How a Montreal music duo ended up making it big in Britain

Banx & Ranx, a Montreal beat-making duo, couldn't have predicted the success of their latest track, Answerphone.

Released in March, it's now made a major splash in Britain.

The song debuted on the BBC Top 40 at #19 and cracked the top 10 after nine weeks. The video has over 7 million views on Youtube.

"We had no idea," said Zacharie Raymond, also known as Soké.

"But, we were really confident in the record. We're proud of it," added Yannick Rastogi, aka KNY Factory. "And then, it just happened."

Raymond and co-producer Rastogi make up the band Banx & Ranx, offering up electronic music that makes listeners sway and bounce.

The hit song, featuring British pop stars Ella Eyre and YXNG Bane, took only one day to write. 

But they didn't do it alone.

In a studio session in London, Banx & Ranx, worked through drum patterns, chords, melodies and lyrics with Ella Eyre.

Parlophone labelmate, Jacob Manson of the British group Blonde contributed, as well as singer and songwriter Shakka.

They were fans of YNG Bane, and he agreed to add his lyrical touch.

The song has all the characteristics of the Afro-beat-caribbean trap music that is essential for any great dance party these days — think Drake and Wizkid collaborations, or Justin Bieber's hit song "Sorry".

For their particular style, Banx & Ranx call the genre ECM: Electronic Caribbean Music.

Both of them are based in Montreal, but met online in 2014, and realized they had the same musical goals.

"We both wanted to make a hybrid — bring Caribbean music to a different sphere," explained Raymond.

But they weren't just trying to be on trend.

Rastogi was a solo artist performing as KNY Factory and producing dancehall trap and hip hop music when he came to Montreal from the French-Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.  

So his connection to Caribbean music was unavoidable, even though is he of French-Canadian and Indian heritage.

"If you love what you do, and you're 100 per cent confident in what you do, no matter your colour skin, no matter where you come from," Rastogi explained about the question of having to prove that they can create this kind of music.

"If you embrace the culture and you respect everyone else's culture [then it's not harder for you]."

Raymond, who is originally from Ottawa, was trying to carve out a space in a non-existent reggae-dancehall scene in Montreal as a vocalist and electronic music producer.  

He said he's always loved reggae music. Eventually he developed an even deeper connection to Jamaican culture, being a part of a West-Indian family, raising kids who are half-Jamaican.

"Even though we're considered two white boys from the North, we have so much respect for the music and the codes," he said. "You can't master it, if you don't."


But despite flying to England once a month to write, produce and record songs — since signing two years ago with Parlophone, one of the largest and oldest record labels in the country — Banx & Ranx want to stay on this side of the Atlantic.

They see Montreal as the next Toronto, offering new music to the world in many languages as a result of the eclectic nature of the city and, of course, the mix of people who call the city home.

"We invest in local artists and writers. We still keep time and energy for people over here."

They are, however, disappointed with the slow pace of change in the music industry in Quebec, a model they call "old-fashioned," where the approach is still "too conservative and too white."

Parlophone has been making sure that the Banx & Ranx sound grows, getting them to write and produce music for the top talents out there.

Now artists and labels are requesting to have their songs remixed by the Montreal team.

Before the end of this month and leading into summer, expect to hear some new Sean Paul music produced by Banx & Ranx.

They also worked on the dancehall star's "Mad Love" release with David Guetta, and were called back to contribute to more singles.

"It's all about having fun with people. This is how you get the best of anyone," said Rastogi.

More stories about Montreal's arts scene