Launched last year by Sydney Blu and Rebekah, 23by23 is an initiative that aims to encourage labels to increase the proportion of female artists on their roster. Part of that initiative was setting up a number of remix competitions with various respected labels, the latest of which sees Joyce Muniz feat. Demetrius back on Poker Flat with new versions of her 2020 single What’s Your Name, from SWAH, BLU 9 and Esther Benoit.

Hailing from Toronto, Esther Benoit came out on the local scene mixing a combination of minimal, deep and tech house: ranging from light, funky and playful to shamelessly deep and dirty.

Hi, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today! How has the year been treating you so far?

Thank you so much! It’s been a great year so far. I was booked to play some awesome venues and parties, and the release of my remix of Joyce Muniz’s track “What’s Your Name” Feat. Demetrius on Poker Flat Recordings has been really exciting. 

Where do you think the impulse to create music comes from for you?

I think we all have something unique to offer the world, and for me, that’s always been through music. I was born into a musical family so making music has always been a part of what makes me happy. Music grounds me and connects me to my roots. I find it almost meditative. Whether I’m behind the decks, in the studio, or singing, music seems to be the only instance where I can achieve that flow state and just be in the moment. It’s the easiest way I know to create joy.

Tell us about your current studio set up – any particular bits of go-to kit you find yourself returning to?

I absolutely love playing around with samples, so I rely a lot on Ableton, my AKAI MPK keyboard and microphone. I grew up playing piano, so the keyboard feels really intuitive and natural to me. I also use my microphone a lot – whether I’m recording vocals or just creating sound effects vocally or with instruments, some of which I have collected on my travels or were gifted to me.

I am hoping to expand my studio soon, though. I’m looking forward to incorporating new tools and learning new skills so I can keep growing as an artist. 

Coming up in the Canadian underground scene, which local artists did you find especially inspiring when you were starting out?

When I was just starting out as a DJ in Montreal around 2009-2010, the Montreal underground scene was really vibrant. We were going to different underground warehouse parties every week and the local scene was brimming with talent. My fellow DJ friends really inspired me. But there was a group of DJ/producers in Toronto who I was really excited about. Carlo Lio and Nathan Barato were making waves, and I was just so into the sound. If you’ve been following Carlo Lio’s career, you know that 2010 sound I’m referring to.

I also looked up to Alicia Hush. She was probably one of the first examples I saw of women occupying underground venues and lighting up the dancefloor.

Was Joyce Muniz someone you were familiar with before you took on this remix?

Yes, Toronto loves Joyce Muniz! I first saw her play at a Late&Deep event here in Toronto back in 2013 and loved her vibe. There’s a real authenticity to her sound that comes from her own unique influences. I’ve definitely been following her career ever since, so to be able to remix one of her tracks is an honour.

How does it feel to land on such a respected label as Poker Flat with this one? 

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity. It’s a dream come true for me to have music released on Poker Flat Recordings. I think all creatives struggle with whether or not our offerings will be valued. To have that recognition from such a reputable label definitely boosted my confidence and motivated me to make more music. I’m using this as fuel to spend more time in my studio exploring my sound further to see what I can create.

Why do you think campaigns like 23by23 are still necessary? 

There’s no shortage of talented female, non-binary and trans artists, and I think platforms that can increase visibility, create community, and offer opportunities can really help people move forward with confidence and step into the next phase of their careers.

In addition to the remix competitions, the 23by23 campaign in particular provides a great forum to connect with a community of women producers, which is something I had previously been lacking. Being able to connect, share knowledge, access resources and get your music listened to by labels is really empowering.

Do you work well when collaborating with other artists? Or do you prefer to go it alone in the studio? 

I like both. I think collaboration is a valuable opportunity for creating, learning, and growing as an artist. Other artists have different sets of knowledge, approaches, and techniques, so I really enjoy the opportunity to learn from other artists. Working with other artists is an interesting creative process, too. I did the vocals for a friend’s track and it was so cool to see what he was able to do with the vocals I had recorded. There’s an element of allowing, with the outcome being something totally unexpected.

Which artists are currently exciting or inspiring you?

It’s tough to narrow it down, there are so many talented DJs and producers who I’ve been following really closely.

I saw DJ MINX play here in Toronto last fall and it was probably the most fun I’ve had on a dancefloor in a while. The way she was able to set the mood and balance this deep, happy warmth with badass, dirty grooves was just magic.

Mha Iri is also someone who I have on my radar. I had her on my show Rebel Mix a few years ago and she has since put out so many incredible powerhouse tracks. 

Following the career paths of artists like Sacha Robotti and Demuir has also been inspiring, these are artists I’ve had the chance to connect with and have followed for over a decade. It’s been exciting to see their growth and witness their trajectory. I could go on and on!

What should we expect from you for the rest of 2023? 

I’ve got some exciting summer bookings here in Canada that are going to be a lot of fun. Otherwise, my priority this summer is to spend as much time as I can in the studio and finish some original tracks that I’m working on.

I’m also itching to travel to Europe again, particularly Berlin, which is one of my favourite cities in the world. There’s a very particular type of inspiration that comes from travelling and connecting with new people. I’m ready for it.