In conversation with grandson

A year in review: accomplishments, firsts, and the road ahead

In conversation with grandson

In June 2017, The Varsity sat down with up-and-coming Toronto artist, grandson. A year later, The Varsity caught up with grandson to discuss the major changes that had occurred in the last year, including a new label, new mentors, and new projects.

The Varsity: It’s been exactly year since we sat down to have our first interview, and in this time, you’ve been able to achieve a lot of success.

grandson: Has it been exactly a year?

TV: A year minus a few days.

g: That’s amazing.

TV: A year ago, you had four publicly released songs with a combined 3.5 million plays on Spotify. Now, before the release of your first EP you have eight released singles. Do you want to try guessing how many plays you have now?

g: I don’t know man, let’s go with fucking 20 million?

TV: More than double that: almost 50 million plays on Spotify. What has this massive growth in support meant to you?

g: While it’s awesome, I think of it as an affirmation that what I’m doing here is providing the sort of support and is meaning something to some people. It’s a reminder that we have a lot more to do. It’s definitely an achievement that I’m proud of, to have accumulated this sort of engagement in the music that I’m making. It is really reflective of the people or else maybe I got lucky with playlisting: there are a lot of factors that contribute to numbers. So, I’m not really too caught up in the numbers game. What I’m really caught up in is how do those numbers translate into people really giving a shit. What it means to me is people giving a shit and that’s exciting, and I hope that I can get more people to give even more.

TV: Two of your most successful songs, “Blood // Water” and “thoughts and prayers” have racked up nearly 20 million plays on Spotify alone. Yet these two songs are both seen as political anthems for environmental protection and gun reform, respectively. What do you think your job is as a musician to support political movements?

g: That’s a good question. I’m trying to tell stories that are true to people listening. I am very proud of the sorts of feedback I’ve gotten. I’m also proud, more so particularly with “thoughts and prayers,” that we’ve been able to raise thousands of dollars through selling limited edition merch to support the Youth for Safety and Justice Fund… They have taken these poems and this song that I wrote and turned that into concrete resources for activists. I think that is something I’m really proud of, but what can you say? Hopefully of those 20 million plays, you get a handful of people that are inspired to have difficult conversations, be it with their parents or the responsibilities of government, about transparency, about progressivism, about the future of these sorts of issues. That might be the biggest change I can possibly make — injecting into some kid a seedling for change.

TV: Last time we talked, you named a couple of your musical inspirations such as Bob Marley, Kurt Cobain, and John Lennon. How have they and how has their history in music helped motivate your political activism?

g: Well, I think they really exemplified that sort of relationship that I want to have with culture at the particular time that they were making music. They’ve had an impact on me when it gets exhausting. I’ve spoken to a lot of other musicians and activists about a certain fatigue that can set in when trying to make change or when talking about big stuff: these things take time and they move slowly because it requires the active participation of millions of people. Sometimes I can get a little discouraged along the way. I think that’s human. I try not to be too hard on myself for it.

TV: On April 4, 2018, you were signed to the record label Fueled by Ramen, the same label that supports Twenty One Pilots, Panic! at the Disco, and All Time Low, to name a few. How has Fueled by Ramen been able to support you as an artist?

g: They’ve been awesome. It was really important to me when it became time to expand the team around me. We were able to maintain flexibility beautifully. It was important to me what the growth and success of this project might look like, because through the process of finding our team I found that a lot of people can see potential in something on any vision, but you have to have an aligned vision. I was really grateful to have a team that’s not committed to changing what’s happening here, but rather just pouring gasoline on it and giving me more resources at my disposable to play with.

TV: I want to talk about something that is definitely an amazing opportunity you’ve had, but unfortunately it stems from tragedy. On July 20, 2017 Chester Bennington of Linkin Park passed away from suicide. You tweeted about his legacy and your dream of one day opening for the band. On May 24, 2018, you were featured on a song with Chester’s bandmate, Mike Shonida. What does it mean for you to be able to live out your dream in a different way, but essentially being part of something bigger?

g: When talking about mental health and advocacy, I think that for someone who lived a life as hugely impactful as Chester, I can’t imagine trying to get into words of what that loss meant to so many people. I am constantly in awe and admire Mike’s capacity to take all of that confusion, grief, and frustration and channel it creatively — to make this really raw, confessional project. That’s pretty cool to me. It pushes me as an artist to kind of go, ‘wow’; it really inspires me to have that relationship with my fans and to be that sort of open book. I think he’s done that throughout his career with Linkin Park and Fort Minor and what it means for me to be able to work with someone who’s pioneered so many movements of how to fuse rock and hip hop and pop and electronic music. I think that I can confidently say that I would not be doing what I am doing if Mike and that band didn’t pave the way.

Another thing that’s really impressive to me about Mike is his commitment to music fandom and his commitment to discovering new talent and finding the other young upcoming artists that are kind of following in his legacy. He actually reached out to me first; he just followed me on Instagram one day, having heard my music on Spotify. The whole thing was pretty surreal. I shot him a message thanking him for everything that he’d done. I really didn’t come at him with any particular agenda. My intentions were not that. It really was just mainly, ‘maybe he could be a mentor. Maybe he could be a friend.’ With everything going on with the label situation and the expansion of what grandson is, I knew that I wanted some more mentors around me. I think it’s important, no matter what your condition is or your profession in life.

One day, I wrote the song on the spot, my contribution to it. I played him some ideas, he played me some ideas. I wanted to hear what the rest of the album sounded like, so he played me the beginning of “Running From My Shadow.” He didn’t really have the end flushed out. He didn’t really have the structure where he wanted it. I asked for his blessing to take a stab at it — then it came out a couple of weeks later.

TV: So far in your career, your music has come out as singles. Your first EP, a modern tragedy volume 1, released on June 15, 2018 as your first multi-song release. How has this project been different than your others?

g: In some ways it’s an extension of what I was already doing, which is just trying to tell a story, one song at a time. But it’s also been really exciting to look at this first body of work. Keep in mind this is only volume one. But to begin to kind of lay out a more cohesive ‘Magnum Opus’ of sorts… this is where it’s at. It’s a reflection of where I stand as a young, disenfranchised poet in the twenty-first century, politically and societally.

TV: Last year you mentioned sitting on over 30 unreleased songs. You only chose five songs to put on EP. How did each song find its way onto it?

g: Well, part of that was having a team around me that helped me kind of establish where my songs were at and trying to figure out how and when we can get more music out. This felt like a very natural evolution from the singles I was putting out. I wanted to continue to build creatively and find that cohesion and these five songs tie together in some ways as being very reflective of these past couple of years for me as a songwriter. This is my first EP. I have eight singles — that’s only four songs more than this time last year. We’ve got a lot more ahead of us than we have behind us.

TV: Going into the summer, you’ve released your first EP, you’re playing festivals, you’re going on tours with Hobo Johnson, Joy Wave, and Nothing but Thieves. Where do you see yourself a year from now and what is your goal?

g: If I tried telling you last year where I’d be in a year, I wouldn’t even know where to start. So, I wouldn’t have the audacity to claim that [I know], but I know I’m going to write some big songs. We’re going to continue to make controversial pieces of art that can give people like me a sense of understanding and belonging. We’re going to find more ways to take these messages embedded in these songs off of Spotify and onto the pavement. We’re going to roll out some more ways for people to be able to latch on to their identity as a ‘grandkid,’ be that through what they wear, and through other ways in which they can point to someone else and say, ‘you believe in the same things I believe in. You understand me.’ I just want to be able to provide that forum and that sort of community engagement. And we’re going to rock the fuck out. We’re going to be playing some bad-ass shows, making some bad-ass music. It’s serious, but it’s also a good time — it’s fun.


grandson’s EP, a modern tragedy vol. 1, came out June 15.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Drumroll, please, for Our Lady Peace

In conversation with drummer Jason Pierce on the band's new album and tour

Drumroll, please, for Our Lady Peace

In 1991, U of T criminology student Michael Maida, now known as Raine, put out an ad to find musicians for his band. Now, 27 years later, that band, Our Lady Peace, is still touring Canada and releasing new music.

On February 23, Our Lady Peace released its ninth studio album, Somethingness, before heading on a cross Canada tour. Their newest band member, drummer Jason Pierce, spoke with The Varsity about joining the band, his personal career, and what to expect at the band’s two Toronto shows.

The Varsity: How is this album different than others that Our Lady Peace has released in the past?

Jason Pierce: Well, this will be the first record that I have any involvement in playing on and writing, the first record that has been released since I joined the band.

TV: You’ve been on tour with the band and you’ve played songs off of previous albums. Are there any differences between this record and those before?

JP: I feel like there’s a more edgy element on the new record, specifically on tracks like “Head Down” and “Drop Me In The Water.” There is a more edgy, dirty guitar-driven sound on a few tracks, compared to the last few records.

TV: Our Lady Peace is one of the most successful Canadian bands, with their records going 12 times platinum and one-time diamond in Canada while releasing nine albums in over a quarter of a century. What do you think makes this band so successful?

JP: I feel like it has a lot to do with being honest and being true. None of the songs on any of the records, from what I’ve seen, are contrived. Everything is very much there for a reason and there because everybody wanted it to be there. It’s not there just to put a song on a record. What also makes the band, from my perspective, is the fans. The way they appreciate the band… they are the reason that we still get to do this.

TV: You’re working with Raine, and he is technically the only original member left. He went to the University of Toronto. What’s it like working with him?

JP: Incredible, just incredible. He’s got this built-in dynamic. Something incredible to see. I’ve got to learn a lot from watching him.

TV: How does the band carry themselves when writing new music, specifically now that it’s been 24 years since their first released album?

JP: Actually, I believe this record is done a little bit differently. Duncan [Coutts, the band’s bassist] and I get together a few times a week and we write together. So, we’ve been presenting songs for the new record to the rest of the guys. So, it is a pretty equal share of songs that Duncan and I have started and songs that the other guys have started. It’s really a collective on this record.

TV: You technically joined the band in 2014 on tour, and then officially in 2016. Before that, you toured with acts such as Paramore, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Justin Bieber. I was wondering what tour is most memorable to you, outside of Our Lady Peace.

JP: Outside of Our Lady Peace, it would probably be my first tour with Paramore. Just because it was the first time I got to play with a band of that scale and shows of that scale. We were over in Europe doing arenas and stadiums. It was incredible. It really opened my eyes to the fact that that level of touring still exists, especially in this day and age.

TV: You’ve played stadiums, arenas, and now you’re going to be playing in smaller venues. What do you prefer when you’re playing onstage? Is it looking out to see thousands of people, or is it when you have a smaller audience and feel more connected?

JP: It’s kind of a double-edged sword, because [at] the bigger venues, there’s this energy you just cannot get from a smaller venue. But like you said, it’s so much less connected once you get used to that. When you do start going back to the smaller venues again, it’s eye-opening how terrifying it is when you can actually see past the people in the first 10 rows. So, I don’t know which one I actually prefer. It’s a completely different skill set. As a musician, you play to the room, and playing to a smaller room is different than playing to a football stadium.

TV: Other than Raine, Our Lady Peace is a band that has seen their members change over time. Is it hard to join a band that’s already solidified their name, or is it easier knowing that the support is already there?

JP: Yeah, it’s great that the support is already there. I think one of the hardest things to do is to almost live up to people’s expectations of you, just because you’re filling the shoes of people who are already great. It’s just trying to do your own thing and still trying to stay at that level.

TV: You’re going to be playing two shows in Toronto. What’s it like knowing many, if not most, of your fans that are going to be out at the shows on this tour are not old enough to know the first records that were released by Our Lady Peace?

JP: I have never thought about that before. It’s kind of scary.

TV: I’m speaking from experience; I wasn’t born when the first two Our Lady Peace albums were released.

JP: That’s incredible that the band has been around for this long. I love that. And it’s going to be cool because then you get to actually play that old material and it’s new to them. That’s totally a plus.

TV: These fans both new and old, those who have been with the band since 1991 and those who are just picking it up from Somethingness — what can these fans expect on this tour?

JP: Expect a good amount of new material but also paying respect to the catalogue. We’re still playing the hits, but we’re incorporating different new material every night. We have songs that we pop in place of other songs. We’re playing a larger, more diverse collection of songs.

TV: Would you say that going to both shows in Toronto, you would experience two different shows?

JP: 100 per cent, there is no way we’ll play the same set.

TV: Does that exemplify how the band is staying true to itself? It’s not out there to play to the majority, it’s out there doing its own thing.

JP: Totally, totally man. You have to do that stuff that turns yourself on before you can try to present that to the masses.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Our Lady Peace will perform at Massey Hall on March 15 and at Rebel on March 16.

British journalist subject to online threats following interview with Jordan Peterson

Peterson says threats and criticism not the same, calls on Twitter followers to stop making threats

British journalist subject to online threats following interview with Jordan Peterson


U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson has attracted controversy after appearing in an interview with Cathy Newman of UK news channel Channel 4 News, in which he debated gender equality, transgender rights, and free speech.

Since the interview was posted on January 16, Newman has been the subject of gender-based abuse and threats on social media, which has led Channel 4 to conduct a risk analysis by security experts.

When questioned about his refusal to use transgender pronouns, Peterson said, “I actually never got in trouble for not calling anyone anything,” and he added that he had instead refused to “follow the compelled speech dictates” of government.

The interview has received over 4 million online views since it aired, and it has garnered strong reactions against Newman on social media. A Channel 4 News spokesperson said that “immediate steps” have been taken to “ensure [Newman’s] safety and security.” The nature of the threats against her or specific measures taken, however, have not been specified.

Channel 4 editor Ben de Pear tweeted that he would “not hesitate to get the police involved if necessary.”

In an email to The Varsity, Peterson wrote that “Channel 4 should make the ‘threats’ public so that the public can judge their validity.”

“Criticism and threats are not the same thing, and as far as I know there has been no police involvement,” said Peterson.

On Twitter, Peterson has called on his followers to stop threatening Newman if they were doing so, saying, “Try to be civilized in your criticism. It was words. Words, people, words. Remember those?”

A Twitter search failed to unearth direct threats against Newman. Two Twitter comments reacting to the debate said “RIP Cathy Newman.” Around 10 tweets since January 16 have leveled slurs against the interviewer. One Twitter user collated comments on the YouTube video and found over 750 comments using misogynistic slurs.

During the interview, Newman also pressed Peterson on his views on the gender pay gap, noting that wage disparities made it seem to many women “that they’re still being dominated and excluded.”

“I didn’t deny [the gap] existed, I denied it existed because of gender,” said Peterson in his interview with Newman. “There is prejudice… But it accounts for a much smaller proportion of the variance in the pay gap than the radical feminists claim.”

“Agreeable people get paid less,” said Peterson. “Women are more agreeable than men.”

“So why not get them to ask for a pay rise?” asked Newman. Peterson replied that he had successfully provided assertiveness training to female professionals in his clinical practice “many, many times.”

When Newman asked why Peterson’s right to free speech trumped the rights of transgender people not to be offended, Peterson responded, “You’re certainly willing to risk offending me in the pursuit of truth. Why should you have the right to do that?”

He added that, as a journalist, she was “digging a bit… that’s what you should do.”

Peterson appeared in the interview as part of an international tour to promote his new self-help book, 12 Rules for Life.


In conversation with the creators of Guys We Fucked

Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson discuss self-love, misconceptions of the show, and more

In conversation with the creators of <em>Guys We Fucked</em>

Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson are the comediennes behind the weekly, self-proclaimed “anti-slut shaming podcast” Guys We Fucked, a frank discussion about sex and relationships. The New York City-based duo have been performing together since 2011, and they started the podcast in late 2013. Past guests include Amber Rose and Dan Savage, as well as many of Fisher and Hutchinson’s past lays, lovers, and others in between. While in town for the Just For Laughs comedy festival last month, the two jumped on the phone with The Varsity to discuss free speech, the misinformation age, and practicing self-love — or even just self-like.

The Varsity: What’s the number one misconception surrounding your podcast? Are there people who misunderstand what you’re trying to do?

Krystyna Hutchinson: All the time. I think a big common misconception that… people perceive us to be, Corinne and I, to both be very kinky, and frequenting sex dungeons, and being bisexual. We’re really more vanilla people, sexually, with our own personal relationships, so people are always kind of shocked to know that we are quote-unquote more ‘regular’ than they think. That’s the feedback that we get a lot. 

I remember the other day we were talking to somebody, we were interviewing a guest, and she said, “I’m shocked, I thought you guys were bisexual!” We’re not — we’re open, we’re open to things, but we’re pretty straight. 

TV: Do you think it’s more your attitude in discussing sex that people find so refreshing?

KH: Yeah, the being able to go places that you don’t hear other people talk about. Usually it’s just within the privacy of your own home, with your friends, on a couch. The level of conversation that Corinne and I have with people is pretty intimate, so a lot of times people don’t get that we’re recording a podcast, and so I think people are always shocked at that level of honesty. 

Corinne Fisher: A lot of times the things that get aired are either the really quote ‘crazy’ stuff where people have sex swings in their houses, or a politician being like, ‘No one should be having sex ever, you should only have sex after you’re married, with your spouse.’

I think we’re speaking for the masses, the relatable amount of people: this is what most people are doing on the day-to-day. Probably pretty vanilla, but then you have a couple of fantasies that at one time in your life you would like to play out with either a partner or friend or maybe a stranger. And those are fantasies that everyone has, but a lot of more vanilla-y people don’t discuss them publicly because we’re taught to think, ‘Ooh, this is naughty.’

TV: You might be getting this question a lot, but have your goals in doing the podcast or your aims changed at all since last year’s elections? Do you find that your environment has changed, or are you still just trying to keep it the same process?

KH: Corinne and I were in Los Angeles on election night, and so we experienced the disappointment of every American that voted for Hillary, and the shock, but also just the disappointment. It didn’t change how we do the podcast in any way except that Corinne and I just realized, goddamn, this is much more important, to make sure that our message is heard loud and clear. 

Women are still struggling to get ahead in their various careers and struggling to be taken seriously, and we just saw it play out. Our whole country saw it play out on a stage, and we saw the guy [that we speak out against] win. And so that was just — phew! This honest conversation about what it means to be women, when it’s sexual, is just more important than ever. So if anything, that just kind of surfaced a little bit more after the election.

CF: We are obviously a very feminist podcast. Not everyone who listens identifies as a feminist, but [that] certainly is a large chunk of our listenership. We made a decision, Krystyna and I together, to officially endorse Hillary Clinton. Like, the Guys We Fucked podcast officially endorsed Hillary Clinton, and we got a lot of backlash from that from a lot of young women and it was really upsetting. 

You know, from people who even after Bernie Sanders was no longer in the running for President were really anti-Hillary and pro-Bernie. It’s fine to be pro-Bernie, but when… the only people running in the major parties are Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton and there’s young women who are calling Hillary Clinton a cunt and attacking me on Instagram, I found that deeply upsetting. 

It caused a discussion about supporting other women, and we try to feature strong voices and talk a lot about free speech. A couple weeks ago we had Professor Nadine Strossen on, who is the former President of the [American Civil Liberties Union], and that was a really enlightening conversation. In fact, I actually just before was recognized at my dentist’s office today, and a girl came up to me — 

KH: Oh, really!

CF: Yeah, and she said, ‘I gotta say, I really appreciate that Nadine Strossen episode because it honestly changed my life.’ She said, ‘Now when I see someone who has a Trump t-shirt or hat on, I don’t get as angry. I think to myself, that person’s voice is allowed to be as loud as mine.’ 

And that made me really happy because I think — I love that millennials are speaking out, and I love that they want to have their voices heard, and they want to get politically and socially involved. I think that’s so wonderful, but I think it’s turned into not listening at all to the other side. And that, to me, is problematic. 

TV: There’s a quote from an interview you did with VICE where you said it’s actually younger audiences you find more annoying — “people who were in a super PC safe space and are hypersensitive.” What would you want to say to those people? Is there anything you think that they should know about dating and relationships? 

KH: Look, the PC thing gets frustrating; when we talk about comedy, it gets really frustrating because comedy is an arena that Corinne and I do every single night, it’s our lives. And so a lot of times when we talk about PC culture, we talk about it in the context of comedy, because Corinne and I both believe that you should be able to joke about anything. 

And sometimes a joke sucks and sometimes the joke makes you feel offended, and I like talking about this in the context of comedy because I’ve seen standup comedy that offends me, and I don’t go and bitch about it — not bitch, I don’t express my opinion about it other than that I felt at odds with the person speaking and I did not agree with what they were saying and then I left it there. 

I think that it’s important to have social commentary on certain things, like if a journalist wants to write an extensive piece on the art of Chris Rock’s standup or something like that, and they’re noticing some interesting patterns or something like that — that I think is interesting to critique. 

So just because I think something is offensive doesn’t mean that it should be silenced. In the world of comedy, our word is sacred, and if anybody tried to silence us, that would be the death of comedy because [the whole point] is the comedian’s voice. So understanding it in that context. The youth and the old… I don’t think it’s specific to any generation.

CF: I think especially me in particular, I’m a little older… not a lot older, but I think you feel old, especially as a woman, when you’re in your thirties. And I know that I am pretty tough on a lot of the young listeners openly on the podcast, in person, just all around. It’s more like a tough love for me because I don’t really care — older people, it’s not that I don’t care, but they’ve kind of lived their lives and given a lot of the contributions that they’re probably gonna be giving. Unfortunately, things slow down as you get older unless you’re like, Georgia O’Keefe. 

I’m really concerned because that’s the future, and so I think investing in the future of America, or of the world, is really important, and I love that more people are getting politically and socially involved. But I think in this age of social media… there’s a lot of clickbait out there. We’ve all fallen for it, I’ve certainly personally fallen for it. And so I think the advice I would give is to… put that extra five minutes of work into researching something or making sure something is true or that you truly agree with something before you retweet it or go on a Facebook post and rant about it. 

Because unfortunately there’s a lot of misinformation on the internet, and it’s important not to spread it because that’s where a lot of us are getting our information these days. You know, people aren’t going to the library like they used to. When I had a report as a kid, I would sit in the library for six hours; now if you’re doing a report, you just sit at your computer for six hours. You need to arm yourself with the tools to say, ‘What is the source that I am getting this from? Is it reputable? Is it biased? Is this true?’ ‘Cause you can just put anything on the internet. 

TV: Agreed. And people are still definitely going to the library, so that’s good. 

KH: Maybe in college, yeah. 

TV: Obviously you have a lot of people writing in to your podcast with various questions. Do you find there’s one piece of advice that ends up covering a lot of questions? Is it communication, or honesty, or anything like that? Is there a one-size-fits-all?

CF: Love yourself more. 

KH: I think a lot of things stem from insecurity. And loving yourself — not even loving yourself, ’cause I think that’s a tall order, liking yourself and respecting yourself. A lot of people don’t have the guts to communicate something because they feel like their voice — ‘should my voice be heard?’ or ‘does my opinion matter?’ or ‘should I tell my partner this?’ Respect yourself enough and respect your relationship enough and the other person enough to speak up and say something. I think that’s definitely the root of a lot of people’s issues, and mine certainly. [Laughs]

CF: I agree, a lot of women question themselves, or question, ‘Is it my fault that I’m feeling this way?’ I think to put an end to that will really help expedite the process of self-love, or self-like.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Brian Regan can outsmart a horse-sized duck any day

The comedian speaks to The Varsity ahead of his September 8 Toronto show

Brian Regan can outsmart a horse-sized duck any day

Standup comic Brian Regan is currently on a tour that will take him across the continental US, which includes stops in Hamilton and Toronto. The comedian, who recently agreed to film two specials for Netflix, spoke to The Varsity ahead of his upcoming September 8 show in Toronto about being labelled a ‘clean comic,’ life on the road, and comedy in the current political climate.

The Varsity: I was just reading your interview with Jim Gaffigan from a couple years ago, and you talked about this idea that your comedy is labelled ‘clean comedy,’ and how that label sort of makes you cringe. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about that, and if deciding to pursue what other people refer to as ‘clean comedy.’ Was that a conscious choice or was that just something you were more naturally drawn to?

Brian Regan: A little of both, you know? When I first started, I was always mostly clean anyway, you know. But I wasn’t 100 per cent clean, I had a handful of— it’s just the word ‘dirty jokes’ sounds so strange — but I had a handful of jokes that were off-colour or whatever. But, you know, it’s so weird to me to do something only 97 per cent of the way. I tried to go 100 per cent clean. Just for my own head. It wasn’t because I was like a prude or something like that, it was more because I was very anal. I don’t want to be 95 per cent something when I can be 100 per cent something. I decided to go completely clean just because I like to see how hard I can get people laughing without using certain words. 

TV: Do you still find it challenging to keep the act 100 per cent clean or is it natural to you at this point?

BR: It’s not hard for me. I mean, there’s plenty of things to talk about. I always try to be careful to make it clear that it’s not an ‘us against them’ kind of thing, you know? It isn’t like I’m trying to make a point. Sometimes people come up to me after shows and act like I’m on their side as opposed to the other side, but the other side is evil, or something. ‘Thank you Brian, for not being like them.’ You know what I mean? But I like them! I like them over there, they’re just different. 

TV: Them is my friends. 

BR: Yeah, you know. So to me it’s better when a lot of people approach comedy from different angles. I like that there are dirty comedians, I like that there are political comedians, I like prop comedians. I like that there are clean comedians, to describe it that way. It’s different people approaching it from different perspectives. It’s all good. 

TV: Others would label you as a comedian’s comedian — I have quotes in front of me from Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Burr, Marc Maron, all listing you as one of their favourites. When did you realize, if you had this moment of realization, when you felt that your comedy appealed to the masses, but also to these career comedians who really admire your work?

BR: Well I never really — it was not something I sought out, to have comedians like what I do. I’ll put it this way, I didn’t try to do that specifically. I want to make everybody laugh, not just comedians and not just the audience. I want to make everybody laugh. There’s a term, the back of the room, and that means the comedians standing in the back of the room. And I think some comedians out there that care about the audience and not so much the back of the room, and there are other comedians who care about the back of the room and not so much the audience. And I’m a pig. I want everybody. I want to capture as many people as I can. Audience and back of the room. So when I found out that other comedians liked what I did, it was flattering. 

TV: I want to know more about life on the road, because I think that that’s something that very few people experience or can really understand, is that life of touring. I know that you’ve toured pretty extensively, and you’ve also taken your family on the road at times, your children. What is that like and what are some of the challenges in doing that?

BR: It’s so much a part of my life that it feels normal. In fact, I woke up the other day and I was like, ‘Where the heck am I?’ You know, I looked around and realized I was home. It’s kind of strange. I’m like, ‘Oh, this is my house.’ It’s just the nature of the beast, but I’m also careful to spend plenty of time at home. I’m at home more than I’m away. And I do shows throughout the year but I’m not working every weekend. I’ve got plenty of time to be home with the kids, and all that sort of thing. I still enjoy it very much. I’m sure there’ll be a day when I grow weary of all the travel, but right now everything is fine. 

TV: Are there some cities or areas of the country that you find are easier to tour in than other, or have the best audiences? Is there anywhere that you return to again and again and you feel like this is sort of your niche?

BR: Toronto. My favourite place on Earth. 

TV: Oh, I see. 

BR: That’s one of the things that is fun about doing comedy, is I get to go to a lot of places I might not have gone to otherwise. I like playing big cities, I like playing little cities, I like playing in New York state one day, and Des Moines the next day. It’s cool, people like to laugh everywhere. And also, to be able to go to Toronto, to be able to go to Canada, you know. If I had chosen another profession, I wouldn’t have been able maybe to do that at all or maybe certainly not as often as I do. So it’s cool, it’s fun. 

TV: Okay, so speaking of appearing in Toronto, what are some of the biggest differences, I’m curious to know, between Canadians and Americans that you notice when you’re here?

BR: I like Canada. Well, I like all audiences. Canadian audiences, they’re really going out of their way to enjoy the subtleties of a joke. US audiences can do that as well but you can also catch a US audience that is more like, ‘Give it to us on a platter, comedy boy! Don’t make us think too much.’ Not always, occasionally you can catch an audience like that. But in Canada, it seems like more often than not, the Canadian audiences are willing to build half the bridge. You know, I always feel like the best jokes are when the comedians build half the bridge and the audience builds the other half of the bridge, and you meet in the middle. You want to leave certain words out of a joke, you want the audience to go, ‘Ah, I see where you’re going with this,’ and it’s nice to meet happily in the middle. It’s not as fun to catch an audience where, ‘Oh, I have to build the bridge all the way over to you, I see,’ you know? I mean it happens, what are you gonna do?

TV: I want to know where you stand on the debate of whether or not comedians should stick to performing a selection of their best jokes, or should they turn over their act completely every year or few years. Maybe what works best for you is a better way of putting it. 

BR: I like to turn it over. I’m fortunate that every few years I can record an hour of material, whether it’s a TV special or a CD or whatever. And then once it’s recorded, I can feel like okay, that material, I worked on it, I created it, I made it as good as I think I can make it, and now it’s recorded and now it’s out there and now I can move on from it. There’s pressure for me to be doing stuff that is new. The newer the jokes, for me, the more excited I am to tell ‘em. So I think it helps me as a performer. Also I have the nice byproduct of people wanting to come back. You know if people come up to me after shows, I always like when they say it’s funny, but I also like when they say it’s new. To me it’s a compliment. I had somebody on my Twitter feed last week, was performing in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. Somebody — didn’t reply but it made me laugh — said, ‘Hey, I’m coming to your show in Hampton Beach, will the material be new? I’m like, ‘In relation to what? I don’t know when the last show you saw was, buddy.’ It’s new from 20 years ago, it’s not new from the day before. So new is a relative term. But I love letting old jokes fall by the wayside and letting new jokes come into play. 

TV: And I like the idea that he has already purchased tickets to your show and if you say that the jokes are old he might not come. 

BR: Yeah, maybe he should have asked before he bought the tickets. 

TV: This question may veer a little bit into the political, but I was curious, in your recent appearance on Jimmy Fallon, you said that you thought a really good dad might be able to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I was curious, do you think that Jared Kushner is that dad?

BR: [laughs] I don’t know. I mean, I think I get political without getting overly specific, you know what I mean. I just, like, to me, that joke is — even though it is about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s about how dads can solve problems quickly. So the joke is almost reverse engineered. I just think it would be funny for somebody to solve a political crisis like a dad would solve a problem between two kids.

TV: On that appearance, you led up to the joke by talking about the political climate in the US. Do you find anything has changed with appearances since the election? I guess your comedy isn’t so inherently political, but do you find anything that’s different in what maybe people are willing to laugh at versus not? Or have you not had that problem just because of the nature of your material? 

BR: Well, I think everything is fair game, you know. Every single subject is fair game, if you ask me. It all depends on what perspective you’re coming from. And not every comedian wants to touch on every single thing, but I think with as many comedians as there are and as many subjects as there are, everything should be fully covered. I don’t think of myself as a political comedian, but I do like to touch on it. It is part of the world, and part of what affects me and that sort of thing, so I do like to touch on it. But for me, at least right now, I don’t want to faction my audience. I don’t want to go there, cut my audience in half.  Like, hey, this half will enjoy what I’m talking, the other half hit the highway. I’m not opposed when comedians do that, I mean, there are comedians who definitely have a point of view and they’re not shy about sharing it cause their act is political in nature, that’s the nature of the beast. But you know, I don’t want to cut my audience in half and then the next joke talk about donuts, and donut sprinkles. Half the people are in their cars driving home going, ‘Man, they could have really gotten into this donut sprinkle joke and the only thing I hear is comments about Trump.’

TV: We’ll move on to the few rapid-fire questions I have and then I’ll let you go. First question is, salty or sweet?

BR: Sweet. 

TV: Sweet, okay. 

BR: Eleven Krispy Kremes is my record. I’ve never done a dozen, but I’ve done eleven. 

TV: If there was a movie based on your life, who would you want to play you?

BR: Will Ferrell. 

TV: Describe your sense of style in three words. 

BR: Kirkegaardian with Machiavellian undertones, and a Nietzsche perspective. 

TV: What is the longest road trip you’ve ever taken?

BR: Probably a month. 

TV: From where to where?

BR: Well, I used to do shows, I used to stay in a comedy club for one month, and I had two one-hour shows that I would rotate back and forth. So when I say a road trip it wasn’t really — well, I have silly answers. This is rapid fire and I’m getting too into it. 

TV: That’s totally fine. 

BR: Comedy clubs for a month, but I also drove across the United States one time and I took three weeks and that was a blast. 

TV: What were you like in college?

BR: I was like a new baby chick coming out of the egg. 

TV: Last question: would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck? 

BR: You’ll have to repeat the question, it’s a bad connection. It sounds like a very important question, I don’t want to get it wrong. 

TV: It’s very important, the people need to know. Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck? I can tell you afterwards what President Obama said, but I definitely want to hear your answer first. 

BR: Okay, I just want to make sure I’m hearing it correctly. Would I rather fight, like a fight—

TV: Yes, like a physical right. 

BR: Okay, a hundred duck-sized, like a duck, like a duck in the water?

TV: Yes. 

BR: Or one horse-sized duck. 

TV: Yes.

BR: You know, I always have my notes in front of me, to lead me into something. This isn’t leading me towards any of my notes. 

TV: This is a famous Reddit question, so I didn’t actually make this up, I don’t want to take credit for the question. 

BR: Alright. I would rather fight one duck-sized horse. 

TV: Oh, but that’s not an option. 

BR: Oh, I messed it up. 

TV: It’s one— one horse-sized duck is maybe what you meant to say?

BR: One, yes. I would rather fight one horse-sized duck. 

TV: Okay. That was President Obama’s choice too. 

BR: Because, you only have to deal with one brain. 

TV: Yeah, a hundred is quite a lot. Even if they are duck-sized. 

BR: Yeah, then it’s like, you know, hey, I have big knees, but these guys are forming a faction and they’re coming around on different sides. At least the one horse-sized duck, I can face it the entire time, and I could beat it with my brain power. I can outsmart a horse-sized duck any day.

Brian Regan will perform at Massey Hall on September 8. 

This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

Grandson goes beyond the melody

The local musician shares his origins, influences, and future plans

Grandson goes beyond the melody

Jordan Benjamin, the 23-year-old Torontonian better known by his performing moniker ‘Grandson’ has begun to spread his unique brand of hip-hop infused rock and powerful lyrics throughout the city, having recently performed at NXNE and Burlington’s Sound of Music festival.

To highlight his presence in the local music scene, The Varsity spoke to Benjamin about his musical evolution, influences, and writing process.

Benjamin was born in New Jersey but grew up in the Eglinton West area. When he was younger, his family introduced him to different styles of music, including classic rock, hip-hop, dancehall, and reggaeton — genres he would later draw upon when he began creating music under the name ‘Grandson’ in late 2015.  

“I wanted the freedom and liked being enabled to disassociate my sense of self from the art I was creating,” he says, in regard to his decision to use a stage name. Still, the decision itself was difficult: “I had a spread sheet of around 40 names, but nothing was sticking.” This was until his manager had a dream in which he performed under the name ‘Grandson.’ 

The name was conceived shortly after Benjamin’s grandfather, who had been a strong influence in his life, passed away. Benjamin wanted a name that would give listeners a feeling of nostalgia and reflect the fact that his music pays lyrical and sonic homage to what came before.

Just like the music Benjamin listened to growing up, his musical influences are also varied. Many of the inspirations he lists are artists whose hit songs have defined entire musical eras, such as Bob Marley, Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, and Bill Withers. “I look up to writers who were able to cross borders, break barriers, break down genres, break down times through touching on something other than a simple melody,” says Benjamin. He believes that a good song can be made without a narrative, but a great song starts with one.  

When writing his own songs, Benjamin tries to focus on his own life to provide a narrative while at the same time striving to make his music accessible to others. “I spend a lot of time asking myself how I’m doing, I bring a book and my iPhone notes. I try to read a lot,” Benjamin says. “Bills” and “Bury Me Face Down,” two of Grandson’s more popular songs, were written within 30 minutes. Any longer, and Benjamin doubts the possibility of generating a good song.

Although only five of his songs have been publicly released, Grandson has had quite a bit of success with a small sample size. The four songs that are available on Spotify have garnered around four million plays.

His goal was to do something he’d be happy with even if it wasn’t successful. “If no one likes it, I’ll move back to my parents’ basement in Toronto,” he says. “Ironically, it was the state of irrelevance that led to people seeming to like what I’m saying.” 

Toronto and Montréal are two cities in which Benjamin, a former McGill University student, has spent a lot of time in. Both have helped him grow as an artist. “I know the calibre of the art being made in both [cities], and being able to fit in there is incredibly validating,” he says. He also credits his “mosaic”-like style of music to Toronto’s multicultural population.

There are big things to expect from Grandson in the future. “We’re sitting on a lot [of] music, looking for the right moment to put out,” he says regarding the 30 unreleased songs he has ready. A lot of his current work is focused on developing the live sets he plans on performing, although he did not rule out the possibility of a release in the next few months. 

Benjamin says that he wants to change the notion that a performance is just playing songs live. “I want it to be an independent experience. I want it to be unpredictable, and I want it to be an atmosphere of what Grandson truly is.”

It’s Shamir’s world, we’re just living in it

From gender fluidity to cooking, we sat down with Shamir Bailey to discuss his unique approach to music and life

It’s Shamir’s world, we’re just living in it

Since Shamir Bailey’s release of Ratchet last year, it seems that the urban pop prodigy’s takeover is imminent. Bailey’s genre bending and blending showcase his efforts to remain unattached to a specific musical category.

The 21-year-old Las Vegas native is a quintessential millennial who defies typical sexuality and gender boundaries. Bailey is interested in representing himself rather than speaking for any groups.


Bailey’s sexual ambiguity and gender fluidity are accompanied by a philosophy of living freely — an ode to self-love and confidence is conveyed through Bailey’s sound. His music is as complex as he is; when he speaks about himself and his experiences, it’s evident that music is an outlet for the artist.

Bailey is someone who is passionate about many things: cooking, yarn work, and painting to name a few. But for now, music is taking centre stage, just as he did at the Port Lands stage during the North by Northeast festival in Toronto. His performance was captivating, his soft bubbly sound contrasting the strength of his vocals, with road heavy bass riffs and vintage synths.

Both on and offstage Bailey has a gravitational pull; his humble self-assurance and colorful persona disregard those who call for an explanation. Bailey is unapologetically himself, paving his own path towards a unique brand of pop.