By: Anais Turiello
Originating from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Mauno (pronounced mao-no) have transcended the constrained and distinct label of a singular music genre. The band, consisting of Eliza Niemi on bass and vocals and Nick Everett on guitar and vocals, has evolved with a steady yet powerful progression since releasing their first record “Really Well” in 2016. Its sound and style can be described as something like a soothing dream, consisting of the duo’s alternating, harmonious vocals, as well as soft, rhythmic melodies. In 2017, Mauno released their second record, “Tuning,” and proved themselves to be incredibly diverse, while still managing to keep a tight grasp upon the true roots of their original sound. This sophomore record leans more towards indie-rock and indie-pop as opposed to the premiere record, which possessed a heavier focus on an indie-folk sound. Both Nick and Eliza’s delicate yet powerful and multifarious vocals are complemented by the new and intense sounds of an electric guitar as well as pulsating bass lines. Thus far, four new singles from Mauno’s upcoming record, “Really Well” (released August 2nd) have been released, and they are currently touring through the U.S and Canada. Anais Turiello got a chance to sit down with Mauno last night before the show to speak with Eliza at Schubas Tavern.
Anais: I know you guys are about to release your third record, “Really Well” on August 2nd. So, what can we expect from that? Are there any hints that you might be able to give?
Eliza: Yeah! I guess all the singles are of the same theme in terms of mood. They’re all sort of upbeat pop-like songs, but there are definitely some quieter and also much louder ones on the record. So I guess there are various things to be expected.
A: Is there sort of an evolution from “Tuning,” your 2017 record? In what ways is it different or similar?
E: I think it’s a little more pop than the last one or less experimental in terms of form and instrumentation. It sort of just straight-up bass, guitar, drums, and some synth. There’s not really any found sounds or anything like on “Tuning.” Yeah, it was pretty just straight-up; we wrote the songs all together and went into the studio and recorded it mostly just live off the floor.
A: That’s really cool! I love that.
E: Yeah, it was really fun.
A: You guys are over halfway through your tour. It’s a 34-date tour, which I feel is really long.
E: It’s even more. It ended up being 50 with the added dates.
A: That’s insane. How has that been? I know I start missing home after going on vacation for even a week.
E: It’s had its ups and downs, but it’s overall been great. It’s definitely the longest tour we’ve ever been on in terms of one straight stint without breaks, like without flying anywhere. We’ve been in the van for about 8 weeks now.
A: What’s that like? Is it cramped at all?
E: Yeah, it’s cramped. We got a roof-rack in Texas, I think? Just somewhere in Texas. So, we ended up moving all of our luggage to the top which cleared things out. That was actually really good for us psychologically.
A: I can imagine! So, what has been your favorite city or cities so far? Either to play in or just to be in?
E: That’s a good question! I really liked Las Vegas, like unexpectedly. I’ve kind of had this idea that it was really jaded and touristy and just all consumerism and gambling. Then we went, and it was awesome. It was a full show, and people were really supportive, and there’s a great DIY scene.
A: That was actually another question I had because I know the DIY scene is very important and prominent in Chicago, so I was wondering if you could describe how it’s like where you’re from in Halifax.
E: The scene in Halifax is super supportive and great. There’s a lot of music and art happening and a lot of overlap between the forms. It’s pretty small and also really isolated. The next major city is, I guess, Montreal, which is a 12-hour drive or more. Maybe 14 hours.
A: I’ve visited Montreal before. I really love it there.
E: We’re actually kind of based there now. We were in Halifax. We’re a Halifax band because that’s where we formed, but we moved to Montreal about a year or so ago.
A: That explains a lot because when I was doing my research on you guys, some places would say you were from Montreal and others would say Halifax.
E: Totally! We’re mid-transition.
A: In terms of the band name, I know it has something to do with someone’s grandfather?
E: Yeah, that’s my grandpa!
A: How did you go about pitching the idea for that?
E: It was kind of funny and pretty nonchalant. We were sort of brainstorming words and names that had good consonant and vowel ratios and looked good all in caps. We were just blurting out things, and I said, “what about Mauno?” and they were like, “yeah!” It was a weird word association.
A: When did you guys form or just decide to form the band?
E: In 2014 in Halifax, Nick and I started it as a quiet acoustic duo, with me on cello and him on acoustic guitar with both of us singing harmonies. Then we added the drummer, and it went through a few different incarnations, and now it’s a full-on rock band.
(Captured by: Savanna Donoski (savannadonoski.com))
A: I really like that you guys both sing. I feel like it makes it really diverse and you both have beautiful voices.
E: Oh, thank you!
A: In terms of songwriting, is it an individual sort of process? I know I read something that said for the next record, you wrote this song, this song, and this song, etc. Then Nick wrote that song, that song, and that song, etc. Does that kind of hold true?
E: Yeah, for the most part, it’s pretty split up in terms of the songs that I sing and the songs that Nick sings. We’ll each write the lyrics and melody roughly and then the progression. Then we’ll workshop each other’s lyrics and melodies and stuff. But also Adam and Scott, our old drummer and guitar player, helped a lot with the arrangement and sort of flushing them out.
A: That seems like a really interesting process. I know for your AudioTree performance, you said something that caught my attention. You said you record sounds from grocery stores or little snippets of everyday things. Who came up with the idea for that? How do you decide what kind of sound you want to pick and sample and what do you think it adds to the music?
E: I guess Nick and I are both total nerds for found sounds and Murray Shaffer and The Books. Just people like that. For our last record, we were sort of trying to evoke Halifax as a place or a moment in time. So, the grocery store is down the street from where we recorded the record and we would pluck sounds from the street near the house where we recorded. We were just sort of trying to place the record in the time and place where it was made.
A: So, the hometown really just has a big impact? I know that I’m very attached to Chicago because that’s where I’m from, so I do understand that kind of feeling. I do want to talk about your music videos though! I like those a lot, especially the “Take Care” one. The color scheme for it is incredible. How do you figure out how you want to execute that or who brings that idea to the table?
E: Actually, that was my friend, Max Taeuschel and his collaborator. Aaliyeh Afshar. They came up with the whole color scheme and everything. Then Nick, Max, and I brainstormed this idea of being packaged or being commodities. That was basically it. Then Max and Aaliyeh totally ran with it and made it look amazing.
A: I really liked it! I just thought it was a really unique video.
E: Yeah, they’re awesome. I went to Montreal for two days to film it and had no idea what to expect. They just said they were going to package me in a box and film me doing all these things.
A: Just kind of going with it then?
A: You have your set very soon. Are there any pre-show rituals that you do or do you usually have any nerves?
E: It’s definitely pretty hit-or-miss with the nerves. I usually only get nervous playing for people that I know. When we play in Montreal or Toronto, I’m just a ball of anxiety. Then when we play somewhere like Las Vegas…maybe that’s why I liked Las Vegas so much because I didn’t know anyone, so I was like “woo!”
A: Do you know any people here?
E: I actually do know a few people here, but not close family or really close friends or anything. So, I feel like I’m not as nervous as I would be elsewhere.
A: It definitely seems like it would be more intimate. When you’re doing it to a crowd, I feel like it would be not as personal, if that makes sense? Just faceless, like you’re not talking to anyone specific.
A: Well, that’s about all I had. Do you have any last remarks you want to make?
E: I don’t know! I feel like we covered a lot; I feel good.
A: Cool. I’m excited to see your set then!
E: Alright, thanks so much!