Late last year, seven Ryerson students came together to form Sondre House Productions, a production house that creates high-quality visual albums with bands and musicians based out of Toronto. A couple weeks ago, the team premiered their first visual album Neither Here Nor There, a culmination of talent, passion and culture. The executive team consists of producer Beatrice Hanley, director James Vong, production manager Shay Ansari, audio director Dayna Goldhar, technical director and post production supervisor Talia Herzberg, art director Angie Tran and marketing director Jessica Lam. When explaining how the team came together, Goldhar describes how each student was from a different creative area in FCAD’s Media Production program (also known as RTA). “We had never really worked together before,” she explains, “We each were from a different path in RTA. And then we camped out in the woods to make this visual album and it was the best way to get to know each other.” Director James Vong also explains that their passion for music is what ultimately brought them together, “Our team formed because we all had a passion for music and with visual albums becoming a rising trend, this idea really appealed to us. The project really is the epitome of our past four years of Media Production at Ryerson. It’s a form of storytelling in which we could combine our love of music and film.”
Not only did this visual album bring a team of students together, but it has an underpinning sense of universality in its themes that every young adult can relate to. As Vong describes, the visual album was made with the intention to represent themes such as ‘home’, ‘loneliness and ‘fitting in.’
“A visual album is a series of music videos that are linked together musically and visually to create a cohesive story. While developing the concepts for each video we had to keep in mind the overall storyline and make sure everything flowed together nicely. It was a lot of fun because it gave us a chance to be creative and bring the entire EP to life. The EP title “Neither Here Nor There” refers to the feeling of not quite fitting in and figuring out your place in this world. It’s something many young adults are dealing with each day.”
Toronto band Aniqa Dear partnered up with Sondre House Productions to release their Neither Here Nor There EP as a visual album. “While searching for an artist to collaborate with, we came across Aniqa Dear’s Facebook page and loved their music,” Vong explains, “We had also posted in various local music groups. A couple of days later, they actually ended up reaching out to us and the rest is history.”
The story follows twenty year old girl Layla, a twenty-year-old girl whose fears and insecurities are presented through the culmination of multicultural sounds and the visual representation of diversity in Toronto. “Our artist is a local Toronto band, Aniqa is of Pakistani descent and you can hear those cultural influences in the music,” Vong says. “We really loved their sound, it’s so unique and right when we heard it, we knew it would translate really well into film. It just sounds so cinematic and we immediately were able to imagine beautiful visuals that could accompany it.”
The Sondre House team priorities representing their client’s music in a visual way to highlight the themes that are already found in the music. When describing the process of finding these themes, Vong describes how they consulted with Aniqa Dear in order to do justice to the meaning of their sound; “We started off by sitting down with the band and discussing what the lyrics to each song were about. From there, our practicum team took the themes and ideas and wrote them into a story.”
The team screened the final product for the first time at Supermarket Restaurant and Bar. The venue replicated the themes of the short film effectively, as it was decorated with cultural artifacts found in the video as well as a wall of post-it notes that guests were asked to contribute to by answering the question: “What does home mean to you?” Aniqa Dear performed a stunning set of songs from their EP as well as a cover of the 80s classic “Head over Heels” by Tears for Fears with an incredible cultural twist.
The visual album can be viewed below, and to discover more about Sondre House productions, visit their website here.
Photo credit: Kishan Mistry