New 2U Queer MusiQ Revue
Moving Forward with the Music of rIVerse
Canadian pop/R&B quaret rIVerse has been blowing our mind for a few years. Now they are set to blow the stage as they prepare to ignite the 10th annual INSPIRE Awards as performers at the much heralded Toronto event. Started in 2011, the INSPIRE Awards recognize the everyday initiatives and positive work for the LGBTQ community by change-makers, activists, individuals, groups, and organizations of the greater Toronto area and beyond.
The group will join fellow performers Drake Jensen, Amythyst Kiah, Scarlett BoBo, Carole Pope and more, as the event also honours Canadian music icon KD Lang with the International Icon Award.
With so many eyes about to be on rIVerse, we caught up with them to find out more about these rising stars.
Hello rIVerse members! Before we jump into the deep end, who are the members and where is everyone from?
Dizz – Hello ladies, gentlemen & genders of TheBUZZ Mag! We are Dizz, Khadija, Zak & Monroe and we make up the Toronto-based pop/r&b group, rIVerse! Three of us were born and raised in the GTA; Khadija is from Trinidad originally and raised in British Columbia, but all 4 of us have called Toronto home for many, many years.
Tell us a little bit more about you as a group. How did you get started, how did you all come together and how long have you been making music?
Khadija – rIVerse is the brainchild of our leader, Dizz, who has been putting together groups since he was 14-years-old. He always knew he wanted to create a music group, so he was the one who invited each of us to be part of this project. We all met in 2008, as cast members of the Toronto stage production of Disney’s High School Musical 2. Our friendship began there and in the years following, we joined rIVerse one-by-one. This lineup of the four members you see today have been making music together since 2012.
I love your mission statement to “Represent the Underrepresented”. Can you tell us a little more about how that all comes together.
Monroe – Well, as you can see from just looking at us, rIVerse is a group with very different members from various races, genders, sexual orientations, body types, etc. Individually, we each represent communities that you don’t often see winning in mainstream media. Then, as a group, we represent the kind of unity and love and respect between those communities that we believe the world needs more of. It’s important for us, as artists, to be our authentic selves and show every aspect of what makes us unique. Audiences can see representation of themselves in us and feel like they can also accomplish their dreams, regardless of their age, race, size, or anything else society has told them is “not good enough.”
With 4 members, what does your general creative process look like for writing music?
Zak – rIVerse refers to ourselves as a ‘well-oiled machine’ with each member having their specific function within the whole group. We are all able to do many jobs, but we work best when everyone focuses on their strengths and we trust each other in that way. For the songwriting process, Dizz has been our topline writer. He has a brilliant mind for lyrics and melodies and he’s studied how to create hit songs ever since he was a child. And also, because we are so close like a family, he knows each of our stories & styles so well, that he can write parts for us that feel perfectly in line with how we view ourselves.
Your music is incredibly infectious. It blends R&B/Pop/Dance from various eras and soaring vocal harmonies. Where do you draw inspiration from when creating?
Monroe – In terms of musical influences, those are as unique as the individual rIVerse members! We each had different styles we really loved when we were younger. Dizz is a hardcore r&b fan, Zak really liked the kind of Red Hot Chili Peppers style bands, Khadija listened to a lot of acoustic singer/songwriters, and for me it was all the divas that I’d imitate when I was singing in my bedroom – Mariah, Whitney, Celine, etc. But all four of us love pop music from past decades, especially the 90s and early 2000s so you hear a lot of those influences in our music.
What challenges have you had creating music during the pandemic and how has it changed your release strategy?
Dizz – The challenges creating music during the pandemic were very real for us! We began recording our sophomore album, ‘Poison IV,’ before the pandemic hit and our plan was to release it in 2020. But there were several months that we weren’t even seeing each other, let alone able to get into the recording studio. We had to discuss different options when it came to finishing and releasing our album, but ultimately, ‘Poison IV’ is a journey from beginning to end that we felt it was important for listeners to experience. We waited until the stay-at-home order was lifted here in Toronto, then we actually got the last few tracks of the album recorded all in the space of a few weeks! We were in rehearsals or in the studio almost every night, working to get the songs written, learned, arranged and recorded just in case a second wave of the virus shut the city down again. We decided to release the full album on December 31st, 2020, as our way of offering healing from everything the world had experienced last year and to usher in the new year with hope and light.
Your music and messaging is all about self love and positivity. What would you say to those young artists starting out in entertainment who may not have grown into self appreciation and are still heavily impacted by gender, sexuality, body and beauty expectations?
Khadija – Our message to young artists who are just starting out and worried about the societal expectations around gender, sexuality, body image, etc. is that truth and authenticity will always win. It can definitely be scary, but the more you lean into your truth, the more you will see the success and fulfillment flow towards you. A huge suggestion would be to search out the artists who you relate to and follow their journeys. It’s hard to envision your own success when you’ve never seen anyone else like you winning, but they are out there and just witnessing them live in their truth can give you so much confidence and hope! And surround yourself with those who can uplift you. Sometimes when you are of a marginalized community, you can feel alone, but the more you share your truth, the more you will attract others who relate to you and you can build your own tribe who will Hold You Down!! (That’s the title of a song on our album that is about us being our own chosen family haha)
As fully independent artists, what have been the biggest hurdles you have faced and have had to tackle?
Dizz – The biggest challenge as an independent artist has for sure been funding everything we create ourselves. Especially for a group like rIVerse, creating in the pop landscape, you have to have a certain larger-than-life sound and image to be considered competitive in this genre and that requires operating at a certain budget. We have been so incredibly proud of every project we’ve created, with the limited funds we’ve had. But even now as we are seeing success in more ways, it is still something we have to consistently dedicate a lot of our time and energy to figuring out. As the rIVerse brand grows, the level of operation grows as well so we’re still putting every penny and dime we have into creating the best possible products for our listeners and fans.
You’ve had a number of collaborations with K-Pop artists. What was that like and what was the most exciting part?
Zak – The k-pop collaborations we’ve done have been very cool because they kind of made us realize how much our career has grown. We always say it’s hard to see ourselves the way other people see us, because we are just “in the machine,” doing the work everyday. We are working just as hard today as we were in 2012, when our only fans were our own moms, you know? But to see the k-pop idols, who we recognize as superstars, seeming nervous to meet us and singing along to OUR songs kind of made us pause and go, “Wait a minute. They are fans of us?? Oh, okay!”
You also have a hit YouTube series called “rIVerse Reacts”. Were you surprised by how much it has taken off? What’s been your favorite reaction video so far?
Monroe – Our YouTube series ‘rIVerse Reacts’ has been such a blessing for us! It was never something we expected to take off and become as popular as it has, but we’ve gained so many amazing opportunities and connected with so many new fans through them discovering us on YouTube. It still blows us away anytime we go live on YouTube and we see people in the chat like, “Hello from Brazil! Hello from Indonesia! Hello from South Korea! Belgium! Australia! Botswana!” Like we say in our song ‘Rock Wit You,’ which is the theme song of the reaction series — we go all around the world!! It’s hard to pick a favourite reaction because the magic of our show is that we are completely ourselves on the couch… so that means there are a lot of episodes where we’re just laughing and being silly with each other, as best friends do!
Who would your dream music collaboration be with? Either writing or performing with?
Dizz – There are many, many artists and songwriters we would love to collaborate with but in terms of creating music for a new album, one of the songwriters I feel would absolutely nail the rIVerse sound is Babyface. He’s a huge inspiration to me and one of the songwriters I’ve looked up to my whole life, so a lot of the music rIVerse creates really fits in line with his writing style. Collaborating with Babyface will be a dream come true for me!
What’s something on your music career “bucket” list?
Zak – We want to do it all! When rIVerse talks about our career goals, we literally say we want to accomplish everything there is to accomplish in the music industry. We want our music and our message and the representation we offer to the world to be seen and heard by EVERY audience, everywhere. We want to reach the highest heights, in order to make sure that we have the visibility that every gay, Black, plus-sized, Muslim, single-parent, sober, HIV positive, and any other marginalized person deserves to see!
Your latest album “Poison IV” contains the smash hit ‘BaeBeeBoo’ and is energy, energy and more energy. What should fans expect as a follow up? What’s coming next from rIVerse.
Khadija – Right now, we are working on our Virtual Concert on May 29th to share the music off the ‘Poison IV’ album with more audiences and let them experience the full show. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, this album has not seen the life it deserves to live yet, so we are focused on sharing it virtually and, hopefully, as soon as travel becomes safe to do consistently, we will tour this album to perform in front of live audiences again. But we have also already started workshopping some ideas for the next album… hopefully it won’t be another 6 years until we can complete that one!
And now lets have some fun!
If you could go anywhere in the world right now where would you go?
Monroe – Anywhere!! If we can just get on a plane or get on a tour bus and travel and meet IV League in new cities and perform on stages for new audiences again, we’d be so happy!!!
Who are rIVerse when you’re not making music?
Khadija – When we are not making music or performing, we are regular people! We like to exercise, ride bikes, go for runs. We like cooking and eating delicious meals. We watch Netflix. We spend time with our families and our best friends. We laugh a lot, we go through personal challenges and cry together. Especially throughout the pandemic this past year, we’ve really been living our lives exactly the same way everyone else has.
Favorite TV binge?
Zak – The four of us have pretty distinct tastes, so we may have collectively watched everything that is available to stream online during this quarantine. We have our latest music video for our single ‘BaeBeeBoo’ on repeat – we’re probably a good percentage of our own YouTube views at this point! And RuPaul’s Drag Race is a must-watch for rIVerse.
Dizz – Also, we’ve watched a lot of music/concert documentaries, because we’re always studying our craft and drawing inspiration from other greats. We learn from those who came before us and that makes us better artists today!
Desert Island Discs: What are the 5 albums (or songs if you prefer) do you have to have with you if you’re stranded on a deserted island?
Khadija – Oh, we talked about this not too long ago in one of our YouTube videos! So 5 albums altogether we would bring on a deserted island are: Destiny’s Child ‘The Writings on the Wall’ for Dizz; the Waiting To Exhale soundtrack for me; Red Hot Chili Peppers ‘Stadium Arcadium’ for Zak; and Lady Gaga ‘The Fame Monster’ for Monroe. Then, of course, we have to bring rIVerse, ‘Poison IV’…!!
You walk into a room. What song is the rIVerse statement song?
Dizz – The rIVerse statement song is probably our track, ‘Hold You Down.’ It was the last song written and recorded on our ‘Poison IV’ album, but the song is literally about the four of us and our friendship. At the same time, it’s kind of an introduction of the four of us to the world as well – the song showcases each member of rIVerse and describes who we all are, with this very “We’re here! Watch out!” energy. So it feels like the perfect song to play as we bust through the doors and everyone’s heads turn to watch us enter the room.
What’s one last thing you want readers to know about You?
Monroe – One thing we want readers to know about rIVerse is that we are 4 normal human beings who have had a vision and a goal and who have made the choice to work hard to create our reality. We’re regular people who have heard “No” and “You’re too this” and “You’re not enough that” our whole lives and haven’t let those barriers prevent us from achieving our dreams. So if watching us and listening to our music is inspiring for you in any way, just know that you can make your dreams come true as well! No matter who you are, your background, your race, your gender identity or sexual orientation, anything. You are Beautiful, you are Worthy, you are Valued and you are Loved and you deserve to see success just like us, or even greater!
The Poison IV Virtual Concert is Coming!
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