Toronto-based producer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Chris LaRocca cut his teeth performing in Elos Arma, a jangly alt-rock four piece that opted for six strings over 808s. From the ashes of that collective, LaRocca was reborn as Sextape, a glossy, new-wave R&B project replete with lavish synths and a killer falsetto. Ambient electro instrumentals mingle with pop hooks, placing him at the forefront of Toronto’s new alt-R&B movement.
Sextape’s new Paul Duck-directed video for “As If” is a neon, liquified flick that pairs nicely with LaRocca’s off-kilter production work and dulcet tones. Three minutes of finger-snapping and approximately 400 ounces of colourful beverages later, the thirst is certifiably real. You’re destined to catch a vibe off of these Super Soaker melodies.
Check out the premiere of “As If” above. We caught up with Chris to ask him about Sextape, literal sextapes, and Toronto’s neo-R&B braintrust.
What’s the Sextape origin story?
In the winter of 2012, I found myself toying around with a lot of synth and sampling hardware—specifically a Roland SP404SX, Korg Kp3 and Microkorg for those interested—since I didn't have a laptop at the time, and after a couple months of playing around with different samples and beats I wound up writing some verse and chorus melodies for 3 different songs that I really dug. It was a new style for me, and I felt like it really allowed me to be creative in a new and exciting way, so I just of ran with it from there.
How does your approach to this project differ to to what you used to do in Elos Arma?
Elos was a collective. We'd write some riffs and hooks and meet up as a four piece to democratically decide on a structure and a way to approach a song as a whole, which was a really dope way to do things, and definitely strengthened my songwriting as an individual. However with this project, I usually mess around with a very specific chord progression or sample and write vocal melodies over it, and kind of build the song around those moments, which is an approach that I find really lets me focus on the essence of each song as an individual.
Does the Toronto R&B movement influence what you do?
For sure. I'm really into River Tiber. Everything from his production to his vocal melodies inspire me to push myself to new levels. The WAYO are also a really dope influential local R&B act for me, and their live show really sets the bar for performing the genre live. I'm also really into Harrison, even though he's not really considered R&B, because everything that dude puts out bangs hard and really makes me wanna write some feel-good stuff. And even though Jessy Lanza is from out of town, I really dig her stuff too.
Who else do you consider your creative peers in the city?
I definitely consider my friend Victor (Sly Why) as my most influential creative peer, because he puts out some of the best jazz-infused hip-hop stuff in Toronto, and uses FL Studio in a way that I never thought was possible. We collaborated on an EP together called sUs, and ever since working with him in such close quarters I've learned a lot from him as a musician and made some really cool tunes with him as well.
I was on tour with my old band, and we were shooting around band names in the van, and one of the guys said "sextape" and I was like “oh, damn.” Then when I started writing songs for the project, I felt like sextape kind of complimented the edgy and explicit qualities of the music, and up until "As If" I feel like that's definitely been the case. However, the new songs I've been writing for my LP are sounding more and more chilled out and ambient, and the name may change in the future to reflect that.
What’s your favourite celebrity sextape?
Paris Hilton's is probably my No. 1, because that dude says some dumb shit, and I remember watching that and dying of laughter.
To be honest, I can't even think of a least favourite, ‘cause they are all hilarious to me.
Tell me about the making of “As If.”
I started writing "as if" by manipulating this other tune that I really like in Ableton; I reversed it and chopped it up like crazy and made this 2 bar loop out of it that I was really stoked about. I added some synth layers and a pretty lazy drum beat to fill it out, and I then noticed that in the beginning of the sample it sounded like a guys voice saying "as if", which is then echoed by a female-sounding voice in a "call and answer" type of way. This inspired the lyrics in the sense that it made me want to stage the song as one end of a conversation between a guy and a girl who are in an argument, and I wound up basing the words off some past (like, really past) experiences of mine where these types of conversations would go down.
What went into making the video?
It was a hilarious experience. Paul Duck, the director, came over with a bunch of coloured backdrops a crazy amount of stands and lighting equipment, and we shot a bunch of "clean" shots of me singing the song pretty early in the day. Then all the other guys got involved and we started doing different things with the drinks, until things escalated and we just went all out, and started splashing and pouring them everywhere. It was pretty much a disaster from there on out
Yo, can you share the recipe for those gooey, fluorescent refreshments?
Milk and food colouring. I don't think any of us have drank milk since.