Tell us a little bit more about the name Bambii.
So Bambii is a nickname my mom used to call me when I was ten, and it sort of just stuck. I remember as a kid, I always wanted an alias. I would try and get people to call me different names while I was in school, and Bambii always stuck.
How has your past influenced what you create now?
Well, I grew up in Toronto. Toronto is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world. My family is Caribbean, and I grew up in a very Caribbean area, but I was also exposed to a lot of different kinds of people growing up. My mom was an artist as well and a single parent, so I was in a lot of adult spaces. She was always taking me to her rehearsals, to gallery shows, to different openings and plays—sometimes appropriate, sometimes not so much. I was really in the mix with her. I kind of think all these experiences cumulatively have helped shape who I am.
Where do you see the creative scene in Toronto going?
When I started JERK six years ago, I didn't know anything like it. I didn't see black women in my age group leading the arts and culture spaces in Toronto at the time. I feel like so much has changed. There are so many cool parties run by all these amazing black women and collectives here. I used to feel very jaded and bored of Toronto, but I do think that there are people here doing things that I find exciting and important—I just didn't feel like that a few years ago. I think one thing that's annoying about Toronto is that I don't think Toronto has the infrastructure to properly support the art scene here, but I will say there are people pushing back against that and doing cool shit, so it makes me optimistic. Also, I've realized that underground doesn't exist without tension or this feeling of being repressed. It's kind of like the whole point of it.
You have a very close relationship with your mother. How has your relationship with her influenced your career?
Well, I think the arts are still uncertain, especially while being a freelancer. In that sense, my mom definitely makes me feel like it’s still legitimate work. I feel like when you work in the arts, you always have to prove to your parents that it's a "real job." She actually understands that I'm doing something legitimate and important, and she treats it that way—that really helps me. I don't have a boss, I don't have someone telling me what to do. You create the world for yourself, and I think that having a parent who gets that has helped make it less stressful.
Can you tell us about your craziest experience as a DJ?
Touring with Mykki Blanco. They just hit me up one day over Snapchat and was like, “Do you want to go on a two-month Euro tour with me?” Two weeks later, I was in Europe with them. It was very spontaneous—we were playing huge shows, and it was my first time touring. Also, we were just touring in such crazy environments. We went to 20 cities and 11 different countries that I can't remember, but it was a really long tour just jet setting around. It changed my life and my whole perspective—it made me a better DJ. You tend to just think small when you only have been in your own city, so it had me thinking about what's possible outside of Toronto.
What's your favorite city you have ever performed?
I really like Lisbon, but obviously my favorite city is Montreal. I have a special relationship with Montreal and with the people there. I think it's such a really strange place. It’s this small, diverse Quebec city in Canada. It has such a good DIY underground art scene and has more street festivals than any other city in the world. It's also a very poor city, and in that way, a lot of informal arts and performance-based things can happen compared to a city like Toronto, where it’s hyper-conservative and there’s more money. Toronto is trying to be too cool almost, and Montreal is like the hippie sister that knows how to have real fun.
How hands-on were you in making your first music video for “Nitevision”?
I was really hands-on actually. As I was making that song, I could see exactly how I wanted that music video to look. The music video is very important to me because that video is not just random casting. All the people in that video are apart of my community, either my friends or people who have been in the scene for years now. It was really important for me to have a very sincere and real portrayal of them because I don’t think that’s a side of Toronto that people see in the media a lot. I feel as though Toronto is really defined by OVO and XO, when in reality there is a very large Carribean queer population that kinda leads the city and leads the energy at parties and influences the music—nobody really knows about that.
You just got back from Jamaica. Can you tell us a little about your time there?
I had an incredible time. I felt so grateful there I don't even know how to describe it. Every moment from when I woke up and to when I went to bed, no matter how big or small, I just felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I was on my own. I wasn't at a hotel or a resort and I realized I had never really been to Jamaica properly before. It felt more like I was experiencing real life there, which was really important. I think that people go to these places and stay at resorts that are trying to serve up this manufactured spaces where you're not actually there, and they try to tell you not to leave the resort because it's dangerous when that's not actually the case at all. It can be scary traveling as a woman by yourself, but it was also important for me to reclaim that. I remember feeling a little anxious before I was going because it wasn't for a DJ gig. Also, obviously I'm Jamaican, so it was important for me on a spiritual level to go there. It's such a tiny pace, but it’s so globally influential and there's so much talent there! I was going to shows there and different club nights. The local talent I saw just blew me away. I think the music is so embedded in the culture, and the relationship people have to their surroundings and to nature—it just felt so real.
Besides music, what other aspects of Jamaica inspire you?
Not to get into a hotep mode, but what was inspiring was people's relationship with nature. When you live in a city you’re so disconnected from animals and things that grow. In Jamaica, it's just something you can't escape. You can't escape how hot it is, you can't escape bugs. It's something that made me feel better.
We saw you walk for Nosesso last NYFW. How was the experience of walking in your first ever fashion show? Do you intend to pursue more modeling in your career?
I don't intend to pursue modeling ever again. I love Nosesso and I think that the brand is so sick. I was so honored that they asked me. I think fashion can be so vacuous and problematic, but I think that's a really important brand and I love to support them. However, I also think it's so funny because I can DJ in front of a thousand people at a festival no problem, but walking in that show... even thinking about it now makes the hairs on my arms raise. My friend that watched me was like, “you were walking so fast”, I was literally asking backstage if anyone had vodka or any alcohol because I needed something to get through that. Then when I got out there it was just so bright there were so many lights and everybody is staring at you. I couldn't do it. I think I did good for about twenty seconds, but then I think the crowd could tell that I was nervous and they were trying to encourage me so everyone started to cheer for me and then I ended up running off. That being said, modeling is very fucking hard. I'm too shy in that way to do it. After that experience, I respected models. I almost had an anxiety attack. She's not a runway girl.
How can we better the industry for black women?
A lot of times in the music industry we replace black women with placeholders. I think we need to prioritize black women more, and I mean in a real way. I think that people are comfortable with particular kinds of blackness. There a lot of colorism in the industry and people don’t talk about that enough. I see a lot of women adjacent to blackness, but not actually black women, being able to reap the benefits of translating things regarding black womanhood and I think it's problematic. I don't know when that’s going to change. Whatever exists in the music industry is a symptom of a larger more insidious issue that controls the entire world. I think that we can suspend ourselves in moments of freedom, or we can correct things and depict ideal futures in art, but I don't think we can change things in the music industry unless we change other institutions first. How can we better the industry for women? How can we better women's lives in general? I don't know if we're asking these questions enough because people aren't having real conversations about everyday things, let alone within the arts. I think listening to actual black women can help.