The Sprouts on Vulnerability, Friendship, and Making Music

Photo by alrightbali

For the full audio version of the interview with music excerpts, head on over to my blog!

This week, I interviewed four teenagers who are way cooler than me! Jokes aside, I’m really excited to introduce you to The Sprouts: a band making waves in the local Vancouver music scene. The winners of Said the Whale’s 2020 Young Artist grant, with 6 gigs under their belt (including opening for Babe Corner), three singles on Spotify, and an impressive Instagram following, The Sprouts sat down with me (over Zoom) to talk vulnerability, friendship, and the ups and downs of making music.

Shanti, the drummer for The Sprouts, is actually a childhood friend of mine. Both of our families had summer cabins at the same lake, and we spent countless hours playing Mantracker, kick-the-can, camouflage, and building forts in the woods. The five of us (my siblings and I; Shanti and her sister) gave our group a name too: CHDLS. Why CHDLS, you ask? One initial for each of our names, and more importantly, CHDLS sounds a lot like shit-hole. Here’s a little photo of us being adorable.

I’m on the far left and Shanti is on the far right behind the couch

But that’s enough about me, let’s dive into the interview! From left to right, we have Shanti (drums), Keisia (bass), Anna (guitar and vocals), and Aylah (guitar and vocals). I am so impressed with this band’s talent and go-getter attitude.

They also had me laughing quite a bit 😉

Preliminaries: The Sprouts’ Origin Story (Almost Called Lazy Goose)

Hanna: I think my first question is, how did The Sprouts come into being? Like, how did you guys meet? How did the band form?

Aylah: Okay, I’ll take this question. So, basically, we’ve all known each other throughout our childhood — like me, Shanti, and Keisia anyway, and we’ve been friends since elementary school, so we’ve known each other a while. And then we all met and became friends with Anna in high school, and —

Keisia: I’d like to interject and say that Aylah didn’t want Anna at first, cause —

Aylah: Okay! (laughter) This is not an appropriate time! We’ve moved past that!

Keisia: I just want to throw that in your face one more time (laughs).

Aylah: Stop! (laughter) Leave me alone. Okay, anyway, so from my side of the story, this is how it went. Keisia and I hung out, and we hadn’t hung out in a really long time. And she was doing some photography stuff, so she was taking photos of me. And then — she plays bass, I play guitar — and you know when you’re a musician, you just say this to all other musician friends you have; you’re like, “Yo dude! We should start a band.” And it just never happens. Like it just doesn’t happen. But this time — it happened. And so, Keisia, and Shanti, and I started playing at Pandora’s Box and booking rehearsal studios, and practicing there. And then it didn’t really fully start until we got Shanti’s drum kit in my basement and then Anna joined. And yea, that’s The Sprouts.

Hanna: And how did you come up with the name, The Sprouts?

Shanti: That one took a bit more time (laughter). We went through a few name phases. Our first one was Lazy Goose (laughs). That was an interesting time. And then we spent many evenings brainstorming names —

Keisia: I would like to say that my favourite one, that we brainstormed, was Oral Sausage (laughter). I just don’t think we can top it.

Shanti: But okay, that was Jesus Laura backwards.

Aylah: Yea.

Keisia: Wait, why was it Jesus? Why did we do that?

Shanti: Because — I don’t know (laughs). Cause —

Aylah: Shanti and I have Jesus hands!

Keisia: Oh right! Jesus hands?

Hanna: My brain can’t even figure that out, right now.

Aylah: It doesn’t make any sense, so don’t even try (laughs).

Keisa: But then we did it backwards and then it sounded like Oral Sausage, so we thought that was really funny.

Aylah: It does sound really funny (laughs).

Shanti: And yea, I think just one evening, I forget who said The Sprouts, but I was like “Oh, that’s cute!” And then we were all like that would be a cute —

Keisia: And then I got a text saying, “Hey, do you mind if we call ourselves The Sprouts?”(laughter) and I was like, “Yea, that’s fine” (laughs).

Favourite Song: Dragging Her Down

Hanna: Do you guys have a favourite song that you’ve worked on?

Aylah: My favourite song, thinking about it right now, is probably Dragging Her Down. Just because Anna and I had the best time writing that song. It was literally a musician’s high (laughter). Sitting in my room, so exhausted from just playing guitar back and forth, and then we got something. We struck gold.

And we kept going after it, and we finally finished the song, and then we just played it for hours over and over again. We’re like: “Okay, let’s just play it again you know, cause — “

Anna: It was like the best thing we’d ever made.

Aylah: Yea, and it was like, “Woa, we can do this.” And we worked on it together which was just super fun.

Shanti: My favourite is probably also Dragging Her Down. I remember when they sent it to us — they recorded it and sent it to us in the group chat, and I was just like: Oh my god, this is so good!” (laughs). I was blown away because it actually sounded like —

Keisia: Like something you would find on like music stuff.

Shanti: Yea!

Keisia: Like a real song (laughs).

Shanti: Yea, I was so impressed!

Hanna: Yea, it’s for sure a real song (laughter).

Shanti: And playing it too is just so relaxing because it’s pretty chill. And I also love watching Anna and Aylah play this song (laughs), because at certain parts, your hands are in sync, and it’s so mesmerizing. I don’t know why, but it just looks really cool (laughs).

Aylah: Woa, that’s super cool.

Anna: Cool!

Keisia: When you guys sent that to the group chat — I think I was chilling at home — and you guys sent Dragging Her Down to the group chat, and I literally listened to it and just like cried my eyes out. And then I listened to like 6 more times and kept crying.

Anna: Yea, Dragging Her Down is really fun to play. I like that it’s like 5 minutes long which is just so unnecessary (laughter).

Aylah: We don’t give a fuck!

Anna: With two instrumentals where we just sit there and do the exact same thing.

Aylah: Yea! (laughs).

Anna: But it’s so fun.

Lonely Sad Boy Sunday (Probably the Best Story of the Interview)

Keisia: I think my actual favourite song, now that I’m thinking about it — because I forgot, because we have a lot of songs that we don’t play a lot — my favourite song is Sad Boy Sunday.

Ayla: Yesss!

Anna: Oh my god (laughs).

Ayla: Wait, okay Hanna, we need to tell you this story.

Hanna: Okay, I’m ready.

Aylah: So —

Anna: Oh, god this is bad.

Ayla: So, there’s only footage of like, one recording of us playing.

Keisia: I have it.

Aylah: Yea, at our Cafe Deux Soleil gig a while back. But basically — I don’t know when we wrote this but I was (laughs) going through a Tinder craze. Tinder and Bumble craze, I was like seeing a bunch of guys. It was just craziness. Basically, there is this one guy. Anyway, we were talking, and it was the Super Bowl. And I was like, “Oh, so are you out, like, watching the Super Bowl with the boys.” And he’s like, (mimics deep voice) “No, I’m on my couch drinking a beer, like, watching it on TV.” And I was like, “Okay, I’ll write a song about that.” And he was like: “Okay, I’ll write it and you’ll sing it.” And I was like, “Fine.” So Anna and I were together and he was sending us these horrible, rhymed verses. And we were jamming to it, and we were like, “Yea this is kinda good!” And then we wrote the chorus ourselves. And yea, we were playing our Cafe Deux Soleil gig and we had like an extra 40 minutes or something (laughs). Like we were finished our set, we were like “Thank you!” And then the lady comes up and she’s like, “Uh, you have a lot more time” (laughs). And we were like, “Fuck, okay.” And then we played that song. And it was just — it was good.

“We Don’t Work That Hard” — But It Turns Out They Do😉

Hanna: So, you guys have been pretty successful for a new band, and for a young band. What advice do you have for young people you know, making music and trying to follow their passions?

Anna: I think we got really lucky on that because we only asked for our first gig — that was it. And every other time, people DMed us or talked to us, and they were like, “Do you want to play?” Which is something that does not happen at all. So, I don’t know how that happened. We didn’t really work that hard to get gigs like most people do (laughs). Which is like a terrible thing, but it’s true. For some reason people like us, which I still can’t wrap my head around. But we didn’t do a lot of work in that area, other than trying to build our profile on Instagram and Facebook. But in terms of getting gigs, we got really, really, lucky for that somehow.

Keisia: I think also, we did ask for our first gig. But the guy who puts on most of the gigs in Vancouver, I’ve known him since I was maybe 14 because my brother’s band played a lot with him. So he always was like, “Oh you’re like a little sister.” And so when I told him, “Oh I’m in a band.” He was like, “You’re in a band now!” Like, oh my god. And so, I remember he posted something on his story, and he was like, “Anyone who wants to play on this night, DM me right now.” So, I’d sent it to the group chat, like, “Should I ask him?” And then we DMed him, and I was like, “Hey, can my band play?” And he was like, “You’re on!” That night. And we’re like (mimics shocked expression). And, yea, I feel like we really didn’t work that hard —

Hanna: Guys (laughs).

Aylah: Guys, you’re not supposed to say that (laughs)!

Anna: Okay, don’t put that part in. Don’t put that part into the interview!

Keisia: It’s just like we can’t even take credit for like —

Aylah: What!?

Keisia: Like, “Oh, we overcame, we did so much to get where we are.” We like didn’t though. And I remember after our second gig — was the second one when Haley Blais and people came to our show?

Aylah: Yea.

Keisia: The second one right? So, after that one. Chris from Peach Pit was there, and Haley Blais and Lindsay. And I remember calling Anna, and I always used to call her at night when I was walking my dog. And I remember it being like 10:30 PM, and I was like, “Anna, people like us. What the fuck? Like, why?” I don’t know how it happened, but it did, and I’m very glad.

Hanna: You guys are very humble. “We didn’t even work hard” (laughs).

Aylah: No, we did!

Hanna: I know you did (laughs).

Aylah: I’m going to come in with a counter-argument (laughter).

Shanti: Thank you, Aylah!

Hanna: Thank you (laughs).

Aylah: I know what you’re saying, and I agree we have been like, super, super lucky. But how I see it, is not that we’ve been lucky and that we don’t deserve it, because we haven’t done anything. For me, it feels like we’re meant to be doing this. Because people actually like what we’re doing, and we see it all the time because like they said, people booked our gigs for us. And we’ve gotten paid, not a lot, but we’ve gotten paid (laughs), for all of our gigs. Which is just crazy, and I think we’ve worked really, really hard, personally. But also, yea, we have been lucky. And advice, just do it. Just start a band you know? Don’t just say it, do it.

Anna: I also feel like the one other thing too, when you play music, it’s really easy to get caught up in someone else’s music. Like, I listen to shit all the time and I’m like, “Oh my god if I could make music like that, I’d die happy.” But obviously, I’m not going to, because I’m not them. And the music I turn out, I like it, but it’s not exactly what I would want to listen to. But that doesn’t matter, as long as you’re making something, it’s going to turn out. Someone’s going to like it. Someone out there is going to like it — and then if you make it you’re going to be able to change it, and learn new shit all the time, as long as you’re doing it. But when you’re just sitting on the couch, being like, “Oh woe is me. I hate making this. This is bad” — it’s not doing anything to change, and it’s not putting anything out.

Shanti: Yea, I was just going to say, I’m not a huge songwriter. For the drums, it’s a different process as opposed to songwriting. But I totally agree with Anna.

Especially with art in general, there’s this expectation that everything you make is a masterpiece and it’s amazing. But a lot of the time — and this is kinda the opposite of what we’re taught a lot of time — quantity over quality sometimes is the best way to go if you really want to refine your skills and build towards those masterpieces.

It’s just like doing it all the time and then it’ll sorta become second nature, and then you can actually build those skills from there.

The Sprouts on What Difficulties They’ve Encountered Making Music

Hanna: I was going to ask what difficulties have you guys encountered making music, but I feel like you guys are going to be like, “Oh, it was so easy” (laughs).

Aylah: No! It’s not easy, I just have to think about it for a second (laughs). Does it have to be about making music in general, or can it just be about being in a band?”

Hanna: It can be whatever you feel the answer is.

Aylah: So, being in a band with three of your really good friends, is maybe one of the best things ever, but then also hard in itself (laughs). Because if someone is being, I dunno, just like annoying or something, it’s like you don’t want to tell them because it’s your super good friend. You’re there to make music together, but you’re also there because you love spending time with each other. So, that’s a difficulty that I’ve thought of (laughs).”

Anna: Is there something you want to tell us?

Kesia: (laughs) Yea, Aylah, how come this has never come up before? (laughter)

Aylah: I just don’t talk about this stuff (laughs), I don’t know. Another thing too, personally for me, is inspiration. I mean obviously right now we’re in a very particular situation, but I have a real lack of inspiration just not being with these guys, and not being able to share my music face to face, is extremely difficult. What do you guys think?

Keisia: I think this isn’t even really a difficulty for us as a group, it was just a difficulty for me. (…) When we first started playing, I ended up indisposed for a really long time. So, we started playing, and it was really great, and we were playing a lot of music, and then I had to leave for quite a few months. So, then that was annoying because we couldn’t meet up with each other or anything, and we were just like, “Oh, okay, well it’s not going anywhere.” And then we started playing again in the summer, we added Anna, and everything got really good. And then I went indisposed again, for a little while. So, I think definitely a difficulty was just trying to be there for the band. Because I wanted to be — so bad — and I really wanted to play music with them, and sometimes life gets in the way. So, I think it was just difficult when we literally couldn’t play together when I wasn’t there. They could play together, but it was hard because I was like, “I want to be there.” But it was really nice to see the music that they came up with together. Yea, I think just the hardest part for me was being able to actually be present, and actually be there, and play music with them. And make sure that I’m in a place where I can do that. Because you’ve gotta be here if you wanna play music with your friends” (laughs). So I think, yea, just definitely trying to like be here — with them.

Hanna: For sure. Yea, it’s a balance I would imagine. Managing your own life, and then also the band life that you have together. But it seems like you guys made it through.

Aylah: Yea!

Shanti: Yes, we are so grateful for that (laughs).

Shanti: I guess this is a more personal one. But my drum set was always in Aylah’s basement (laughter). So, I couldn’t really practice on a drum kit, like on my own time. So most of my practicing at home was just playing the air drums (laughter).

Keisia: Or on garage band, babe.

Hanna: Really!

Keisia: Garage band drums (laughs).

Aylah: Yes!

Shanti: It was a bit of a struggle. I haven’t played the drums since our last practice. Which was like June (laughter). So, I’m a bit concerned about that. But hopefully, I can remember some stuff (laughs), when we get back.

It Takes Vulnerability to Make Music — And That’s Hard

How does vulnerability play into your process when you’re creating music? When you’re writing songs? Yea, does that mean anything to you guys? Vulnerability?

Aylah: Yea, for sure. Personally, I think that when you allow yourself to be the most vulnerable, I think it is when you’re allowing yourself to create the most authentic art. And when I’m writing songs — like songwriting is a coping mechanism for me — so basically all of my songs are me being vulnerable and me expressing my emotions through music. Yea, that’s a great question. I think that vulnerability is really important. What do you guys think?

Anna: I think most of our songs are just about weird things going on in our life. Me and Aylah would write songs, and it would just be about weird sad things, or how we felt. All the time, we would send each other songs and we’d just be like, “Is this about this person?” And we’d be like, “Yea” (laughs). Because it was just the weirdest little things going on and just how we felt. Almost all of our songs are just about how we feel about something or someone. Which is kinda funny, but I feel like vulnerability plays a lot into all of our music. And just playing it in front of someone, also, adds so much of a layer there.

Because it’s scary, all the time, even for people I care about, to play stuff in front of them. And then adding on to that, playing gigs and playing shows, just adds so much of that on top of a song you wrote because you were sad.

Aylah: It’s really, really hard to be vulnerable, in front of a bunch of random people that you don’t know, right? And that’s what musicians do — all the time, I think. And also, with being vulnerable too and expressing your own truth comes people being able to connect and relate to that, which is one of the most beautiful parts of music, I think.

Keisia: Yea, I have a friend (…) and she texted me one day, and she was like “I just heard Ready for a Change” — like when it came out. And she was like, “I cannot believe — It’s exactly what I needed to hear.” (…) But it’s really interesting to see how when you are open about what’s going on in your life, people are also like “Hey, me too!” And it’s like, “Oh my god, we’re all going through shit.” I think it’s a good thing for other people. Even if it’s really, really scary for you to put that out there, somebody’s going to actually find that really helpful. Like when Aylah and Anna send me their songs, it’s probably scary to put that out there, but it helps me — always — because I always like to hear their thoughts. I always hear them playing music and hear their lyrics, and I’m like, “That’s what I needed to hear. That’s so beautiful.” So, even if it’s scary somebody wants to hear it, like me.

Shanti: Yea, I agree with that. Hearing the songs that Aylah, and Anna, and Keisia write all the time, it’s just so amazing. Because it’s this portal to what they’re thinking and feeling, and I think it’s a really unique way to get your thoughts into the world.

The Sprouts Reflecting on What They’re Most Proud of as a Band

What are you guys most proud of as a band?

(laughter)

Aylah: Gotta marinate in it.

Hanna: Okay.

Shanti: As a band, I guess it’s a bit harder to say collectively. But from my point of view, I’m just proud of how far we’ve come. When we started out, I was like “Yea, sure, like, there’s no way we’re actually going to play in front of people” (laughs). And to think back at that, it’s just interesting to see how much can change and how much that we can grow together through the process, and making things, and creating music. I played the drums before, not with the intention of joining a band. I just thought it would be a good instrument to learn. And I never really envisioned myself being in a band because performing has never really been something that I’ve been drawn to. I prefer to do things in a more isolated setting. But yea, just the growth, I think.

Keisia: Yea, I think just how much we’ve — I know this sounds so cliche — like, “Oh how much we’ve all grown as people.” But it’s true because (…)

Just to see how we went from playing some covers — playing Should I Stay or Should I Go in a room where we were terrified of leaving the second door open a little bit because we thought someone would hear us (laughter), to putting ourselves out there, playing a song we learned the same day at a gig, aka Lonely Sad Boy Sunday, playing a Peach Pit cover in front of Peach Pit.

Me even putting a song out there, trying to sing. Just all of it, I don’t think I could have ever imagined this being where we are now, but I’m so happy it is. But I really did not imagine we’d be here.

Aylah: Kudos to what both of you guys said. I really, really agree. I think the proudest moment for me was when we played the Babe Corner show because that was just absolutely amazing. Peach Pit is probably one of my all-time favourite bands and we played — like we played with Chris’ girlfriend and Chris was on stage.

Keisia: And they were all watching us too!

Aylah: Yea, and they watched us — it was crazy. And just how much attention and exposure we got from Peach Pit, and how every single member of the Vancouver local music scene has been so generous to us. I’m really, really proud of that. It’s a really crazy feeling to be like, “We’re making something, and people like it,” you know?” It’s crazy to admit that, I guess. But we’ve just gotten so much attention and so much love. It’s really, really cool.

Anna: Yea, playing in front of Peach Pit was fucking sick (laughter). That was like the best moment of my fucking life. It was amazing. I messed up the entire thing, but they didn’t say anything about it. They didn’t say anything about it. So, that was great. Also, I’m just really proud of us for sticking with the band.

Keisia: Yea, because I feel like me and Anna especially, we have this thing where we’ll both start doing a hobby together and then drop it within a day. Like, remember when we were going to be runners last summer?

Anna: Yea, we did a lot —

Keisia: We do that a lot.

Anna: Yea, I’m super bad with that. Where it’s like you make a plan, you get so fucking hyped and then you’re like, “mm-mm, don’t want to do it anymore.”

Keisia: Me and Anna did skateboarding for a while and then after a few weeks we stopped doing it. We were like let’s go for runs every morning, we never did that actually (laughter). We got as far as buying running shorts actually.

Hanna: Oh, okay — far.

Kesia: We did like knitting. Did we? And stuff like that.

Aylah: I just want to say, I think that’s why we kinda work together pretty well. Because Shanti and I are very like — I don’t want to say anal —

Anna: But you said it (laughter).

Aylah: But I said it (laughs). And if you guys don’t show up, or if you’re late, and you’re not engaging or whatever, Shanti and I are going to be on you. We know that we all want to be in the band, and sometimes stuff comes up, and you guys have other stuff going on like we all do, but I think we kinda balance each other out and I think that that’s super good.

On Friendship and Supporting One Another: “And Then We All Slap Each Other In the Face”

Hanna: So you guys are friends first and then you’re a band second. So how do you guys support each other as friends?

Keisia: I don’t know. I don’t want to sound like so cliche — because I feel like everything I say is cliche these days — but it’s really true. I guess they’re cliche for a reason — oh my god that was so cliche. Oh my god (laughter). But I don’t know, I think we do support each other as friends a lot, and I think it’s made being in a band so much easier. Because before gigs, we do this compliment circle —

Hanna: Awww (laughs)

Keisia: — where we’ll just stand around each other and be like, “You’re amazing! We’re amazing! I’m proud of us! We’re great!” And then we all slap each other — in the face (laughter). So, we each slap every person in the face.

Hanna: (laughs)

Kesia: (…) If I was ever coming to practice, and I was in my pajamas feeling like absolute shit, and just sitting there like, (mimics sad expression), I always just knew that somebody would come and give me a hug, and be like, “Okay, suck it up, we’re doing practice now.” I don’t know, it just feels like a really supportive environment. I can’t even pinpoint things that we do that are supportive, but it always feels like if anybody needs anything, one of us is going to be there or all of us. And just knowing that they’re all behind you because we’ve always got each other back. Even when we don’t see each other for a while like now.

Shanti: Yea, it’s hard to put everything into words. But yea, I think just because we’ve all been through so much together, and have seen each other at different stages, that just being there throughout that whole timeline, I guess is a big part of friendship, growing — I don’t know where I’m going with this (laughs). I’m just trying to capture that aura of support and being there for each other.

Aylah: Yea, I think you’re right. I think because we’re all pretty good friends with each other, we just make the space super inviting and super understanding and safe. Practices are always at my house — I mean, not now — but you know sometimes I’ll be having a shitty day or whatever, and then everybody comes over and it’s like, “Aww great, now I have to entertain people.” But everybody understands, and usually, my bad mood will just dissipate, because

We’ll be playing a song or something, and I’ll just look around at everybody in their zone, and I’m like, “I love these people so much, and we’re making music together, and it sounds damn good.”

It’s just so, so cool. So, yea, I feel like we do a pretty good job supporting each other. We’re always there.

Keisia: Aylah, you’re about to make me cry.

Anna: I feel like tying into that vulnerability thing, sometimes you can’t really say what you feel, but listening to someone’s new song that they just wrote, you get this weird vision into their head, again. And so just also knowing them so well, you’re able to kinda deconstruct that, and then tell if they’re having a bad time, or having a great time. And so being friends is really helpful with just comfort level, in terms of playing. And also, just being able to read what’s going on, and then helping and stuff, I think.

Hanna: So even if you’re not overtly telling each other what’s going on, you have that insight when you’re reading each other’s music and vibing with each other.

Aylah: Like you can tell the vibe. The vibe will be off or it’ll be on (laughs). And we don’t necessarily need to solve the problem. But we’ve created this sacred space. And we’re all just going to forget about our issues for a little bit and just make music together.

Closing Thoughts: Thoughtful and Full of Energy

This brings us to the end of our interview, I hope you enjoyed The Sprouts’ thoughtful answers as much as I did. In past, I would include my own commentary throughout my interviews, but with this one, I thought it spoke wonderfully for itself and I didn’t want to break the flow. I’ll just give my little bit now, so it doesn’t go unsaid. Shanti, Keisia, Anna, and Aylah, I am so impressed with you guys! I’m impressed that you know so much about vulnerabilityI asked that question on a whim and I truly wasn’t expecting such insightful answers. When I was your age, I was about as vulnerable as a turtle. And yes, that’s the best anecdote I can think of right now. You guys make awesome musicI’ve been jamming to Dragging Her Down all day, and I definitely don’t think it’s too long 😉 Finally, I think you’re a great example for people everywhere to follow their passions, and just go for it.

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Recovering from a brain injury and trying to make the world a better place. Passionate about self-love.