author: mason sliva | a&c editor
Samurai Champs off to one of America’s biggest festivals
Samurai Champs is one of the hottest new groups out of Saskatchewan, and they are on their way to South by Southwest (SXSW) next week. SXSW has helped propel numerous artists to fame, and the effect it will have on Samurai Champs is yet to be seen. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Marvin Chan, and found out more about the group.
How did the members of your group, Samurai Champs, meet?
We’ve known each other and been friends since high school. It wasn’t until one of Merv’s acoustic shows where we really connected and started recording songs together. It was all DIY, teaching ourselves Pro Tools through YouTube tutorials in Jeah’s parents’ basement. Nothing really serious formed until we started Samurai Champs seven or eight years later.
How long has the group been together? What have been the highlights of playing together?
We’ve played music together as individual solo artists forever, but we only started Samurai Champs about three years ago. Among all the insane things we’ve been blessed to do, touring and playing festivals like the Great Escape and Reeperbahn throughout Europe, sharing the stage with artists like Flatbush Zombies and T.I., the things we remember are the simple ones like the nights we biked through Amsterdam and Hamburg after the show.
Can you tell me about the group’s recent release, Crayons?
Crayons was our first EP. It meant a lot to us as it represented our first true effort toward the sound we’ve crafted now. The project also represented the affirmation of our relationship as a hip-hop/R&B duo, as well as a creative pair.
How did the song-writing process for Crayons work?
Our song-writing process begins with capturing feelings in the moment. In this process, we also try to express our captured feelings through our recordings. It’s the vibe that we catch in a moment that we hope to share with someone else.
What were some of the main themes on Crayons?
Diversity. The primary theme for Crayons is the representation of diversity and colour. Whether this signifies emotions, experiences, backgrounds, or ethnicity, Crayons is our expression of appreciation for diversity in all peoples. This is personified by each of the female characters in each song.
The group is preparing to play at SXSW in early March. Can you tell me more about the festival, and what it means for the group to have this opportunity?
Being invited to perform at SXSW has been our greatest honour. It’s our biggest festival showcase to date, and many of our idols have credited SXSW as the “tipping point” in many of their musical careers. We have a feeling that SXSW will direct the trajectory for Samurai Champs for the coming months.
What was it like performing at festivals like Reeperbahn and the Great Escape?
It was a lot of work, as in having to be in lot of different places at once. It’s a hard but delicate balance, trying to focus on performing solid sets while meeting fans, connecting with industry, rallying the right people to your show, and still trying to take in the gratitude for the moment. We’ve learned so much, not just about music and the artistic process, but about how the industry operates. We learned the steps that it takes for an artist’s career to truly develop, and we wouldn’t trade these experiences for the world.
What does the group have planned for the future?
After SXSW, we’re heading to Estonia to play Tallinn Music Week. After that, we’re heading to the Netherlands to play the world’s largest urban music festival and conference, New Skool Rules. Then, we’ll be touring western Canada toward the west coast where we’ll be ending our spring tour with a performance at Upstream Music Festival in Seattle.
We’re also finishing up our first full-length album. We have a more refined sound, combining the darker, wavy hip-hop/R&B sounds of Toronto’s OVO Sound with the warmer, soulful tones of LA’s Soulection, and we’re so excited to share these songs with you.
The group has received attention from big media names such as Noisey, Exclaim!, and Chart Attack. What does this recognition mean to the group?
Being covered by recognized press outlets was huge for us. It felt like recognition for the hours of hard work that we put into our music and Samurai Champs everyday. More so than the recognition from press, these stories on Noisey and Exclaim! were signs to ourselves that we were on the right path.
How have you been inspired by your background?
Irrevocably. Our background and heritage is the reason we’re here in the first place. Our opportunities in music are a direct result of our parents immigrating to Canada in search of a better life for their future generations. It is also our inspiration in hoping to serve as representation for future generations of southeast Asian-Canadians who aim to also pursue careers in music and art.
How has Regina helped the group to develop?
Coming from a small city like Regina provided us with the isolation and headspace we needed to craft our own unique sound. We’re still exposed to the sounds of the world through the internet, but we able to take these influences and have the space to create a sound that was all our own.
As creative communities, both Regina and Saskatoon have been overwhelmingly supportive in our previous tours and festival missions to other countries. Without the support from local businesses like Bodhi Tree Yoga, Wheelhouse, and Lot Club, we wouldn’t have been able to film our music videos, and we may not even have been able to fly to SXSW. Two of our music videos were filmed at Lot Club and Wheelhouse, and both of these businesses, as well as Bodhi Tree, are hosting fundraisers during this month of March in order to support our mission to SXSW.
Can you tell me more about the Trifecta Collective? How has it helped Samurai Champs to see success?
The Trifecta Collective is a creative culture and community, but it’s also a family. All of our artists – LOA, Revilla, and all the rest, each of them have their own personal, creative identities and individual sounds. These sounds have helped us to extend our own music beyond specific genres. Everyone in the collective works extremely hard to create a healthy, nurturing creative culture accepting of all genres, peoples, and backgrounds. Essentially, we want to be a “model U.N.” for the new sounds of the Prairies. All we want is for independent artists from all over Saskatchewan to be able to create and appreciate music and art for all that it is – a force that integrates and brings people together.