Multi-instrumentalist, Maiah Manser, is a singer/songwriter based out of Seattle who infuses dark industrial elements with long, drawn out vocal lines to create a sonically theatrical pop-noir experience. Her voice swells like smoke that builds and wraps around her arrangements. It has been quite awhile since I felt excited to hear a new artist. Her voice cries out like a romantic banshee amidst textures that remind me of Kate Bush’s records. Maiah Manser just released her latest single “Second Skin” (Freakout Records), produced by Buddy Ross (Frank Ocean), that will be featured on her upcoming EP that is due to release in 2017. Maiah was kind enough to take the time out of her hectic schedule to discuss her upcoming project and her inspirations.
First off, I absolutely love your music! Your voice is very haunting and theatrical yet also playful and whimsical in some parts. Whom do you think has played the most pivotal role influencing you as an artist and vocalist?
Thank you! Honestly, even though I have been singing since my earliest memories, I have to say that violin probably had one of the most pivotal roles in the way I execute singing. I started playing around the age of 8 and I think my voice copied certain characteristics – like the pull of a note for example. I switched over to viola later too – maybe I was very inspired by those low tones as well? I could go on a long ever-changing and developing list of vocalists, but finding my own characteristics is most important to me. Making weird sounds all day is my dream and a room mates worst nightmare.
How did you first get involved in music?
When I was 4, I realized I could get out of preschool nap time by singing to other classes. I could never sleep, and realized I had some sort of magical power that I could use. I have a very clear memory of using the bathroom when I was around the same age, and making up some sort of operatic song. I remember my mom walking in the bathroom and saying “Are you singing opera?!” It’s always felt like a natural avenue for as long as I can remember
You just played Capitol Hill Block Party and Bumbershoot this year! How were those experiences? What were your favorite moments from each performance?
For each of those performances I had a 6 piece band, which is very unusual for me. I usually keep it at a 3 piece or play solo. The 6 piece was even more energetic and all the musicians that play with me are my friends, so it was great to be able to share that experience with them. I generally forget what happens on stage when I perform, so I can’t really say what my favorite moments were, but I can tell you the most memorable.
CHBP: Trying not to eat the feathers that were flying all around my mouth that was the shoulder piece on my outfit. You live and you learn.
Bumbershoot: Learning that halfway into the first song that you are in direct sunlight and wearing a lot of velvet and you have no water… the rest is all a haze.
Who are some of your other muses that have heavily influenced you as an artist that is not a musician?
I’m an observer. Human interaction is my muse and I like to have in depth conversations with anyone I meet. I can’t stand the vagueness and coldness of a surface level conversation. I want to get to know people and listen to their stories. I feel like this expands my mind, art and my level of understanding. Have you ever asked your uber driver about their life story? Try it some time.
You just released your latest single off your upcoming EP, Second Skin. What was the inspiration behind that and how did that song come to be?
I was reading “Dracula” at the time and took A LOT of inspiration from that. I used a couple pieces of two word phrases from the book as well. Of course, I still had to relate the lyrics back to a personal place, but using a book as development of a song gave me a new course to my songwriting.
What is your favorite lyric from your favorite song that you have written? Why? And why is that your favorite song?
Haha these songs are like my babies! I can’t choose a favorite child – BUT a favorite lyric of mine would have to be “I got lost waiting to feel something” from Second Skin. It’s simple, but very relatable for other people and continually relatable for myself emotionally. When I write, I often start with a blunt or nonsense topic and see where my brain takes me. I just keep writing without overthinking. These free writes help me boil up some deep seeded emotions that I constantly am working to shield in every day life. That one simple lyric came out that way.
You just shot a music video! Can you tell us more about that and when it will be released?
I worked on the video with Brian Oh (video), Makenzie Stone (creative director).We shot a majority of the footage at an abandoned insane asylum’s slaughter house up in Sedro-Woolley valley, then some extra footage at a field in Discovery park and lastly a pool. This music video definitely pushed me to some physical limits that I didn’t think my body could take. I’ve never been so cold, so scared and on the verge of throwing up from coughing up water. I really look forward to this video premiering, but a date is not yet set. We are still currently in the editing process.
You collaborated with Buddy Ross for your new EP, how did this collaboration come to be?
I met Buddy Ross at a feminist art show. I figured, this dude is definitely cool so I befriended him and ended up checking out his beats. I had (and still have) so much respect for the sounds he uses and sent him a couple of my demos. We completely reworked the 3 songs and it took us about a year and several versions to feel like they were ready to be mastered. I am so thankful for the care and time that Buddy dedicated to my work.
Do you feel Seattle has influenced the overall ambience to your record? If yes, how so?
Absolutely – I write epic, dark, minor based pop songs with lush arrangement. I feel like that is the epitome of rainy dark skies and thick greenery.
What is your overall inspiration and vision for your upcoming EP?
I created those songs at a genuine level and only after the songs were finished did I choose to find a connection for them. The EP will be named ‘Second Skin’ because I feel like each of these songs really search for that meaning. Kind of touching on the idea of whether a second skin is to shield you like an emotional armor or if it has made you stronger.
As of yet, what was the most memorable moment you had when recording your new EP? Why?
So, I really like making weird sounds ALL THE TIME. There are some vocals on one of the tracks where I am sucking in and trying to sing a note at the same time. It sort of sounds like a weird Halloween animatronic haha, but then Buddy Ross was like, “wait let’s use that”.
You have such a great sense of style! What do you think influences your style?
Other than my wardrobe mostly consisting of hand me downs from my mother when she worked in the fashion industry in the 80s, I can’t give a definitive answer on what influences my style except for that I usually gravitate to the most bizarre/wild piece I can find in a store. Don’t really own any basics right now though.
What is coming up for you in 2017? Where can our readers see you play next?
I’ll be releasing the other two tracks of the Second Skin EP in 2017. My next shows are:
10/27 at V2 (Earshot Jazz Festival) with Tiffany Gouché, and Sassy Black (SOLO)
10/28 at Space Craft (Bainbridge Island) with Acid Tongue (SOLO)
11/17 KEXP Benefit with IG88 and JusMoni
Maiah Manser’s Playlist
The playlist below is a collection of songs selected by Maiah Manser.
The songs selected are some of her biggest influences.