How We Listen is an interview series where Byta interviews artists, their teams, and everyone else working in and around music about how they find, listen and experience music, new and old.
Who are you?
I’m Kyle Cunjak, a musician, photographer, and arts professional just trying to steer clear of the 9 to 5.
Where are you based?
I’m based in Atlantic Canada. Originally from New Brunswick and currently living in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Where do you work? What do you do?
I operate Forward Music Group, a management company and label collective that works with a variety of artists and provides resources and support to foster sustainable careers through composition, exhibition, and performance.
Our office is in the North End of Halifax, kitty-corner to the Marquee and Seahorse venues and dangerously close to a French bakery. We share the space with our longtime Canadian publicists, Pigeon Row, and try to maintain an open-door policy for the community if anyone wants to come in and pick our brains.
My main job, i.e. what actually pays me, is working as a session player and sideperson to a number of musicians, while also performing in bands like The Olympic Symphonium and Force Fields where I co-write.
Occasionally I’ll also do various work as a photographer, which is what I went to post-secondary school for.
What are you listening to?
Currently listening to a lot of unreleased music from friends and collaborators as we plan things out for the 2nd half of 2020.
In the office I’m usually listening to ambient or piano-based music so as to not interfere with work and keep a calm vibe. Favourites are Nils Frahm, Ahmad Jamal, willamette, Sarah Davachi, Oscar Peterson, etc…
How do you discover new music?
I actually need some new ways to discover music. Relying on the algorithms is predictable and boring these days. I haven’t found anything through that method that’s excited me in quite a while.
Radio is also a great way to hear new things. At home in the kitchen we’re often tuned to the local campus/community radio station CKDU or our national broadcaster CBC but online I’ll listen to Danish online station The Lake, BBC 6 Music, WNYC, etc…
What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services and why?
On the go I listen on my phone, usually via streaming services (downloaded though, we don’t have great data plans here in Canada), and at the office via desktop files or streaming on bluetooth speakers.
At home I listen to LPs the most but still use cassettes, CDs, and even MiniDisc sometimes. Collecting vinyl is fun and even though I’m trying not to add too much to my collection at the moment, one of my favourite pastimes is browsing through the stacks at record stores.
Where do you do most of your music listening?
Since I’m usually listening to podcasts while walking around, most of my music listening is done either at the office or at home.
I have a Pro-Ject turntable, an Aiwa cassette player (which I found on the side of the road in a garbage pile), and a Yamaha 6-CD changer (which was given to me as junk to play around with in High School and just broke last week) all going through a Yamaha tube amplifier into Signet speakers. Nothing fancy but they sound good.
How do find and listen to pre-release music?
Thankfully I have a lot of friends and collaborators that trust me with unreleased music so I don’t have to go searching too hard for it.
If I know someone has a new record coming out, I’ll drop a hint and see if they send me a pre-release link. That usually does the trick.
What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?
I was actually thinking about this recently. Unreleased music is sent via so many platforms – Dropbox (which I absolutely despise), Soundcloud streams (preferred, though not downloadable – see “data woes” above), random files that usually aren’t properly meta-tagged (a pain, but somehow less annoying than Dropbox), etc… There are advantages and disadvantages to all except Dropbox which is always a disadvantage. Did I mention I dislike Dropbox?
We get a lot of demos, which I try to at least listen to even though don’t have the capacity to respond, and they are in every format you can imagine.
When we’re sending out advance copies to industry, we’ll usually just create a Soundcloud playlist so the music is listenable but can’t easily be ripped. I’ve recently heard about this service called Byta that I need to check out though 😉
How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?
In streaming, I’ll add stuff I like to some of our various playlists like Currently Listening, Sick Beats, Chill the Fuck Out, Perfect Country Songs, etc… so I can go back and remember things I’ll inevitably forget about.
At home my vinyl is organized alphabetically and in different genres (Pop, Hip Hop, Country/Bluegrass, Jazz, Ambient/Contemporary, Soundtracks) but the CDs and cassettes are a bit of a mess unfortunately.
Do you tip other people off to new music? How?
You know the inevitable “what’s new?” question that you get when running into casual acquaintances? That’s when I try my best to slide in recommendations on new music in lieu of the weather or whatever the heck else people talk about. Try it!
Anything you want to “promote”?
Atlantic Canada punches above its weight in my opinion and I’d love for more people to be aware of all the great musicians and songwriters that are out here.
In our camp, we just announced Jennah Barry’s upcoming sophomore album, Holiday, which is really exciting and comes out in late March 2020. She has a few singles out now and there’ll also be a video in the early new year. Sarah Pagé’s debut, Dose Curves, was a recent release and helped us reach a lot of milestones this year. Extremely proud to have worked on that record.