I had a chat with Owen Hooper aka Mouth Breather; a Montreal based electronic pop artist. He definitely was one of the most aware, 'woke' and respectful artists I've had a chat with. We discussed the infrastructure of the music industry in Canada versus the USA, the meaning behind a few of his songs, which album made him take on producing and much more!
Photo taken by: Kate Lindsay Taeuschel
Why Mouth Breather?
Great question! I think as time goes on people think it’s a Stranger Things reference, which it's not! When I was a kid I had tonsillitis. When I was born up till the age of 5 I couldn’t breathe through my nose, and also I was a dork later on in life so it's a fitting name but it's actually a true story. I was a mouth breather, I had no choice, I was born this way! Now I got the surgery and I can breathe through my nose but old habits die hard and I find myself still doing a lot of mouth breathing. It’s a personal name, it means a lot to me.
Why did you get into music?
A couple of reasons. I’m from a musical family so its always been around but I think what lit the spark was Youth Lagoon. I’d always been playing music, I was in folk bands as a kid but as soon as The Year Of Hibernation came out it changed everything. Every song on that record is solid gold, that’s kinda what got me into producing, making more beat based stuff and I’ve been at it ever since.
Who are some of your inspirations?
There’s a lot! Growing up the biggest inspiration was The Beatles, my dad was a big Beatles person so that’s where I got my sense of melody. After Youth Lagoon my life flipped upside down and now my inspirations are people like Trippie Redd; like all these soundcloud rappers. I think what’s really important about them is that the production is there and the beats are great. They’re maybe not the greatest lyricists or vocalists but their character, their personalities, they’re all amazing and hilarious people and I really love that! I want my live show to be like ‘Oh I remember that guy because he’s a funny guy. He has good songs but he’s also really cool to watch.’ So yeah, people like that are my inspiration right now, Post Malone, I don’t know I’m a sucker for that style right now. The Beatles and backpack rap.
You have a song called Mysteries of Nature, what is a mystery that you figured out?
I think the biggest discovery; the mystery that I solved is that everyone is looking for a solution but the thing I discovered is that we should be looking for the problem. We don’t know what the problem is but we all want a solution. If we’re going for something more literal, putting butter in your coffee, that was one of the craziest things I’ve discovered in my life!
How many beats do you make in a week?
I’d say, on a bad week, its between 2 or 3 beats and on a good week its maybe 7. It really depends; its a process for me where I know something isn’t good, i’ll stop working on it and move onto the next thing but if I like something I might get caught up with it for days. I’ve released 2 or 3 songs in the past few years but I’ve probably recorded upwards 100 which is sad! I have to get my shit together and put it out there.
Your song USA, you have a line that says ‘our music ain’t the music that it is in the USA’, how is the music in the USA?
Yeah, that’s still one of my favourites I think from back in the day. I had just gone to Sasquatch and it was my first experience of going to America and seeing artists and I don’t know, being a Canadian- I’ve been blessed, like I was able to intern with Tegan and Sara for a bit when I was younger and really see how the industry up here works and it's really tough! Even if you do make it in Canada, you see people like Serena Rider who are the biggest Canadian artists, she came out of nowhere but you’d be caught dead if a single American even knew her name. Like in Canada she’s number one and she shouldn’t be, I’m sorry Serena.
Carly Rae Jepsen should be number one
Carly Rae Jepsen deserves number one! She’s legit but that’s the thing-that being said she’s bigger than Canada so she doesn’t even bother with it. As soon as Canadian artists get big enough to leave Canada they leave it behind completely. I don’t think its because they're self centred, I think it’s because the infrastructure for talents here is trash and I have a lot of problems with it. So, USA is basically about how if you really want to make it in music you gotta either be an American or you have to break into America and as a Canadian it's really hard to do that. Its just a little bit of a frustrated rant in a song.
Yeah for sure, even Quebec artists don’t really want to be here and are trying to break into Europe! - Who’s David and Sharon?
Ah, I’m still wondering this many years later. That was the very first thing I put out as Mouth Breather and I had just gotten into college and I came home from school one day and was like ‘I kinda hate college’-I did that four track in a day and I just needed a place holder. It's really just about me; I guess David and Sharon are both me but I get very uncomfortable confronting my own feelings head on. I also think that if you talk about shit that’s real to you and then you send it out-cause at that point the only people listening were my close friends so if they were just to hear it they'd be like ‘oh this is just about you being sad like this is kind of awkward, we were just having a beer and it sounds like you’re in a really bad place’ you know? So, instead I just had David and Sharon as two conflicting personalities, I don’t know. That’s also a thing, I’m reading into it more cause at the time I was just a dumb kid who was like 'these are cool names for people' I guess. I like story telling so I guess that’s how it came out.
In Oh What A World We Live In, how did you come up with the ‘sugar coated purple haze’?
That was really off the cuff and that’s all the best melodies. I’ve had that song for 6 months and I just needed the perfect thing to come up with to put on top of the beat. I used to live in this tiny apartment and I was there for 3 days and didn’t have anything to do. I was having a couple of beers just strung out essentially and I had the song on full blast and it came together. And yeah, sugar coated purple haze is where it all started. Its weed but its also consumerism and those are my two favourite things. I think it worked out and then it spiralled out of control. Like I come up with the melody before lyrics so I need to find words that fit in really quickly; I know Hilary Duff, I know David Bowie, Anne Boleyn for some reason, and Oh What A World We Live in! It all rhymes, its super easy and it doesn’t make any sense but if you think about it, and I’m the master of this, I always make something mean something later on but at the time it didn’t mean a thing.
What’s your favourite song that you’ve written?
I don’t really know, I get really tired of my own music after a while. My favourite song might be this one that I wrote one time called Lipstick Lover which was a country rock song. Because I never really tackled that genre and I don’t really want to; I think I like it because I’ll never listen to it too much. It doesn’t really fit in but its catchy and its about a when a guy falls in love with a girl who he starts wearing her lipstick.
Tell me about Extra
Yeah, I was just stir crazy. My roommates left for the west coast for 4 weeks and I was on week 2- my resolution for 2018 is to release a ton of music and rather then making everything perfect, make it really good. Extra was a beat that I made and then I had the line ‘she can’t help what she’s doing, she’s just a little bit extra’ and I thought that was so funny and I love everything extra. That’s kind of where that came from and everything else fell into place. I tend to write in first person perspective looking at stuff so the verses fell into place as it being like ‘oh this girl is so cool and i feel all these things’ but its basically a song about my life but also not about my life. Every single lyric is related to my own experience but at the same time you could never figure out how it relates to me because it doesn’t but it also totally does. Its like i’m writing about 20 different people that become one.
You have a song coming out soon, what is that one about?
Its called West World and its basically a house song, like a neo-funk house track I made with my friend. From start to finish we produced it in 10 minutes, it was probably the quickest thing I’ve ever produced but its easy because it's a house song. It's a critique on western civilization and how we are both in such a good place but also in the worst place we’ve ever been.
What are your plans as an artist?
I just want to get my music out there. I have a live band at times and I also have a DJ set. In the past I was hoping to go the traditional route and build up enough of a repertoire and go to a label but I think that model is really archaic and it doesn't suit the audience, they just want content. I’m going to try to drop a song every month, that is a goal. I have a record coming out in the Spring called Listerine Dream, I’ve been working on that for 2 years so hopefully it’ll be the most beautiful things I’ve created.
Photo taken by: Liam Higgins
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