Ruby Kato Attwood is all too familiar with the power of performance as vocalist and co-founder of Montreal-based experimental rock act Yamantaka//Sonic Titan. Started by Ruby and multi-instrumentalist Alaska B at Concordia University, YT//ST combines elements of Chinese opera, traditional Japanese music, along with Western styles such as progressive rock and heavy metal. YT//ST’s unique sound has not gone unnoticed by critics and fans alike. Their self-titled debut was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize just last year and the group shows no sign of slowing down. On the phone from Montreal, Ruby discussed the matter of the new record, the unique organizational character of the YT//ST collective, and the nature of a variety of multimedia projects made up the bulk of the conversation.
BeatRoute: Your sound blends a variety of musical styles. How did this develop? Was it consciously planned or did it come together naturally?
Ruby: I think it started as a forum for cultural expression that involved multimedia expressions and a lot of sound which progressed into what came to be called music for Alaska and I and we just said “fuck it” in a way. In that way I think it’s essentially punk. We’re like, “Fuck it. What’s the difference between art and music?” …It’s not like a mix between peoples tastes but it seems that every person that is involved has the capacity to be/in the habit of consuming disparate forms of styles.
R: The challenges are obviously organization. [There are] a lot of different points and a lot of different projects and points within the projects which need to be taken care of and that can be a challenge. On the pro side of things it’s very exciting. It allows for a variety of expression that is satisfying for me as an artist. I really enjoy meeting people and working with them; it’s something that I’m really passionate about.
BR: You’re working on a video game right now (Your Task//Shoot Things) along with the soundtrack. Do you see the group going in a more multimedia-oriented direction? You’re branching out into video games and you’re working on a video project.
R: …The video project is an EPK [Electronic Press Kit]. We got a small grant to do it. [We’re] creating small videos that talk about the group and feature interviews and live footage. We shot a lot of video when we were touring but we really didn’t get it together so we’re doing that and we interviewed a bunch of fans which is pretty fun so we’re working on that. That should be released soon. We’re in the stages of planning another music video but it’s in the planning stages.
BR: What can we expect the new songs to sound like versus what you did on the first record?
R: It’s very disparate; I can say that in terms of genre. So it’s a little mix of stuff. It’s being produced sort of like a dance record. We’re using a mix of acoustic [drums] and drum samples. We’re hoping to curate an entire album. That [was what] we really intended to do with the last one. The individual tracks have their own merit but I think the beauty of it for me is in the real continuity and the ability for us as a band to write for an LP.
Catch Yamantaka//Sonic Titan at Venue on June 23.
By James Olson
Photos: Derrick Belcham