Week in Pop: Ed Askew, José Díaz Rohena, LUKA, Midnight Opera

Sjimon Gompers

The prolific José Díaz Rohena steps out from behind the mixing board to showcase new material; photographed by Sarah Macreading.


Exploring the meeting between water & land with Luka; photographed by Melissa Richards.

LUKA arrived on our radar last year with cycles of honest & introspective songs with Summon Up a Monkey King (via Yellow K Records) & today it is our honor to present the world premiere for the intimate video for “Animal” directed by GRIPGAWD, oka Pierce Desrochers O’Sullivan. Featured off the upcoming new LUKA album What Kind of Animal available November 28; watch as Luke Kuplowsky & Evan Cartwright remain steadfast with their respective instruments with Luke on guitar & vocals & Evan with a Moe Tucker style snare & cymbal percussion setup. The result is a poetic survey that seeks to ratify the missing link in the chain that connects the instincts of the human/animal double helix where something of a primordial & primitive bond exists in some sort of interspecies comparative parallel.

Pierce Desrochers O’Sullivan keeps the camera in a fixed position focused on both Kuplowsky & Cartwright’s performance where the conversational & thought streaming exchanges are sung & spoken like romantic poetics pondering our intrinsic & affectionate connections. Both artists gaze in opposite directions with a stoicism that seeks to break through the hindrance of communication where the material routines of competitive industry conceits are deconstructed & lyrically dismantled as Luke reiterates the eponymous nucleic core of is there an animal I can relate to in alliterations that brings the song to it’s rising apex. LUKA’s performance piece for “Animal” tallies up all the nagging frustrations of talent scouts, self-doubt pertaining to abilities & aesthetics & more that sends everything outward into a darkened void seeking sanctuary & grounding somewhere amid the overwhelming deluge of earthly imposed anxiety. The quest of being able to connect on a real level heard in Luke’s perceptive passage of, I see nothing but darkness, so I cling, I cling to something other than darkness, like the park bench or the lampost, or the glitter in the dark before the sparkle. The intriguing beauty of LUKA’s “Animal” is how these culminating items of everything that irks us & separates us from one another from having a genuine connection is calculated in swells of verses that exhibit how these irritations stifle our exchanges & instill senses of disconnected alienation. This live & stripped down performance brilliantly exhibits that free-floating disconnect where the audience can share into that feeling of being lost in the existential enigma of near despair whilst trying to break through to that place where a meaningful bond can take place.

LUKA’s Luke Kuplowsky took the time to chat with us in the following interview exclusive; photographed by Pierce Deroschers O’Sullivan.

Describe the evocative instinctive feelings that informed the song, “Animal”.

“Animal” cartwheels from self-doubt to humor to soul-searching. It has a restless, pent-up energy. Whenever I sing it, I feel waves of emotion rocking bath and forth, crashing and receding. In a very obvious way, the song’s melancholy stems from frustration with navigating the world as a musician. More importantly, the song is urging one to look past the ego and get to the real questions…the question that matters—what kind of animal do I relate to? or better yet, what can that animal teach me?

Give us insights into the impact that the making of What Kind of Animal had on you, and what you personally & creatively took away from the experience.

The record was recorded and mixed in a single session. The aim was to achieve something I hadn’t fully understood in recording—atmosphere. I thought of Velvets records or mid 70s Neil Young. I wanted to achieve that casual sensitivity that arises from not fully understanding what you’re doing and instead, just capturing a feeling. The record was directed by myself and my collaborator Stephen Prickett, but more-so than any other record I’ve worked on, it was a truly collaborative production between the core band members (Evan Cartwright, Sam Gleason, Cory Harper-Latkovich). In doing so, I learned that I love recording—that is, when it is a trusting and intuitive process.

LUKA & band in the studio; photographed by Colin Medley.

What sorts of departures & evolution have you felt has taken place since Summon Up a Monkey King?

I think this record is getting closer to LUKA. I’m slowly realizing what I want to express and how I want to do it. I love Monkey King because it still carries that beautiful, nostalgic angst of heartbreak, but I’m now of a much more clear mind, and songwriting is less of a melancholic crutch and more of a way of thinking. My songs feel more alive and generous with their thoughts.

Current artists & activists that are speaking to you?

Ontario is a a well-spring for singer-songwriters and a deep source of inspiration for my own writing. Some of my favorites would be Ryan Driver, The Weather Station, Ian Daniel Kehoe, Doug Tielli, Jennifer Castle, Daniel Romano, John Southworth, Marker Starling, Simone Schmidt, Thom Gill, Bernice.

What would you like to see/hear/experience in 2018?

I would like to finish the new record I’m in the midst of working on. It’s my most ambitious record yet and has a serious groove.

I would like to hear a record by Eric Landry. I discovered his music through The Native North Compilation released a few years back. Although he only has a couple recorded songs available, I was fortunate to hear him share some songs earlier this year at the Native North Gathering in Toronto. I was deeply inspired and happy to hear he is working on recording his catalog of songs.

LUKA tour dates:

10 – Saint Catherines, ON – Oddfellows Hall
11 – Oshawa, ON – LivingRoom Community Arts Studio
18 – Hamilton, ON – HAVN
25 – Ottawa, ON – Pressed
26 – Montreal, QC – Oro
28 – Toronto, ON – The Baby G (album release)

The new LUKA album What Kind of Animal will be available November 28.

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