Launched last year by Sydney Blu and Rebekah, 23by23 is an initiative that aims to encourage labels to increase the proportion of female artists on their roster.
Part of that initiative was setting up a number of remix competitions with various respected labels, the latest of which sees Joyce Muniz feat. Demetrius back on Poker Flat with new versions of her 2020 single What’s Your Name, from SWAH, BLU 9 and Esther Benoit.
Hailing from Toronto, Esther Benoit came out on the local scene mixing a combination of minimal, deep and tech house: ranging from light, funky and playful to shamelessly deep and dirty.
Connect with Esther Benoit on Soundcloud
Thanks for talking to us today – how’s the year been treating you so far?
Thank you so much for having this conversation with me!
It’s been fantastic so far. I’ve had the privilege of playing at exciting new venues and I’m really excited about the upcoming release of my remix of Joyce Muniz’s track “What’s Your Name” Feat. Demetrius on Poker Flat Recordings – it’s definitely going to be a highlight of the year.
Most importantly, I’ve been feeling really inspired, which is a blessing.
First of all, we want to get to know you “from the beginning”. How did your history with music begin?
Music has always been central in my life, in various forms. My family tells me I was singing before I learned how to talk. Born into a family of musicians, I was lucky enough to grow up playing the piano, taking vocal lessons, joining choirs and performing on stage.
Like a lot of people, I was feeling pretty lost in my early twenties and found myself partying a lot. One night, some friends brought me to the iconic club, Stereo, in Montreal, where I had my first real experience with electronic music. I was instantly hooked and completely immersed myself in Montreal’s minimal-techno underground scene as I learned to DJ, with the help of some new DJ friends. My first gig was at a dingy basement club where everyone knew each other – it was magical – and it sparked a love affair with DJ’ing. A couple of years later I moved to Toronto where I started to expand my network and knowledge, and eventually started to delve into production.
Toronto is regularly named as one of the best places to live in the world – as a local, do you agree? If so, what is it about the city that appeals to you?
I personally think the idea of “best places to live” is really subjective. There are so many incredible cities across the world, which have so many different things to offer.
I’ve been in Toronto now for 12 years, and it’s been really good for me. My favourite thing about this city is the multiculturalism; it’s amazing to live in a place that exposes you to so much culture, language and diversity. It’s a fantastic catalyst for creating art and inspiration.
The other thing about Toronto is that so many creatives move here and try to make it. I think this has the effect of pushing artists to put out the best possible work and to keep elevating their art. Everyone’s trying to make their mark, so the result is an abundance of fantastic art and incredible music. It’s inspiring and motivating.
I’m also eternally in love with Montreal, where I’m originally from and had my electronic music “coming of age”. It’s a totally different scene even though it’s only 5 hours away. If you’re visiting from Europe, you should check out both cities.
Tell us how you became involved in the 23by23 remix series.
I remember seeing a post on my socials about the launch of the initiative, and I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of it. The platform was super accessible and provided a great forum to connect with a community of women and non-binary producers and artists, which is something I had been lacking. I submitted to a few of their challenges, but I was most excited about the Joyce Muniz Feat. Demetrius stems because I absolutely loved the vocal. I’m really grateful to Sydney Blu for leading this initiative and the opportunities it provides.
How important do you think campaigns that encourage and support women in electronic music are?
I think it’s absolutely essential. There are so many incredibly talented women and non-binary artists in electronic music, yet a disproportionally small percentage of these artists are being included in lineups and signed to labels. And on the flip side, so many of the women that have really broken through have to deal with online harassment and comments insinuating that the only reason they are successful is because of their looks.
We have so much value, insight and skills to offer, so visibility is really important because it shows girls and women that it’s possible to occupy these spaces purely based on talent, passion and hard work.
I think it’s also important for fans and party-goers to see themselves represented behind the decks. I can’t tell you how often I’ve had women come up to me after a set and express how excited they were that the DJ was a woman. I think it helps make dance and party spaces feel safer and more inclusive.
We have a ways to go, but I’m really optimistic and encouraged by the growing presence of women in the scene.
What does your current studio set up look like? Lots of hardware, or are you mainly ‘out of the box’ type producers?
I’ve resisted the temptation to collect a lot of hardware, at least for now. I’m a bit of a minimalist in that I like to try and find the full potential out of the tools I already have before adding new toys. As a classically-trained musician, it was about finding a deep appreciation for the instrument, exploring its depth, mastering it and seeing how much you could do with it. So, I guess I’ve naturally carried that into my production approach.
I absolutely love sampling and transforming/repurposing existing sounds, so I rely heavily on Ableton paired with my AKAI MPK keyboard. With my background in piano, I found the keyboard to be a really intuitive instrument for production. The possibilities of a DAW, keyboard and mic are almost endless.
That said, I definitely have my eye on some new hardware, so I’m hoping to expand my studio soon. Evolution and growth are key as an artist and I’m looking forward to incorporating new tools and learning new skills so I can push my creativity forward.
What should we be looking out for from you in the next few months?
I’m of course really looking forward to the release of my remix on Poker Flat Recordings this month. I’ve also got some exciting summer bookings here in Canada that are going to be a lot of fun. Otherwise, my priority this summer is to finish some original tracks that I’m working on.
As an artist, it’s important for me to expose myself to the world and new experiences through travelling, so I really just want to make music and travel as much as possible. I’m hungry to get back to Berlin, one of my favourite cities, whose history of underground art makes it an incredibly inspiring place to be. I’d love to connect with more artists there.
What is the best advice you ever received as an artist?
“Do what you love and have fun.” A few different people have said this to me and I try to keep my approach rooted in this. I think a lot of us are perfectionists and put a lot of pressure on ourselves, but what’s the point if you’re not having fun? Of course, it’s important to take things seriously and put your best foot forward, but music is joy, so the process should be joyful!
Each person can experience music differently, and music is an expression, so I think the most precious thing we can do as artists is to make and play the music that we love. When you just follow what you love and are truly genuine in your art, that’s where the magic happens.
Anything else you’d like to tell us…?
I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to do what I love, make and play music, and share it on a worldwide platform.
Thank you so much for chatting with me.