100% Bambii: the Toronto club legend launching her new phase

Photographer: Othello Grey. Stylist: Summer Ruddock Ellis. MUA: Ms.Myles Bryan-Murray. Hair: Jodesja Williams

We quiz the DJ-turned-artist about free raves, peach cobbler and working with Kelela.

Bambii isn’t feeling on top form right now. She’s come down with a nasty bout of what she calls Canadian flu”, which has had her knocking back every kind of herbal remedy she can get her hands on.

I will drink or eat anything to feel better,” she says, Zooming in from her home in Toronto. Ginger tea, oregano oil, spending lots of time in the shower. I’ve been doing it all. Being this sick is just so… humbling. I’m sitting in my room right now like, wow!”

But in spite of this, there’s much to celebrate: namely the release of Bambii’s new single, RIDE WITH ME, which sees her stepping out from behind the DJ booth and into a new role as a singer-songwriter with silky vocals and a bass-heavy sound.

Bambii started DJing when she was 23. She launched the Toronto queer clubnight Jerk over seven years ago, before travelling across the world as the tour DJ for the fearless rapper Mykki Blanco.

I started Jerk because I had to create my own platform,” she continues. I wasn’t in a place where I think that people would have booked me on their own. It ended up catapulting me in front of a lot of eyes – that and the Mykki Blanco tour allowed me to move on to solo stuff.”

RIDE WITH ME was put together alongside a batch of currently unreleased, unnamed tracks
during an artist’s residency in the Cayman Islands. The songs were influenced by the fact Bambii caught Covid as soon as she landed. Instead of spending a couple of weeks soaking in the sunshine and working towards her new project between seaside dips, she was locked up in her hotel room the entire time.

I wasn’t allowed to leave for 13 days. I wasn’t even allowed to go take a walk!” she says. Every time I looked out the window, I could see the beach and everyone partying. It was insane. I couldn’t even go out into the empty hallway.”

All this time spent looking inward influenced the project immeasurably, and Bambii is proud of the outcome. Where her previous work was more club-driven, these songs are more emotional, reflective and romantic. It’s a new sense of musicality,” as she puts it. I think everyone’s gonna hear something from me that feels a bit more expansive melodically.”

10% Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?

I was born and raised in Toronto, and I’m still based here but I travel a lot for work, which sometimes makes it feel like I don’t even live here all the time.

20% What kinds of emotions and experiences influence your work?

I pull a lot of inspiration from the club, and the relationships that only seem to exist in that alternate dimension: the outfits, the energy. A lot of my driving juice to make things comes from that space. A lot of people see the club as transient or superficial, but I really see it as a farmer’s escape – for marginalised communities, youth, and so many different kinds of people. It’s a microcosm for how you navigate your community.

30% If you were cooking to impress someone, what would you make?

That would stress me out. I think the thing I would focus on is dessert, like making a peach cobbler or pineapple upside down cake from scratch. Those are the last couple of things I made that really turned some heads.

40% What’s a piece of advice that changed your life, if you can think of one?

I think recently, being around particular people has been pretty formative for me, and a signal for me to keep going. Last summer, I got to work on a track with Kelela. The way that she navigates music, her politics and her ideas have all been really inspirational. It’s helped me find the motivation to expand on things that previously would have made me intimidated.

50% If you ruled the world for a day, what would go down?

A rave. That’s it. Free raves in every single city.

60% What’s a bad habit you wish you could kick?

Screen time. It’s ruining our lives!

70% Love, like, hate?

Right now, I’m so sick that I just love breathing again! But I love my girlfriend. I like riding my bike and listening to music on a cool summer’s evening. I hate malicious gossip.

80% How did I celebrate your last birthday?

I was in the Cayman Islands. Quarantined!

90% If you could go back in time to watch an iconic music act perform, who would it be?

Etta James.

100% What can artists do to help save the world?

I think they can start by directing their platforms towards real life issues, hoarding less wealth and focusing on being more equitable.

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