Filomena Pisano didn’t think anything good could have come from her daughter’s chance encounter with a coyote in late April.
You’ve probably seen the video by now. Pisano’s daughter trying to fend off a lunging canid as it tries to attack Charlie, the family’s Shih Tzu. Local resident Tim Balasiuk running full speed at the coyote, chasing it away. The video went viral and garnered national news network attention.
Pisano was shaken, scared and angry. She posted the video from the security camera in her nearby home to a local Facebook group and the conversation about what to do about the Old Town’s coyote problem was on.
Adrian Rezza joined the conversation, worried that he and his young family may one day have to fend off the same animal near their Karsam Court home, just a stone’s throw from Pisano’s house.
The very next day Rezza had his own close encounter.
“I took my daughter to the bus stop,” he says, “the bus driver told me there was a coyote at John and Victoria Streets. I got in my van, and I saw this coyote lunging at a woman. I picked up my birch walking stick and got out of the car. Me and another guy chased it down Simcoe Street.”
Rezza says he didn’t even stop to think about what he was doing, perhaps emboldened by having seen Balasiuk’s success in Pisano’s video.
Rezza posted the details of his own incident on the same Facebook group and it garnered Pisano’s attention.
“If you look at it (his post),” says the visual artist, “there were no periods, no spaces. I thought he was having a panic attack. I reached out to him to make sure he was okay. We ended up talking on the phone for over two hours.”
Rezza and his brother Lucas are rappers, songwriters and producers who work under the name of 80 Empire. They create their songs out of Lucas’ Old Town home, Adrian writing lyrics, rapping and singing, with Lucas composing the music and creating the beats and backing tracks.
The brothers found a kindred spirit in Pisano, whose stunning visual art has captured much attention in recent years. All three are of Italian heritage and moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake from the Toronto area. Gathered at Pisano’s Virgil studio, they are loud, boisterous and energetic. Pisano could easily be mistaken for the boys’ long-lost sister.
Lucas and Adrian had booked a trip to Brooklyn, New York to shoot footage for three of the songs on their upcoming new record Intermission. One of those songs, by coincidence, is called Paintings.
Things went well for the hip hop artists in New York. Their quest was to shoot everything they needed in their 48 hours in the borough, but some poor weather left them needing more footage for Paintings.
On the flight back home, they came up with the idea to call Pisano.
“I said, Adrian,” Lucas chips in, “why don’t we hit up Filomena to use her studio?”
“You know why I said ‘yes’?” Pisano laughs. “Because I had just had my hair done at Bliss.”
The brothers rolled in with their videographer Fatty Soprano just two and a half hours later that Monday. To their surprise, Pisano was blasting their 2021 album Anthems & Icons when they arrived.
“Her art, her charisma, her kindness,” Adrian says about Pisano. “She looked amazing. We were working without a storyboard, but it all came together. Artists, music and painters, just make it work.”
The song, says Lucas, is about “politics and bull____. It uses paintings as a metaphor.”
He plays part of the track, featuring Adrian singing rhythmically in a falsetto over a slow, brooding beat provided by Lucas.
“Life is like a painting and the colours change, depending how the light is,” he sings on the hook, before moving into a rap that drops names such as Salvador Dali, Lars Ulrich from heavy metal band Metallica and tennis player Maria Sharapova. It features a guest appearance from Brooklyn rapper Nejma Nefertiti, who free-styled her own lyrics to drive home the metaphor.
During the shoot, which lasted about three hours, Pisano grabbed her palette and went to work on one of her creations.
“He (Fatty) asked me what I do to get started,” Pisano says. “I just rolled everything into the middle of the room, and started to paint. I didn’t know he was going to videotape me. At that moment, I left my body.”
“She was in a zone,” Adrian agrees.
80 Empire left the Virgil studio with all the footage they needed for the video, which debuts Aug. 1, two weeks after Paintings will hit all streaming services. The full Intermission album will follow shortly after that.
And Pisano got what she needed a month after the harrowing experience with the coyote.
“Through this event I have met my tribe,” Pisano says today. “I have met the people who are kind, the silver lining in this mess. I regretted posting that video at first, and I got a lot of negative comments.”
As the track continues to echo in her high-ceilinged studio, she beams with pleasure.
“I’m so happy,” Pisano enthuses. “This healed it. These two guys and Fatty coming into my studio, the moment they entered, the coyote story was healed.”