Purveyor of: Bilingual alt-pop, memorable melodies, reflective lyrics, and musical spells.
File next to: The Craft on VHS, Caroline Polachek, Portishead, Grimes, Banks, and also Fern Gully on VHS
Playing: Saturday, February 20th at Wavelength Winter Festival at 87PM EST on our YouTube channel. Tune in here.
Rupert Common sat down one chilly Montréal morning to have a phone call with Maryze. The following interview is a transcription of pretty much the whole thing!
So, you perform at the Wavelength festival on February 20th, 2021. How do you feel about doing an online show — is it just as exciting as a live audience?
I think at this point it’s definitely very exciting, because we haven’t played in so long, so I am stoked to be on stage again and to connect with people, even virtually. It’s not the same as a live show, I think there is a lot that can happen in the moment when you are in front of people and seeing them face to face, and sharing that connection. So I am super, super excited about it, but also, I am hoping that later this year real shows will be possible again.
Yeah, I agree, there is something that happens with a live audience that you can’t duplicate. But at the same time, doing virtual stuff is really a performance.
For sure, it is definitely a performance and it still has that exciting feeling.
Your song “Squelettes,” with Backxwash, was listed number 85 in the top 100 songs of Montréal by Cult MTL. What brought you two together?
Backxwash and I were slotted on a lot of bills together in 2019. We always talked about doing a song together. I love her style. I love her spooky horror vibe — we both love horror. We both have a lot of similar music tastes. Anytime she tweets about an early 2000s song that she was obsessed with, I was also obsessed with it too. We definitely have a lot of similar reference points. It’s interesting to share them but then have our sounds be so different. When we come together, I feel like we meld those worlds. And after playing so many shows, becoming friends, and having the ideas swirl about, Margo came along and made the beat. She is an insane producer, and she tied it all together.
Mmm that’s really cool. It’s a big deal to get recognized like that also.
Yeah Cult MTL has shown so much love. I’m not from Montréal, but always viewed it as a magical, cultural mecca so to be recognized is a huge honour.
For sure. You are a part of the Hot Tramp label. How has that been a game changer for you?
It’s been a blessing just meeting Sarah Armiento, who founded Hot Tramp, and getting to be a part of the label. It feels more like an artist collective really. Janette King is one of my best friends and Alicia Clara, who is so great, are both on the label too. Being a part of this community has been so encouraging. I’ve always wanted to sign with a label but you hear these horror stories about big corporations and how they own their artists and you have to sell your soul. This feels like the opposite. It is a warm, fun environment and encourages me to keep going.
Yeah, so you’re down with horror stories, but not that kind I guess?
Yes, there are good horror stories and bad ones. Sarah is the opposite of that kind of label.
Would you consider signing to a larger label in the future?
Yeah for sure, it’s definitely an idea I would consider, but I would always want to keep Sarah as my manager and would always want to be a part of the Hot Tramp family. If we are going to grow and evolve, it’s going to be together and we are going to stay as a team
You all got shamed a bit on the Internet for being slightly provocative in your photos. What was that all about?
Yeah it’s funny. It’s not the photo that was provocative at all. We are talking about the Cult cover right?
What people found controversial was that we were wearing masks and we were women, just standing there in our power. It’s not like we were being provocative. If we were, that would be cool, but I think a lot of right-wing, more traditional-minded folks were really mad that we were wearing masks promoting the “new world order.” And Hot Tramp is women and non-binary based, and queer too, and I think some of the Internet was just mad we were there. We thought it was funny, especially because we had a community around us to laugh at the trolls, but if we did not have that support, it would have been harder for sure.
Quoting your song, “Soft,” from the Like Moons EP (2019), what makes you a “hard girl to love”?
(Laughs) OMG that’s so funny. The whole point of “Soft” is to let yourself be in that soft place you find in a loving relationship. For a long time I was resistant to that, I was really guarded. Looking back at those lyrics, it maybe looks like I’m difficult or hard to love, but it’s more that I’m hard to get through to, sometimes. I don’t let myself be loved. It took me a lot of learning to let myself be loved.
I can relate to that. I just watched The Matrix last night. And one part of the movie is about Trinity and Neo, and what she was told by the oracle. She knows the whole time but finds it so hard to tell Neo her feelings.
I really need to re-watch The Matrix. It’s so complex and deep. I need to go back.
It’s very worth it — there’s so much on a metaphorical level it’s full of wisdom.
Totally thank you for that (tears).
No problem. So… you are a strong vocalist.
No problem, I listened to a lot of your music this past week. So are you trained? Do you do drills?
I was trained in vocal jazz and I was in a jazz choir in high school. I had a vocal coach for five years from ages 12-17 or so, and her name was Angela Kelman. She was in this Canadian country girl group called Farmer’s Daughter, who were pretty big in the ‘90s. She opened up my world to other forms of music, because we would study different genres. So I learned about Motown, soul, jazz, and pop. It taught me about songwriting and not being slotted into one category. To this day, I still have the funny vocal drills we did in choir. They are so ridiculous sounding, you kind of have to not care what you sound and look like.
Cool! Good to know. So like you said, you have so many influences… and generally I get that in your music. Your voice reminds me of pop stars from the ‘80s. like Cher.
OMG love that.
Yeah yeah, and also some contemporary R&B influences. But you’re not fully R&B… you have a cool Maryze way of singing. So who are your biggest vocal influences?
Interesting you said the R&B thing, because growing up in the early 2000s, R&B was so popular that it weaved its way into my influences. And the first concert I saw on my own with my friends was Destiny’s Child.
Destiny’s Child at GM Place, Vancouver?
Yeah, were you there?
Yeah, I was there!
I would have been like 10. My parents would have dropped me off. So R&B inspired me a lot as a kid. They are the first pop songs I listened to and started singing in my room. I wouldn’t categorize myself as an R&B artist, but it influences what I do. So, Destiny’s Child is one of the biggest ones and then Édith Piaf, the French jazz singer. My grandmother loved her and my dad really loved her. She has such an incredibly evocative voice, I feel so connected to her voice. And Lady Gaga. I gotta throw my girl Lady Gaga in. I feel such a kindred connection to her. She inspires me in life, not just in music.
That’s nice. Those three people really show your different influences. So… you have TikTok. Tell me about what draws you to that platform.
OMG that’s so funny — that’s why I asked to push the interview back an hour. Mark Ronson just put out a TikTok duet thing where you can write a new verse on his new song and he did that for someone I knew, so I was trying to record my vocals for that.
Oh! Mark Ronson is so good.
So good. And that’s another thing with the Lady Gaga connection — they collab a lot. As for TikTok, I think I am still learning to navigate it all. For me it has been a really positive experience. I have connected with so many new people and artists and seen my online following grow quite a bit. It has opened new opportunities, and I do think the music industry is moving in a direction where TikTok is a big thing. So I am trying to be careful not to get sucked in because it is so addictive, but also to embrace it.
Sounds like a wise decision. I mean we can talk about this another time, but the different social media apps can be used in a lot of different ways. And you got actual results. People joining your Spotify. It’s a part of the profession to get a following but you don’t want to get too lost in it.
Definitely. The good and bad and trying to maintain that balance and relationship with it.
(reflective moment of transitional space)
We are in a lockdown in Montréal, with an 8pm curfew. As you know.
How have you adjusted to these restrictions with regards to your music and recording?
I guess it hasn’t been the most negative thing in terms of creativity, because we are limited in what we can do in the evening. January was a really productive month in terms of getting things done with music. I don’t know if that is directly correlated with the lockdown. It’s strange, none of us love it, no one wants it to go on for a long period of time. But at least it is winter, people are already in hibernation mode so if we can at least use it productively…
I agree, yes, some people are really like “you don’t have to be productive, you can do nothing.” There is always the online compassion for each other, but it really is whatever works for you.
Yeah and there are cycles. For December I was trying to kick my butt into action, but I just had to accept that sometimes the harder you push, the harder it is to get back up. I just had to give myself a good month or two of rest at the end of 2020.
Yeah, and that is technically the holiday time, but I’m glad you listened to yourself. And I noticed via a TikTok video you have your own recording studio that made with your partner.
Yeah, so Solomon K-I, my partner in music and life, he pretty much just built this whole studio himself from the bottom up. And obviously it’s such a privilege to get to record from home in the lockdown, because we can’t go to another studio. Kind of a blessing and a curse because sometimes it’s hard to know, for any artist, when you are on and off. We can be working all the time. Like, “it’s 2am. I need to go to bed…” Even though I could keep working.
Yes, okay so I have three more questions. You are bilingual, which is a great gift. Do you find a natural crossover between English and French or do you feel your music, lyrics and audience changes?
I never set out to write a song in English or French, it’s just whatever happens. I used to write a lot more personal songs in French because people around me couldn’t understand what I was saying. Since being in Montréal, that has obviously changed. But I feel the languages are so different. French is a Latin language. It’s a bit more romantic. I think a lot of people feel you need to be careful in French to not sound too flowery, but I embrace it. In terms of audience, it has been interesting to see how Anglophone audiences resonate with the French because they don’t necessarily know what I am saying and they just feel the emotion and apply that to whatever they are going through.
That is a good point. I noticed that as I listened to your songs. You have a few music videos online, ranging from completely DIY to directed and produced. Any music videos coming up soon?
I do! I just finished my upcoming single and the music video for it is… I guess pretty DIY. We were doing it in lockdown, pretty distanced. I got together with one friend and we filmed each other doing stuff and sent it to the editor. I’m excited, it’s kind of really ‘80s and I think we embraced the comedic side. It’s obviously not a comedy song… but just embracing the ‘80s vibe. There is a lot of dancing maybe some… playing synth while skating on ice
Ohhh, I was thinking of ice skating in a music video too, awesome.
And yeah it’s still obviously emo.
True, but I think humour is still in a lot of videos and in music in many ways. So many examples of that,
Yes and important to not take yourself so seriously, especially if the music you make is dark. It’s good to have respite. And times are pretty dark currently…
Okay, last question. You also identify as a witch. Please elaborate.
Yeah! I have always Identified as a witch since as long as I can remember. I got my first pack of tarot at age six. It is a part of my heritage. I am fully Celtic. My dad is Irish and my mum is Briton (the Celtic part of France). My grandma identified as a witch. My education as a child on how the world worked was spiritual, mystical, and tied to nature and intuition. My dad had all these books about female Celtic goddesses and women in mythology in general, so I grew up with these strong female mentors and was led to believe I could do what I wanted to do. And that is what magic is: creating something out of nothing. And music is tied to magic because you are manifesting something out of thin air that did not exist before.
I think a lot more creators are more magical than they realize.
You can catch Maryze at our digital Winter Festival Night 1 with Backxwash and Zoon this Saturday, February 20th at 7pm EST on our YouTube channel–all free, and all ages. Tune in here!
About Rupert Common:
Rupert Common is an interdisciplinary artist based in Montreal, Canada. His show, @News_with_Rupert combines satire and news with a social justice perspective and features sketch comedy, music videos and street dance. Rupert’s most recent album, Veganese Folk-Hop Volume 2, will be released online at the Winter Solstice (Dec 21st). He is currently penning a fantasy hip hop web-series based in another dimension but would greatly appreciate you following him in this one.