Interview: Eiyn Sof

Eiyn Sof and I go back. One of the first things I remember hearing her sing was the old Pizza Pizza jingle -– nine six seven, eleven eleven, call Pizza Pizza, hey hey hey!  Do they still use that? Maybe it’s not old, maybe it’s current, it was definitely catchy, I don’t know.

Anyhow, Eiyn Sof sung it well.

I also remember being on Wood Street, in Brantford, and her showing me these awesome New Kids On The Block trading cards she kept stashed in a brightly coloured fanny pack that may, or may not have been, NKOTB themed, too.

It’s been quite the evolution of an artist: from singing gospel, to being in bands like the The Real Priscilla’s, to starting a family and to blossoming the neon plaid sounds of Eiyn Sof, who has just completed her debut album, Bloodstreams. It was recorded and produced by Eiyn herself (Melissa Boraski) at home between 05 – 10 and features such guests as Bob Egan (Blue Rodeo) and Rick White (Eric’s Trip). It’s cosmic, railroad track, psych/folk with vocals like if Thom Yorke and Neko Case had a lovechild and it was brought up by a huntress in a coniferous forest, not too far in off a highway somewhere north of Timmins.

Bloodstreams‘ street date release is November 5th on Blue Fog Records (Andre Ethier) and it should available everywhere or ordered from anywhere through Sonic Unyon/Universal distribution. It’s also available in vinyl, which is awesome, and I copped one when I saw Eiyn Sof recently at the Horseshoe. Here’s an interview.

TWM: When I Wikipedia’d Eiyn Sof I got quite the result, here’s an excerpt –

“Ein Sof (or Ayn Sof) (Hebrew אין סוף), in Kabbalah, is understood as the Deity prior to His self-manifestation in the production of the world…Ein Sof may be translated as “no end,” “unending,” “there is no end,” or Infinite… endless light… Ein Sof is the divine origin of all created existence, in contrast to the Ein (or Ayn), which is infinite no-thingness.”

In this context, besides obviously being a really mind-blowing and cool thing to call yourself, how does this definition relate to, or somehow describe, Melissa Boraski the artist?

Eiyn Sof: I came across the term and concept of eiyn sof about 4 years ago, looking through a borrowed book on Kabalah. The term struck me immediately, cause I was looking for a project name for the viscerel soundscape-y stuff I’d been recording with the Juno 60, which I think at times could be slotted into the ole’ realm of ethereal sound. Totality, the divine, the utter unknowableness of the breadth of existence to the mortal, yadda yadda yadda. I’m spiritually inclined in my thinking cause of the way I was raised, so adopting a name derived from spiritual pursuit was fitting. And plus I’m egotistical.

TWM: Your lyrics often contrast images that are supernatural and abstract with those that are much more visceral and of the natural world. This contrast compliments that ebb between electronic, psychedelic sounds and folk bluesy sounds or the relationship between the Juno and acoustic guitar.

“Heaven’s like a halfway home, you gotta stay on good behaviour/ if you break the rules you’re on your own, in a place without any favour/ the full moon is bleeding red and bloodhounds are out in my head”

Heaven and the full moon bleeding make me think of ethereal Juno sounds while halfway homes and bloodhounds make me think of busted acoustic guitars. Is there anything to this that’s intentional? Will lyrics affect the sounds you play or vice versa?

Eiyn Sof: Not overtly intentional; not like I’m writing and forcing myself to stay on this one path of thinking, but definitely an inclination. Again, cause of my upbringing — you know, being 5 years old and hearing everyone singing songs describing heaven, scriptural references to peculiar beings and the end times; reading the Book of Revelations as a teenager, etc… one’s mind becomes accustomed to a certain level of polarized thinking- supernal/mundane, esoteric/exoteric. And as for the nature references, they’re unconscious; I just like metaphors, and creatures and strange landscapes are more interesting than people or cars or romance or whatever.

TWM: You’d played in bands for a long time and had success — playing Massey Hall with The Real Priscillas — being in a band, every member has to be there for shows to go right. Doing your own thing, how necessary is having the full instrumentation that’s on the album performing with you?

Eiyn Sof: I’ve got a full band now that plays most shows with me; vibraphone, drums, a singer who can howl like a wolf, bul bul taraang, etc.

At first we were trying to imitate the record as closely as possible but it didn’t take long to realize that that was unrealistic. Also boring for the other musicians. So I’m resigned now to re-interpret everything for the live show, which has been both tricky and delightful. Many of the songs are pretty major departures (like ‘Young Son’, for example, now starts with this long eastern-y intro with lots of cymbals and bells and a really heavy 60’s-ish bass line); I’m also resolved to the possibility that people who really dig the record may not dig the live as much, and vice versa. But in the words of Paul Crik: This is it. Fuck it. It is what it is.

TWM: How does having children affect your ability to get out and play those live shows/tour?

Eiyn Sof: Shows aren’t really a problem since I just have to coordinate child-care and that’s easy enough, but I haven’t toured yet. I would if it were worthwhile, but I’m just not in a place where I want to take risks with money and time. If an opportunity arises that would make sense though, I’d figure it out.

TWM: You’ve been making music in Toronto and throughout southern Ontario for a while now and through the transition of CDs to downloads etc. What’s your take on the Toronto and Canadian music scene and being an independent musician within it?

Eiyn Sof: As for the format, there’ll always be people — I’m one of them — who’ll want a physical package with their music; artwork to hold. So as long as one physical format is replaced with another, it’s fine. Discs are making way for vinyl now so there we go. Format has very little (like, next to nothing) to do with why I make music, so I don’t waste energy worrying about it.

As for locale… Toronto’s been fine for me. Making enough money from music to support my family, and reaching as broad an audience that digs what I do would be ideal, but once you come to the realization that there is such an oversaturation of artists struggling to be tops in a city like Toronto — and that VERY few of them will acheive that very exclusive kind of success — your priorities have the opportunity to shift: so, making the art that you really want to hear is the objective as opposed to worrying about accessibility, marketability, all the ridiculous commerce-centric nonsense. Not everyone is susceptible to worrying about that hype-machine stuff anyways — well lucky them. I however was concerned with that stuff for awhile, but as soon as I let go of it, the fluidity came back creatively.
(Is that even close to a relevent answer?)

— Dave Dean

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