Casey MQ is a vision to behold on the cover of “Nudes,” the young Toronto artist’s new album for the Berlin-based label Creamcake. He appears draped in white, his cherubic face angled upwards, bearing a poised and confident expression. A soft focus effect enhances Casey’s ethereal form, making it easy to imagine a halo encircling his head. It is an image that perfectly captures the purity of expression underlying Casey’s creative spirit.
The first time I encountered Casey was at an afterhours party in Toronto. Everyone there was dancing enthusiastically but I remember Casey dancing with such an uninhibited vigor that it was hard not to notice him from across the dancefloor. Casey brings this same level of intensity, fervor and passion to his craft no matter where he is. Whether jamming out on a packed dancefloor or performing piano ballads to a hushed audience, he breathes life into his environment.
The same charisma Casey exudes in person and on stage can also be heard on his records. Up until this point, Casey’s music career has already taken him to the Red Bull Music Academy and TIFF. Not to mention his many collaborations with artists both local and international, inlcuding Oklou and Suicideyear. Although he already has an impressive CV to his name, the recently released “Nudes” is still Casey’s first official solo release. It is a statement record that showcases his versatility as both a vocalist and producer. Over the years, he has developed his own distinct musical style that spans the continuum between Top 40 pop and abstract experimental.
“I love that pop music can push the boundaries of what it means to make experimental music and vice versa. As long as they’re in communication so many beautiful things can be discovered.”
This interchange can be heard throughout “Nudes” which begins with the sax-led, ambient exotica of “The Constant” and ends with the soaring pop-club anthem “Between Water.” In between we get snippets of dancehall (“Glossy Lips”), downtempo, Virgina Woolf-referencing synth pop (“Miss Dalloway”) and balearic beat (“Angelorum”). These disparate production styles are tied together by Casey’s adept songwriting and far-reaching vocal range, which is on full display here. Casey’s voice is nothing short of angelic and his falsetto could reach the heavens. He sounds very comfortable with his voice here and thankfully for us, he indulges its full potential.
Casey’s confidence is contagious and he always welcomes an opportunity to contribute to the work of his friends or other like-minded artists. He says that he lives his life “through a musical lens” and looks for inspiration wherever he can find it. In Toronto, he has met many like-minded creatives through the queer dance music scene and beyond. Not long ago, he formed the collective Raven’s Vision with DJ/producer Bliptor and hip-hop artist Myst Milano. The three are great friends and a tour de force on the decks. Although the three of them make music independently, they love collaborating and helping each other with projects.
“We’re always sharing with each other the progress of our music and collaborating with each other. It’s important for all of us to individually focus on ourselves but it’s nice to have that accountability. I really value the feedback from my friends.”
As an artist, it’s important to have a support system and Casey has built one at home and internationally. During his participation in the 2016 edition of the Red Bull Music Academy, he met Oklou from France and Suicideyear from New Orleans. These encounters eventually lead to official collaborations. Last year, Casey and Oklou released a joint EP entitled “For the Beasts” and this year, Casey appeared on the track “Said and Done” from Suicideyear’s latest album “Color the Weather.” These are only two examples of Casey’s many collaborations. It just goes to show that Casey remains open, adaptable and ready to lend his talents to anyone that inspires him.
Casey hasn’t exactly followed a traditional career path to get to the point he’s at now but he’s been successful regardless. His dynamic, open-minded artistic approach proves that there is no real formula to ‘making it’ as an artist. When I ask Casey if “Nudes” marks the entrance into a new phase of his career, his response is modest and indicative of his focused mindset: “I’m not really sure. I never recognize that I’ve entered a new phase of my life until after the fact.” For Casey, it’s not necessarily about his next step, it’s about his present. Right now, he finds himself in a comfortable place, making music that he is deeply passionate about and he got here by simply following his heart.
“I’ve been blessed and privileged with some amazing opportunities that have allowed me to have this flexibility in my music and lifestyle. I think each artist finds their own path with no particular direction being the correct one. As long as you’re challenging yourself new results can come about.”
“Nudes” is the sound of Casey challenging himself, pushing his artistry to its full potential. Whether it marks a new “phase” or evolution for Casey is beside the point. This is simply where he is currently is. This is what he wants to express right now. Surely, he will continue to elevate his sound and his friends but in this very moment, Casey elevates us.
Click here to RSVP to Casey’s EP release w/ Bliptor and Myst Milano in Toronto.