After seven years of painting the town, Synonym Art Consultation is turning its creative energy toward the music industry.
The Winnipeg art collective — founded by Chloe Chafe and Andrew Eastman and known for its annual Wall to Wall Mural Festival — launches a new arm of its business this weekend called Synonym Sound. The venture is designed to help musicians develop their visual brand by turning music videos, live events and marketing materials into fine art productions.
Image is everything in the social media era, Chafe says.
"With so much digital content, it’s kind of easy for music videos or songs to fall by the wayside — or even art exhibitions for that matter. We’re just ingesting so much," she says. "(A musician) can have the best sounds in the world, but we live in an age where your visual identity can set you apart from the rest."
While the Synonym Sound banner officially launches tonight with a concert and art party featuring Vancouver beatboxer Shamik, music has been part of the business model since Day 1.
"We’ve been working with artists and musicians for a long time, but this is just a specific division where we can funnel all of our music programming," Chafe says.
She and Eastman have been hiring bands and DJs to play at Synonym art shows since 2012 and have been been dabbling in music-video production for the last few years. They’ve collaborated on videos for Icelandic hip-hop group Cyber and Winnipeg artists 3Peat, Marisolle Negash and Red Moon Road.
Synonym also helped design the esthetic for the launch of singer-songwriter Begonia’s debut album Fear, which included a bright and quirky album trailer and an equally colourful listening party event at the Tallest Poppy.
"Begonia (a.k.a. Alexa Dirks) is a great example of an artist who has really devoted so much of her practice to her visual identity and I think it’s given people a real way to connect to her," Chafe says of the Winnipeg performer.
Synonym Sound works with set designers, makeup artists, videographers and lighting specialists to create visual elements that can be applied to a music video, social media content or a live event. This approach bridges the gap between musicians and visual artists and creates common ground for fans of both mediums.
"Having a consistent esthetic all the way through, we’re also able to have folks that have, say, never listened to rap music, but love the fine art of that set designer," Chafe says. "They’re coming for the artists and then experiencing music they’ve never seen."
As one of Synonym’s resident DJs, Anthony Sannie has experienced this phenomenon first-hand.
"Tapping in to their audience is really cool," he says. "Whenever you’re partnering with a platform that has such a wide breadth, in this city at least, you automatically open yourself up to new listeners and eyes."
Sannie is a member of Winnipeg hip-hop group the Lytics and performs as a solo artist under the name Anthony OKS. He has partnered with Synonym Sound to launch his new EP, Take Time, at the Tallest Poppy on Saturday.
While he doesn’t want to spill the beans on the event’s esthetic, Sannie says the venue and staging will be a good fit for the six-track album’s intimate subject matter.
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"It’s kind of like a coming-to-age project, where I’m touching on a lot of personal things, I’m reminiscing a lot and I’m basically packaging my past up into a ball," he says.
The next Synonym Sound event is a behind-the-scenes look at a music video shoot for francophone artist Rayannah, via Instagram on April 7.
Moving ahead, the curators are looking forward to working with more international acts and will be paying close attention to up-and-comers in the western Canadian music scene, as well as women and LGBTTQ+ artists.
"We really want to make sure that we are lifting up artists that are traditionally underrepresented," Chafe says. "I am most excited about the new collaborations… and the new artists that we’re going to be able to bring in because of this."
Eva Wasney Arts Reporter
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.