You might remember a little piece we started called “Bands Interviewing Bands”—a way for artists to share their stories and music, but with the added benefit of being interviewed by fellow artists, rather than music journalists. In our first piece we introduced you to two singer/songwriters from different parts of the world. Today, Toronto rapper Crossword and Corpus Christi’s Leave The Former (for fans of Garbage and Imogen Heap) joined forces to ask each other the tough questions, like where to get the best tacos in Texas and how to make poutine. Check it out below.
Crossword: I have a question about your band name – where does it come from?
Leave The Former: I was going to ask you the same thing. It’s a super cliché question, but you can’t help it sometimes.
I’ve gone through a lot of personal changes the last two years. I am a natural pessimist and I wanted to change that mindset. It’s not easy being positive when you are going through a lot of things. I was writing all the music for my project during that time and I didn’t want to go as Grace Castañeda because 1.) it’s hard to pronounce and 2.) the idea was to eventually form a band (which I later decided not to do). So I figured I could name my project something that would reflect me. Leave the Former is basically me forgetting about a dark past and leaving my pessimistic ways for something more positive. I can be negative from time to time, but not as much as I used to be. Everyone seems to really like that name! Thank goodness. And Crossword? I think it really fits your music.
Crossword: Yeah, it’s really a reflection of my lyricism – I’m big on wordplay, metaphors, twisting words into multiple meanings, and all that jazz. Crossing words I suppose? I also like to think it prevents me from being boxed in – no pun intended – to a singular style or cliché. Crosswords cover all types of topics and I want my music to do the same.
LTF: That is really neat! I would have never guessed that. Lyrics are super important to me. I don’t know much about hip-hop even though I work in the music industry and should know this stuff. But from the little I’ve heard, you seem to do something a little bit different and your lyrics are pretty strong. What inspires you to create a song?
Crossword: I appreciate that – actually to add to what you said, my key motivation is originality. I’m always trying to go a bit left of the norm and bring something unique to the table. My inspirations topically really just come from what I’m feeling and what I’m interested in – whether that’s politics, love, looking out for someone or sports or otherwise – it’s got to be true to me first and foremost. When it comes to your music, is there a specific place – or person – you tend to draw most of your inspiration from?
LTF: It is really challenging being original. I try to do the same, but I think I gave the idea too much thought that I got really frustrated. I don’t let other artists influence my sound or lyrics. At least not current artists. I always draw my inspiration from what is around me. It’s never about a specific person, but a combination of different things. Current events play a big role in the stuff that I write. Even though I never post anything, I am very into politics and I read a lot of current events. It makes me sad reading about what goes on in the world, but I want to make a change and I feel we should all be informed and not think about our own personal bubble.
Do you get nervous about putting more intricate stuff out for people to hear?
Crossword: I feel you; not everyone’s gonna be vocal about it but I think most people, generally speaking, care about their communities and are getting more tapped in to world news and history today. I don’t really get nervous putting anything out – whatever the consequences of my music become I have to face them head on and my main priority is being able to back up every last lyric of anything I release. I have to believe in each song. If it’s controversial, bring it on! To be honest, it’s just as intimidating a notion of having a song that really connects with people to the point that people view you as a hero or celebrity because you impacted their lives in such a profound way, but again, it’s all part of the process and I have to be ready for that. And that’s why it’s so crucial to only put out songs I can back 100%. I may change the way I feel later on too, but at the time, that was definitely my wave.
Crossword: Have you ever put something out that you thought it might have been too personal?
LTF: I used to be vocal about my opinions in everyday life, but I always end up getting into intense arguments with people (I live in Texas) so I just put those feelings in music, which at the end of the day is good because it allows me to be more creative.
You have a lot of guts for not getting nervous. Deep down I still care a little about what people say.
“Present/Absent” was the most personal song I’ve ever put out. I almost didn’t put it on the EP. This is the only song about a single person. My mom was going through a really rough time a couple years ago and I had never seen her so sick and fragile. She is my best friend and she has always been there for me. That was the first time in my life where I couldn’t talk to her about anything because of how mentally and physically ill she was. It completely broke me. I didn’t want her to find out that song was about her, but she did because she’s a mother. I thought she would be mad at me, but it had the complete opposite effect on her. She brags about my music all the time. [laughs]
Crossword: That’s deep – and I think that’s a really good take-away from it as well. Sometimes the songs we’re most worried and nervous about – we feel that way because their power to connect is so strong and so real, and sometimes we’re afraid of it, or not being ready for it! High risk, high reward type stuff.
LTF: What’s next for Crossword?
Crossword: I’m just rounding out the promo run for my latest album, XW, which was released in April – we released a music video for “Fuck It” x “Get Faded” earlier this month and I’ve got another video or two coming up, which will take the total to four or five, depending. It’s definitely the most comprehensive project I’ve ever pushed, so in the wintertime I’ll be looking forward to reflecting on it and planning my next moves – perhaps dropping some singles here and there to test the waters and keep content coming. I’ve also always got the travel/touring bug and I’d love to spend my winter NOT in Canada with all the cold weather, so I’d love to travel for music this winter as well.
How about you? What’s next? And I also wanted to ask about the scene out in Texas – I’ve never been. Could you put me on game?
LTF: You’ve got a lot on your plate. That’s what’s up! I released Nonsense about a month and a half ago and thankfully have gotten a lot of love. I don’t have any touring plans at the moment, although that would be great. I am focusing on my hometown. The problem is that I also have a full-time job and even though it is my dream job, I don’t have a lot of energy at the end of the day.
I’ve also started writing new music, but I think I want to wait at least another year before I put anything out.
Feel free to come down to Texas during the winter! It doesn’t get cold where I’m from. Corpus Christi isn’t Austin, so the music scene isn’t as big, but that means it isn’t oversaturated. I prefer being in a city where I can stick out if I am talented than in a city that is going to ignore me because there is just too much. The only problem I have with CC at the moment is that there aren’t enough girls playing music, at least none that everyone knows, which is why I’m sticking around. I want to get more girls playing music and rock stages.
I shouldn’t even ask about Toronto. I know some big record labels are there. Universal, for example.
Crossword: Toronto’s weird because, yes, all the labels are stationed there for Canada, but we also get everyone from across the country coming to Toronto to try to make it, so the saturation is real. It’s kind of like New York and L.A. combined but the Canadian version. So for an independent artist like myself, I have no chance if I just stay in the city – I’ve got to get out and build a buzz from the outside in. Toronto’s always been like that, but I suppose all major markets are to a degree.
LTF: I’ve heard that about Toronto. I was there in 2009 and absolutely loved it. But music-wise, I see where you’re coming from. At least you’ve realized that you have to be constantly moving and running around. Some artists think that the best thing is to move to LA/NYC/London/Toronto and although it is possible to breakout, it’s going to be 10x harder. I do want to go back to Canada even just for a few days.
Crossword: For sure, it’s a great place to visit and tour! And I’ll stand by this – it’s also a great place to cut your teeth musically. The positive about oversaturation and competition is that it tends to make artists step their game up. You might not be able to find as good a taco up here though. But we do have poutine!
LTF: Right. You don’t want to seem like a mediocre artist to people. Survival of the fittest.
Crossword: Most definitely!
LTF: You will never get better tacos than in Texas. Possibly L.A. You know I’ve never had poutine!
Crossword: Bet! I need to try some real Texas tacos. What’s the spot out in CC? And poutine is amazing. It’ll be a life-altering experience once you try it.
LTF: Oh man. I could not even start with taco places in CC. Taqueria Jalisco for sure. I always go there with the family because my parents are friends with the owners. Then there is another one called Acapulco. Just as good. It’s authentic Mexican food. Of course there is always the Texan twist. No one will ever go hungry here. Can you make poutine?
Crossword: The spots you know the owners are always the best. Maybe it’s even just the conversation before and after that makes the food taste that much better, I dunno! That should be a campaign though – Get To Know Your Local Chef or something like that. It’s a work in progress.
As for poutine, real talk, I actually used to work at a poutine shop. I would freestyle for tips, no word of a lie. Haven’t tried making it at home, but I’m sure I could do it with a bit of practice. It’s that greasy goodness you need a deep fryer for though!
LTF: So true! We always get treated so nicely and get extra chips or extra coffee. It’s like eating at home.
Freestyling for tips? THAT IS SO GENIUS! If you do that here, you will probably make it on the news and get a lot of gigs.
Send on a recipe when you’ve nailed it. I’d love to try it.
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Bands Interviewing Bands: Crossword & Leave The Former. Photo credit: Farooq Ahmed on Crossword (left) Leave the Former on Leave the Former (right)