly successful, even toured the world. Yet, I believe they think they are frauds.
Gab: Le syndrome de l’imposteur.
MR : Exactly, the imposter syndrome. It’s because they are just regular people, put on a pedestal. When you are in that position, you think that if they find out I’m just a regular person, it will all come crumbling down.
Emma: Yeah…they sh*t like everyone else. (laughs)
MR: I think in your path, you steered away from that to get deeper into your why.
Emma: Oui, c’est vraie that we got deeper into the why.
MR: Once you have that foundation of the why, you can build quickly. Without that foundation, you might get to a certain height, but it can easily crumble.
Gab: That’s how we think and why it’s been a long ride. It was necessary to be that way, so we can build it to be strong to be where we are now.
Emma: We’ve never been disappointed with our decisions. It’s never been discouraging.
Gab: We’ve learned a lot. Imagine…you do your first song ever and you are signed? You don’t even know what you are doing. You don’t even know what music is. Writing music itself, without the whole industry around. C’est un gros monde. Faut que tu comprennes c’est quoi la machine. That’s what we did. Learned our own way.
MR : It’s only by falling that you get to be stronger. It’s like a muscle. When you exercise, you are actually tearing the muscle, causing yourself harm. Then it heals stronger.
I’m sure you made mistakes.
Gab: But we are jacked now!
MR: Ever have an instance where a show just wasn’t working?
Gab: I feel that every show we do, we make at least one new fan in the room. Sometimes there was maybe 3 people at the show.
MR: So, you got 33% of the room!
Gab: It’s never been bad. It’s been empty sometimes.
Emma: We’ve done show where it wasn’t bad on our end, but maybe the circumstance was different. A corporate event is different than a show. People are talking while you perform.
But honestly, we always have a good time. We always perform to the max, whether it’s just you at the show or a thousand people, it’s the same energy we are giving.
MR: Listening to the album, I hear the influences of different genres. It’s nice that you aren’t stuck in one. You explore. You even do that with your producers. Is there a method to your madness?
Gab: We just like to have songs that have different personalities. We don’t want to be stuck in an album that is just one long f-ing song. To me, I enjoy the live experience to be like a roller coaster rather than one long song, were you don’t even seem to hear the chords changing.
MR: Life is not a series of one emotion. Every day is a bouquet of emotions.
Emma: Our album touches on so many emotions, so many vibes. Different ups and downs.
Gab: We collaborated with a lot of people. You can hear that; you can feel it. There are opinions and tastes from different people…
Emma: Generations and even backgrounds.
MR: You talked about reaching someone at your show. The good news is that there is a theory called the 1000 True Fans Theory. It’s based on the supposition that you can be successful, all you need is 1000 True Fans. A true fan is someone you will net you $100 a year. 1000 x $100 is $100,000 per year.
Emma: You can live off that, yeah.
MR: It might not get a you a mansion….but it’s good. Some people want millions of fans…but it’s more realistic to get 1000 true fans and nurture them along the way.
Emma: We are down with 1000. We would be so happy.
MR: Because then it’s your family.
Gab: We love chilling with fans.
Emma: Every time after shows, we will have a drink with them.
Gab: We’ve had some pretty wild nights. Memorable nights that went coocoo. We were with people we didn’t know. Maybe they didn’t even know our music before and just discovered us. We were just feeling the vibe…
MR: And you went for the adventure.
Emma: For the true fans, it’s because we are at a show giving 100%, honest and genuine. We are giving all our emotions and the energy we have within us. The lyrics we sing are messages we mean, so they get to know us very quickly. It’s all us. It’s a conversation, although we are not hearing them speak back yet.
MR: There are groups of old men, writing songs for teenage girls and giving these to boy bands. Here you go, sing about this, because this is what teenage girls want to listen to.
Emma: C’est tellement weird.
MR: It’s so far from reality. Yes, teenage girls will listen and love it…but as soon as they think about it…they go: This isn’t me.
MR: You grow out of those teenage bands. That’s why being true to yourself, which goes back to the why, comes full circle. You can be true to yourself and true to your fans.
Emma: As much as possible.
MR: You are opening up for Eddy De Pretto (MTelus April 6, 2019). You both performed at Mile Ex End. Is that where you met?
Emma: We haven’t met him yet. We were chosen by the booking agent to open up for him in Quebec. We are really excited.
MR: I think it will be a complimentary audience.
MR: I want to talk about the song “1 Double.” Here we are at a bar, but we didn’t order Vodka. The song does talk about using substances, like alcohol, to hide behind.
MR: We have a lot of sad news in the music world. Amazing people taking their own lives. No matter how happy we are, we all have a certain darkness at some point. How do you deal with that darkness?
Emma: For sure, for sure, writing songs helps me a lot to deal with those emotions. It would be a lie if I said I’m OK. I still have things to battle and I have to figure them out. That’s going to take time. I still have crutches. I don’t really do drugs, but I have bad habits that I rely on to alleviate some stresses. The main thing I rely on when I face those demons is writing about it.
Gab: For sure, writing helps a lot, but for me, even singing.
Emma: Moi aussi!
Gab: Yeah, like raaarr….let it tremble inside of you. It’s not always easy and resources are not always there, but I feel it could be very helpful to talk to people, anyone. I’m very close to my family, so I will talk to them if I’m not feeling OK.
I wish it was free, it wasn’t weird or taboo. It’s OK to sit in front of someone that doesn’t know you. Being free from judgement and all that you are scared of. Just let go, even if that is scary and very hard. To be able to do it is a gift to yourself.
MR: I think the taboo is slowly leaving. It’s still there, unfortunately.
Gab: The taboo is that you will go talk to someone if you really need it, if you have big issues. Anxiety is something we live with at different levels. It’s not easy to live with it, no matter at what level it is.
C’est bon d’avoir quelqu’un qui peut te donner des outils. Comme…demain matin, tu vas encore être anxieux. But here are some tools that will help you deal with it and manage. You have control over your anxiety.
MR: I remember being a teenager…yes it was a while ago…but I was a teenager. I used music. You have this angst and you don’t know how to express it. So, you turn to music and find someone who speaks, as if they are speaking for you. You can relate, but it’s still one sided.
I think it’s brave. You two have each other, your family as a support system. Even if you don’t, there are always people you can talk to. I think it’s OK to say: “I’m broken and I need help.”
Gab: Yeah…be vulnerable. We celebrate being vulnerable.
MR: To me, the imperfections are what makes you unique. What makes you unique makes you beautiful.
Gab: It’s normal. We all have darkness scars. There is no one that is polished, perfect. It’s impossible.
MR: It’s hard because Social Media shows you the polished life.
Emma: Honestly, it depends who you follow. I remember seeing some posts a couple of months ago saying if there is someone, or something that you are seeing that doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, unfollow and block it.
I feel this is something people are more conscious of, but maybe not applying yet. When I’m on Instagram, I go to the search and it’s a lot about food and crazy makeup. It will make me laugh or feel good. That’s because I got to there.
If I go on something that makes me compare myself with that other person, I stop and steer away.
Gab: It’s crazy. Whatever makes you not perfect…your bruises and stuff…you don’t want to look at. They hurt. They are not pretty. They are things you want to forget. But we create more bruises without realizing it. C’est fou.
MR: I see it like we have two wolves inside of us. They compete, the dark wolf and the light wolf.
Gab: There is the ego…
MR: Depending on which one you feed, one will be dominant. If you feed yourself on negativity, negative people, whom I call vampires people…they suck your energy out. You will feed the dark wolf and it will dominate.
If you can feed yourself with your album…right? It’s positive. You can feed that light side.
Did we just solve the problem of depression? Listen to your album!
Gab: No…just find someone to talk to if you are ever feeling lost or simply not feeling good.