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Mozart's Sister

photography Lamont Abramczyk
words Zarah Cheng

The first time I saw Mozart’s Sister, moniker of Montreal-based Caila Thompson-Hannant, was when she opened for TR/ST at the Electric Owl in Vancouver last April.  Whether it was thanks to the vodka-infused white wine my friends and I had before the show, or whether we were just anticipating a night of dance-induced reverie, that show served the purest form of fun anyone could ask for.  Mozart’s Sister is dark, but danceable.  Her music is the kind you dance to with reckless lack of inhibition but when you stop to listen to the lyrics, you probably think, “Shit. That’s kinda depressing.”  But in a way, it’s therapeutic.  You just want to dance it out.  Play some Mozart’s Sister.  And just dance it out.

You told Dummy Magazine back in 2012 that Francis Bacon is one of your favourite artists.  And you told the Montreal Gazette that “demented is what [you’re] going for.”  What draws you into darker material, as an artist?

I'm not sure if it's 'dark' I'm drawn to. I think I'm more drawn to stuff that manages to incorporate multiple layers of meaning. Francis Bacon worked a lot with layering paint, but very thinly, so you could see the skeleton of a thing – an invitation into his process, how he moves through interpreting a subject. I like pop music that is demented, hyper and aggressively infectious, but I like it to be secretly dark too. It's taking the form of pop but pushing farther so you're not just lulled along in a pretty song but actually confronted with a mystery. It's rare stuff.


Even though your lyrics can be quite dark at times, your songs are all very danceable.  Why is it important to you to have this contrast in your music?

Ya, continuing along with the last question, words are underused in pop in my opinion. I like to kinda confuse the body and mind to try to create feeling. Dancing to sad lyrics is very cathartic! 


Lizzy from MSMR once told triple j that she sees her voice as just another layer in bandmate Max’s production.  How would you describe your approach to incorporating vocals into your production? 

Yes, I use my voice as an instrument but I also know it's the most power vehicle for meaning and content, so I use it as a leader too. I really can't settle on it being one thing so I use it how I feel at the time. I wish I could split myself into 'Producer' and 'Singer.’ It might make things clearer, but my writing tends to be a tangle of combating forces all at once.  


I read in Pitchfork that you taught yourself to produce with a demo version of Ableton.  With other artists like Washed Out and Toro Y Moi describing themselves as bedroom artists, what is it about the solitary, “bedroom” song-writing process that is most appealing to you?

It just means you can follow threads of ideas quicker. You can develop fast if you have the energy. I've been collaborating more recently because I feel there are definite benefits to working with others. Honestly, I just really needed to develop my craft and the best way to do that is to make everything yourself or study somewhere.  


In “Enjoy”, there’s a line: “1-2-3 don’t fuck with me / I’m sick and tired of thinking.”  It’s just one of those songs that you want to blast in your apartment and dance around to in your underwear when everything else is going wrong.  Did any particular event inspire this song?

Umm. Just frustration! Ha. I was feeling very disappointed and anxious about some music stuff and I needed to vent.


You’re playing Wavelength Music Festival on your birthday!  What’s your birthday wish?

To play a good show and have a good time with friends.


What is your birthday cake going to taste like?

Crème Brulée


Who are you listening to right now?

PC Music and Arca


What can we expect from Mozart’s Sister this year?

Not sure yet!


What creeps you out the most?

Honestly, it takes a lot to creep me out.


Photography by Lamont Abramczyk


Posted on February 23, 2015