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SaintWoods, Montreal's Tastemakers

By Connie Chan

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Photography courtesy of Yani Loafa

Nathan Gannage and Zach Macklovitch have always been a huge influence on Montreal’s electronic music nightlife. After creating SaintWoods, it quickly became one of the most popular online blogs and event promotion companies in the East Coast. From bringing in international acts to the city to selling out events with local DJs, SaintWoods is no longer just a promotion company. Today, Nathan and Zach are also venue owners, talent bookers and run an artist management. Before the guys headed off to WMC, THUMP Canada had a chance to catch up with the two over a cozy Skype call.

THUMP: So, tell us how you got into creating SaintWoods.
Nathan: We always knew we wanted to run events and be a multifaceted company, but at the time we were a lot younger and didn’t know what we wanted to do. We wanted to throw parties, so that’s how we started. We figured we should have a website and music blog because Montreal was already experiencing electro when the genre started coming out in 2006. It was the city that could really get things going with shows. That’s when we decided to bring electronic sounds to the college market. We brought in local DJs who were playing newer sounds, then DJs from New York like Flosstradamus noticed us, so we brought them over here. Afterwards we decided to expand outside the college market to a general audience who knew this music. Then we fused the two scenes together. The name SaintWoods came from our neighbourhood, Saint Clair and Oakwood, where our friends grew up. They called it SaintWoods, and it just stuck.

Zach: We love what we do. Independent electronic music promoters are only now starting to become a thing. We just wanted to make sure we could do it well into the future and not just in college.

Photography courtesy of KarelChladek.com.

SaintWoods was mainly responsible for bringing in some of the biggest acts in electro back in 2008 to 2010 with Dim Mak and the Ed Banger crew. How does it feel to see that genre grow into a big festival circuit?
N: A lot of those guys who were big when they were electro didn’t make the jump when the genre started to transform. It’s weird because guys like Crookers, The Bloody Beetroots and MSTRKRFT aren’t really relevant anymore, but they were ahead of the curve. As electronic music got more popular, the genre started to morph on a daily basis. That’s the fun thing about this scene. We like to find the next emerging artist, and that’s what we’ve been doing. We bring in people who are smaller and not popular, and give them our stamp of approval. This allowed us to stay relevant and to grow over the years.

Z: I think we get bored, but not in a negative sense. We throw a lot of events and we get to be around some of the biggest DJs and see these guys’ progress. After we show them off, a lot of bigger companies find interest in them. We always have fun trying to figure out who’s the next big act to bring in.

Speaking of booking artists, what’s the process like finding the next big act to bring to Montreal?
Z: We have a very strong social networking team who are trendsetters. We get labeled more than we like, but the amount of people who influence us is huge.

N: As a music blog and a show host, it’s our job to be up to date on what we think is up and coming. It’s also our personal taste. I’ve been into music and fashion since I was a little kid. That’s what always interested me, and it’s helped me a lot with our job. We don’t get too obscure with the acts that we bring in. If I don’t know about the act, the general audience might not either.

Z: It’s keeping your ear to the floor. That’s what we strive to do.

N: There are tons of great acts coming from Montreal right now. A lot of acts that we want to book are Montreal artists who we’re friends with. Right now people are really responding well to local artists, sometimes even better than international acts. We can pack a Montreal show right now with a bunch of locals.

Z: It’s community building in Montreal.

Photograph courtesy of MTL Blog.

Montreal has a huge support system for the arts. Do you think the city is a tastemaker for other cities?
Z: There are a lot of influential people from Montreal who have done a great job representing the city behind closed doors, and as of right now they’re starting to come out. People seem to be surprised, “What do you mean Lunice is from Montreal?” There are a lot of people who come from Montreal who don’t wear it on their chest, which isn’t anything to hold against them, but now it’s now starting to show and people love it.

N: I think Montreal is a very unique city not only in Canada or North America, but also in the world. ­­Just based on the language relations, the law—there has always been a creative and laid back attitude in Montreal. I think all those things combined make it a really interesting place for artists of all different mediums, as well as just anyone who has interest in culture in general. 

Lately in Toronto, there have been zoning issues, noise complaints and lack of support from city officials. Do you feel that Montreal has similar problems?
Z: Oh my god, yes. Two of our venues are on the corner or Saint Laurent and Prince Arthur, which is right in Montreal’s nightlife district. We can’t even keep our windows open or else we get noise complaints. We’re always working with city officials.

N: Our new branch of SaintWoods, social activism. [Laughs] The only way we can help make a positive change is to get involved. Recently we’ve been as active as we possibly can, working with the city officials and councillors trying to help. I don’t know what happened in the past or why there’s a negative stigma attached to this, but we’re the new generation and we’re willing to do whatever they want. We don’t want credit for anything. We just want to help make the city better. We want to embrace what’s great about it and weed out the bullshit.

Z: I think there’s a big divide across North America. We’re starting to take cues from Europe, but generally, North America has always been a bit more puritan. There is still this negative idea that it’s bad for people to go out and party, but we know more people who party than people who go to church. We have to embrace that. Let these people have fun!

Is that why you’ve invested in two different venues?
Z: It came up organically through working with different brands on their marketing strategies. We were approached with an opportunity and decided to run with it. I don’t think either of us thought we were going to own a trendy bar or restaurant. Since we started doing that, another division of SaintWoods came up.

N: It’s what we do anyway. There are a lot of places we’ve worked where we’d get super frustrated with the way things were run and it would negatively affect us, but it wasn’t our business. We were thinking about how to run someone else’s business, so when this came up it was nice to be able to think about things for our own. I can actually just change things without stressing and running it by the owner.

What is the future plan for SaintWoods?
N: We’re working on a party series in New York with different partners and local promoters, one's with Fool’s Gold and that should be coming up in the next few months. We’re also working on some events in Toronto. The goal is to eventually be active in those three East Coast cities, and keep the brand relevant.

Z: We also started working with more visual artists. One interesting company we’re working with is LNDMRK, they also create events and do marketing strategies, but more on the visual arts side. They opened up an entire world to us. We were never really entrenched in that, so now we’re trying to work with them and make it three levels of fashion, visual art, and music. 

N: Always keep expanding and having fun and shit.

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