“I would say as a human being in this world, I do try to look at the bright side of life, but when it comes to my music, it definitely reveals a darker, more critical side of me,” reflects Jill Krasnicki. The Toronto-based singer-songwriter, performing under the alias Animalia, releases her second EP, A Wave to Wash the World Away today, on January 28th, having already nabbed diverse attention for her inquisitive lyrics and emotional performance.
Krasnicki comes from one of the most distant cities that anyone in the Americas can imagine: Hobart, an Australian coastal town carved into the base of a mountain that still grips onto its primordial Antarctic roots. Her music just might be a source of therapy allowing her to channel an aggression fueled by injustice which otherwise simmers below a “sweet, calm, and friendly” character. It may be snidely revealing that her track, “Unity”, appeared on Brandon Cronenberg’s Canadian thriller, Antiviral. Presenting her debut EP, To the Waking, the Shaking, and the Volatile, as a collection of “songs [that] range from personal meditations to a broader critique of human myopia”, her new collaboration with producer Remy Perrin of WavePulse promises more technical polish on her latest project. “I’m solidifying my sound more as time goes on, but my message and what I’m writing about remains pretty much the same. The things that affect me today are the same things that have always affected me and this why I turned to making art in the first place.”
While today she happily shares an apartment with three rehabilitated cats (one of which is fondly named after PJ Harvey), it hasn’t always been a cuddly ride for Jill Krasnicki. She’s trekked around Australia, Ireland, Scotland, England, and parts of Europe before coming to Canada. After 10 years of performance, she admits, “I can only assume I am blocking out terribly embarrassing stories and pretending they never happened.”
As to why she sings under the name Animalia, it’s not just a matter of theatrical verbosity intended to spare the tongue-tied. “It’s such a beautiful word, and it reminds us that we are all animals; we all live under the same scientific kingdom, Animalia. We all have the same basic desires and we all wish to live a life free from pain. Nothing makes me sadder than animal abuse, and it happens every day, every second, in grotesque ways that could simply be avoided by making more compassionate choices. The name Animalia reminds me to always stand up for what I believe in, which is freedom for all living creatures, human or non-human animals.” Her perspective of human behavior, commitment to veganism, and hope for unity is one many people can easily share, and after her incredible journey to discover a home in Toronto, it is exciting to share the compelling songs of Jill Krasnicki.
WBM: You’re from Tasmania, Australia, which is about as far away from Toronto as you can get. Tell us about what it was like to grow up there.
JILL: Tasmania is a beautiful place. I grew up in Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania, which is surrounded by mountains. If you’re into outdoor activities, it’s the place to be! But when it comes to the arts, it’s a very small town with limited opportunities. I think I always knew I’d leave my hometown, even from a very young age. Tasmania is the sort of place where you settle down, get a steady job and buy a house. I remember getting an office job in Hobart when I was 18, the lady who was showing me around the office on the first day kept introducing me to people by saying their name and how long they had worked there. “This is Susan and she’s been here for 20 years” and so on. Eventually she turned to me and said, “So, really, you have a job for life here!” All I could think was “I’ve got to get out of here!”
WBM: What influenced your decision to travel across Ireland, the U.K., and Europe?
JILL: I had been living in Melbourne for a couple of years and I was in a band with my (at-the-time) boyfriend. We were really frustrated with the music scene in Melbourne and decided to pack everything up and move to Ireland. It was a bit of strange decision in retrospect – there was no real reason behind it. We lived in Ireland for 10 months, during which we took the band on an independent tour through the U.K and parts of Europe. It was quite the experience but musically speaking, not very successful. Shows got cancelled, we didn’t work on getting any publicity, and we often slept in the van – 3 people on a single mattress! Let’s just say, it was definitely a character-defining moment in my life.
WBM: You originally played on bass, and were even in a band called Dream Awake. Tell us about your earlier musical experiences, and how you eventually started your solo project.
JILL: I picked up a bass guitar for the first time when I was 15 and I fell in love. I originally thought I was going to be a visual artist but from that point on, everything changed. I started performing when I was 17 and then gigged regularly in a cover band for a couple of years making some serious cash. But my heart wasn’t in covers, and when I met Josh (of Dream Awake) I left Tasmania and my adventure began. Josh and I broke up in Ireland but we both traveled together to Toronto, hopeful we could keep the band alive. Needless to say, things didn’t quite work out and all of a sudden the band I had poured five years into slipped between my fingers. I started writing solo on bass first – creating chords high on the neck and finger picking them – but when it came to performing live, it just didn’t cut it. I experimented with electronica after that but it didn’t really go anywhere. On a whim I traveled to Scotland to clear my head and came back to Toronto knowing I had to give acoustic guitar a shot.
I formed a band and played a few shows but got frustrated by the lack of commitment in the other band members and the sound wasn’t what I had originally had in mind. At this point I was at my wit’s end with music. I wanted to give up so badly but music had its grip firmly around my throat and no matter how hard I tried to push it away, it stayed put. One day in December 2011, I went to have an acupuncture session because I had been having really bad back problems and something weird happened. I walked out of the session knowing I had to do music, I had to do it solo and I had to start straight away and unless I did, I’d never be happy. So I got down to it.
WBM: What have been some memorable experiences in Toronto?
JILL: The one that stands out is the first day I arrived in Toronto. I was walking through a park with Josh and we were so excited and amazed by all the squirrels we could see. We kept stopping and saying things like, “Wow, look at that one!” or “Look! That’s one in the trash can!” I couldn’t believe my eyes! I thought they were the cutest things I’d ever seen and was wondering why no one else was commenting. Needless to say, I’d had limited to almost no squirrel experience in my life. I’d seen one fluffy eared squirrel when I was in Spain but being surrounded by these fat, fluffy little critters nearly made my mind explode. I realize now we looked like mega tourists: embarrassing!
WBM: You did an impromptu performance with Sook-Yin Lee at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. What happened there?
JILL: Sook-Yin is awesome. She got a group of six musicians together to create music based on a short story. We rehearsed once and made some loose plans but it was very much improvised on the night. When she first invited me I thought there was no way I could do it, but once we all got started it was one of the best things I’ve done in a long time. There was something so magical about feeding off the music, opening up my lungs and really singing my heart out. At points Sook-Yin and I would end up randomly harmonizing and it felt incredible. The overall performance, I’m sure, was hard to listen to but I would do it again in a heartbeat.