Gear Talks: Mayari releases “Closure” from her forthcoming debut EP

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Gear Talks: Mayari releases “Closure” from her forthcoming debut EP

Mayari Feature
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

Mayari is a Naarm-based artist with a background in both music production and film and television.

Now Mayari releases “Closure”, and with it we get a glimpse into what’s to come: Mayari’s unique take on electronica and a refreshing sound from someone who’s now had a hand in every step of the record making process.

The forthcoming EP “represents taking ownership and pride in my Filipino culture – and essentially taking ownership of who I truly am. Thus this EP represents my up and down journey of healing my mental health and self as I deeper connect with my roots.”

Read up on all the latest features and columns here.

We had a chance to chat with Mayari about the EP production on the whole, her approach to writing, producing and mixing, as well as the influence that her film and visual background has on her music.

How does the writing process start for you?

It really varies from each song, but generally speaking I generally start with either synths or percussion and sketch something out from there. It’s usually very rough, the way I approach it is as if I’m getting my paint palette together, getting all my colours and the rough building blocks of the song. Then I do really ‘broad brush strokes’ as a sketch which usually is like a 16 bar loop. I try to let this part be as free flowing and fun as possible, using placeholders if need be to not inhibit flow.

“Closure” is out today – did this follow that ‘traditional’ writing process?

Yes, from memory it did. I actually produced this song a few years ago before studying production – when I really had no idea what I was doing with producing. I was listening to a lot of UK Garage and Future Garage at the time, but also a lot of new age stuff and I really let myself be free in combining these influences. After two years I revisited this song, and re-produced it with a more defined aesthetic and confidence in my ability, but kept the arrangement and the core ideas the same. It was a nice moment for me to realise that even if the technical skills weren’t there a few years ago, the ideas and creativity was always there.

How do you think your experience in film and television informs your music making and production?

I always produce with visuals in mind, sometimes these visuals are scenes and sometimes they are just shapes, colours and movement. Having this approach helps me really hone in on what each sound is meant to feel like. In addition, working in film editing really ingrained in me this idea of suspended tension and release that comes with rhythm and arrangement, and that definitely informs the way I approach structuring my songs.

How do you find integrating Filipino and Chinese instrumentation within your music? Is the instrumentation sampled or recorded instruments/musicians? Does the addition of Eastern scales, tonality and musical ‘standards’ provide a challenge?

For this song I used PhilippinePerc which is a sample-based VST, which was built through recordings of Filipino Indigenous instruments such as tontatong, dabakan and kulintang. I also used DSK Music’s VST Asian Dreamz, for the Chinese instruments Guzhen and Ban Di. Both VSTs are free, and have enough controls to colour the sound like pitch, attack, envelope, and micro tuning etc. I’m really big on making my songs on the smallest budget possible and believe you don’t need to have loads of gear, plugins and money to make good music.

I also cut up snippets of a loom weaver jingling, which I cut out of a stunning documentary Tribal Sounds of the Philippines from T’Boli, and used that as part of the percussion in this song. In this song, the use of eastern musicality was not a challenge as the song is kept in equal temperament. In other songs from the upcoming EP, it absolutely was a challenge. I had to tune a recording of flute player Reyben Kim to western tuning so it would work with the rest of a song, and in another song I completely deviated from equal temperament and tuned the entire song to the solfeggio frequency 285Hz haha, but that’s another story.

Mayari photo

What does integrating home video audio into your songs mean for you?

I sourced a field recording of the jungle in the Philippines online, and layered this with a field recording that I took on my iPhone from one of my camp trips at Lake Eildon. I was really inspired by Jon Hopkins’ process on his album Music for Psychedelic Therapy, in which he used many field recordings from his time living in a cave in Ecuador. His intentions were to include the energy of the land in his songs, so “every track sounds like a place”. Similarly, I wanted to create a strong sense of place immediately and place the listener in nature. Nature for me has always been a place of healing, clarity and re-birth, thus it was appropriate to place the track there.

I understand you produced, engineered and mixed your forthcoming EP yourself. Was this a creative choice? Or did it just make sense for you to do it?

This EP was produced whilst studying a Bachelor of Music Production, in which it was a requirement to produce, engineer, mix and master everything ourselves as part of our curriculum and assessment. It was pretty gruelling at times wearing all of these hats, and in future projects I definitely will be bringing in an engineer if I am recording instruments such as guitar, bass and live drums again.

In saying that, I’m really glad that my university made us do everything ourselves, as it really helped me produce with a full, rounded perspective such as really understanding the importance of different microphone’s frequency responses and their positioning. Overall I was pretty happy with my mixes, but handed it over to Crystal Mastering to get remastered.

How do you find producing yourself? Is anyone else ever involved as an extra ear to check ideas, check mixes etc.?

As the EP was produced within my degree, I was mentored by some pretty amazing teachers, like producer and audio engineer Luke Cincotta and producer [and] musician Tristan Courtney who were able to give me feedback on my mixes and production. I also send my music to friends Brett Little and Miles Cosmo Phillip (Warm Natural), who are really great with honest feedback and super encouraging and inspiring. Producing myself isn’t really that strange at all, and after years of wanting to do music but feeling like I needed to rely on other producers to make that happen for me, it’s super empowering to just do it all myself and to be able to create music true to my vision.

What was the mixing process like? Are you primarily in the box/digital or do you use some outboard processors? Do you mix as you go or record and produce it all before settling in to mix?

I am 100% in the box when it comes to mixing. As I was learning how to properly mix for the first time whilst I was producing this EP, I really put my “mixing hat” on after I produced everything to not inhibit the writing stage. These days when I produce now, I sort of mix as I go as I feel mixing is becoming more second nature.

In saying that, I guess it really also depends on what you define as mixing. I really worked on automating creative delays and reverbs, and made choices like using the UAD Neve 1073 preamp to record vocals, and some would say these things fall into mixing during the production stage. All of the gain staging, detailed EQing, stereo field positioning, compression etc. all came after the production stage however.

Thanks for taking the time Mayari! As a closer, have you got any funny stories that happened while making “Closure” and the EP?

It’s all a bit of a blur as I was producing a few songs at the time, but in the studio that I used to track live drums (which is used for another song from the EP, and in which the cymbals are used in “Closure”), was only set up with ProTools. It was a nightmare haha, from going to feeling like Ableton [was] just an extended body part to feeling like an absolute beginner/baby in a DAW again not knowing basic shortcuts or even how to properly loop a section for recording different takes. It was ridiculous, but I made it work.

Ableton for life lol.

Keep up with Mayari here.