Dances with words: Ira Lee @ Pop Montréal
“Growl is just that moment when an animal’s lips starts to cringe, the moment before they actually emit a sound,” Ira Lee tells me about his forthcoming self-released album GROWL. This bi-continental, bisexual musician and spoken word artist’s 15th album features tracks with local super-homo SOCALLED. Tonight (Sept. 21) @ The Royal Phoenix.
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“Now that it’s cool to be queer, there’s going to be a lot of pretending,” the tri-racial, bisexual, bi-continental musician tells me in advance of his Pop Montréal show. At 30, Lee is a veteran of the European and North American weird music under-scene, working in an idiom that can only be compared to Mykki Blanco crossed with Canadian white-rapper-cum-radio-host Buck 65, both of whom he admires.
Working on GROWL with the likes of electro-eccentric American Thavius Beck and Montéal super-homo SOCALLED (Josh Dolgin) Ira Lee makes his home in France, where his main collaborator is a multi-instrumentalist named Rubin Steiner. (His SOCALLED collab “Ed” is a bizarre lo-fi duet about the highly unromantic theme of erectile dysfunction.) When Lee tells me GROWL is his fifteenth album, I am unsurprised: as with his prolific musical output, this ADD artist appears to rejoice in a kind of logorrhea that made him basically the opposite of every hipster artist I have ever interviewed. He talks. A lot.
“I came from a culture where you have to entertain people or else they throw bottles at you,” he says. Growing up in a tough-ass part of the Prairies (he’s spent time all over), Lee often returns to work with youth who are “beyond at-risk” in some of the harshest reservations and isolated communities of the Saskatchewan and Alberta. “So many people will see me perform and say Who’s this fag? When you get in front of these kids and you show them that you know what you’re doing, it’s form of magic,” he says, describing how gratifying it is to help youth express themselves with battle rap (and get off crystal meth by trying weed instead!).
“I came from an era when white guys with dreadlocks were playing funk songs. I could do songs about bitches and drugs, but it would be in lesser amounts, and I would be the one who’s the bitch in the situation,” Lee tells me, conjuring images that make me want to brave the ultra-weirdness of his form of spoken music. “We’re dancers who make noise and words,” he says, enticingly…
Sept. 21, 9:30pm @ Royal Phoenix (w/ Kuhrye-oo and Fuka Lata), $10, 9:30pm
Sept. 22, 1pm @ Parc de la Petite Italie, FREE