VMP Rising is our series where we partner with up-and-coming artists to press their music to vinyl and highlight artists we think are going to be the Next Big Thing. Today we’re featuring Heaven's Only Wishful, the debut EP from MorMor, which is out today and available now in the VMP store.
Seth Nyquist, 26, is taking in the first breath of a Toronto summer, a reprieve from a neverending winter that always returns. He’s currently in flux between home and the bicoastal music hubs in the U.S., in the fashion of most budding superstars without finite plans. MorMor is a Swedish word for grandmother; the moniker is an homage to Nyquist’s close relationship to his own grandmother. As MorMor, Nyquist is a few weeks from releasing his Heaven’s Only Wishful EP, his first proper release under the name. The title track, a gentle slow-burn pondering the ethereal where Nyquist’s calm falsetto caves into a piercing wail, fell into the digital algorithms and came out with millions of plays on the other side.
But where many singles like it ring as hollow products of odd engineering and pulled strings, the MorMor record’s cut through the noise and resonated in a way that’s shocking even for Nyquist. In the firestorm of supportive messages and affirmations, he’s struck a balance between the beauty of his connection to strangers and the necessity to not look at the data. One conversation with him and you’ll understand the conundrum of his impending stardom: Nyquist is lowkey, nonjudgmental, his sentences brief yet intentional. And he’d much rather you tell him than him casting his interpretations onto the work.
“Honestly, I feel like whatever is put out there is honestly just who I am,” Nyquist says. “I don’t necessarily think about how to blur the lines or skate between the two worlds; I think for someone like me, that’s the only way I can do it. I’ve written a buncha different kinds of music, and always been into various kinds of music, and this is what has come out without any expectation. It’s important that people show that honesty.”
Nyquist is a child of the West End and Greektown neighborhoods of Toronto. A son of white adoptive parents, he grew up a loner who never had trouble making friends but fixated on honesty and authenticity. He rejected overstimulation for his own space to reflect; he spent his youth writing, skating, playing sports and learning music while avoiding traditional methods of instruction. He never had a direct pathway to where he stands now, but always found music as the most natural process: an insular journey, recorded and crafted almost always alone, ideas sprouting from a single sound or a lone whistle. By the end, you get lush, vibrant worlds molded from fleeting memories and an expansive imagination.
In the Toronto he knows, Nyquist grew up in multicultural spaces where ideas and identities intermingled far more organically. High school meant interacting across class lines, racial and spiritual lines, making slang and fashion overflow into one another and making Nyquist come to understand himself in the symbiosis of a community where folks try and fail to find themselves in their differences. But it’s the same Toronto with antiblack racism like anywhere else we find Black people, a reality that came into focus for Nyquist as he aged, citing the wrong time and place as a catalyst for police profiling or prejudiced undertones in everyday dealings. MorMor wouldn’t be without the Toronto that made him possible, yet Nyquist has felt absent from many present representations of the city; as the angles feel more hardline — thanks to the city’s breakout contemporaries — and Nyquist’s seizing his opportunity to show the home he knows, to subvert any inkling of a budding monolith.
“Think about how diverse Toronto is, and how many different kinds of languages are spoken here, and how many walks of life live in this radius,” Nyquist says. “The world has kinda seen this one element; it’s like going to the same party or something. It might be the best party, but there are other things happening. I’m not trying to be here knocking someone else’s event — I think they’re just equally as important — but I think it’s important to show other communities and other lifestyles. There’s more happening than just this one party.”
In the “Heaven’s Only Wishful” visual, you walk the streets MorMor does while he avoids the frame until the song’s final moments. It was shot on a whim, favoring Nyquist’s neighbors and nephews as the superstars of a day-in-the-life. You find his nephew making faces in the bathroom, you won’t find a single Toronto landmark, and the night drives and beach scenes ring real and attainable, not a bombastic projection of what one could have with the right amount of hard work. The “Whatever Comes to Mind” visual plays with the inverse, the hypnotic slow jam aided by a synesthetic visual that blends several hazy color palettes over Nyquist’s blurred body, rarely visible in the clip at all. The down-to-earth qualities of these visuals contrast the grander ideas MorMor toys with: He oft mentions colour, heaven, paradise, light, warmth.
The honesty Nyquist achieves in his MorMor work distills the intricacies of normal moments into singable, danceable, even screamable indie-pop. Discussing his process invokes the ideas of honor and vulnerability over and over, tugging at Nyquist’s infatuation with how our ideas move in waves. Someone places a dent in the artistic ceiling where no one’s been before, other folks emulate the idea and claim they’ve dented the ceiling — when they’re only doing what’s now considered safe enough — then someone else shatters the glass for everyone else to run free. But for a man with such a sparse social media upkeep and a tendency to leave his phone in the house to live like he’s in the ’60s (his words), how does an artist like MorMor escape the fringes of the new pop landscape to compete in a world where we’ve come to focus on everything but the music? Is his withholding information a statement in rebellion against information overload, or merely the product of a shy kid who likes to live in his head?
“I respond to fake shit in a better way than I would have before,” Nyquist says. “I have to turn it off; that’s always been a trait since I was a kid, it’s very hard for me to tolerate. It’s a very interesting concept: fake shit can get attached to something that’s very mainstream, and I don’t really have a problem with the mainstream as long as the person is doing it is just being themselves. I have a problem more when we chase something when it’s successful. In art, there’s always someone who will come up with their own interpretation of a sound or color or design, and then there’s [seemingly] always a buncha people who will try to recreate that thing instead of allowing that person to do what they do and appreciate it. We’re less able to appreciate something and we’re more: ‘How can I use this to my own advantage?’”
How does one articulate the feeling of something so unreachable with a singalong simplicity? The Heaven’s Only Wishful EP shows what MorMor does best, crafting an existentialism founded in curiosity over dread, and centering an intentional vulnerability without alienating whomever approaches. For Nyquist, it’s pushing back against the societally instilled perfectionism that runs us ragged, pushing us away from our true selves. He’s not one for the thoughtless imagery, the false prophets we make of our artists and thinkers, but he remains intrigued by just how far authenticity goes when our ideas of real and fake remain constructed. Sometimes, it’s a matter of when you catch something — a person, an idea, an experience — and how long you’re willing to watch it grow to find the truth. And the empathy you apply to the flux we all live in — humanity — is what dictates the outcome.
“It’s a matter of acting out of passion, to me, that’s important,” Nyquist says. “Real is totally constructed and subjective; that being said, you can over-intellectualize things, you know? When something is moving out of passion, even if you’re making a mistake, that’s human to me. It’s the perfect balance between intellect and emotion. When things become too intellectual, too thought-out, too planned, it can cause… trauma. It stunts things from happening.”
Michael Penn II (aka CRASHprez) is a rapper and a former VMP staff writer. He's known for his Twitter fingers.