A Conversation On Colour—An Interview With Daysdeaf

By Joseph Ianni

Manvir Rai is a Toronto-based musician with an extensive résumé – while he is a member of Toronto-based band Black Lady Soul, a group that “embodies a dirty rock groove, while embracing urban street soul,” (source) Rai also produces solo efforts through Daysdeaf, his other musical focus. From his home in Brampton, Rai has recently released his first full-length LP, When Colour Lost Light. a concept album in which Rai explores the subjective experience of colour through music, reversing a method used by abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning, who listened to music while painting for inspiration. The album is highlighted by its lush and joyous approach to electronic music but does not shy away from introspection or philosophy, as it’s lyrics touch upon broad themes and ideas. Since the album’s release, it has received plenty of attention in the blogosphere as well as praise from well-known music critic, Alan Cross. With a plethora of work in his lap, Rai made time to sit down with Demo and talk about music, Daysdeaf, and his latest album.

Demo: What instruments do you play?

Manvir Rai: I play guitar and piano. I really want to learn drums…I want to learn everything. I’m not a virtuoso or anything. I’m more of a songwriter. I kind of want to learn everything in order to advance that.

D: When did pursuing music become one of your goals?

MR: I don’t remember the exact moment but I remember being deterred all the time. I told a counselor in Grade 11 I wanted to go to Fanshawe College for recording but I didn’t know how to go about it. She said, “You know Treble Charger? I grew up with them. They make no money. Look, here’s an engineering course.” I was a dumb kid at the time so I took her advice. Then I ended up going to university to be a history professor, and after first year I thought I’d be a writer, so I took English & Professional Writing at York, but I really just wanted to do music. My family and friends really thought of it as an unrealistic thing to make profitable but I thought I’d stop taking people’s advice and fighting it. Why would I do something I don’t want to do?

D: Who are your influences musically?

MR: I don’t have favourites of anything. I have a broad range of music I listen to. I remember listening to a lot of pop music on the radio when I was younger. My sister introduced me to Korn. Then in high school I listened to classic rock; The Doors, The Beatles. After university it got more experimental but it’s really all over the place for the most part. A lot of obscure DJs right now.

D: You’ve said that the album is a concept album. Could you explain the concept?

MR: I thought I could find myself in a colour, but I couldn’t because, like everyone, I’m ever changing. Colour is always temporary, in the sense of subjective experience. […] This album is a subjective look at the omnipresent yet unconscious influence that colour has on identity. It’s a slight glance at an extensive topic. The songs are influenced by colours and my subjective experience of them. For example, Nazi Pink Triangle is drawn from the history of WWII where homosexuals were forced to wear pink triangles and Purple Thrills is about the first time I did ecstasy. It was this small purple pill.

D: Given that the first demo tracks from Daysdeaf were quite moody and dark. Why do you think you moved into a more joyous sounding tone for this record?

MR: I don’t think these songs are altogether joyous but it is a hopeful record. I’ve met a lot of good people this year. Everyone has things in life that hinder them [from] reach[ing] their potential. […] This album is about growing in spite of that, and reaching for goals in spite of that. Which [is] why it might sound so moody, but I think it sounds a little more hopeful instead.

D: Could you talk a bit about how the album came together?

MR: I wrote, like, maybe forty songs for the album and cut it down from there. It took me about a year to write the whole album. It’s been a pretty slow process. I did some research on colour and let that influence my work to a degree. A lot of the lyrics actually came from previous writing I did before the album was an idea. I got advice from Dusty Loops, a hip-hop producer from Brampton, as well as Scott Free, and my cousin and friends as I was going through it.

Rai during a performance

Rai during a performance

D: The album is quite long given that most LPs today are shorter. Why did you want to offer so much on your first full-length effort?

MR: A lot of people have said that. Dusty was saying [that] you got to tease people a little bit […But] I don’t have a following at all and I wanted to get myself out there. Also, it’s a concept album and I think it just wouldn’t make sense split up. Thinking about it now it’s got a positive reaction. People are looking to remix some tracks and even Alan Cross took a listen [and] called it “an unpolished beauty,” which is awesome and I appreciate it. 

D: Were there any particular musical influences that impacted this project?

MR: I really don’t think so. I have so many influences and consume a lot of music so if that’s happening it’s probably quite unintentional.

D: The music on the album can arguably be classified as electronic. What do you think of the prevalence of electronic music and its role in mainstream and independent music?

MR: I haven’t really considered it. It obviously has a huge influence on my music. It’s a difficult question considering that drum machines and synthesizers are in almost every pop song. I feel like there are two groups of people: one group contains the people who do things strictly organic, like real drums and guitars, and the other [group is] people who do strictly electronic stuff. Personally, I think most real artists are somewhere in between. But sometimes you can’t even tell if it’s a real instrument or not anymore. To be honest, I just go out and make music. I guess I shy away from the whole culture surrounding it. People who get in that ‘real instrument’ debate are just missing out on the unlimited amount of sounds available to musicians. I don’t take those people too seriously.

D: What can people expect next from Daysdeaf or Manvir Rai?

MR: Kiran Rai has made an independent film, Kirpa, which is playing at the Punjabi Film Festival, which features some Daysdeaf tracks […] But I’m going to take a year off to write the next album. […] This year I’ll be making remixes and collaborating with people as much as possible. Then I’m just going to repeat that process until I’m dead. I’m looking to play shows but I really don’t want to be a guy up there pressing buttons, or singing to a track. I’d rather play a real instrument on stage. I’m still working on how to play the album live and make that entertaining for an audience. I could bring on a band but if people are just playing my songs I feel like there’s a kind of disconnect. […] It might just end up being me, a guitar, and an MPC.

You find more of Rai’s music on his Bandcamp page.

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