After seizing the spotlight with a set of eclectic singles, Montreal’s own Hoki has just released their debut album ‘Strangest Of Us All’. The collaborative project fuses Varti Deuchoghlian’s diverse experiences as a producer with Australian vocalist Brent McCormick’s powerful songwriting. With nearly two decades of combined experience and musical exploration, including former metal and trance projects, the duo collides in the form of Hoki.
Instrumental performance and emotion-packed lyrics are at the forefront of the Hoki sound, which represents the unique ability of electronic music to draw from vast arrays of influence and inspiration. The duo’s vibrant style has been on display through the release of several singles from the album.
The Push comes as an innately dance-centric release from Hoki. A thick underbelly carries the track, with techno-influenced synth work providing exaltation on top of the 4×4 beat. The heavy groove is supplemented by Brent’s soaring vocals, calling for better days. The Push is a track fitting for dark moments on dance floors.
Land Of Our Dead displays the range within Hoki’s production technique. Opening with powerful chords, a light melodic beat sets an ambient soundscape for Brent McCormick’s stunning vocal work. The Australian’s words carry the song, creating a soothing atmosphere for emotional reflection. A kick lifts the beat towards the track’s mid point, allowing a light-filled end to a sad, yet hopeful tune.
With Clarian, Facundo Mohrr, Matthias Meyer, and The Drifter already on Hoki’s remixer roster, their presence in the underground dance music scene is evident. Facundo’s mix was particularly well received over the summer. He lengthened the arrangement on Some Kind Of Beautiful, placing emphasis on Brent’s seductive vocals, while adding a proper build and kick for dance floor hysteria. Those who were in attendance at this summer’s Burning Man will surely recognize the track, which was played by Lee Burridge and Yokoo on the playa.
As we continue to enjoy the sonic diversity of the whole album, we caught up with Brent and Varti to chat about their quick ascent, and the role Montreal played in the duo’s journey thus far.
Husa – Guys, thanks for joining us today! Congrats on the early success of the HOKI project.
Varti – Thanks for having us guys!
Husa – Can you tell us about the moment you set your focus on making an album?
Varti – It was around mid-summer 2018, when I decided to put my focus more on writing more downtempo melodic music which was different than what I was doing with my previous project. The plan at the beginning was to write 2 EPs without even having a lot of vocal tracks, mainly instrumentals. I kept on sending the tracks to Brent and he kept on coming up with awesome vocals for each track. The solo thing became a band thing and the idea of the album started then.
Husa – How did your diverse musical background lead to the indie-electronic productions you’re making now?
Varti – We both come from a more band background. I play the guitar and Brent used to sing in a metal band. Both of us had always enjoyed electronic music even from those days. I started a prog trance act about 5-6 years ago. I was naturally more inclined towards warmer melodic music at the end of it and the idea was to be a bit less limited to the expectation of dance music as a whole (production arrangements, sound palettes, etc.). The indie-electronic band route gave us more freedom in the songwriting/producing process.
Brent – I have always been into different types of music and sounds always struggles to answer the question “what music are you into?” Having grown up listening to all types of music my taste is varied which allows me to explore different genres. In my late teens I was experimenting with making electronic music going creating beats and sounds then my mid 20’s the rock stuff came back into my life. It doesn’t limit our creation our backgrounds have guided us to where we are now.
Husa – How crucial is the trust between producer and vocalist in the partnership?
Varti – It’s everything. We trust each other artistically and most important as human beings. Something that’s quite rare these days. This stability pushes the project forward full force.
Brent – I’ve been looking for this type of connection my whole life…to have this is everything. Been in projects the last 20 years it has been hard to find that special person to create with. We trust and respect each other on every level.
Husa – What is the typical studio process for a Hoki original?
Varti – For the album, I usually spent a day or two coming up with the backbone of the track. I then sent it to Brent and he comes up with the vocals. He comes in for recording. I continue the production process until the mixing stage. We review everything together and take final production decisions together to give the tracks the final treatment.
Brent – Fun!!! Its very easy for us to create. Our process is very simple we love what each other does which makes every step super productive and easy. Its what makes Hoki, Hoki.
Husa – You recently presented the album and discussed the recording process at RAC studios in Montreal, what was that experience like?
Brent – It was such an amazing experience to break our album down and explain it like we did, I won’t lie it was nerve racking but after we started it felt so natural…its not easy opening up about what means the most to you in a public setting. Creativity is at times very raw and emotional.
Husa – How does living in Montreal factor into your creative process?
Varti – I’m born and raised here. What’s cool about Montreal is the cost of living. You don’t need much money to live here… unless you like to buy shit you don’t need. It allows us to focus on writing music most of the time without worrying about money.
Brent – For me migrating here from Australia 3 years ago I found home here in Montreal..it is kind of beautifully broken, how i view myself at times…so much inspiration here.
Husa – What can you say about the unique quality of Montreal’s electronic music community?
Varti – My past experience with the scene has been an interesting one. I’ve always felt the underground scene/community being quite closed off, catering to specific sub genres of dance but it’s been changing lately and that’s great to see. There’s a lot of eclectic talent here in Montreal, making Montreal quite unique and I feel this is what makes our community special.
Husa – You’ve been graced with some incredible remixers thus far, including our beloved Matthias Meyer and Montreal’s own Clarian. What do you look for in producers when considering remixer options?
Varti – We always hope to work with serious talent. Artists with a strong foot in the industry. Artistically having a variety in terms of production aesthetics makes for interesting remixes being released alongside the album.
Husa – What’s it like to see these artists reimagine and redesign your material?
Varti – If it’s a remix with a lot of the original stems, I love it. Simply because we get to hear how those talented remixers interpret our tracks. I enjoy it a bit less when a small bit is preserved from the original. But I guess, sometimes that’s what the inspiration calls for.
Brent – It’s such a beautiful thing. This is new ground for me so to hear the remixes and see the artists vision and be inspired by our music is out of this world.
Husa – Which is each of your favorite, or most meaningful, track on the album?
Varti – It’s hard to pick, but for me it would be Third Man.
Brent – Land of our Dead.. I will never forget the day I recorded the vocals.
Husa – How will you translate this body of work into a live performance?
Varti – The live performance is already good to go! Initially the tracks were written with the idea of DJing in mind only to realise that the arrangements I wanted to have didn’t make for club friendly tracks. Having been producing in the dance scene for a while, I didn’t want to make club edits or extended edits of each track to allow for that. Through the composition process, we thought about bringing this album on stage as a live act. It took about 5 months to break down and sample the entire album to have the live set ready. We both play keyboards and guitars in the set which makes it quite unique!
Brent – The rehearsal process has been going really well. The key I think and what I said from the start is to not put pressure on ourselves. Also, we need to put on a show not just play the songs. Visuals, and lighting will be a huge part also. Today you need more than just the music in the experience.
Husa – When can we expect to see a Hoki live set in Montreal?
Varti – We’re hoping to set up something early 2020! Stay tuned!
Husa – We couldn’t be more excited for the full release – a huge congratulations from the whole Husa team! Thanks again for the chat.
Varti – Thanks a lot for having us guys!
Brent – Cheers guys!