Montreal artist, singer and producer Sophia Bel has always been slightly out of lockstep with her surroundings. Born in Michigan to a Quebecois father and a Dutch-American mother, Bel grew up intrigued by the mysterious sounds of trip-hop and drum ‘n’ bass in the era of Britney and Christina. Her black fingernail polish made her the target of bullies at her school in suburban Quebec City, earning her the nicknames “Emo” and “Princess of the Dead.” As an artist, she’s reclaiming those hurtful names and owning them.
If her first EP, Princess of the Dead, Vol. I, is a reawakening of the past, musical inspiration from her memories, then the second chapter of this series, Princess of the Dead, Vol. II, dives into even more brooding, darker territory. It’s where Bel confronts her demons head-on without fear. Vol. II is out now on Bonsound.
Every song Bel writes is about something real, an experience or scattered thought brought to life. Her songwriting process is intuitive, either starting with a musical idea from the piano or synth, or personal, inscrutable words jotted down on her phone. She’s not afraid of covering vastly different sonic territory with each song and doesn’t worry about everything fitting together neatly: for Bel, it’s about capturing the right feeling in the moment. Bel is also conscious of creating something catchy and is intrigued by pop songcraft, only she believes the best musical moments are spontaneous. For her, pop is more an aesthetic to pull from than a goal to achieve.
It was in Montreal where Bel was truly able to explore herself and figure out what musical direction she wanted to pursue. Without realizing it at the time, she needed to escape the comfort of the suburbs and live alone in the big city to discover who she was. Moving to Montreal and being surrounded by a vibrant creative community also taught her the most valuable lesson she’s learned so far: don’t overthink things.
It explains why she’s able to pluck from a diverse array of musical styles past and present in assembling her unique, rich soundscape. There are bits of underground electronic music, skater punk, guitar folk and even Quebecois hippie music (from her father) that inform her otherwise modern perspective, as she uses the tools at her disposal to write about everything from phone ghosting and introspective self-help. Lyrically, Bel delves into serious subjects relatable to anyone who’s ever felt alienated, but does so with an occasional self-deprecating wink and sardonic wit. With refreshing candour, she never wants the listener to get too comfortable with their surroundings. In Bel’s world, clichés are ripe for deconstructing.
Since becoming a self-taught guitar player over online Taylor Swift tutorials as a teenager, Bel has continued to grow musically and expand her horizons. She’s found a like-minded collaborative spirit in acclaimed Montreal producer CRi, who co-produced all tracks on Vol. II with Bel.