“I was a hyperactive kid that was always singing and dancing so my mom put me in singing lessons,” says Olivia Meek aka Regularfantasy on how her relationship to song and dance has existed since day one. From Victoria to Vancouver and now based in Montreal, Regularfantasy has become one in an ever-growing list of hotly followed Canadian dance music acts alongside peers like D. Tiffany, Priori, Patrick Holland, Ciel, Peach and more.
Both in her DJ sets and her productions, Meek goes deep into two genres she loves the most: house and pop. And as a keen digger, her work is naturally packed with nostalgia. If you take a look through her Bandcamp, you’ll see self-releases that go back 10 years, when she was fresh out of high school. The delicate chords and lush pads we know of Regularfantasy today still shine bright on those early releases, alongside her ear for vocal hooks and pop references.
Pre-pandemic, her pop edits via Plush Managements Inc (a label and production project she helms with D. Tiffany) were lighting up dancefloors with their fun-filled, slightly cheeky approach: see her flip of The Vengaboys ‘We Like To Party’ with DJ Chrysalis, for a prime example. As a fervent collaborator, Plush is only one of Meek’s many projects that run in tandem with Regularfantasy. She’s part of the duo Rendezvous, with Kristian North, and the live act Ciao, with Robert Pierson. She even has another new project forthcoming called Cream Puffs, so watch out for that.
Like all artists, the pandemic presented a conundrum for Meek in terms of touring. Stuck in Montreal, having only just moved there, she used her new free time to connect with the wealth of talented music producers based in her new city. Among them were Francis Latreille (better known as Priori), Cecile Believe and Kristian North. Together, they produced her latest EP ‘New Glow’, a collection of six certifiably juicy dance tracks that were first conceived during a writing retreat in Chertsey, Quebec. This new work marks a turning point for Regularfantasy and hones in on her ideal of vocal house, pairing her lyrics and glossy pop vocals with detailed dance production.
We chatted with Regularfantasy from the artist space she runs in Montreal, Le Chateau. We talk about being a child of the ’90s, why lyrics are so good in dance tracks, and the importance of community in underground scenes. Check it out alongside her Impact mix below.
In your own words, can you tell us who Regularfantasy is and what you’re trying to say with your music?
Regularfantasy is a fun party person whose mission is to bring a fun dancefloor vibe to the world. They make music and pop edits, DJ and do events. Regularfantasy is also an artist who brings together different influences to the dancefloor. I want to make music that's fun and that people can enjoy in a variety of different scenarios. I like having lyrics or other elements, just so that the music can have a bit more meaning. For me, it's a nice way to take what I'm experiencing and eternalize it somewhere.
You recently put out your EP ‘New Glow’, which is one of the first times you used your voice in your tunes. How does this EP compare to your previous work?
When I first started making music as Regularfantasy, I was a bit more bushy tailed and bright-eyed - I was just trying to make music, and I think I had more of a songwriting approach. I was trying to make “dance music” but I didn't know how to make dance music, so I just made weird songs instead. Then, as I learned more about DJing, how to make dance music and how to use Ableton, synths and drum machines, I moved past the raw songwriting habits that I had. I wasn't thinking about lyrics and songs and chords anymore, I was thinking more about samples and genres and remixes and all that.
The ‘New Glow’ EP is trying to bring together the music that I like to DJ with lyrics and vocal genres. I feel like my earlier work was more about songwriting and then my more recent work has been about edits or remixes. I guess this EP is a product of me trying to bridge the gap between music I DJ and other genres. Working with Cecile, Francis, Kristian and everyone involved on the label side really helped move things along and get me back into the groove of songwriting.
What is it that you like about writing vocals and lyrics?
The nice thing about lyrics is that they add a more human element and, for me, personally, I really need that. I think it's nice to have something to find meaning in. I also find if the lyrics are so bad, I can't really enjoy the song. Obviously, I like silly lyrics, but if it's something I don't stand behind I won't play the track.
I find the voice in general really interesting. I'm of the generation where you would write Facebook statuses and MSN statuses, where you’re writing a little thing about whatever you're doing. Now I just do it on Instagram but it's not as fulfilling. My brain is just wired to take these little bits of life and turn them into a little tiny lyric. I think that's what appealed to me about making dance music in the first place because I don't need to write five verses, you just have a motif that you want to go with and then you work on the music. In the beginning, I could always hear these songs in my head.
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How was the process of bringing this EP to life, collaborating with Priori, Cecile Believe and Kristian North on the vocals and production?
Right now, I'm trying to work towards being able to make amazing productions and do the vocals, but I'm learning it's pretty hard. It's honestly so hard to be the producer and it's so hard to be a vocalist and I don't even feel like the two work together at all. For example, the DJ lifestyle is the opposite of what a singer should do. You should not stay up late, yelling loudly. You should not be listening to insanely loud music or being in a smoky environment, drinking. You need to be sleeping, drinking tea, practising your voice. But I'm just trying to embrace what I've got here.
On this project, Francis and I started jamming at my studio, making instrumental tracks, listening to music that we liked and being inspired by it. Then I had sessions with Cecile and Kristian separately, where we’d jam over the top of the instrumentals made with Francis. Cecile did a lot of the vocal editing; she was my vocal mommy. She also helped me rewrite some of the lyrics and make them more about what I actually wanted to say. She also did the harmonies and micro tuning (all that stuff that you're not supposed to know about haha). We were going for this super pop vocal style and she's an absolute Pro with that.
Alongside the sound aesthetics on this EP, you also have a strong visual aesthetic too. This has also been a recurrent theme throughout your previous work. How do the aesthetics in this project add wider meaning to the music?
When I'm looking for music, the visuals definitely help me decide what I’ll listen to at the record store. Sometimes I think about, if someone found my record in 40 years or after the apocalypse, in a pile of trash, would they think it looked interesting. I wanted to make something old school that I would pick up and want to play. I get really attached to the music if I feel connected to the visuals, which is why I like playing and digging for records more than just downloading a digital file. I like going to the record store and building this relationship with my stuff.
Photos and spaces always inspire me to make music that fits with it. I have a bit of a couch obsession throughout my work. I would always go through old magazines and I still look up these Architectural Digest spaces on the internet that are really beautiful, thinking 'maybe I could achieve this thing in my life'. For me, it's an escape, a fantasy world. This space has all this beautiful furniture in it and paintings and lamps that some Italian designer made with some sexy house music playing. The image becomes much richer, it really works for me. This is an escape or fantasy that only I can access in my mind and when I make music, I'm trying to get to this space where that fantasy exists.
Aside from your work as Regularfantasy, you're also part of Plush Managements with D. Tiffany. Collaboration seems to come up a lot in your work. What do you like about it?
I like bouncing ideas off of people and taking risks. Obviously, working by yourself is great too, but I've done it so much and it's nice to work with other people to stay motivated. When you're an adult, there are less and less fun things to do, so I find it's also a social thing to hang out with someone and also work with them creatively.
I also find I take more risks than I would making music on my own. Some of the things we've put out as Plush Managements have been the biggest jokes and we never thought that they would be taken seriously. For example, the track we did, 'How RU Plush', was us being silly, but it’s probably one of our most popular songs. I probably wouldn't have recorded that on my own either.
Collaboration is also useful when you're using software. Everyone has their own little tricks and things that they do so it’s definitely way easier to work with another person who knows what they're doing. It's nice to keep the ball rolling with other people and you can also learn stuff.
A lot of the edits you make as Plush Management's are sampling nineties and noughties pop songs. What is it about this era of pop music that inspires you to make those edits?
I was a child of the '90s and there was a lot of pop music and R&B on the radio that was pretty nasty stuff. It was pretty horny and I wouldn't necessarily want to play those songs now, but I also want to remember my childhood fondly and listen to a bit of those songs. It's fun to take the things that you want to remember and put them into something more fun. Then you can take that into your future and make new memories with it. I also love UKG and filter house. Those tracks that have female vocals pitched up. In UKG there's a lot of remixing and I like the way they take vocal R&B songs and make them into this fun, clubby thing. The pitched up vocals and the skippiness of those tracks really just does it for me.
When I first started DJing, I would play a lot of pop remixes. I would always find these tracks in the dollar bin, but sometimes I would listen to them and they just weren’t right or they were a little off, so I would edit out a breakdown or things that no one would notice. I guess I have a somewhat discerning taste when it comes to that, but also seemingly not a very discerning taste when it comes to pop music overall and cheesy stuff haha. You always have to try and challenge people’s taste, even in myself too.
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Canada actually has a bit of a history of crossover pop-dance acts, for example, Love Inc. What music inspired you when you were growing up? Did those kinds of acts inspire you at all?
Yeah, that Love Inc song that came out, 'Broken Bones', all that stuff that came out when I was a very impressionable, young child. We had all that stuff on repeat. In Canada the radios have to play a certain percentage of Canadian content so there was tons of music on repeat which was kind of for children but also had adult content.
There was also this TV channel, MuchMusic, that I always had on and it had VJs and music videos that were super influential. In Toronto there was also this thing called Electric Circus, which was a dance night where they would have acts like Aqua playing and they hired dancers. This was for children and they would broadcast it to all of Canada. When I was seven, I would see this and I feel like "This is what it means to grow up, this is what teenagers and adults do, they go to this type of thing." I was definitely impressioned by that in some way, subconsciously.
At the beginning of our conversation, you mentioned that you put on events. You also run an artist space in Montreal called Le Chateau. Community is clearly important to you. How does it help you as an artist?
Music scenes, in general, are something that a lot of people gravitate to for meaning. I honestly truly believe in the power of dance music and the healing properties of music. In terms of culture and as a service to the world, that's the thing that I'm most passionate about, how it can lift people up. It's not just about me expressing myself and putting on parties so people can get fucked up. I want people to find music and make themselves feel better through it. I also try to contribute because people bring me places and I really admire them for that because it's definitely not easy. I think it's important for partygoers to realise that the best parties are usually within that underground space, where people aren't making a tonne of money and there's a lot of work that goes into it.
With the artist space, I wanted it to be this HQ where creative people can come together. A place for ideas to come about, where people can do projects, collaborate and basically take control of their life, including myself. Beforehand I felt like I didn't have space to do all the things I wanted to do. Now I can DJ, record mixes and make music. I can have parties, put on shows and do photoshoots. As an artist, you need to be able to do all these things. It's also very satisfying to bring people together and see them working on things. Unfortunately, we’re living in a world where these DIY spaces are being slowly eroded, especially here in Canada, when something’s gone it doesn’t really get replaced. I believe it's super important to have places for artists to work and perform and I find it so fucked that it's not something that's considered in the development of cities.
Finally, what's next for you after this EP? Might we have a Regularfantasy album at some point?
For sure. Kristian and I have a project called Rendezvous, so we’re going to work on an EP and some new Regularfantasy songs. There’s also talk of a live band version of Reguarfantasy. Cecile and I are going to work on a collab for Plush Records this year too. I basically want to make more music that I would want to DJ. I feel like 'New Glow' was a really good step for me, but I'm still not fully there. I want to expand on this whole theme of lyrics and dance music that's highly produced. Soon I also have a Plush record coming out. I'm doing a European tour in the spring and probably another little one next summer. I’m also possibly going to Australia this winter but I don't know yet. I'll be going around. I'm excited to get back to life, as it were.
Regularfantasy's 'New Glow' EP is out now via Specials, get it here
Sophie McNulty is a freelance writer, follow her on Twitter