Music/Features

Chris LaRocca explains every track on his new EP, Saudade

“I’m not a religious person, but this really stuck with me and inspired me to kind of write this song as a reminder to myself.”

Credit: Tyler Budd
July 16, 2019

Having already tried his hand at math-infused indie rock with Elos Arm, then as the frontperson of cheeky electronic project SEXTAPE, at just 28, LaRocca is no stranger to the potential of shape-shifting. Named after a Portuguese word that doesn’t have an English equivalent, his newest EP Saudade blends its translation (the unnamable longing for a moment that hasn’t actually happened), with LaRocca’s own ambitions: an open-hearted devotion delving into the aftermath of moments that actually have happened.

Despite its relative subtlety, his newest EP utilizes the grandeur of sepia-toned swells to match the momentous live events that he unravels with explicit particularity. But, where most artists coming out of the city—including LaRocca himself, at points—have cut their teeth (to tremendous global acclaim) on moody 808s, Saudade prioritizes a warmer disposition. LaRocca opts for a more playful articulation of the well-established “Toronto Sound,” and understands that experimenting with the shapes of oblong sonic environments can create spaces explore the giddiness of a new love, or the devastating blowback when it inevitably dissolves.

Throughout Saudade, there’s evidence that LaRocca is reaching high. The principal breakdown on “Test on Me” has the makings of a bona fide pop sleeper hit, while “Yardsale” toys with layered sounds that are not dissimilar to the best of Aja-era Steely Dan. Because whether he’s experimenting with grating metallic sparks that lands at the fine-point of Massive Attack and Burial (“Made U Cry”), or using swooping alien synths to help talk through a bad decision (“Dice Out”), LaRocca has positioned himself as both a student and tutor. The former of the heyday of unpretentious leatherette, mic stand-leaning 90s R&B, and latter of its natural successor—the new canon of wildly dynamic contemporary pop that refuses to follow firm rules. The result is a necessary argument for openness, where LaRocca leads the charge in reminding us that archiving ordinary moments might invite extraordinary revelations.

Yardsale 

This song is about a toxic relationship that one of my lifelong best friends was in back in 2012. At one point, his partner had put all of his belongings out on the side of the road for local neighbours, or people walking by, to take for free. This is where the idea for “yardsale” started, and it touches on the emotions and hardships involved when a relationship becomes troubled. I wrote this song 7 years ago, and forgot about it until 2018 when I was in a session with my friends in L.A. It was then that we turned it into the version that you hear now 

Heated Up

This song is about a very long relationship I was in. It’s an unrequited love song about a situation where one person is emotionally absent, and the effects that can have on the other person involved. I was going through a tough time at this point and wrote, arranged and produced this song to its final point within a couple weeks of starting it, which usually isn’t the case in our workflow. 

Salt 

This song touches on the nostalgia that I feel for people that have come and gone in my life. I was aiming to explain the feeling of seeing a person intensely for a short period of time, and then when things fizzle out—or something dramatic happens—never speaking to them, or seeing them again. I also wanted to shed light on the melancholic feeling I get when I think back to these times, and how such short-lived relationships and flings have had such lasting effects on me. 

Dice Out 

This song is more like an anthem for feeling invincible. It came together after a night of partying the day before my birthday in 2018. I was drunk and feeling like I was on top of the world and just wanted to put that vibe in a track. I put a couple drum loops together and played the chords to the song on a basic piano and wrote the hook in the first 10 minutes. Everything else came together pretty quickly after that. I definitely thought the least about this track while writing it—this was the first time I just kind of let the lyrics flow without thinking too hard about them since I just wanted to describe a certain feeling. 

Test On Me

This song is about having really shitty luck. Around the time I wrote this song I was just getting myself involved in a lot of unfortunate situations; multiple car accidents, getting my license plates stolen and getting involved in some serious crimes. All types of dumb shit that doesn’t normally happen to people. The inspiration from this song came from a quote I had heard around this time, “god only tests the strongest people” which someone had told me this to ease the stress I was having around all this bad luck. I’m not a religious person, but this really stuck with me and inspired me to kind of write this song as a reminder to myself. 

Made U Cry

This song was originally written around the same time as “yardsale” about 7 years ago, and was also revisited in that same session in LA in 2018 with my producer Herag and friends Spyros and Andrew. It was about a relationship I was in at that time that was very toxic and caused us both to act like people that we were not. The original inspiration came from the last time I had seen this person, and my last memory of them crying in the doorway as I got in my car and left.

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