In partnership with ATB Financial, Vignettes has introduced a new element to the Design Showcase this year: sound design. Each musical track that has been paired with the 14 showcase designs, dubbed the ATB Soundscapes, features the works of some of Edmonton's most revered musical artists. These spotlights give us a closer look at each artist's history, their experience building their craft in our city, and what they think about engaging in new creative collaborations.
Vignettes spoke with Curtis Ross, an Edmonton based musician best known for his band Bebop Cortez. Curtis’ style reflects his experimental sound, funky rhythms and energetic performances. He lends his talents to ATB Soundscapes, working with the competing teams to create unique audiovisual experiences. With the design series quickly approaching, we sat down with Curtis to get his input on the evolution of Edmonton’s art scene, and the increasing importance of collaboration across mediums.
What was it like trying to become a successful artist in Edmonton, and what were some of the challenges you faced?
The hardest part I find is, if you’re not doing something that Edmonton is known for, like roots music or country music, it can be hard to find like-minded people or venues. The good part about that is once you make your art and put it out there, if it’s different, it stands out more.
Since you have become a more established artist, do you think that the Edmonton music scene has changed at all?
Yeah, it’s actually constantly changing. Venues come and go, but I’ve also noticed since I first put out my first record as Bebop Cortez, the mediums through which people consume music have changed. It used to be CDs, and now it’s streaming. I’ve also found that the genres and styles that are coming out of Edmonton–especially with younger artists–is actually amazing. The types of music that you can play now and the ways of getting it out there is a completely different thing.
How important is it to you, as a musician, that Edmonton has events like Vignettes that aim to strengthen the art scene community?
Vignettes is a really cool idea because I’ve never done something like this before, where you combine visual design and sound. Having something like this really opens collaboration and the creative process. You’re not making music for a commercial purpose– like wanting to make a hit song or make it danceable–but rather, something that really breaks those boundaries. I think doing more stuff like this is great for artists in Edmonton, and every musician should have a chance to challenge themselves by doing something like this.
In your opinion, why do you think it is beneficial that artists of different fields collaborate on projects like the Vignettes Design Series?
It’s always important for artists to do something that makes you uncomfortable, to get out of your comfort zone and to do something that you’re not used to doing. That’s sort of where the interesting process comes in and you can really challenge yourself. Every time that I get asked to collaborate I always say yes. After collaborating, you have all of this kind of music that you have made, and you’re like, “Wow, I never thought I would do this.” It opens a different creative avenue.
What do you think is the best way for Edmontonians to support the growing art and design community in Edmonton?
Just going to these events and going to the shows is the best way. I think it’s a real problem in 2017 that there are so many things competing for our attention that it’s hard to go to shows and to events. There is also interacting online. Every band that I know of has either a Soundcloud or Bandcamp, and [we should] support them as a listener and consumer. Instead of sitting on your couch and watching Netflix, get out there and go to a show or go to an art opening. As a consumer, you have to challenge yourself too, and I think everyone has to get a little uncomfortable for good art to be made.
What are you most looking forward to about being involved in the ATB Soundscapes and what kinds of new opportunities did this present to you as an artist?
I am looking forward to the whole thing being put together. I know that I’ve seen some of the art for it and some of the designs, but I haven’t seen the whole thing put together with people interacting with it. I’m really curious to see where everyone’s brain went [with] their designs. What I would also like to see come out of this is more collaboration of this kind and more stuff that is outside of my normal way of doing things.
Given Curtis’ distinct style, collaboration with his teams is sure to result in a unique display of design and sound. Curtis Ross will be performing at this year’s grand opening for the Vignettes Design Showcase on September 22. To learn more, visit vignettesyeg.ca.
Image courtesy of edmontonjournal.com