Interview with Sargeant X Comrade (Sled Island 2024)

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Sargeant x Comrade performing at The Palace Theatre on Friday, June 21 2024.

Local duo Sargeant x Comrade discuss performing at this year’s Sled Island and past events. They talk about their most recent album “Lo Fi Future”, the process of producing the album, their Record Label “Mo Gravy Records”, and a few projects they have been working on and will be coming soon.

Sergeant x Comrade performed at 8:00 p.m. on Friday June 21 at The Palace Theatre.

Special thank you to Take Aim Media for organizing the Sled Island 2024 Interviews, and I Love You Coffee Shop for hosting us.


Kaamil Kareemi: So I guess first things first is, is this your guys’ first Sled Island? For anybody who’s wondering? And on top of that is who is Sergeant x Comrade? For anybody who may be unaware.

Yolanda Sargeant (“Sargeant”): First and foremost, this isn’t our first Sled Island. We’ve played multiple Sled Islands. Sled Island is a fun festival, so it’s good to be a part of a local festival. As far as Sergeant x Comrade. We’re just some cats that live here that have dropped three albums, nominated for the Polaris, won a few Western Canadian Music Awards, as well as some Calgary awards, and we’re just making music. 

Evgeniy Bykovets (“Comrade”): Yeah, yeah.

Kaamil Kareemi: Anything you want to add on top of that? Or no, 

Evgeniy Bykovets: Nope.

Kaamil Kareemi: Fair enough. So yeah, you guys mentioned. You guys have done Sled Island before. You guys are a big part of the Calgary music scene. You guys did East Town Get Down recently as well. So I wanted to talk a little bit about kind of Hip hop, R&B, Lo Fi, those are genres that you guys’ music kind of falls under, if you want to label genres. But I was kind of curious about your guys’ experience of kind of being in a place like Calgary and creating music that may not match with the kind of vibe that people expect coming out of Calgary. And we’d love to get both of your thoughts on it, and I guess starting over here.

Evgeniy Bykovets: Yeah, I don’t know. I think we all kind of, as artists, live in our own little bubbles. So it’s like, whatever the vibe is in that bubble is what the vibe is. And it’s like, if you’re living over here, I mean, maybe it doesn’t match up too much with a lot of the stuff that’s out there, but in the same way, it’s just like, I don’t know, you’re just in your own bubble with your own vibe, and then you put it out there, and then some people dig it, some people don’t, I’m not sure.

Kaamil Kareemi: Fair enough.

Yolanda Sargeant: Yeah, I would agree with what he said. I think that regardless where you are as an artist, you’re gonna be within that bubble. And some places there’s more of an air for that particular bubble, but it’s kind of cool to be in a spot that doesn’t necessarily adhere to that, because then you’re kind of like doing your own thing in your own lane, and it actually allows you to be even more creative, because you’re not aiming for the status quo, and it probably stands out more too.

Kaamil Kareemi: Great points that you made there is this kind of that bubble that exists when you’re in that Hip hop scene here in Calgary. How have you found that Calgary audiences respond to hip hop music? Or do you find it’s kind of the same kind of audiences you’re seeing at shows? Or do you think it’s kind of adaptive, and how do festivals like this help with that?

Evgeniy Bykovets: Yeah, I don’t know it’s definitely there’s like, the same people in the same scenes and stuff. We kind of, we kind of cross some of those scenes, right? Like, because it’s not just, we don’t really just do hip hop, and hip hop’s just a part of what we do, because it’s more like Soul, I would say, and like Neo Soul and Lo Fi Soul, which is something we’ve been trying to push. But, yeah, I don’t know, man, it’s, it’s interesting I guess that Calgary has definitely changed with the Hip hop scene. Sorry, man, I don’t know where I was going with that.

Yolanda Sargeant: I think that as far as like hip hop, like hip hop speaks volumes in Calgary, because if you look at the Calgary Stampede, it’s like, it’s basically like a hip hop festival now, because they bring all the old school hip hop people. So it’s not that Calgary doesn’t like hip hop. It’s like, Calgary’s down for hip hop, but it’s just in in the way in which it’s packaged, rather than anything else. I would also say that, yeah, there are lots of people who are in the scene. And a lot of the people who are in the scene, like, they’re like staples of the scene, like, there are also artists within that scene. I do see a lot more people, new faces coming out, and I think that’s just like the coming of age story too. Like people moving here, or people finally turning 18. Then they’re allowed to go to these different types of shows.

Kaamil Kareemi: No, I appreciate you guys coming down to chat with me. I wanted to chat a little bit about your guys’ most recent release, “Lo Fi Future”. I was a massive fan of the album, and what was the kind of process like producing that? And how did it differ as you guys have kind of grown together as artists from previous albums?

Evgeniy Bykovets: Yeah, I think, well, it was different because it was more of a loose approach to it, like, where we went into the National Music Centre there we had like a week to record the whole album, and we went in there with, like, nothing was prepared. It was just like, kind of like on the fly, and we just threw ideas together and were accompanied by really talented musicians that allowed us to be in that position where we can just, like, play and mess around and have something cool come out of it. So that’s kind of that was like, the main difference was that it was just, in a way, we put ourselves in a box with certain restrictions and a certain approach to the project, and then and then just to see what comes out of it. And then it’s like, for fun, it was like a retro-future theme. So it was like, You know what people in the past kind of imagine the future to be that, sort of like the whole vibe of the project. So it was, it was like setting parameters to the project, and like, putting yourself in a box, and it’s ‘okay, this is the theme we got this much time’. And like, ‘let’s just see what happens’, kind of thing so, and that was the main approach.

Kaamil Kareemi: And then lyrically, was it kind of different in terms of how you had to write things, probably a little bit more, maybe, maybe less time to write things, guessing maybe I don’t know.

Yolanda Sargeant: I think that a lot of the stuff just came together. Because I think that when you’re riding that energy of just being on the fly or not really thinking as hard about what it is that you want to say, you kind of just like say what you need to say. Also with this album, we were also able to have a residency at Arts Commons. So we were TD Incubators, and the whole theme that we had was Lo Fi Future. So we were able to choose a cohort of sorry, cohort. I’m going to start that sentence again so you can cut it. So we were able to choose a cohort of 20 artists of all different disciplines, and then we curated the space within Arts Commons. And then each quarter, we had a show. And one of the songs off the album, “Travelling in Space”, was the theme song for the sitcom, and I was basically a talk show host, and he was the the pilot/DJ, and we would travel to different planets, all the while interviewing people, playing music, that sort of stuff. So it was pretty fun.

Evgeniy Bykovets: Yeah, like, what’s that? I don’t know what you said. Okay, yeah, no, sorry, just, just, yeah, yeah. Basically what it was, yeah, is that, like the project then kind of evolved into this residency, which is what she’s talking about at Arts Commons, and then, like, out of that was born a whole new thing, and, like, more art came out of it, in terms of that was beyond the music part of it. So we were able to like. We had this variety talk show which was also themed. So that theme translated from that album into like, this like variety talk show where we brought on artists of all different disciplines. We like, got to work with them, got to curate art, got to present them in front of an audience, and like to talk about their work. So it was like, it became a very a thing that was like, entrenched within, like, the local arts community, and it was super cool and wicked. So it was like, I guess maybe the point is, like, you never know where one thing can, yeah, can take you.

Kaamil Kareemi: I guess this is a bit of a closed end question, but also may expand a little bit. But would you consider “Lo Fi Future” a concept album. Would you label it as such, or would you kind of just leave it as its own thing? Because I know people like the labels of a concept album, so-

Yolanda Sargeant: I would say it’s a little bit of both. I would say it’s a concept album in a sense, in the in the way it was created. It was a concept. And then, on the other hand, it’s really whatever the listener wants it to be to them.

Evgeniy Bykovets: Yeah, I would say it’s definitely a concept album. I don’t know what’s wrong with concept albums. It’s like one of the inspirations for the album was like, I would think, like, oh, what’s some cool sci fi music from the past? Like, one of the inspirations was “Deltron 3030” which is, like, definitely a concept album. And it’s like, super cool project. So, yeah, nothing wrong with concept albums.

Kaamil Kareemi: Love Del, yeah, love concept albums. So I was just curious. And honestly, now that you mention it, like, I’ve listened to the album through and I never really thought of it as a concept album, I guess, like, like Yolanda’s mentioning is, I very much took it as kind of just its own album. But now that you mentioned it’s a concept album, it’s like, kind of playing through my head. Playing through my head. And I’m like, ‘You’re right, like, it does have that kind of like flow to it between tracks’. Sorry, I’m waxing lyrical about things. I shouldn’t digress-

Yolanda Sargeant: That’s okay.I like to I like to see it. I like to see it. 

Evgeniy Bykovets: You just realized.

Yolanda Sargeant: I just realized it’s a concept album. This whole time I was just-

Kaamil Kareemi: We’re all making discoveries. So let’s get back to Sled Island and performing during Sled Island and in Calgary, you guys are performing on the Friday night. Yeah, at Palace opening up. You got JayWop after you, and then Mick Jenkins, probably one of the bigger shows that’s going to be happening during Sled Island. How are you guys feeling about kind of opening up in that? And I mean, I guess out of curiosity, are you going to be sticking around for the Mick Jenkins and JayWop shows?

Yolanda Sargeant: I feel good about opening up for these acts. It’s pretty cool that we’re the only local act that’s on the bill, so that’s special in itself. And, yeah, it’s gonna be a great show. I’m gonna stick around to see the other acts. Also, it’s always nice when you want to see an artist perform, and then you find out that you’re on the same bill as them.

Kaamil Kareemi: Any different thoughts on kind of opening up for those acts or?

Evgeniy Bykovets: Oh yeah, no, it’s cool. I don’t know my thoughts are, it’s fun, and I’m totally excited to see all the different acts that are on on the Sled Island roster this year. And I think it’s a part of the festival is you get to, like, discover new bands and stuff. So I’m just looking forward to just hanging out and checking out the sights and sounds. You know.

Yolanda Sargeant: The other thing that I think is pretty cool is the fact that JayWop is also from the United States, and he’s opening for Mick Jenkins in Canada. So it’s kind of like a cool thing, how it all just gets in the mix.

Kaamil Kareemi: Absolutely yeah, I completely agree. No, it’s it’s really cool. Like you mentioned, being the only kind of local act on that bill. It’s awesome. Kind of on the topic of slight Island, you mentioned there is a really, really good roster, a really good kind of lineup this year, lot of hip hop, lot of Soul, lot of R&B. I think that’s something that I can’t say it’s lacking from slight Island ever, but it feels like it’s kind of more fleshed out this year. Is there any acts that you guys are kind of going to try to go see outside of your guys’s own performances? Or you’re excited to see coming into town?

Yolanda Sargeant: I’m excited to see Kue Varo and The Only Hopes. She’s one of my favourite artists in the city and one of my best friends, and she rules, so you should check her out. Her voice is like an angel.

Kaamil Kareemi: Anyone you want to see?

Evgeniy Bykovets: I don’t know, man, I’m kind of, I don’t know a lot of the bands that are on the bill. Yeah, let me, let me see who’s on. I don’t, like, honestly, like, I said the bubble thing, man, I’ve been inside my own bubble, and I don’t know about people using

Kaamil Kareemi: You’re so focused on kind of creating your music, you don’t really look outside as much maybe?

Evgeniy Bykovets: Yeah, no. I mean, I kind of wish I listened to more stuff. Brat Boy, that’s the one you like? Okay, yeah, honestly, I don’t know a lot of these guys, but I’m looking forward to discovering new things. That’s what, that’s what this whole thing is all about. Anyways, so I’m not too stressed about not knowing who these people are.

Kaamil Kareemi: Well said, yeah, that’s a fun part of the festival is just going to whatever show, seeing who’s playing and vibing with it or going somewhere else.

Yolanda Sargeant: Yeah. And the other cool thing about Sled Island also is like going to different shows, like being able to connect with like the local artists as well as the artists that are from out of town. So it definitely builds and fosters more of a musical community within Calgary, which is awesome.

Kaamil Kareemi: Yeah I love that, so we’ve been chatting for around 20 minutes, maybe less, but yeah, I mean, I was gonna probably dive a little bit deeper into your guys’s kind of production process, because I am just a little bit of a nerd for those kinds of things, personally speaking. So in terms of producing a song, let’s say, Does it start off with the beat? Does it start off with a kind of idea for how that, how that song is going to kind of format? Is it more so just kind of, you’re producing beats and then whatever Yolanda feels like she can go on top of she does. How do you guys approach it? I’m curious.

Evgeniy Bykovets: Yeah, it goes, I guess, different ways, but the main way is just like to catch the vibe. You gotta if there’s a vibe that’s being created. So, yeah, I think, I think the way it starts is you just got to catch a vibe. And a lot of the production we’ve been doing lately, it’s just been not just like, you know, myself solo, trying to produce. It’s like sitting down with, like, a bunch of musicians and just trying to, like, see where we can take it, and then that kind of creates the framework. And then from there, Yolanda gets on the jams that she likes kind of thing.

Kaamil Kareemi: Fair enough. So, yeah, I know I was kind of curious about, like, the kind of songwriting process, and I know everybody’s process is very different, so you don’t have to go into too much detail, but I was curious about, when you get maybe a batch of beats sent over to you, you’re able to kind of sit there and listen to some beats. Is there a certain kind of thing that you’re looking for with the music, or is there a certain part of the songs or instrumentals that kind of catch your ear? And how do you kind of adapt your lyricism to different styles, like hip hop, R & B, soul, Lo Fi. Is it hard to adapt between those?

Yolanda Sargeant: I don’t really think it’s a matter of adapting. It’s a matter of like, feeling like it’s instinctive, and if it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t.

Yolanda Sargeant: Because when there’s a song, I don’t approach it like, oh yeah, like, this is a hip hop song. These are all the hip hop songs I’ve heard before. So this is what I think it should sound like. This is the pocket in which it should sound like. It’s just kind of like, I just go with the feeling of the instrumental and then the words come.

Kaamil Kareemi: Fair enough. So I’m not gonna keep you guys much longer here. I really appreciate you guys taking the time out and coming down here for this interview. The last kind of question I have is just kind of next steps. You know, next plans. Is there an album coming out anytime soon that you guys wanted to talk about, any work that you guys got coming up, other than the festival stuff?

Evgeniy Bykovets: Yeah, we got lots of stuff coming. Um, what should we talk about? The the reggae stuff? Should we Ninja Star? We got Ninja Star coming. We got a reggae album coming with this artist, Taj Weekes out of New York. We got Ninja Star is, like, it’s another, almost like a concept thing where, but it’s all ninjas, and then, yeah, we’re still plugging away on our other like regular or, I don’t know how you would like our main main album, but we’re not ready to drop that one yet. I think these other ones are going to come before that. But then there’s also, we’re working finishing our bass player, Marvin. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Marvin “The Fly”. Yeah. So he passed away last year, and he had an album that he was working on. It’s all like, he was like a super funk type of guy. So we got this kind of, like funk soul album from Marvin that we’re working on finishing that’s going to be super wicked. So there’s a lot of stuff, uh. Uh, that’s gonna get dropped here then the next year, probably or so.

Kaamil Kareemi: Great. Well, selfishly speaking, I’m looking forward to playing it on my show. 

Evgeniy Bykovets: Yeah right on.

Kaamil Kareemi: Yeah. Is there anything you guys want to mention before I let you guys peel out for the rest of the day? Any things you guys wanted to promote, anything you guys want to talk about Whatever? 

Yolanda Sargeant: Yeah. So we do have our own record label. It’s called “Mo Gravy Records”. We released a few projects. So we released butter breath by dirty sample, which is a cool instrumental album. And then we’ve also released a few singles for Bobby Henderson, and we look forward to releasing more tracks in the near future from other artists within the framework of our city.

Evgeniy Bykovets: Yeah, no, just wanted to plug the record label and that, like all the projects I just mentioned, and a whole bunch more we’re going to be dropping on that, and we’re just trying to figure everything out to kind of make it as as good, good of a kind of curator for artists as possible, in terms of, like, just trying to hook up all the stuff in the background so that we can, we can drop all these projects in, like, a good way. But, yeah, that’s we just wanted to plug that and say that we got a bunch of stuff coming, and people should keep an eye out. “Mo Gravy Records”, we’ll probably have some cool shows and stuff that we’re gonna be putting on and stuff too. 

Kaamil Kareemi: So amazing. Amazing again. Thank you guys so much for coming in today. I really appreciate you guys taking the time out to chat with us. I mean, I’m sure this is not the last that CJSW will be reaching out to Sargeant x Comrade, but I really do appreciate it. And yeah, best of luck with you guys performance on Friday. No problem.

Yolanda Sargeant: Yeah, thanks so much for having us. We look forward to crossing paths with you again. Hopefully it doesn’t take Sled Island for that to happen.

Evgeniy Bykovets: Listen to CJSW with “The Abominable Kaamil”. There you go, it’s a plug.

Kaamil Kareemi: I’m using that on my show.

Evgeniy Bykovets: Hell yeah.