Peter Sagar, more popularly known as Homeshake, found his first bout of success as the guitarist for Mac DeMarco. But success was never what Sagar was in search of. Rather, the Canadian artist wished to pursue solitude, a sentiment that bleeds out in his airy, downtempo R&B. Having since left Mac DeMarco some time ago to fully invest himself in his Homeshake project–with no ill feelings, as the two regularly hang out when they find themselves in the same city– Sagar rarely tours despite his rapidly growing cult-like fanbase. In many ways, Sagar’s own fans embody the same frenzy that came to be associated with DeMarco’s live shows, but Sagar is the one in control now. His latest album the critically-acclaimed Fresh Air, is the culmination of that complete creative freedom.
A Homeshake show is a rare sighting, and much like the rarest of sightings, it is not be missed. His most recent show saw him play The Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, to an audience of avid fans, taxidermy dioramas, and prehistoric fossils. An odd venue for music by all accounts, but an all too fitting one for Sagar. Homeshake’s otherworldly music, often amplified by his penchant for vocal modulation, feels as if it’s perfectly designed for unique moments such as these. So, as I sat down to speak with the reclusive artist, adorned in a Sade shirt, I was introduced to an entirely new Homeshake than what I had come to expect. Instead, I learned of a Homeshake who was quick to express his love for pop and trap and who had come to find joy in making music entirely on his own terms.
OTW: Any plans while you’re in town?
Sagar: Um, I got a lot of friends that live out here.
OTW: Yeah, you have Mac out here, right?
Sagar: Mhm, yep. We had tacos with him last night.
OTW: So, speaking of this whole set up. Pretty cool venue to play, right?
Sagar: Yeah, I like it. I really like this kind of museum, there’s one in Edmonton, and I used to always love it. I loved going there on school trips. Specifically, I liked the animal dioramas with all the weird … what’s it called? What is this stuff? Dead animal stuff?
Sagar: Taxidermy! Yeah, all the taxidermy displays. So sweet.
OTW: Yeah, I used to go on school trips here a lot growing up. Have you played any cooler venues?
Sagar: I don’t know. All the venues, all the memories disappear.
OTW: I want to say that I love all of your album artwork and everything that’s associated with it. I’m very embarrassed, but I’m wearing one of your shirts right now. My girlfriend gave me so much shit when I was leaving the house. I know your partner Salina does all your artwork. How does that collaboration come about?
Sagar: Well, it just worked out very well because we’ve been together for like nine years. She started helping me make covers and stuff while we were still living in Edmonton, and a couple of times I would tell her an idea of what I thought looked good, but that never worked out well. So, I generally just let her do whatever she wants. It’s the best way. It’s the best way to just let Salina do whatever she wants, and it will be amazing.
OTW: And does she just listen to the album and go from there?
Sagar: I think so! She asks me if I have any ideas and I’m like, “No, we’re not going there. You can just figure it out.” And then it’s always perfect.
OTW: So, in the early days when you were first releasing music as Homeshake, you were still touring with Mac right? Was there a turning point when you decided that you wanted to fully devote yourself to Homeshake?
Sagar: Yeah, I was just in a very dark place and it was sort of just a never-ending tour schedule. Then trying to balance that and Homeshake and my relationship, it was just impossible. So, one had to go, so I choose Salina and myself.
OTW: That was a good choice.
Sagar: Yeah, I think so. It worked out well.
OTW: So, now that with each new release you’re growing a similar cult following. Do you ever worry about not being able to balance everything?
Sagar: No, I’m in control now. So, things only happen as I want them to. The difficulty with Mac was just that I had no control really because everyone else was down for everything, and I wasn’t going to be the wet blanket all the time. I still was. Now I just choose everything, so that’s why we tour so little.
OTW: So, you’re originally from Edmonton, but then moved to Montreal and that’s where you adopted the name Homeshake. I saw that you just let go of all your other projects at that point. What were the earliest days of Homeshake like?
Sagar: We lived in a really small apartment in Montreal, and it wasn’t even cheap enough for how small it was, it was so shitty. We were there for like two years out of just laziness. I would make stuff on some really, really bad gear in my living room, and then I recorded some stuff in Mac’s living room. I recorded some stuff in a studio that I ended up renting and rehearsing at for a long time. It was just like slow, because I would be working on it and then suddenly have to go on tour for like seven months. So yeah, everything just took a long time.
OTW: What is the creative industry like in Montreal, as opposed to places like Los Angeles?
Sagar: I mean, I don’t really know what it’s like here. It’s like all famous people, right? Everybody is famous? Every person in LA is famous?
OTW: Every single one. Yeah, just in this lobby alone. (laughs)
Sagar: (laughs) In Montreal the majority of it varies from neighborhood to neighborhood. Like there’s a lot of intense punk kids, but I don’t go there. But most of the musicians I know are DJs, everyone’s a fucking DJ in Montreal, and that’s fine. But yeah, it’s a lot of parties and a lot of raves, and I don’t participate in any of it all.
OTW: Not a big raver?
Sagar: No, I like dance music a lot. I like electronic music, but I don’t participate. I don’t know what Montreal is like anymore, I checked out. Not interested, really.
OTW: Speaking on your own music, it’s obviously very R&B driven which seems so different from your influences, well you have a lot of influences, but you like top 40s, trap, Migos…
Sagar: Mmm yeah, I love Migos.
OTW: Yeah, Migos are amazing. Have you always loved R&B, or did that come at a certain point?
Sagar: I wasn’t into it when I was younger, but when I was a kid, like the late 90s, early 2000s, I would watch everything that was on MTV, and like 80% of the music videos were R&B. So, I knew all the songs, and it was kind of like a guilty thing. I liked guitars, and I thought those were cool. So, I was wrong obviously (laughs). So that stuff was always kind of like inside my brain. And then it was actually Salina that kind of drew it out of me because she has a very encyclopedic knowledge of ‘90s R&B. It takes her a long time to remember whatever it is, but she always knows the song. It’s all her. I just steal the things she likes. (laughs)
OTW: So, speaking of Fresh Air, I read that name for the album came from smoking weed and just stepping out onto the balcony for fresh air. I wasn’t sure if that serious or not…
OTW: Are there any other inspirations behind Fresh Air besides just good weed?
Sagar: (laughs) I don’t know, they all kind of have something. Most of the songs are pretty specific. I would have to look at a list of them and think about it for a really long time.
OTW: One thing that I really like about your music is what I’m guessing is vocal modulation. Particularly, the ones that kick off each album. They remind me of those rap skits from old hip-hop albums for. Where did that come from?
Sagar: I don’t know, I just like sped-up and slowed-down voices. I used to record everything on cassette. And I would just always slow it down, speed it up. The regular speed is really boring. Yeah, I love high voices and low voices. I think they are kind of funny and kind of scary. So yeah, I’m not sure where I lifted it from. I just used to listen to a lot of screw tapes, so that probably gave me the idea. It’s certainly not an original idea by any means.
OTW: Well, you do it well for sure.
Sagar: (laughs) Thank you.
OTW: I also wanted to talk about how outspoken you are about political issues. As an artist with a platform, do you feel there’s a certain responsibility to be as outspoken?
Sagar: Yeah, like I’m no expert. I don’t know all the details. You know, we are all stuck in the infinite scroll looking at headlines, but then you have to keep scrolling. It’s also like inescapable shit, so I kind of slowed down on it because it was such a constant inundating flow of information. It just feels like white noise at this point. Yeah, you kind of have to make your opinions clear, because what if I never did and then a bunch of Nazis liked me? That’s my fucking nightmare. So, I did an interview that came out at the beginning of Fresh Air and some of it was about how I got into some arguments online with some fucking alt-right losers that had previously liked my music, but now no longer do and that was good. It’s good to shed the trash from your life.
OTW: Do you think you’d ever make a protest song or anything along those lines?
Sagar: No. (laughs) I can only sing about myself being like a sad loser. I could never take on real issues like that.
OTW: Do you have any favorite protest songs or albums?
Sagar: My favorite band until I was like seventeen was Rage Against The Machine. The other day we were in Texas, and I just was craving Rage Against The Machine, so we listened to some on the way back to the venue and had it at full blast as we pulled up in front, like cutting through the line of kids outside. It was kind of embarrassing, but it was amazing.
OTW: Such a good time.
Sagar: God, I love them.
OTW: I mean, hopefully, they’ll come back one day soon.
Sagar: Yeah, Tom Morello is the greatest guitarist of all time.
OTW: So, I have definitely used a lot of your songs for mix tapes for friends and it definitely got me a girlfriend or two I’d say, so thank you for that. It just has such a vibe to it. What would you say is the ideal setting to listen to your music in?
Sagar: Just a relaxing one for whoever is listening to it. The place where I can write from is wherever I’m most relaxed and calm. That’s, I guess, why I don’t make like weird, screechy, angsty music or anything. I like comfort and solitude. So that’s probably what it would lend itself to the best.
OTW: And is your songwriting typically one of solitude?
Sagar: Yeah, I haven’t collaborated with anyone in a long time. I had for the three records I put out. I had guys running the board and helping me mix and stuff, but I write alone. I don’t remember what it’s like to collaborate with people. I’ve been trying to do that lately, and it’s been a real struggle. It’s like, “I don’t know what you want.” (laughs) I’m just really selfish. I was trying to produce for some people, just passing some things around, but I never want to give out the ones I really like, I want to keep it for myself. Yeah, very alone in it.
OTW: Just a sad lonely boy.
Sagar: (laughs) Yeah, something lame like that.
OTW: So, I know you’ve mentioned Fresh Air existing as part of a trilogy, with the first albums being the first parts of the trilogy, but there is still more Homeshake to come right?
Sagar: Oh yeah, I’m always working on more stuff. I was recording up until the day we came here, in between the Texas tour and before that. One of my most essential music machines at the moments is really on the fritz, and I think I have to like ship it back to its maker to get it fixed, so I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do for like three weeks while that’s happening. It’s freaking me out.
OTW: So, what’s the plan to make music until then?
Sagar: Oh, I don’t know, I’ll just have to use something else to make it. I just won’t be able to use my sampler drum machine which is the core of what I’m working on right now. I don’t know, I guess I’ll just make ambient music until it gets back.
OTW: I heard at one point you did want to make a droney ambient project.
Sagar: Yeah, I like that but when I try I don’t think I’m very good at it. There’s a real textural ASMR thing to that, and I need to work on it.
OTW: Who are your Ones To Watch?
Sagar: One is definitely Un Blonde from Montreal. They’re very, very, very spectacular. Let me just scroll through the old music thing here. Yeah, he’s an amazing songwriter, Jean who’s like the center of that project. Oh God, I only listen to like super pop music these days (laughs). I really like Yves Tumor, I don’t know how small he is, but he should be bigger. He makes spooky, weird shit that I like a lot. Mmm, I know I’ve got friends.
OTW: Anyone in the band make music?
Sagar: Yeah! Brad is the lead-guitarist in another band called Nap Eyes. I feel bad because they’re on tour without him in Europe right now, but he’s here with us. So definitely shout out to Nap Eyes because I just took their fucking guitar player. Greg used to play drums for a lot of bands, but he moved from Montreal to the woods in BC now. I don’t know. I’ve totally isolated myself from everybody around me in Montreal, so I don’t even know what any of them are doing anymore. Oh God, very crazy reality check.
OTW: Having an existential crisis right now?
Sagar: (laughs) Yeah, a little bit. I don’t know, I do like a monthly NTS show where I put all the weird stuff that I like. So, my ones to watch are whoever I played on it that last month.
OTW: Oh one quick last question. What’s your favorite dinosaur?
Sagar: Brontasaurses. I’ve always loved the absolutely massive ones.