Leaving Orquesta Behind: The Angry Dancey Rebirth of Orlando Volcano

  • Orlando Volcano

Lounging off a hangover from the night before, Orlando agreed to meet me in the lower Plateau, at my friend’s apartment where he’s staying during his trip to Montreal. I arrived at the scene equipped with Gatorade, an important antidote for the task at hand. Dressed in a white Polo t-shirt and a thin gold necklace, Orlando lies on the couch for the entirety of our conversation, probably nauseous but hiding it well.

Orlando, 25, is an up-and-coming electronic artist in town visiting Jason Voltaire a.k.a. M.Bootyspoon, a fellow electronic artist and DJ living in Montreal. Orlando and Jason met in New York through Orlando’s former manager while Jason needed a place to stay in between tour dates with influential Montreal producer Jacques Greene. The two of them hit it off, binging on hard liquor and each other’s wisdom for two full days before Jason left town for his next stop on the tour.

On the night Orlando arrived in Montreal, he played an electronic set with Jason, going back and forth track-for-track at Blue Dog on St. Laurent St. a few nights before. The club wasn’t packed to capacity, but those who were present seemed to be enjoying every song. From Orlando’s homemade originals to underground trap classics, head banging and booty shaking in liberated bliss. The next night, Jason took Orlando on a late night bender involving multiple strip clubs and cartons of poutine, for-better-or-worse an established tradition for those visiting Canada’s city of sin.

Today, the two friends are planning to work collaboratively on a logo for the record label Orlando is in the process of setting up, Escape From Nature. Jason hints to me that there’s a chance he might sign with Orlando once the label gets underway. The two of them enjoy each other’s company quite a bit, and they seem to be right in the midst of a (please excuse the outdated vocabulary) heavy bromance. Orlando’s visit to Jason is his first trip to Montreal, and his first time leaving the United States since moving from Ireland to Brooklyn in 2013.

Living in New York City was Orlando’s obsession for several years prior to the move. Born in London, Orlando Volcano, spent much of his life in sleepy seaside resort towns in France, places he recalls to be empty and eerie in the winter. In the summertime, however, Orlando has fond memories of playing guitar and smoking weed on the beach with the “weird hippy kids” that lived in town.

Orlando started playing guitar at the age of eleven, and spent much of his adolescence performing in various punk bands with friends. Another past endeavor he saw fit to mention was a “kitschy” folk duo he was part of with his ex-girlfriend, a project Orlando calls “sweet and embarrassing”. He relates their music to “reading a love letter you wrote as a teenager” aloud. Unfortunately, he won’t tell me their band was called in case I feel so inclined to look them up.

Orlando’s interest in producing electronic music developed slowly, as the multi-instrumentalist began enjoying his time behind the boards more than his time in the booth. On the recommendation of a friend, Orlando, at the age of 19, enrolled in a sound engineering course in Ireland where he lived at the time. He ended up dropping out before getting his diploma, but it was this experience that first exposed the multi-instrumentalist to Reason, a widely used computer program for making and editing music. Orlando may not have had the discipline to stay in school, but staying motivated in making music was never a problem for the young artist. On his own instruction, Orlando honed the craft of making beats, and began making a name for himself in Ireland under the moniker Orquesta, the Spanish term for ‘orchestra’.

It was around this time that Orlando began fantasizing about moving to New York, and after several trips back and forth between Ireland and the States, Orlando decided it was finally time to make the move when he was accepted into the prestigious Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) in 2013. RBMA, a five-week festival of music workshops, lectures and jam sessions, takes place in a different city around the world every year, and to Orlando’s good fortune, 2013’s program was in New York City. RBMA is held in great esteem for boasting some massively successful artists before anyone knows about them (i.e. Flying Lotus, Aloe Blacc). Orlando’s year was no different. Evian Christ, a producer signed to Kanye West’s GOOD Music imprint, graced the RBMA class of 2013 before co-producing “I’m In It” for West’s highly controversial album Yeezus.

While in New York for RBMA, Orlando began working on the task of getting himself a visa to stay in the States. After speaking with several lawyers and recent immigrants living in New York, Orlando decided that his best possible option was to capitalize on his growing buzz in Ireland and apply for an artist visa. The good press he was receiving at the time helped the cause, and luckily his visa was accepted.

Although he was accepted into and participated in RBMA as Orquesta, it was around this same time that Orlando began having a change in his musical identity. The music of Orquesta is ambient and powerful, but subtle and not readily accessible to people in a club. He says he was planning on taking his music in a different direction for a while, opting for fun “dancey” music rather than haunting soundscapes. For this change in style, he decided to get rid of his old moniker and replace it with Orlando Volcano. This agreeable, light sound mirrored Orlando’s positive emotional state at the time; the artist was in the process of falling in love. However, after the passionate relationship turned sour, Orlando unwittingly began channeling the anger into his art.

The resulting music was sinister, and a whole lot darker than Orlando originally intended, but even after the negativity of his past relationship passed on, this remained the vibe of Orlando’s contemporary work.

Orlando has only released one EP so far under his new moniker, 2014’s Nice To Meet You, and it is a lot more similar to his work as Orquesta than where his music has been heading since.

Although unreleased, Orlando was happy to show me a few tracks from his upcoming EP, tentatively called Low Key (titled ironically I’m sure), and it’s a major departure from what he has released in the past.

The first track he sent me is called “Worst Night in New York So Far”, and it brilliantly represents the angst and heartbreak Orlando previously described to me. Nice to Meet You was just a stepping-stone to the darker places his music has gone, and his next project is bound to be where the newly charged Orlando Volcano begins to take fruition.

As our discussion winds to a close, I say goodbye to Orlando and Jason as they head out to dance at Igloofest, and then perhaps hit up a McGill house party afterwards. The atmosphere in the room is light, and everyone seems to be in great spirits.

In a few days, Orlando will head back to New York where his mission of angry, dancey self-expression will continue to find light. Although in the case of Orlando Volcano, this stop on the road is not at all guaranteed to be where the artist remains for good.

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