Tag: Dead Astronauts

GLITBITER Interview

Photo by Cameron Loewenstein

GLITBITER is the musical vehicle of Los Angeles-based musician and vocalist Florence Bullock.

Following the release of her three song debut EP ‘Short Stories’ in 2017, GLITBITER went on to collaborate with BETAMAXX on the track ‘Skyhigh’ from the acclaimed album ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’ and remixed Canadian popwavers PARALLELS. Meanwhile, she also joined North American avant pop combo DEAD ASTRONAUTS for their most recent album ‘Silhouettes’.

With all these new found experiences to develop her own brand of “Dreamy synthwave for the dark soul”, there then came the impressive six song mini-album ‘Glass & Steel’, a fine showcase for an appealing feminine take on the synth form boosted by previous schooling in more traditional forms for that vital musicality.

Taking time out from rehearsing for her first live gig in quite a while and releasing a brand new single called ‘Fall Apart’ written for the ‘Of Tears & Blood’ podcast, Florence Bullock spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the importance of being GLITBITER…

The ‘Glass & Steel’ mini-album has been a while coming as your first release ‘Short Stories’ was released in 2017?

Yes, I know it’s taken more forever to get new music out! I’ve had the songs on ‘Glass & Steel’ ready to go for ages, but there were lots of ups and downs with people who were potentially going to work on it with me, and frankly, a good deal of procrastination. Ultimately, I realized I just had to do it myself. Luckily, since 2017, I’ve stayed fairly active by playing live shows and doing some collaborations with some amazing people.

Photo by Cameron Loewenstein

How do you look back on the ‘Short Stories’ EP and how you’ve grown as an artist and producer since?

I’m still immensely proud of ‘Short Stories’. I had never released any music up until that point, and really had no idea what to do after I had written and produced the songs. Mixing and mastering were still an enigma to me, so I asked my friend Mike Balboa (who, incidentally mixed ‘Follower’ and ‘Turn’ off of ‘G&S’) for advice, and he said “Just release the songs. You’ll get better as time goes on”.

So, as I’ve learned countless times since, I did it myself. ‘Short Stories’ is 100% me (mastering included), and even though I know it’s not produced perfectly, people still seem to enjoy it. I had something to show after that EP was released, and it opened new doors, allowing me to make new connections, and grow.

What made you decide to use synths as your tools of expression?

I’ve always been drawn to synthesizer sounds. I didn’t necessarily grow up listening to electronic music, but I think it was some combination of subconsciously taking in some late ‘80s and early ‘90s music, as well as video and computer game music that I found along the way. I was particularly enamoured with music from the game ‘Candy Crisis’, which I found out later was made by a bunch of artists in the Mod scene in the late ‘90s. Also, no joke, I was obsessed with EIFFEL 65’s ‘Europop’ in 1999. Sounds like those really stuck with me, and then, when I discovered Synthwave, it really brought everything full circle.

Also, it was practical for me. After years of piano lessons, and some computer production classes in college, I had the skills to make music with synths. I could also do it all “in the box” and save a few bucks.

Photo by Jerry Herrera

Do you have any favourite VSTs or hardware?

Software-wise, I love Diva, and the CS-80 and Jupiter 8 Arturia emulators. My favourite, for years, has been Dune, which is probably my most used VST. I don’t use a ton of hardware, but I occasionally whip out my MicroKorg, especially for the vocoder. I also acquired an Omnichord, last year, which I’m excited to use on some upcoming stuff – fun fact, I added some Omnichord on ‘Low Light’, which is the first track on DEAD ASTRONAUTS’ ‘Silhouettes’.

There are lots of women now in synth, did that give you more encouragement? Who do you look on as your sisters-in-arms?

Actually, when I started GLITBITER, it was the lack of female presence in the scene that really drove me. There was a clear void that I could help fill.

I’m happy to say that, though we’re still the minority, there are so many other women in the scene, now, and some of those ladies are making some of the biggest waves (pun intended?). Of course, being part of a relatively small group of women, I think we all naturally have a bond, whether we’re good friends, or just acquaintances. But a big shoutout to all the ladies whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person and/or played shows with – BUNNY X, Czarina, Dana Jean Phoenix, Danielle of WYNDSRFR, Holly of PARALLELS, Julie of FUTURE HOLOTAPE, Lau, Mecha Maiko, Megan McDuffee and Nina.

So is the ‘Girl In A Storm’ autobiographical?

Sort of! Generally, my lyrics are a stream of consciousness – some ideas and phrases in songs connect, and some don’t. For this song in particular, it’s mostly descriptions of images and fears from childhood, with some other stuff that is completely unrelated. In the end, none of it matters, now (“she’s not the same old girl”). But I also change my interpretations of my lyrics, occasionally, so I invite anyone to interpret them how they see fit. I like having lyrics that make people think. Also, funny story, I performed this song only once at a live show, and it happened to be during Hurricane Florence, in 2018.

Photo by Jerry Herrera

‘Follower’ and ‘Turn’ both show a shift move into a more sophisticated use of effects, rhythms and textures?

It’s funny, because I think of those songs as the more straightforward ones on the album. They’re the only two that follow “the formula” (verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus). They both have an underlying arpeggio, which gives them more of a fast-moving texture, as opposed to the other songs.

Basically, I think what I’m getting at is… I tricked you into making it seem like these were more complicated than they are! But also, those two were mixed by my friend Mike Balboa, and he knows what he’s doing. His mixing definitely helped bring those two songs to life.

‘Blade’ features some great synthphonic soloing, what inspired that?

I love a good synth melody. It’s one of the main reasons why I love synthwave so much – the fact that I can sing along to synth lines and solos, just as easily as the vocal melodies. Honestly, I’m pretty sure the structure of ‘Blade’ was subconsciously adapted from ‘Subdivisions’ by RUSH. That synth melody after the chorus is one of my favorites of all time – Not technically brilliant, but just a damn good melody. In terms of ‘Blade’, I particularly love how the vocal chorus leads into synth line. It’s something that’s really fun to play live, too.

You opted not to include the interim single ‘See You In The Trees’ on ‘Glass & Steel’, any particular reasons?

I owe a lot of [relative] success to ‘See You In The Trees’, but it was always meant to be a stand-alone song. To me, it’s old news. It’s been so long since I’ve released anything, and I didn’t want to look to the past. ‘Glass & Steel’ had to be its own new thing and I didn’t want an old single to overshadow that.

On BETAMAXX’s ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’ album, you contributed to ‘Skyhigh’ which was one of the highlights, how was the collaboration process?

It was great working with Nick Morey and George Hetzer. First of all, it was an honor to be included on that album – BETAMAXX was one of the first artists who I listened to when I discovered synthwave, and to be included among the other power house collaborators MECHA MAIKOVANDAL MOON and Robert Parker was something out of dream.

Nick originally sent me a few songs to choose from, and after playing around with some melodies, ‘Skyhigh’ (which was already named) was the clear winner. I think it took me an hour to come up with the melody and lyrics – it was just one of those things that flowed out, immediately, especially since the music was so great to begin with. After that, there was barely any other back and forth – Just updates from Nick and George, and how the production transformed along the way.

Photo by Cameron Loewenstein

There was that mad metal opera hybrid you did with Gregorio Franco called ‘Awakening’ which brought out another side of you?

This was one of the most fun collaborations I’ve done, thus far. When Gregorio sent that over to me, I honestly didn’t know what to do with it. It was darker, and heavier than anything I had lent vocals to in the past and my normal singing voice just wasn’t quite cutting it for me. It had more power metal vibes, than anything related to synthwave and that’s when I had my aha moment – “Why don’t I just pull a ‘Nightwish’?”.

I studied classical voice for years, and throughout college, so operatic vocals are actually more natural to me than how I usually sing, nowadays. Once I decided to go in that direction, I came up with the melody immediately. The hardest part was re-analyzing how to sing into my microphone – basically I had to be a good two feet further away than normal!

You did a wonderful remix of ‘Vienna’ for PARALLELS 10th Anniversary release of their debut album ‘Visionaries’. There are melodic synth phrases which are similar to Scotland’s WITCH OF THE VALE and their ‘Trust The Pain’; it appears you both perhaps come from like-minded places musically, albeit with an ocean between you?

Full disclosure, I was unfamiliar with WITCH OF THE VALE until this interview, but I totally hear the similarity! Interestingly, vocally, they remind me a lot of AUTUMN’s ‘Grey Solace’, who were in heavy rotation for me around 2003. I listened to a lot of alt / goth music in high school, so I can see where we could have been drawing from similar places!

Back to the ‘Glass & Steel’ mini-album, ‘Out of the Wasteland’ and ‘Fights & Fears’ have folkier overtones, does that come from anywhere particular in your psyche?

Well, I wasn’t consciously going for folk, but I’ll take it! My mom listened to a lot of folk rock when I was growing up (James Taylor, Judy Collins, Art Garfunkel etc), and that has influenced me in some shapes and forms. ‘Out of the Wasteland’ is in triple meter, which you don’t find too much in synthwave, but is much more common in folk songs. As for ‘Fights & Fears’, I wanted a more laid back song, that sort of flowed onward, and evolved into an organic structure, and different modulations. Not sure if that’s from my folk psyche, but the concept is a step away from what I’ve generally heard in synthwave.

Photo by Cameron Loewenstein

Do you have a favourite track, either your own or any collaboration so far? What makes it so special for you?

I would say my favorite track is ‘Out Of The Wasteland’. I wrote it ages ago, and it has literally taken me years to get it to its final state, which I am finally happy with. There’s a simple counterpoint melody between the vocals and a synth bell sound in the chorus that I’ve always loved.

Also, the lyrics happen to be a metaphor for the song and its evolution, which was not even initially intended. I like simple melodies, and when things fall into place, and ‘Out Of The Wasteland’ checks all of the boxes.

How have you found taking your music out live because presenting synthwave in that environment is one of its inherent challenges?

Instrumental electronic music is hard to translate into a live setting. I’ve seen countless synthwave acts essentially just “hit the play button”. But I feel that I have an advantage, because my songs have vocals. Sure, I have a backing track – I’m basically a one-woman band, on stage, and I can’t play every single part, but being able to move from behind my keyboard, and sing to the audience allows me to connect to the crowd in ways that instrumental-only acts can’t.

Of course, playing and singing live has its own set of challenges – I can’t sing or play a keyboard part 25 times until it’s perfect – I have one shot. Also, coming from a classical voice background, amplified performance was a completely different ballgame for me. Getting used to singing into a microphone and being able to comfortably hear backing tracks is still something I’m learning to perfect, but I absolutely love the challenge.

Photo by Jerry Herrera

Now you have built some profile and momentum, will the next body of work be sooner rather than later?

I have an upcoming show on June 26th! I’m opening for my friends WYNDSRFR, who incidentally just released a stellar album called ‘Golden Years’. Hopefully more shows will follow after this one. Playing (and seeing) live shows is the thing that I’ve missed the most over the last year and a half – they’re little social hubs where I get to see friends, and meet new people, and I’m stoked that things are opening back up again.

Also, yes, I mentally got over a big mountain with the release of ‘Glass & Steel’, so there should be more from me sooner rather than later. I might have an additional single, and a few collaborations on the near horizon…

Your hopes and fears as the world comes out to play again?

Again, I’m hoping to play live more, and hopefully not just in California. I’ve previously done some traveling to play a show, here and there, around the US, and that has been the most fun. I’m definitely looking forward to more opportunities to fly around, meet new people, and play tunes.

Fears? I tend to be optimistic (maybe too optimistic?), but any fears about the upcoming year have been drowned out by excitement. Let’s leave it at that.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Florence Bullock

‘Glass & Steel’ is available as a digital mini-album via the usual online platforms including from Bandcamp at https://glitbiter.bandcamp.com/album/glass-steel

https://www.facebook.com/glitbiter

https://twitter.com/glitbiter

https://www.instagram.com/glitbiter/

https://soundcloud.com/glitbiter

https://open.spotify.com/artist/6aUb5Zujn6ZsAuzuxepUsv


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
23rd June 2021

GLITBITER Glass & Steel

GLITBITER is the musical vehicle of Los Angeles-based musician and vocalist Florence Bullock.

Classically trained with a love of esteemed songwriter Jimmy Webb, she describes her style as “Dreamy synthwave for the dark soul”.

One of her forays into the North American synthwave scene included her contribution to BETAMAXX’s ‘Lost In A Dreamworld’ album on ‘Skyhigh’, with the song’s vibrato treated vocal stabs on the coda being a particular delight. There was also a cameo in the video for another BETAMAXX track ‘Never Sleep Again’ which was fronted by gothwavers VANDAL MOON.

Meanwhile, when PARALLELS celebrated the 10 year anniversary of their debut album ‘Visionaries’ with some specially commissioned remixes, GLITBITER’s sparking rework of the song ‘Vienna’ was the best of the bunch. More recently, she joined DEAD ASTRONAUTS for the recently released ‘Silhouettes’ album with ‘Thorns’ being one of the highlights.

Having issued a promising three track EP ‘Short Stories’ in 2017, GLITBITER has taken the next step with a six song mini-album called ‘Glass & Steel’. This title is an appropriate pointer to its contents and the first thing instantly noticeable is the leap in sonic progression compared with her earlier work.

The melancholic folk-laden opener ‘Out of the Wasteland’ adopts a slow swing template and recalls Scotland’s WITCH OF THE VALE or Sweden’s Karin My but enhanced by speedy arpeggios and prominent synthbass drones. More four-to-the-floor with a driving bass triplet, ‘Turn’ gallops into the sunset with a rich display of vocal prowess.

Featuring a soaring sweeping synth solo that is a total delight, ‘Blade’ reveals an angelic crystalline quality to a more archetypical synthwave template although GLITERBITER puts her own stamp on the form, learning lessons from her association with BETAMAXX.

Much more ringy in tone, ‘Girl In A Storm’ applies an interesting use of stuttering rhythm at its start before embarking on its syncopated journey while swathed in folky overtones.

With a meaty rhythmic construction that doesn’t overbear, ‘Follower’ pulsates wonderfully while also providing space to breathe for the gloriously emotive vocals. ‘Glass & Steel’ ends with ‘Fights & Fears’, a lush set piece that includes bright and bent synth passages to take the listener into another zone.

With all the songs written, produced, performed and primarily mixed by GLITBITER except for ‘Turn’ and ‘Follower’ by Mike Balboa, ‘Glass & Steel’ is an impressive debut long form release that avoids most of the synthwave clichés to showcase GLITBITER as an electronic talent for the future.

Dark without being doomy and eschewing the shoegaze distortion or tune aversion that mars the majority of dreampop, ‘Glass & Steel’ provides an appealing feminine air to the synth form with a few traditional elements for that crucial facet of musicality.


‘Glass & Steel’ is available as a download via the usual digital platforms including
https://glitbiter.bandcamp.com/album/glass-steel

https://www.facebook.com/glitbiter

https://twitter.com/glitbiter

https://www.instagram.com/glitbiter/

https://open.spotify.com/album/3zormHJrj6eZdjAFE7ljZs


Text by Chi Ming Lai
3rd May 2021

MECHA MAIKO Interview

From the accomplished Canadian duo DEAD ASTRONAUTS, Hayley Stewart makes a swift departing move and goes off to create her own sweet music under the pseudonym of MECHA MAIKO.

Many acts debut in a clumsy, trial and error way but not her! The synthpop anime lady enters the world of electronica with one of the strongest firsts that the synth world has experienced in a while.

The wonderful ‘Mad But Soft’ blows many out of the electronic “sea of sin”, and it’s all done with nonchalance and femininity without being too sickly sweet.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK caught up with the Toronto based Geisha-esque creature to talk pop and what makes good girls write bad ass music…

Of course, you’re not a completely new artist as you did two albums in DEAD ASTRONAUTS with Jared Nickerson? How was that period?

Oh yeah, we did a number of releases! That was my first time ever being in a “real” band. I was eighteen when we started and it was a very exciting collaborative effort. We both were building things from scratch, and I was fortunate that Jared had a lot of freelance experience and a number of contacts in the design industry (he is a great illustrator / designer himself) so he already had a lot of the branding and imagery for the band sorted out already.

It was great to have someone to hold you accountable – you work harder to satisfy one another and establish an open dialogue of feedback and criticism. The early days of DEAD ASTRONAUTS was probably when I worked the hardest because I had to now take my production skills just as seriously (if not more) as my vocal skills, and be open to changing a song dozens of times over until it sat right for the both of us.

How and why were you inspired to do a project outside of DEAD ASTRONAUTS?

As I mentioned, DEAD ASTRONAUTS was established with a particular vibe, and the music ideas I brought forth were curated to fit into that established image. I would often start songs that I’d be super excited about, but just wouldn’t work for what DEAD ASTRONAUTS was – it would be weird to have a song with lyrics like in ‘Contract’ appear on an album like ‘Constellations’. It didn’t fit into the DEAD ASTRONAUTS universe which was much more painted in tragedy and often depicted futuristic cosmic landscapes.

I wanted to give myself a platform to put all these tracks without compromise – sometimes you just get an attachment to something that you can’t bring yourself to change. So, in that way, MECHA MAIKO started from a graveyard of songs that I wanted to resurrect, or that I otherwise stubbornly held onto for myself, ha ha!

What decided the musical direction of ‘Mad But Soft’?

The musical direction I took with the album almost felt haphazard. I’d like to say everything was conceptualized beforehand and realized as a full work of art, but I had so many songs on the go that I had to narrow them down and decide as I went. I wanted the album to hold onto many of the retro elements I enjoy using, but also experiment with sounds that don’t have a distinct tie to a particular genre. For better or worse, I tend to work on songs without visualizing their place in a finished piece, so it was more about putting them together in a way that felt bright and poppy but also a little bit dark and off-beat.

So “Turning Japanese” isn’t a bad thing after all…

Was it ever? – Wait. Don’t answer that! There has been a myriad of problems with Western culture fetishizing and appropriating the East.

As a white Canadian girl drawing on Japanese culture for my name and surrounding mythos, I try to do my research so I can feel comfortable when borrowing from it.

Have you always taken the inspiration from Japanese culture and been a “shinnichi”?

During my formative years, I was particularly impacted by Japanese culture, at first very naively through anime and video games.

My favorite game was set in Tokyo, and after learning my childhood best friend was going to move there, I researched Japan like crazy and fell in love with the landscapes, traditions, music, and street fashion – it was unlike anything I saw growing up in the suburbs.

When I was around 11 or 12, I started taking sewing lessons because I was so inspired by the street fashion that I saw on japanesestreets.com and scans of Fruits magazine posted on Livejournal. When I was 13, I actually got the chance to go visit my friend there. It was a dream come true but it was also very sobering, where many of the assumptions I had were shattered.

On my first day, we walked through Akasaka and saw a big truck covered in posters and men with signs and megaphones yelling in protest outside a building. “What’s that all about?” I asked my friend; “They’re protesting the foreigners in the country” she replied, “They say anyone who isn’t Japanese should be kicked out. I see them there all the time” – suddenly I learned it was like any other place, wrought with its own set of political and social issues.

I would learn and experience many other things that would make me reassess my vision of Japan as a quirky utopia ready to take me in as one of their own. I felt guilty for coming, although I was barely able to speak enough Japanese to order something to eat.

After that, my obsession with Japan took a less fantastic approach. Lately I’ve been interested in learning more about its fashion and art history and how political and religious influence often had an explicit role in shaping it.

The album is feminine but marvellously strong…

I appreciate that. I’ve noticed lately that I make my voice softer than it really is, to sing a little more quietly so that it sounds more intimate and airy, which usually reads as feminine, almost submissive. The lyrics – and some production elements – by contrast, are more assertive and rousing. Both guest vocal performances on the album, too, are set against very pleasing melodies but evoke a sort of “knowing” and self-assuredness.

The huge success of ‘Stranger Things’ and its soundtrack seems to have paved the way for looking retrospectively to the quintessential synth era…

Definitely. I think ‘Drive’ was a major gateway for large audiences into synthwave and ‘Stranger Things’ is very much the second wave, although it doesn’t really delve into pop in the same way, focusing more on the Carpenter-ian use of synths in film / TV scores, it does evoke that same feeling of “damn, why did we ever stop using this sound?” I was a big fan of SURVIVE’s ‘mnq026’ release so I’m happy that they landed such a great gig producing the score for ‘Stranger Things’.

A well-written pop song can make it anywhere, the album is full of those!

I’m happy you think so! I’ve noticed that small radio stations and DJs have been playing my tracks alongside a wide variety of other artists and genres that I have rarely been associated with, so it’s fascinating to see how it fits in amongst others’ musical palates. I’ve found there are plenty of metalheads and darksynth listeners that jam out to ‘Mad But Soft’ too.

‘Cold’ brings collaboration with yet another pop princess…

…Dana Jean Phoenix! She’s fantastic. A pop princess indeed, with her glowing crystal tiara and all. I had written the instrumental for ‘Cold’ and was struggling with vocal ideas, but didn’t want to have to get rid of the lead synth line.

I sent it her way and she had sent back the most fully-fleshed out vocal idea I’d ever received from a fellow collaborator, with all the backing elements, every take perfectly cleaned up and labelled…

I was in awe. I remember thinking, “Damn, this woman’s a professional”. And she is! She’s been making music and performing for a long time and knows what’s what. She has an amazing ear for catchy hooks and leads, which is probably why she has producers approaching her left and right to work with her. I’m lucky to have had her on my debut release.

How does your writing begin?

Hooooo. Good question. Sometimes it’s something as simple as having a certain melody or string of words pop into my head that I have to write down and then elaborate on. Usually it’s something that flows out, rooted in an anxiety or emotion that I haven’t exactly spoken about, or that might be better off as a monologue rather than a discussion. Much of the time I’ll start with an instrumental idea, and the vocal accompaniment that happens is a sort of subconscious creation based on whatever I’ve been immersed in lately – whether it’s space, science, politics, or my own life, either explicit stories or internal observations. Making music for me is almost like keeping a diary.

Talking gear, are you a vintage kind of girl, or are soft synths your preferred medium?

I mainly rely on software to work on music. At one point I had to decide between spending money on photography equipment or music equipment and I chose the former, because that’s what I most desperately needed, and never really expected my musical endeavours to lead to anything substantial.

Owning vintage synths kind of seems like a status symbol, but I can’t deny that I would love to use them and feel more connected to the process of making music. That being said, it’s not something I really need for what I want to do, although I’m finding that having some more hardware would make live performances a bit easier. I do want to release something that is entirely recorded with the keyboard I started making music with, which I still have. It’s not even close to being a conventional synthesizer since it’s super preset-y and basic, but I love it.

What equipment did you use on ‘Mad But Soft’?

Everything was made in Logic Pro X. I used an Akai MPK-25 for the keys and a Blue Yeti USB Microphone to record. I used to stick strictly to soundbanks that were meant to simulate vintage sounds, but I played around a lot more with Logic’s own legacy synths this time.

I loved messing around with Sculpture, which can make some incredibly rich and weird airy key and bell sounds.

The girl power in electronic music is going from strength to strength, thanks to the likes of your fellow Canadians GRIMES and PARALLELS, or Americans I AM SNOW ANGEL and ZOLA JESUS…

Yes! Women and femmes have always been making music, but it feels like now they have more autonomy in the process and are learning to shed their shells of self-imposed doubt (or maybe that’s just me, ha ha). I like to think that when people listen to music, they do so because the music is good, not because they’re seeking to support a particular gender.

It’s just a matter of getting distribution streams and promoters to follow that same model, and check biases they might not know they have. Women are often seen as nurturers, helping others onto the stage, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a little encouragement to get up there sometimes, too.

Having the total control of the output must be very satisfying?

It is! It can feel like a burden sometimes too. There’s so many facets to music that I enjoy experimenting with that it can be overwhelming. The second I finish a song, I question whether it’s truly finished and let it sit for months at a time. I’m learning to employ more method to my madness, though, so that I can feel more comfortable with setting things free and moving on to the next thing.

So what music does MECHA MAIKO listen to on daily basis?

That answer is always changing. My dad gifted me his collection of COCTEAU TWINS CDs so that’s been playing a lot. As an aside, if you ever want to feel self-conscious about your singing, listen to Elizabeth Fraser’s voice. She can do more with her voice in thirty seconds of a song than I have in my entire musical career! Lately I’ve been on a kick of BOY HARSHER, THE SOFT MOON, SEXTILE… all of them nod to the past but are doing some really inventive and badass things.

I’ve also been getting heavy into Italo-disco and find myself jamming out to LOUI$’s few releases.

My boyfriend is an avid consumer of music so we’ll listen to a wide range of releases together. He helped me develop an appreciation for musicians I would never think to pick up on my own, like Bill Callahan and Angel Olson. ‘Space Echo’, a release from Analog Africa, has been my gateway into some amazing pop and dance acts that came out of African countries in the 70s, and I’ve been delving into other pop and surf-rock releases from the 60s and 70s around the world.

IAMX, ZOLA JESUS and many others in the genre enjoy their pieces being utilised for television, how would you feel about having one of your compositions used for that medium?

I’m not opposed to it at all. As long as I’m paid, that is. Growing up, I always either wanted to be a DJ or in charge of compiling soundtracks for film and television, so it would be extremely gratifying.

You’re planning live shows to showcase your debut. Are we to expect Japanese inspired outfits and a minimalistic stage set?

Just a couple show so far, yeah! I’m wary about going too heavy with the Japanese influence since that’s ultimately not what the music is about. I’d like to nod to it, though, and I have some ideas in mind as to how MECHA MAIKO will manifest herself over time. And you bet it will be minimal (at least to start with) – I haven’t got much money for sets and props, let alone much gear!

With such a strong first album, what are you planning next?

Now that I’ve been able to establish what my sound / methodology is somewhat, it’s time to set free some tracks I’ve been holding onto and get working on something a bit more conceptually cohesive.

It’s crazy to think that what’s next still involves oldies / spillover from all this time. Still, I want to spend more time with my lyrics, and try writing in ways that are more based in storytelling than it is in first-person dialogue.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to MECHA MAIKO

‘Mad But Soft’ is released by New Retro Wave, available from as a purple vinyl LP and download from https://newretrowave.bandcamp.com/album/mad-but-soft

The companion remix album ‘Mad Soft Butt’ is also available as a download from https://mechamaiko.bandcamp.com/album/mad-soft-butt

MECHA MAIKO opens for PARALLELS on Friday 11th May 2018 at Ottawa House of TARG and DANA JEAN PHOENIX at Toronto Handlebar on 16th June 2018

https://www.mechamaiko.com/

https://www.facebook.com/mechamaiko/

https://twitter.com/mechamaiko

https://soundcloud.com/mecha-maiko

https://www.instagram.com/mechamaiko/


Text and Interview by Monika Izabela Trigwell
17th April 2018

MECHA MAIKO Mad But Soft

From DEAD ASTRONAUTS, the lo-fi synth project of Jared Nickerson and Hayley Stewart, a new star is born.

With the name transcending Toronto based Stewart’s fascination with Japanese culture, cyber space and the love of vintage synthesis, MECHA MAIKO releases her debut album ‘Mad But Soft’.

The Geisha-like robot brings a much needed freshness and romance into the world of electronica, and she’s doing it with grace, sensuality and poise. Loaded with rhythmic tunes, ‘Mad But Soft’ ventures into the spheres of delicate femininity, girlishness and synthlicious electro pink, packaged in shiny wrapping and served with a big, glitter coated ribbon.

It’s not your naive, mindless, happy-go-lucky pop songs, however. With nonchalance, Stewart introduces the listener into her magical world of sound, as if the synth was born yesterday. From the title track, with its pulsating East meets West vibe, through the gems like ‘False Memories’, which could have been part of the ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack, to the unselfishly grown-up ‘Electric Heat’ with its CHVRCHES similarities, Stewart proves she’s not only a capable songwriter but a slick vocalist too.

‘Cold Hard Ground’ opens the long player with a GRIMES meets ZOLA JESUS sound far, far away in snow covered Japan, where they play with their manga inspired synth toys. The robot doesn’t stop there, as ‘Bike Night’ lets those filters open and the magic happen for the most perfect mechanical pop. ‘Tomodachi’ could have been a lost MADONNA tune, Stewart’s vocals resemble the pop princess’, as much as the voice layering and melody interplay.

Once the ‘Contract’ is signed, ‘Auto Fire’ steps in with endless arpeggios over heavily punctuated industrial pulses, smoothed by intricate delicacies of Stewart’s vocal.

Before we ‘Fade To Black’, with its strikingly familiar tonality to MAJOR LAZER’s ‘Get Free’, DANA JEAN PHOENIX meets MECHA MAIKO on ‘Cold’; probably the most danceable synthwave track on the production. The song was partially inspired by WAVESHAPER’s ‘Radio Signal’ and JANET JACKSON herself probably wouldn’t shy away if presented with this little gem.

Uncomplicated on the surface yet multi-layered, thought through and simply delicious, ‘Mad But Soft’ does exactly what it says on the tin.

Easy listening synthpop, as if lifted out straight from the classic era, is flowing through its veins like mechanically instigated lava; the magma of amalgamation of electric melodies, capable synth and vocals with audible influences from BJÖRK, MADONNA and ROBIN S. What a debut!


‘Mad But Soft’ is released by New Retro Wave, available as a purple vinyl LP and download from https://newretrowave.bandcamp.com/album/mad-but-soft

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Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
22nd March 2018