Mokina & Éloise Marseille talk St Viateur Bagels, the Montreal art scene & “sunday”
Mokina and Éloise Marseille are the Montreal power duo behind the recently released album sunday. Mokina’s mellow tunes in collaboration with EyeLoveBrandon, combined with Éloise’s gorgeous cover art are the perfect soundtrack for a Montreal summer. Our Creative Director Malaika Astorga was able to talk to the two artists about this project and their inspirations.
Malaika Astorga for Pink Things: Hi Mokina and Eloise! Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.
Mokina: Freshly turning 25 years old, I am a Montreal-born multi-instrumentalist who mainly blends jazz, r&b, and electronic music through lush vocal harmonies and intricate synth and keyboard lines. I made my debut under the stage name mokina last year with three singles that landed me in front of crowds in Boston, New-York, Montreal, and Los Angeles.
Éloise: Hello! I'm Élo, I'm a French Canadian artist from Montreal and I love to draw! My main practice is making comics about my life, but I also really enjoy making illustrations.
PT: Mokina, how has living in Montreal impacted your music-making process?
Mokina: If anything, it has exposed me to a rich and diverse blend of sounds. Montreal is very multi-ethnic, and celebrates so many different cultures through festivals and events. I’ve had the luxury of delving into so many different styles of music growing up. Not to mention that it is a hub for artists, and I’ve found that the musicians in the community are all extremely talented, friendly, and down to earth.
PT: What were your inspirations for this album? If someone was visiting Montreal for the first time, where would you recommend for them to go get inspired?
Mokina: I was in a bit of a dark place when I worked on this album — in a way I wrote this as the light to help me out of it. I was inspired by all of the little things in life that I cherish as sacred — art, food, sleeping in — which is why I named the album sunday. In the past, I have produced all of my music, but this time I collaborated with a super talented fellow who goes by the stage name EyeLoveBrandon.
Straight off the bat, he asked me what I wanted our collaboration to be about and what I wanted it to express. I told him that I wanted to create something that made people feel whole. I want them to feel like they are enough all on their own, and that everything we have in this life is just an added blessing. Now I wouldn’t say this work truly accomplishes all of that, but I do hope that it finds a way to warm peoples’ hearts, brighten their days, and helps them to celebrate themselves.
PT: What has your experience been like in Montreal’s music scene?
Mokina: It has been up and down. Despite it being diverse in nature, I’ve always struggled to find my place in the music scene here. I’ve actually gotten quite a lot more “no’s” than any other city I’ve been in. I suppose it’s all part of the process. This past year, however, I got a nod on Instagram from a local musician who really inspires me, Anomalie, and that helped my music reach a lot of people on the Montreal scene. I was very grateful, and met some really sweet musicians in the process.
PT: Is there a difference between the English and French art/music scenes? Both of your creative work is in English, how do you connect with the French community here?
Mokina: There definitely is a gap between the two scenes, but despite that, I find that they tend to blend and intermingle since our community is so bilingual. I grew up in an Italian/Egyptian household that mainly spoke English, but I went to school in French (the classic Montrealer cultural shake). This helped me to connect with both art scenes and with others on an international scale. I think that Montreal is paving the way for French music in popular culture with artists like Loud and Pierre Kwanders, for example, who are breaking traditions, and are creating new expectations for French music.
PT: How did the collaboration between you and Éloise happen? Did you meet in Montreal or online?
Mokina: We’ve known each other since we were kids. I’ve known Élo since she was but a tiny little toddler because I’ve been best friends with her older sister since I was four years old. If anything this collaboration is decades in the making. We’ve always spoken about doing something like this, but this is the first time our creative minds, timelines, and schedules lined up. And if anything it makes it even more special because she’s like family.
Éloise: Mokina and I know each other through my sister. They met when they were five years old and Mokina has been in my life for as long as I can remember. We saw each other grow up. Mokina hit me up on Instagram for the cover art and I was instantly very excited for the project. I've been a fan of her music for a really long time; I truly felt honored to be part of the project; she is just so talented.
PT: What has the collaborative process of making album artwork been like for the two of you?
Mokina: We worked through all of it online through the magic of DMs. I sent her a message with the music, the concept a couple visual boards, and asked if she would be interested in working on a commission. I was lucky enough to get a yes and we exchanged very few drafts before it was all done!
Éloise: It’s not my first time working with a musician, and honestly it’s a pretty interesting process. Since I'm working with another artist, they often have a very specific idea of what they want the cover art to look like, which can make it difficult for me to illustrate their vision. This was the first time I actually knew the musician personally, so the experience was a lot easier. I feel like Mokina really trusted me and she gave me a lot of creative liberty, which is always great when you're a visual artist! She sent me some mood boards and I went with from there!
PT: Éloise, your illustrations are hilarious and fiercely feminist. Has this always been a theme in your work, or is it something you’ve been focusing on developing in the past? Who and what inspired you?
Éloise: Thank you so much! Well, I've always drawn comics but I stopped for awhile from 18 to 20. During that time I discovered feminism and explored it on my own. It's sort of part of my life now. I've always drawn comics about things that are really close to me; feminism is part of me so it often appears in my work. Also, as a female artist, I touch on feminine subjects and always talk about the point of view of a woman, so I guess that makes it more feminist as well. I'm inspired by so many comic artists, the list is so long, but I really love Margaux Morin, Sonia Lazo, Frances Cannon, Annabelle Roy, Jamie Squire, and an amazing project called Projets Crocodile (which is a great source for any feminist artist).
PT: What does pink mean to both of you?
Mokina: Pink to me is strength in vulnerability. The boldness in being soft. A great colour overall 12/10 would rock any day.
Éloise: Its my favorite colour! When I was a kid I used to hate it because it was associated with being girly and I wanted to detach myself from my girlhood because, in my mind, being a girl was bad. I feel like since I've embraced my femininity, I've learned to love that colour and actually see myself in it.
PT: Finally, do you have any upcoming projects that you want to share?
Mokina: Always new music in the works! Expect some more singles later this summer and performances starting later in the fall
Éloise: I’m working with the festival Zoofest in Montreal which I'm really excited about and I'm also in the process of finishing a graphic novel called My shitty love life where I talk in depth about the discovery of my body, my womanhood, and my sexuality!
This interview was conducted via email and has been condensed and edited.
Malaika Astorga is our Creative Director, and is currently based in Montreal. She is an illustrator, photographer, designer and writer.