2020 sees Montreal duo HOKI continue their impressive rise following breakout album ‘Strangest Of Us All’ in 2019. The pairing, which brings together the talents of Canadian-Armenian producer Varti Deuchoghlian and Australian vocalist Brent McCormick, has garnered a reputation for emotive electronic cuts, a label cemented by their standout early 2020 EPs ‘Memories Of Love’ and ‘King Of Hearts’.
Ahead of their upcoming album ‘Today’ (due for release on November 13), we caught up with the duo to get the lowdown on their year so far, their collaborative relationship and much more!
WWD: Welcome back guys! 2020 has been a unique and challenging year to say the least. How has it been for you and what has kept you going?
Varti: Thanks for having us guys. Well… it’s been challenging in many ways but what keeps us going is the love we have for creating new music. It’s a whole new experience we’re all living now and taking it all in and turning it into new inspiration for our music has worked quite well.
WWD: ‘The Walls Can Talk’ is the third and final single from your upcoming album ‘Today’ . Can you tell us a little bit about the creative process behind the album?
Brent: Varti wanted to get out of his studio and create in a totally new environment and create a new flow, we tossed a few ideas around and even thought of heading to Chicago! When it came down to it, we decided to stay here in Quebec and head to the countryside to make Album #2. Deep Focus was our aim goal, no phones or internet cut off from the outside world to create. It was lucky our chalet had no reception!
WWD: How has your personal relationship as artistic collaborators developed since the first album?
Varti: If anything, we feel like our work flow in the studio has been on point. Through time, we feel like we need to say less to express ourselves more both musically and within ourselves as collaborators.
WWD: You have been working together creatively for nearly 3 years now, what’s the most recent “new” thing you’ve learned about one another?
Brent: I think he told me at one point, I probably wasn’t paying attention, I thought he went to Korea for a vacation with his brother but it turns out he taught English over there. I only recently saw a photo of him at the time, he looks amazing in pale blue. 😉
WWD: Could you share with us what you feel are the 3 key elements to maintaining a collaborative relationship?
Varti: This is a great question because collaborations are so important and in a lot of cases they could break down easily especially in the world of music. The 3 key elements I’d say for us are: trusting in each other as friends and as musicians, staying accountable to each other with everything that needs to be done and honest/transparent conversations about anything that might build frustration or resentment through time.
WWD: How do you think the new album differs from ‘Strangest Of Us All’?
Brent: I think we found a real flow in our creation process…SOUA was us trying to find each other in this new space as Hoki. We are both experienced musicians and songwriters but it was a new thing, a new beginning. ‘Today’ was created knowing each other in this space not questioning choices, making decisions, being 100% confident with them and moving forward. ‘Today’ was a very special experience..neither one of us had done anything like that before but we always wanted to. Musically it is a little more experimental than ‘SOUA’. I feel it sits further in the darker realm.
WWD: Is there a message or story that you are seeking to communicate in ‘Today’.
Brent: Being a songwriter I never really sit down and have a clear message or story that I want to write about. I get inspired in the moment.. I remember I was outside playing with my dog (Lili) listening to the early process of the tracks and I would be inspired to write…the sounds and tone dictate the theme, inspiration. Then after you realize sitting back even after recording it I’ll read the lyrics and it’s a conversation with my dad telling him I’ll be ok.
WWD: Film Director Marco Iammatteo has accompanied the three singles from the album ‘Water’, ‘Crash’ and ’The Walls Can Talk’ with incredible visual stories. What can you tell us about that collaboration?
Varti: Marco is a legend. He’s effective and understands us very well. We give him a lot of artistic freedom which I believe he enjoys. Funny enough Brent and I were not on set for any of these 3 videos. That’s how much we trust him with the execution.
WWD: What else can we expect from you over the coming months?
Brent: We are working on a few videos showcasing us as a live act and give fans a deeper insight into how we wrote ‘Today’…..also we have more music post album release…shhhh you can’t tell anyone!
WWD: Outside of music – one change you hope to see in 2021?
Varti: I’d say, peace of mind both on the individual level with all the uncertainties in the world, and globally. Hoping to see a world where individuals act out of love versus out of hate. I sometimes feel like with so much change happening around the world things are going backwards. I feel that all these challenges we are faced with will only allow us to find ourselves to build a better future.