Meet Rivver, an electronic music producer from right here in Montreal who’s definitely not just your average DJ. François Bélanger, the man behind the project, conjures up sensual moments of years past, ones you thought had disappeared long ago only to be brought back in the most immediate way. It’s a sound that’s packed with mature synths strewn with fleeting emotions, pounding bass all over downtempo beats. Not to mention Rivver has even managed to lock down some of the hottest artists in the game for a few of his tracks, including Milk & Bone and Gabriella Hook.
We caught up with Bélanger and asked him about how Rivver began, and unsurprisingly, he already had years of experience as both a musician and sound engineer. He spoke with us about how the latter especially influenced the making of Rivver, and even made The Main a killer playlist of his tracks, which you can listen to below.
When did you start DJing/producing and what is your musical background?
I’ve been a music producer for many years. I started when I created Cougarettes, an electropunk band. We toured for a year and released an EP before dissolving the band because of the departure of the lead singer to Vancouver. Also, my daily job is sound engineering—sound designer and music producer working in the advertising world—so I produce a lot of music for television and radio.
Which artists and styles do you see as your primary inspirations? What types of music do you sample from?
I think James Blake is the one who first gave me the inspiration for creating Rivver; a slow, down tempo and sample-based music. Dancy and relaxed music at the same time. Music you can listen to alone in your car or in your living room, but it also has enough bass and beat to make you dance on a big sound system.
When I started Rivver, I had just finished producing [an EP for Reinhard] and he made me listen to a lot of soul music from the Motown years. It was really good to add some soul to the electronic music — it created a great balance between the computer-based music and human feel. For the second EP, I decided to put a real singer on it, so the song could be more accessible, travel more and actually be able to make money off my music; I never cleared the samples on the first EP, so it was impossible to accept offers to put it in movies or commercials, or even on Spotify so people can actually listen to it. It’s a big stopper for labels and music supervisors. I’m not making this for money but to be listened to by as many people as possible.
Besides that, I continue to sample a lot, but it’s not necessarily voices. It could be anything. I sample from YouTube, solo players of rare instruments, documentaries about people living in the jungle… I also travel quite a bit and I’m always ready to record some stuff on my phone. I sampled particular sounds on well-known albums too, but I transformed it so much that nobody can recognize it. I would love to give you examples but I don’t want to have to clear samples after!
Usually, it’s a song I’ve heard and I kind of start on the same tempo and beat pattern. It changes a lot at the end and the first draft of beat is completely different than what I first had in mind. I then add a chord change pattern just like a rock musician would do. The difference between a DJ and me is that dancefloor music is based on rhythm and it progresses into more or less intensity. I usually compose more in the traditional sense, the whole chord changes patterns, bridge etc. Then I start to sample the sound totally randomly. I add loops, I pitch sounds, stretch it, inverse it — I’m kind of forcing sounds to fit into the chords and melodies. It’s probably my sound designer background that makes it happen so easily for me.
What are some of your favourite things about Montreal?
I really enjoy summer in Montreal. There are so many music festivals and a really good vibe. Montreal is probably the best place to live during the summer, sorry but I still hate winter. I’m a foodie and Montreal is so rich in nice restaurants [as well], all with special touch. Many foods [here] inspired by other countries are even better than the actual restaurants in those countries. I just came back from Spain and I’ve never had a paella as good as the one I ate in Montreal. I think people from Montreal are really trying to be the best in everything they do.
What projects are you working on now? What can we expect from you in the near future?
I’ve received offers to collaborate from singers from around the world, and some of them are relatively well known, so I still have to figure out how I can create new songs that could become mainstream, but still keep Rivver’s authenticity. This project was created solely as an artistic project with no barriers in order to balance my job as a music producer in advertising. In other words: just music, just art. I’m also working with directors to eventually make videos for those new songs. I really want to create special videos. But I’m working at the same time, because the process of creating a “good” video could be as long as creating the track. I don’t want an insignificant video made in a week because I think that videos are really important these days. As for Rivver, it’s a good add-on because I’m trying to make cinematic music.
What are a few Montreal DJs/producers that our readers should know about?
The first one that comes to mind is Foxtrott. I really like what CRi and Ouri do too. Also, a friend of mine produced some new Charlotte Cardin material that I think is going to take off really quickly. And finally, my last one to recommend is Dear Frederic.