Fri Nov 08, 2019

Like the thickened blanket of graffiti on Toronto’s back laneways, each artful burst layering on the last so can be said for Canadian alt. soul-popster Dylan Cohen’s newest video, “Alleyways”.

The visual ode to Cohen’s home base features crowd-sourced footage from Toronto residents, and proceeds from the launch party will be in support of The Laneway Project. The video was produced by members of the team behind JUNO Award-winning production house Route 11 (Grimes, Janelle Monáe, Sofi Tukker, Ria Mae) and Cohen’s classmates at the Harris Institute.

“I’ve always had a soft spot and fascination for Toronto’s laneways,” says Cohen. “It’s like the streets could be so busy and overwhelming, and then you and your friends could all hang a turn into an alleyway and have the space to yourselves.”

“The term became a metaphor in the song for ‘things that connect us all’ but are sometimes unseen.”

“Toronto is this living, breathing thing… It’s a product of all our dreams coming together to contribute to this crazy, colourful, beautiful, hopeful home for all. When that mixes together, and we all respect each other’s reasons for choosing to be here, something absolutely magical happens.

“It’s more than multiculturalism… It’s interculturalism. It’s Canada. It’s us.”

Cohen has first-hand experience of how the city can be a haven and foundation allowing people to thrive beyond their prior means.

“Toronto saved my life,” he says. “I moved here at 12 years old from a small town where I was bullied a lot for being gay.

“I came to the city with wide eyes.”

“I started writing ‘Alleyways’ years and years ago and kept adding bits and pieces of a life lived here as time went on,” Cohen says of the track. “I’d add sounds, textures, stories…

“The first line came to me while looking at the skyline of the financial district from a rooftop in Cabbagetown. ‘Town of the cabbage now homes filled with riches, under the shadows, of the massive, financial district…’ It formed the foundation for writing a song about how much the city has transformed.”

Speaking of transformation, Dylan Cohen broke onto the scene with “Clementine,” a genre-bending single straddling the world’s of rock, hip hop and soul to lyrically unearth the power of memory and trauma and how one can use it to justify destroying oneself later in life. The track was a marker in time for experimenting musically for the emerging artist, and “Clementine” is set for re-production and re-release as part of Cohen’s forthcoming debut album, Just for Tomorrow Part 1 (Fall 2020).

“Many of these songs were originally written as raps, poems and scribbled ramblings from drug-induced highs and lows,” he reflects on the new album and his years spent in active addiction. “Just for Tomorrow Part 1 unpacks that journey through the lens of gained freedom through sobriety, and redevelops the songs in a dialogue of my current life and songwriting.”

The visual for “Alleyways” is the result of Cohen’s Harris Institute audio production class voting to create a video for the track. From there, Cohen (and the classmate crew) collaborated with friend Ryan Tremblay, co-founder of JUNO Award-winning video production studio Route 11 (Grimes, Janelle Monáe, Sofi Tukker, Ria Mae).

Watch “Alleyways” here:

“Once the first cut was done, I knew the video needed more,” says Cohen. “It had me dancing and performing all over the city, but I wanted the video to represent not just my love for Toronto, but the wider Toronto community and my place in it.

“I posted online that I wanted people to send me their cell phone footage of anything shot in Toronto. People sent me videos of them dancing at festivals, biking around with friends, filming out of subway windows, skateboarding… All sorts of stuff.

“When it came together, it was like a time-capsule of Toronto at this point in history.”

“Alleyways” is available now.

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