For musician and RAC Montreal graduate Yazid Bounouar, songwriting is an undeniable form of catharsis. The modest artist’s work stems from self-reflection, oftentimes with a more self-critical slant to it, but never without a healthy dose of humour. Yazid’s most recent release, Pu Rien (translated in the context of the song as nothing else), perfectly illustrates this attitude. In stark contrast to the catchy folk instrumentals, the lyrics offer the harsh inner monologue of someone struggling to justify their place in the world, a person who is reduced to, as the chorus will confirm, just being a bozo.
Yazid chatted with RAC about his unique background and upbringing, delved into his journey of finding himself as an artist, and shared a deeper insight into his creative process and his future projects.
Favorite musician/band? I usually don’t name one band or artist as my favourite because it always changes and evolves with time, but right now I am in love with Salomé Leclerc’s music, especially her album Les Choses Extérieures.
Song that’s on rotation on your playlist right now? Aside from songs from Salomé, I am also obsessed with the song “Gleam” by Covet.
If I weren’t an audio engineer/musician, I’d be…. depressed 🙂
Best way to get inspiration? For me, inspiration comes through introspection; I have to sit down and think about what I feel in order to effectively translate it to lyrics. When it comes to writing riffs and melodies, those just come out of the blue with no warning whatsoever – like an embarrassing memory at 3 in the morning while you’re desperately trying to get some shut-eye, or a sudden need to eat Flamin’ Hot Cheetos while watching Bob’s Burgers for the third time.
Least favorite song by a favorite artist? I recently listened to the album Life After Youth by Land of Talk, and I thoroughly enjoyed every song from that album except “In Florida”.
RAC: Who is Yazid? Tell us a little bit about the early years that influenced you as a musician.
Yazid: I am a singer-songwriter, composer, session musician, and a record producer from Casablanca, Morocco. Although I was born in Morocco, my parents moved to Gatineau, QC when I was very young. That helped to create a weird mix of cultures which would later contribute to shaping my musical influences.
I started playing guitar when I was 6 and started singing during my last year of high school in 2018. Because I had been studying classical guitar, my first compositions were for solo guitar. Since high school, I’ve been in three separate bands, one of which attracted a local following in Gatineau. Since that band dissolved in 2021, I’ve been pursuing a solo career under my own name, Yazid.
RAC: You’re quite the guitar virtuoso! Could you tell us a little bit about when you started, what got you interested in the guitar, and what it is about this specific instrument that you connect with so much?
Yazid: My parents told me that I had a toy guitar when I was little, and apparently it was my favorite toy in the world. It seems like it was just one of those cases where the guitar chose the boy, a bit like those wands in Harry Potter.
As an aside, I always thought of that as a weird concept; how the hell is a piece of wood supposed to possess enough critical thinking to choose which kid it wants to be associated with? Even with all the magic and stuff, I highly doubt that “critical thinking and character judgment” could be a feature of a wand that’s sold to dumb smelly children who are just going to poke frogs with it and eventually break the flimsy piece of garbage. But then again, who am I to talk about wands when my entire life revolves around plucking strings attached to a hollowed out piece of wood for other people’s entertainment? So feel free to take my Harry Potter hot takes with a grain of salt. Wait, what was the question again?
RAC: Do you have a favorite guitar model? What is it about it that you like? Does it have a specific sound? Are you drawn to its history (for example, it’s another musician’s favourite), etc.?
Yazid: Just like my music taste, I don’t like saying “oh this is my favorite guitar” because I believe that every guitar deserves some kind of love, and loving one guitar in particular would hurt the other’s feelings. Although these days I am very interested in the Gibson SJ-200. To be quite honest, I don’t think a guitar’s history makes a difference in whether I want to own it or not. Ultimately, the connection is established and the decision is made when you try and play it. When I walked into the music store and saw that guitar for the first time, I had very low expectations for it since I didn’t believe that Gibson could make good acoustic instruments. From the first chord I was proven wrong, and that not only changed my opinion of the brand, but it also changed the way I approach instruments and my philosophy when it comes to guitars.
RAC: How would you describe your sound? Have you established a definite style or are you interested in experimenting more? Who, would you say, is Yazid as an artist?
Yazid: I’d like to describe my sound so far as “acoustic folk”. However, just like two teenagers with commitment issues, I dislike putting a label on what I’m doing. I have been influenced by rock, metal, midwest math rock, folk music, and even traditional Moroccan music; it’s like a messy jamboree of styles that make up what I aspire to sound like. I believe (and hope) that I’ve already developed my style through the years, but I’m already working on composing new songs that will allow me to expand into other genres like alt rock and progressive-acoustic-math-folk-thingy-whatever.
RAC: You’re a live show playing machine! What is something you’ve learned by getting yourself out there? Any pre-show tips?
Yazid: I mostly learned to be myself in front of people. For a long time I was trying to put on a persona for the crowd, and it got really exhausting after a while. I guess that’s also something that I would suggest to people; instead of changing your personality for the stage, try using your personality to your advantage. As far as pre-show tips, I recommend that singers not exhaust their voices during sound tests, and to leave some energy for the show.
For musicians, DJs and other music performers, I recommend choosing some equipment that will allow you to focus on the performance instead of constantly having to worry about it or adjusting things in your setup. Have some reliable and simple gear that you don’t have to think about so you can focus on performing.
RAC: What’s been your favorite show to play to date?
Yazid: There have been a lot of venues that I thoroughly enjoyed performing at in the past, like Propulsion Scène in Gatineau or la Place des Arts in Montreal, but recently one that stood out to me was the stage for the Picardy Show, a concert organized by a studio I’m affiliated with. I enjoyed this performance because it was the first time in a while that I had performed my songs with a live drum and bass, and that made for a very energetic show. It also helps that Felix and Keiran (the two musicians who performed with me) are very good friends of mine and we always have a blast performing with each other. I really love these guys and I’m so grateful for them.
RAC: Have you found that by playing all these shows you’ve established some promising connections to help you get closer to achieving your goals?
Yazid: Absolutely! To be honest, that’s the main point of shows if you’re looking at it from a career-oriented perspective; the more you make public appearances that showcase your musical abilities, the more chances you have to be noticed by someone with connections in the music business. It happened to me when I was with my old band; we met the owner of a studio in Gatineau who was working closely with the city when they organized events. This man has helped me greatly by reaching out to me with opportunities when I transitioned to being a solo artist!
RAC: Could you share some tips on how to get booked for live shows?
Yazid: Honestly, I don’t know how to get booked for shows either! So far it’s only been sheer luck for me, but don’t worry I’ll get back to you as soon as I find out.
RAC: What are your goals as a musician? What kind of impact do you hope to leave on the industry?
Yazid: I feel bad because I keep avoiding answering your questions directly, but I try to keep my goals pretty small and realistic. For example, right now I’m focusing on recording my first single and releasing my album. If you’re asking me what my goal is in the long run, I don’t know yet. I guess that when I get there I’ll find out, but in the meantime I just want to enjoy every second of it!
RAC: What motivates you to keep pushing yourself in your career?
Yazid: First of all, it’s the love for what I’m doing! I wouldn’t be pursuing music professionally if it wasn’t fun to begin with. Music is just one of those things that fills the big, deep, dark, immense, somber, gaping void in my soul. Plus I am generally incompetent at most other things so it’s not like my options are limitless!
RAC: We know you just recently graduated (congratulations!). What are the next steps for Yazid the artist as well as the audio engineer?
Yazid: Thanks! This past year has been a fun journey and I’ve learned a lot from the teachers at RAC, so cheers to them! Right now my three main objectives are to finish recording my single, become an intern at a studio to hone my skills as a music producer, and to play as many concerts as possible to make a name for myself!
RAC: Tell us more about your musical education at RAC. What were the most significant takeaways from your studies?
Yazid: Studying at RAC felt like a really short time to be honest. I tried to invest myself fully into the program and learn as much as I could, so time really flew by since I was always busy with school work.
Aside from all the audio knowledge I’ve acquired, I feel like one of the biggest takeaways from my time at RAC was the importance of making meaningful connections with the people you meet. I came across so many amazing people at the school and I’m grateful to have met all of them. I truly believe that if I hadn’t spoken with so many people during the school year I would have never been able to experience some of the amazing collaborations and opportunities that have come my way. So to all of my classmates, friends and mentors: thank you all for everything!
RAC: Thank you for your time, Yazid! What can we expect from you for the rest of 2022/early 2023?
Yazid: I’ve already finished recording my album at Picardy Studios in Gatineau! We are currently adding the final touches to the project before the mastering process, but before I publish that album, there is also a single on the way that you might hear on the radio in the not-so-distant future! Also, I am doing some session work and producing an EP for a local rock band called Bec Tari, so expect good music soon!
Written by Ania Szneps
Illustration by Yihong Guo