Story by Claire Miglionico.
Photos by Max Foley.
“There’s something about one of my life lessons that I had to get over: the desire to censor myself,” shares Aurora Sol, better known under the DJ alias Aurora/Boring Alice. “It’s really, really hard for me to do so. I’ve been doing this for about five years, writing music and then deleting all of it and then just doing that over and over. I’ve finally got out of that.”
The name ‘Aurora/Boring Alice’ – not to be confused with the local punk-rock band of the same alias – was born as a joke amongst old friends where the misheard ‘Aurora Borealis’ became the playful ‘Aurora/Boring Alice.’ Sol liked it and has stuck with it ever since.
We are sitting at Philosafy Coffee on 17th Avenue, chatting about Sol’s DJ debuts, creating safe party spaces through collective PPM, and the feeling of nervousness experienced while spinning – even to this day.
“Everyone’s willing to support each other,” says Sol. “We definitely think that people are judging us more than [they are], when really we’re judging ourselves.”
While in university, Sol dated a DJ and became immersed in this new world of electronic music production of which Sol knew very little about.
During that time, Sol dealt with a traumatic experience that saw a nephew in the hospital for months due to a brain injury. The unfortunate circumstances derailed Sol from school, but alternatively led to fully focusing on music and spending a year-and-a-half in Vancouver within the DJ scene.
“I didn’t appreciate Calgary, and leaving gave me that space to be like ‘Woah, we’re damn lucky here in [the city]’,” boasts Sol.
Sol appreciates the collaborative nature of Calgary’s music scene, the freedom to share, be heard and seen, and the feeling when artists are seen interested in what others are doing instead of the competitiveness found in larger hubs.
“It’s definitely more ‘every man for himself’ in Vancouver,” claims Sol.
Sol collaborates on a regular with other local DJs and, along with DJ pal, Hannah Cohen – aka Anput – created the collective PPM, which stands for parts per million, a scientific term used here to emulate the unity of people coming together in rave culture.
PPM’s first event was held in August at the newly launched McHugh House, a new community hub in the Beltline in partnership with CJSW. The McHugh House serves as an all-ages music venue among other community initiatives.
“We’re about creating safe spaces for people to enjoy themselves, and curating events that push past simple parties that are totally anti-hate, where people feel like they are accepted, which, I think, is becoming more and more important right now more so than ever,” says Sol. “Essentially we are trying to create a platform for people that focuses on intersectionality the way that dance music culture started in marginalized communities in New York, Detroit and Chicago.”
Sol is also currently developing a new podcast under the PPM moniker that will focus on creating a community through sharing music, ideas and having conversations about hard topics via broadcasting. The whole concept is heavily influenced by Jared A. Ball, a communications professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD, whom Sol developed an admiration for through the studies of his work.
Ball is known for i MiX WHAT i LiKE, a concept borrowed from anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko’s columns titled “I Write What I Like.” The column is centered on radical broadcasting, Black consciousness and “the mixtape [being] the rawest form of journalism, specifically called ‘emancipatory journalism’,” says Sol.
Emancipatory journalism is known for its focus on the process, ordinary people, and interpretive and grounded knowledge versus events, officials, factual and science.
“I really do love journalism,” says Sol. “I think journalism is so important especially now when we have all this fake news and weird shit going on. Essentially, I want PPM to become a platform for marginalized artists without becoming a clique.”
Sol says there’s a certain comfort and freedom in knowing that people can interpret Sol’s music – noticeably in the closeness to the concepts of emancipatory journalism – in an open-ended and subjective manner.
“I definitely think that my main love for DJing specifically comes from that ability to so easily tell a story to people without using my own words,” enthuses Sol. “Everybody’s interpretation is different of any art; even an article can be interpreted differently.”
Here’s to more intersectionality, inclusivity, and creating safe spaces in the city through what tends to unite us the most: music.