Rise & Grind: Chiiild's Music Is Steeped In Nostalgia & R&B 

Montreal artist Chiiild is making waves in the r'n'b scene with a fusion of sounds.

BYRose Lilah
Image provided to HNHH by artist

Rise & Grind is a new editorial series, meant to introduce and dissect new, buzzing, or underground artists. For the month of August, we are highlighting a few Canadian up-and-comers. Kicking off the new month is Montreal native Chiiild.

While it's unfair to categorize Chiiild as a r'n'b wholly, it's also the easiest genre to group the hybrid musical act in, if you wanted to summarize it in a word. Chiiild is largely carried and championed by Yonatan Ayal, once/sometimes known as xSDTRK, however it would not exist without the assistance of fellow Montrealer, producer and guitarist Pierre-Luc Rioux. Thus, while they are technically a duo, Yonatan handles much of the public-facing "stuff" -- like this interview.

As Yoni tells me during our Zoom video conversation leading up to the release of the new album, Hope For Sale, the two are the "perfect yin and yang," and indeed, their music is evidence of their natural chemistry. Despite being the product of two minds, the listening experience with Chiiild is seamless, if not highly personal-- as their music is often seeped in this element of nostalgia, pulling from past feelings by way of vintage sounds, which they then re-create as a completely new and immersive experience. 

Synthetic Soul, Chiiild's first release, which also happened to drop at the very beginning of the pandemic-- Chiiild was birthed, and gained popularity, during the whirlwind year of 2020-- laid the groundwork for this approach. Hope For Sale has only expanded on it, resulting in something much more full-body and whimsical, as songs leap from genre to genre in expert fashion.

Yonatan Ayal, singer of Chiiild, spoke about the approach to Hope For Sale and his own come-up in the industry, from behind-the-scenes writer to artist, in our exclusive interview below.

Be on the lookout for a new installment of Rise & Grind every Monday.

Image provided by the artist.

Stomping Grounds:

It's funny because some Montrealers will consider me outside of Montreal. I grew up in Brossard. So you know, some people are like, that's not Montreal, but, you know. I grew up in Brossard, I went to school and Brossard went to you know essentially spent my whole childhood kind of on the south shore, studied music from the beginning, pretty much. I went to [this school] in Brossard and they nurtured my musical talent, from kindergarten, onwards. As a kid, I just kind of kept busy. I essentially, you know, went to school and then around school I had other kind of fine art activities scheduled, whether it be on the weekends or after school.

Zodiac Sign:

I’m a Libra. This is actually really well describes me-- so a while ago maybe five, six years ago something, I was just like let me look up what a Libra is, what my strengths and weaknesses are. And then one of my weaknesses, was that I was indecisive. And so, I essentially did the complete opposite. I was like well you know what, I'm going to just make it, I'm going to be super decisive, whether I'm in the right or wrong direction, it doesn't matter. And that pretty much sums up my personal profile. I try to figure out what my weaknesses, make it my strengths.

Top 5 DOA: 

I will say that these [are the] artists that I probably go back to the most because-- there's artists that impact you, that you listen to once, and you never actually go back to listen to it again but you never forget the feeling. So there's a lot of those type of artists but if I had to, in no particular order-- Bon Iver would be one. The Friendly Fires would be another one. Jay-Z would be one of them. Let's see, this is running out of space. Kanye West, for sure and hm how I want to round this off. I'm gonna go with Fleetwood Mac.

Biggest Accomplishment: 

My biggest accomplishment is actually just getting my stuff together and putting out a record in the first place, you know, going from someone that's comfortably behind the scenes to someone that is now subject to the world's judgment. That's probably my biggest accomplishment today.

Studio Habits & Essentials: 

Coffee, for sure. And habits, I try to make myself really uncomfortable, so sometimes, I don't even show up with the computer. I just use someone else's to be like, let me just go through your stuff. It's kind of funny, sometimes I go into a session, and obviously, I'm producing, and [they’ll] be like, ‘what, where's your computer,’ and I'm like, ‘I don't have one, so I'm going to use yours and sort sift through your sound libraries,’ or [I’ll]  just pick up an instrument and just start, because I mean it's, it's all music in the end, I like to be slightly uncomfortable.


‘Eventually’ actually happened the day after I did 'Back to Life.'”So it's  a song that carried over from the 'Synthetic Soul' kind of moment. You can kind of hear the tone. It's the same train of thought. But yeah I love ‘Eventually,’ I want to do something that was more funky and I'm a big fan of Daft Punk and all that stuff and yeah, it just kind of happened.

First Bars: 

I honestly couldn't tell you, I think. I know that. I definitely came into singing much later, it was just a vehicle to get my ideas out, just something I felt necessary.

Clocking Out:

I like to play basketball with some friends. I definitely do that as much as I possibly can. My brain is always researching something. So right now, you know, we're going to be setting up to perform Lola, and we're setting up to go on tour. So most of what I'm watching is other concerts of artists at this particular pivotable moment in their careers. Instead of watching them in 2021 where they're massive, let me go watch them in 2017, when it was at this moment where you felt he was going to break, and so you just kind of pull from that and live in that for a minute.

Up Next: 

Just get the show to where I think it needs to be, and perform as much as possible. That's the next step. That’s the thing, you know, when you come to the show-- what you're going to get is not the same thing, you know, it sounds some conference you go to and you just kind of get the record on stage, but it's , as I, I really am spending a lot of time trying to take it to the next level so that you feel you have,  it's almost a third record it's it's the live record and the record on the DSPS and said, they're almost different. This show is meant to be  at your neck the whole time.

Image provided by the artist.

HNHH: Something I wanted to have you clear up in this process-- are you Chiiild, or is Chiiild you and Pierre-Luc, or [are there] other producers involved? I'm wondering just for clarity.

Yoni of Chiiild: So I'm the singer of Chiiild. Essentially, all things creative are done between me and Pierre. You know, we’re the perfect yin and yang, and so he handles a lot of the production and the executing on that on that end. And I handle a lot of the ideation and the storytelling, and the performance. Like the process, if you want to get into the chain of events, it's usually:

I'll be in a room, and I'll just be thinking about something I'll come up with some chords and find a couple of sounds and start writing the story, and instead of obsessing over how it sounds, I just obsess over the composition of the thing. And then I'll send it to him, or I'll play it for him, [and I’ll be like], ‘what do you think?’ And usually, if there's a spark, he takes the baton and brings it to you know, 75% of its completion and then we kind of come back together and bring it to the finish line, and then I go and tell another story.  

So what inspired you guys, how come you recorded those first songs after doing so many years kind of behind the scenes or whatever else you were doing. Were you not happy behind the scenes?

I mean, in that moment what we were thinking about at the time was we were just being briefed and being set up to work with people that just didn’t really have any vision and songs that were coming out of it were just being , edited and edited and edited by different non musical people. And so, it would just come out  a year later, outside of it's  a window of  real true impact, and just there was no agency over kind of the future, and you know we both kind of looked at each other was like, ‘man, fuck this. Let's just do this thing.’ And it was just about finding agency, being able to create something that truly represents you. You know I always have all these wacky ideas, and they just never make it out, or if they do, they're just really not what it needs to be. And so I was just like, ‘fuck it, I’m gunna do it.’ And that’s what happened.

When did you sign with Avant Garden, when did that come into the situation?

Yeah, I mean, so, basically, there were, two, three songs that I had, it was “Darling,” it was “Count Me Out,” and it was this other song that never made it out. and it was just on a small five minute-tape or something. I kept playing for friends and stuff, and one of my friends called Will was friends with Azad from the label. And he was like, ‘yo, he really needs to hear this, I feel  I know somebody that can help you bring this to life.’ I played it for him, you know after Will’s much-convincing trying to get him into the studio, and it took about a month or something. And then, you know, I played the music we connected immediately. I made it very clear that it wasn't about money or anything like that. I just wanted to make sure that the music was well-received and was put out the right way and, you know, we spent, I don't know nine months, kind of getting acquainted and then finally did a deal. He really wanted to make sure that we put out the first song together and we did. The rest is history.

And all the music that you put out is basically has been during the pandemic?

Most of it yeah, most of it. 

How did that-- I mean maybe it hasn't felt strange at all because that's just what it was-- but I was just curious if you felt anything from that, what was happening around us, when you're basically debuting as an artist. You still had so much traction.

To be fair, it's because everything is in real time for me, and it allowed me to develop naturally, over the course [of the pandemic]. It slowed everything down to a pace where  you can do everything with  a true kind of intention, and really make the best of everything, instead of like, having a hundred things being thrown at you and you're just catching up on everything. I felt became because of the way it is, we haven't really been playing catch up, which I really appreciate. 

Okay, so I do want to talk about the album a bit, Hope for Sale. What am I gonna ask is kind of, the inspiration behind the sound because, when I'm listening to, it feels nostalgic a bit and, sometimes it's reminding me of certain movies and then it's reminding me of artists, there's so many different memories or feelings that come up with it, it's so interesting. What inspired this album, what were you listening to or watching preceding it?

I mean, every song usually starts with a "wouldn't it be cool if...?" and then, "if this and this were to happen." A lot of it is just trying to please yourself, like, "Oh man, I really feel like this song is missing in the moment. I would really love to get a new one of these." You hear a song like "13 Months of Sunshine," --   I've just finished listening to the Dark Side of the Moon and living in it for two weeks, and I'm like, "uh man,  I really love that song 'Any Color You Like,' it just splits the album in half, wouldn't it be cool to do something [like that]?' So yeah it starts there, but then it's like, 'alright, cool, how do I make it my own? How do I do something like that?'

I'm like, oh I should make it pentatonic, so it reflects kind of my culture and the scales from my upbringing. Then sonically, I like for things to feel rich in sound. Like, if you listen to a rap record, you get so much sound. And if you listen to an indie record, it feels like a part of it's been chopped off, and it's like the low-end has been just chopped up, I want to bridge that I wanted to make sure that, you know, it's not a 5B sonic experience, cause that's what I like. So, yeah, I'm kind of off on a tangent, but essentially.

So you have collabs already with Emotional Oranges-- they're on your label-- and Mahalia-- are there any other r&b artists that you're inspired by right now, or that you feel are pushing the genre forward? What's your take on other r&b Right now?

I think it's in a good space, I think there's different strands of it right. So, like, I really love what Brent Fayaiz is all about, and I really love what Lucky Daye is all about, and they're totally different shades of R&B. I love what The Weeknd is about, and again, a completely different strand of R&B. 

So, I'm just happy that it's growing diverse, and that R&B isn't, I guess, classified as one thing that is so simple, and just redundant. So that's what's got me excited, you know.

WATCH: Chiiild "Sleepwalking"

Read last week's interview with SoFaygo here.

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About The Author
<b>Editor-in-Chief</b> <!--BR--> Rose Lilah updates HNHH daily, while also managing the other writers on-staff and all HNHH contributors. She oversees site content in general, whether that be video, editorial or music. Not so unlike Kanye, she just wants one thing out of life: dopeness. <strong>Favorite Hip Hop Artists:</strong> Atmosphere, Eminem, Sir Michael Rocks, Jay Z, The-Dream, Curren$y, Drake, Ab-Soul, Boldy James, Outkast, Kevin Gates