The music duo Gingembre didn’t get off the ground during the pandemic, but it’s certainly grown ever since.
Roots of the two-part collaboration were planted back in February, when COVID was just a whisper and people thought of “physical distancing” as something done only with their ex. Then mid-March hit, “bubbles” were not only found in a can of Coke, and Amber Lam and Kevin McMillan just kept making music – plenty of it, mostly online in file-sharing mode.
The French word for ginger, Gingembre’s “chill alternative” songs pair the vocals and lyrics of Lam, a North Deltan, with guitars and other instruments played by McMillan, who lives in the Fraser Heights area of Surrey.
They’ve written and recorded close to 20 songs, or parts of them, since meeting through a Craigslist ad.
“It was my guilty pleasure poking around on there for musicians looking for vocalists, and there was nothing even remotely interesting to me,” Lam explained.
“I’d been at a staff team-building exercise at Cypress, snowshoeing in February,” she continued, “and they had a little band at Hollyburn Lodge and they asked if anyone wanted to sing. I said sure, so I sang with the band and they were like, ‘Oh, you need to sing more,’ and got me their songbooks and I flipped through those and sang some covers. It was so much fun. My co-workers were blown away and I came home on this high of performing. So I got back on Craigslist that evening and connected with Kevin.”
Recalled McMillan: “The vocal melody she later sang on this guitar piece I put up was just so awesome, and that kind of started this thing.”
Lam, a veterinary technician by trade, and McMillan, a Canada Post-ie, stumbled upon a very natural musical chemistry, according to the duo.
“Kevin’s incredible musical talent with my lyrics and melodies just seemed to be so perfectly matched despite our different careers and life experiences,” Lam says.
The pair chatted with the Now-Leader during a pre-Christmas Zoom call that focused on their music, the months of COVID-era creativity and their first official single, the Cory Friesen-produced “Neither Am I,” the lyric video for which is posted to their YouTube channel. The music can also be found on Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer and Tidal platforms.
Lam and McMillan describe “Neither Am I” as “a reflection of loyalty within lasting relationships. How time, place, age, and situation cannot divide you if you only have a little grace and can accept one another’s imperfections.”
Added Lam: “Our music can come across as melancholy but the thematic messages remain: the processing of emotion, experiencing life’s ups and downs, hope, loyalty, pushing on, and remembering the past.”
Some of the duo’s songs were created with the help of JamKazam, a platform that allows musicians to play together online.
“A lot of my friends and I used to collaborate with it,” McMillan explained. “As you get older you don’t want to lift 4x12s (amps) to your friend’s house to jam, and this platform allows you to converse in real time. The latency is so low that it’s not even noticeable. You sit at your computer and jam, and since COVID it’s kind of the only way you can jam.”
Added Lam: “We’ll start at 8 p.m and work till 4 in the morning, you know, and it’s like, ‘Where did that time go?’ We’re just so busy creating and going nuts with writing music, so it’s been really nice.”
Online isn’t the only place these two have created music.
“We’d met in person a number of times, back in February and March, and Kevin came to one of my church music practices,” Lam said.
“It’s all just worked for us, and it’s very positive to have this outlet for creativity that can continue despite being separated. We can send each other song ideas and things, and I’ve always been inspired by people like that. One of my favourite bands, Mutemath, actually started that way, where the one guy lived in Missouri and the other in Louisiana, and they’d send each other tracks and work on things from afar. It’s so neat to be apart of something like that.”
When things get back to “normal,” Gingembre may do some gigs and perform for some people, but the duo aims to remain a recording project, mostly.
“It’s so rewarding for both of us,” McMillan said, “and there’s something rewarding about sharing this music with other people now and seeing who else finds their own things they like about it. It’s so interesting to hear what other people feel when they hear it or what it reminds them of.”
Lam said she feels blessed that the two came across each other “in this random clash of fate.
“We’re both the same age, our birthdays are both in July of 1989, we’d never met and had almost no friend crossovers at all. I was like, ‘How does this happen that there’s this perfect person to make music with and I’ve just met them now, in our 30s?’