This story originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. See the story in print here:
Shortly after stepping on stage, Aza Deschamps’ dry sense of humour comes out. She jokes about re-learning how to talk to people after spending so long cooped up, despite seeming comfortable addressing the crowd of about 50 people. Also known by her stage name Aza Nabuko, Deschamps is one of Revelstoke’s youngest upcoming musicians. As she evolves from her “pop princess” sound, Deschamps is incorporating the strong opinions of Generation Z into her music.
At only 18 years old, Deschamps has been releasing music for two years. When first starting her career, being a pop artist seemed like the easiest option.
“Getting into the music industry, that’s the easiest genre to attain, right? And I kind of fell into that category, but I was a child. I’m trying to grow through that and figure out my own style of music,” Deschamps elaborates during our pre-show phone call.
Her latest album, Indigo, reflects this shift in sound and style. Released in 2021, Indigo intertwines alternative-rock elements with Deschamps intelligently written lyrics. Touching on topics like mental health, climate change, and political activism, Indigo has a significantly darker mood than Deschamps previous releases. These artistic choices come with risk.
“Friends of mine have experienced people canceling their shows and such because of what they say in their lyrics,” Deschamps says. “It’s definitely a dangerous game. But when it comes to planning a career, I wouldn’t want to pursue music if I wasn’t allowed to say what I want to say.”
Finding a voice in politically charged lyrics
The roots of Deschamps’ activism extend beyond her music career. Last summer, she co-organized Revelstoke’s Black Lives Matter protest. However, there are also personal ties that fuel Deschamps passion.
Growing up, Deschamps witnessed the effects of racism and generational trauma. Both her great grandmother and great grandfather were interned in Canadian camps during the Second World War, and the discrimination did not end there.
“There’s been a ripple effect of trauma in the family. My dad grew up in Revelstoke being called a chink and getting beat up. It’s a very recent issue, and I myself have been called slurs,” Deschamps says, also acknowledging that her experiences with racism are mild compared to others.
“I try my hardest to be very aware of what’s going on around me. And as a young person, the world right now is not how I would want to possibly raise children or how I want to live the rest of my life,” Deschamps explains. “I definitely do have a social justice aspect to some of my music, and more of the music I’ve been writing currently. To me, that’s more important than a breakup song.”
Like many other young adults and teenagers, Deschamps is well aware of the generalizations that follow her age group. When asked about “Gen Z stereotypes,” she quickly came to the defense of her peers.
“We’ve had a lot of responsibility handed to us. I think that we get labeled as individuals who care too much and go too far. But ultimately, we’ve been handed all of this information through social media. We’re getting so much new information every day that we are made to be responsible for, and we are responsible for,” Deschamps elaborates.
One of the most politically charged songs from Indigo is aptly named “Zee,” paying homage to the stereotypes that Deschamps describes. The pre-chorus lyrics hauntingly describe a bleak image that today’s youth face:
Childhood spent on a screen
Wash in the cold, it’ll make you green
Sit pretty like the girl in the magazine
Cross your legs don’t make a scene
So many of us are torn between
Quickly running out of gasoline
Starting fires, sit inside until we find a vaccine
All my friends have started shooting up amphetamines
Exploring the future of a new sound
Luckily for Deschamps, her peers at JumpAttack! Records have been supportive of her artistic evolution. Small Town Artillery, who Deschamps opened for last month, have a particular influence on the upcoming artist.
“My first show in Vancouver I played with them in 2018. That was when I was like, ‘they look like they’re having so much fun, I want to learn how to shred a guitar like that,’” she explains.
Watching Deschamps perform alongside Small Town Artillery, there is undeniable chemistry displayed through their high-energy stage presence. Despite having distinct musical differences, the two artists easily combine their respective styles during live performances.
Although risky, change has paid off for Deschamps. She has more fun performing her new music than the low-fi pop she used to create. However, Deschamps does not expect that “this will be the last stop on the train ride.” As such a young artist, she acknowledges that her sound is still evolving. In fact, she expects to start working on a new project this winter or spring. For now, Deschamps is focused on finishing up her tour and meeting new people along the journey.
“One time in Abbotsford, I was in Starbucks, and I looked absolutely like hell. I just got out of the car after a six hour drive, and a girl recognized me,” Deschamps recalls. “Little interactions like that make me so happy. When you’re starting out, it’s so easy to get obsessed with the numbers and the quantities.”