If you’ve gone out in Montreal, chances are you’ve come across local legend Awwful’s work. The producer and all-around popstar has become an unmistakable staple of the queer music scene, through their euphoric pop music and high-energy DJ sets, as well as their iconic queer parties, Glitter Bomb and Unikorn. Dedicated to creating opportunities for alternative artists and drag queens, Awwful continues to expand Montreal’s underground nightlife, one party at a time. 

Leading up to their events and performances at this year’s Fierté Montréal, Awwful took the time to sit down to chat with RAC about their DIY roots, inspirations, and the sparkling future ahead.

RAC: Thanks for taking the time, Awwful! Can you take us back to how you first got into music and production?

Awwful: My pleasure, thanks for having me! I’ve been in love with music my whole life – it’s always been my favourite thing. I didn’t grow up around musicians and never had the opportunity to take lessons, nonetheless my brain has always been full of melodies. As soon as I got my first MacBook in college, I started playing with GarageBand and teaching myself how to play synth by ear… and the rest is history. 

RAC: You co-founded the iconic Glitter Bomb and Unikorn Parties (which both have Fierté Montréal editions this year). What’s the story behind how those events came to be?

Awwful: Glitter Bomb is my OG party and an important part of Awwful lore! My friend Jeffrey and I founded it in 2015 at NDQ, a queer punk bar on Beaubien where he worked at the time. We had a vision of an inclusive DIY alternative to the gay clubs in the Village (the only other places playing pop). Neither of us had DJ experience but taught ourselves how to mix with freeware. It ended up becoming so much bigger than we ever imagined – not just a dance party but also a hub for alternative drag queens & emerging queer artists. 

It was through Glitter Bomb that I met my Unikorn collaborators (drag queens Sisi Superstar and Mirage, and photographer Sam Blake). Founded in 2018, Unikorn is a queer club night that is part rave, part drag cabaret, and part concert series. There’s a lot more production involved with Unikorn; it’s much more of a spectacle. Our goal with each edition is to showcase members of Montreal’s queer underground as if we’re global superstars. It’s a really special party.

Both parties have been instrumental in giving me the confidence to perform in front of a crowd – I’m not sure what Awwful would look like without them. 

Don’t miss Glitter Bomb on August 3rd and Unikorn on August 5th, 2023. 

Photo credit: Sam Blake

RAC: Montreal is known for its vibrant nightlife scene, especially within the queer community. Do you feel like the city helps to foster creativity and expression?

Awwful: Not really. I would say it’s the community doing most of the fostering and supporting, especially outside of Pride Month. Most of the opportunities we have as queer artists in Montreal we make for ourselves or give to one another. I think the pandemic made that even more obvious, with many smaller venues left to close forever. I would love to see Montreal do more to preserve these spaces. 

RAC: Do you have any advice for musicians and producers from the community who are just starting out? 

Awwful: Trust your ear! There’s no right or wrong way to make music, what matters most is the sound, the vibe, and the character. Find what works for you! 

RAC: Off the top of your head, what home studio equipment can you absolutely not live without? 

Awwful: My MacBook & Logic Pro X! From writing, recording, mixing, mastering, to making flyers and album art, I do it all on my laptop and would be lost without it. Anytime it starts bugging out, my life flashes before my eyes.

RAC: Which artists have most inspired you and your music?

Awwful: So many. I grew up listening to new wave and synthpop, bands like Depeche Mode and OMD that have undeniably shaped me. Over the past decade I’ve been really into PC Music, stuff like A.G. Cook, SOPHIE, and Doss – pop music with experimental sound design. I’m also a big fan of ambient music that’s more about texture than melody. 

RAC: You’re both organizing and performing at multiple Pride shows this year. What do these events mean to you and what can we expect?

Awwful: Yeah! I’m organizing both a Unikorn and a Glitter Bomb. Fierté is helping us achieve things we normally wouldn’t have the budget for. For Unikorn, we’re flying in Sonikku from London and That Kid from Denver, which we’re super excited about. I don’t wanna give too much away, but expect Unikorn on steroids. 

RAC: We can’t wait to see what’s next for Awwful! Any exciting projects or releases coming up? 

Awwful: My biggest projects this summer are the aforementioned Fierté gigs, but I’m always working on music and various projects. I’m not trying to spoil anything. Unikorn has a big top secret collab coming up in November, so stay tuned for that. 

You can keep up with my music and events at instagram.com/awwful and linktr.ee/awwful.

Written by Maryse Bernard
Illustration by Yihong Guo