Toronto is a magnet for aspiring young artists hoping to make it in the big smoke. Most days it feels like the 6ix is positively bursting at the seams with young artists, designers, filmmakers, actors and comedians busting their humps to make their dreams come true. She Does The City chatted with some of the most exciting and talented up-and-coming artists living and working in Toronto to find out what inspires them, how they deal with setbacks and what stops them from jacking it all in and getting a normal job.
For this installment, we caught up with artist and musician April Aliermo.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you and what do you do?
I’m a Filipina-Canadian artist. I play bass and write lyrics and music for Hooded Fang, Phèdre and tonkapuma. I run Daps Records with Daniel Lee, have a community arts collective with Leah Gold called Hijinks and recently started a Feminist Electronic Music collective called Fem.Wav with Ananda Gabo. I’m also a CBC Arts correspondent filmmaker and shine some light on interesting and important art and music happenings around Canada. In between I like watching funny things, biking around, making out, all the stuff you find on a dating app profile.
It can be tough to forge a career as a recording artist. What has stopped you from quitting and doing something more stable?
My imagination: I picture having a boss and I’m like fuck that! I also love playing bass. I just really, really like it. Writing lyrics and music is satisfying the same way solving a math problem is satisfying so that feels good too.
Did you always know you wanted to be a recording artist? What did you want to be when you were a teenager?
I’m probably going to be asking myself until I die what I want to be. When I was a teenager I thought I was going to be developing clean water systems in developing countries. I was the Minister of Peace and Environment on my student council. I liked organizing things like garbage pick-up days and school dance parties. Also, doing extra-curricular activities kept me from having to sit at a desk in class! I was also playing a lot of sports and playing guitar at our variety shows. The classes I didn’t skip were my art and drama classes.
What moment in your career are you most proud of?
I’ve had a few young gals tell me they want to play bass and someone making very cool music told me that she started playing bass because of me…pretty frickin’ cool! I’ve also been very proud of the few bands I’ve coached at Girls Rock Camp. Seeing them play their original songs on stage is pretty golden. The Unaesthetics, Midnight Wolves, Savage 4, WUSSUP?!
How do you deal with career setbacks?
After crying in a corner, eating food in Chinatown, walking around and talking it out with Leah (Hijinks) or with my Kuya Romeo (an older, more experienced, working artist), I take a step back and write out all my goals and what I need to do to achieve them, then get ‘er done, one day at a time.
Sometimes when you are at a setback or think too deeply about how it affects your future, it;s like staring out into the dark night and you just need to wander a bit then bring it back home.
What piece of career advice has stuck with you?
No one has really given me any explicit career advice but my parents have always pushed me to strive for the stars. I grew up seeing them work hard and make a living for themselves and provide my sister and me with everything and more. Their work ethic has definitely stuck with me.
My Lola Pacita continues to remind me that it doesn’t matter what I do as long as I am happy. She’s ninety-three years old so I’m pretty sure she knows what she’s talking about. She was a real estate agent but drew and painted all her life.
What advice do you have for an aspiring musician or recording artist?
Put yourself in a place where you are comfortable and confident to keep learning, experimenting and doing things yourself. This is both as a musician, a tech person and on the admin side. Don’t be shy or too proud to ask for help from anyone and take all the knowledge you gain and run with it!
Even if you are not always doing all this work, it’s always good to know what’s up. If you are a womyn, don’t wait too long. Start working with other womyn ASAP! It took me too long but there is a whole other world of empowerment, comfort, support and joy.
Make your notes and lists something you like looking at. Sometimes I use gold ink, other times water colours. This gives my to-do lists extra value.
What do you hope to achieve in your career in 2017?
I’m going to Moogfest this week with Gabo (Fem.Wav) to take workshops like Mini Oramics, SuperCollider and Instrument Design and Creative Magic: Musical Technology and Ritual in 21st-Century Shamanic Practice. I’m aiming to learn about analog synthesizers and hoping to weave my DIY, feminist and magic ethics more into my work. Also to make more money – haha imagine?!