Maika Loubté has been releasing a string of songs to prepare for her new album with “standout songs only” coming this fall. One such single is System, produced by Ryan Hemsworth.
Here, she talked about how her awareness towards communicating changed, which she didn’t feel before, and her relationship with others. As she did so, we saw a glimpse of her new album, which she’s making by “being aware of her awareness.”
The immensity of information that can’t be put into words
ーーThe world changed drastically in 2020 because of the worldwide covid-19 crisis. How has your everyday life and state of mind been during this past year?
Maika Loubté (Maika): Even before this, I locked myself up at home to make music, so a part of me was glad to have more time to focus on my work. But once the situation went on, I realized the importance of information I gained from meeting people and information indescribable by words, which I had taken for granted before covid. I also realized that the very existence of an audience in front of me at live shows was my creative input.
ーーThe state of live shows has changed since covid.
Maika: Now, I truly understand how the energy I emitted for the audience to have fun was, in fact, a creative input, which I used to think was a creative output. It’s reciprocal energy, not a one-way street.
ーーWhat kind of energy did you receive from the audience?
Maika: This is secondhand information I saw on TV but apparently, people feel with their skin more than listen with their ears and see with their eyes. For instance, if someone next to you feels nervous and has an accelerating heartbeat, you unconsciously sense that with your so-called sensor. It clicked; this was the case with live shows too. This applies to me and the audience themselves. Live shows are spaces where you could gain so much information, as you can share this feeling.
The joy of reflecting on vast mysteries
——I listened to the singles you’ve been putting out until the release of your album this fall. Compared to your previous album, Closer, which sounded like you were sinking into yourself, I felt like your next body of work has a different angle or direction. Are you particular about anything when you’re working on the album?
Maika: Although I can picture a big concept for the next album, I can’t talk about it lucidly because it’s still taking me time to verbalize it. If I were to consider Closer as an album based on my emotions, I feel like I’m making the next album by being aware of my awareness, which exists before emotions.
——What do you mean by that?
Maika: In part because of covid, I started thinking about where I begin and where I end. Perhaps the understanding that the things outside of my skin aren’t a part of me is wrong—perhaps there’s no limit to the extent of our awareness. When we dream, we build a reality within ourselves without noticing it’s a dream, right? But that only occurs in our subconsciousness. I don’t have an answer or anything, but I think that mechanism is fascinating.
——When something approaches you in the dark, you could sense its presence without seeing or touching it. I can relate to the school of thought that says the body’s borders go beyond physical boundaries. I presume this is a puzzle that everybody has felt at some point.
Maika: It’s hard to understand with words, but you can understand it somewhat. The notion of “vaguely understanding” is interesting. So, if Closer is an album that pulls the other person into me, then the next album embodies the energy of me trying to reach out to that person. The direction of the spirit is a little different.
——That works precisely because of the existence of the other party. Has your awareness of others changed too?
Maika: It hasn’t—if we’re talking about my interactions with others. However, I think it’s funny how “other people” are simply “people I consider as other people.”
——Do you mean you create the “other” through your lens of awareness, which you mentioned just now?
Maika: Yes, yes. That’s why my awareness exists as a prerequisite. The other person exists within my consciousness. Would that person disappear once I die? Nobody knows. But I want to feel that the other person exists with certainty.
——I thought you wanted to become one with others after hearing you speak on the energy you have when you reach out to the other party, but it sounds like there’s a clear divide between others and yourself because of your awareness.
Maika: I’m alright with that remaining ambiguous. This topic connects to life and death; since 2020, many people have died, and everyone has felt the fear of themselves or their loved ones potentially passing away. That got me thinking about where I come from or how I wouldn’t be born if it weren’t for others. This mystery is too colossal for an album concept, but I want to ponder and clarify it.
——How is that enigma and your awareness reflected on the album?
Maika: If I could figure that mystery out before I die, that’s nice. Even if I couldn’t solve it, that’s fine too. I hope the album is an album that questions things, like how far other people or my awareness extends.
Working with Ryan Hemsworth, lyrics written by Maika’s younger brother, and trusting her intuition
——How are you creating the songs for the next album?
Maika: I have two categories for the songs. One is the music I make in the real world as I regularly live in it, and the other is recreating the sounds or melodies I heard in my dreams as much as I could remember them. It’s not uncommon for people to turn the melodies in their dreams into songs, so I’m not thinking about using that as the concept. But I think it’s about me questioning things like, “What is my sense of awareness?”
——Which camp does System, the single you just released, belong to?
Maika: I made System in the real world. I made all the singles that are out now in the real world. I got help from many people and made songs I’m confident about. I plan to make the songs I made from my dreams only available on the album.
——Ryan Hemsworth produced System. How was it like working on this song?
Maika: It was swift. When I came up with the demo for System, my intuition told me I should complete it with Ryan. I first had him listen to it, and things moved very quickly after that. After about three days, he was like, “What about this?” The song’s vibe had changed abruptly in the middle, and the latter chords were in major, which gave it a relaxed feeling. When it was a demo, the sounds were muddled because it had more synths, but Ryan left just the necessary parts. I was like, “Damn, Ryan!” because he worked on something definite so quickly. I felt like it was best for the album to reach out to people without hesitation when my gut told me to. The moment you think, “This is it,” that person becomes a natural part of the work. Also, my brother worked on the lyrics.
——Did your brother feel like an organic part of System?
Maika: Yes. I sometimes ask him to write the whole lyrics. He wrote all the words for 5AM, which came out in March. I always add the lyrics after I complete the instrumentals, but I squeeze in everything I want to say in the sounds. So, when I can’t verbalize it, I get my brother to join the process, as his sensibilities are the closest to mine. It’s personal, so it’s embarrassing (laughs). When I was small, we used to move around a lot, and instead of playing with friends outside, we would share many things as siblings. His words are in sync with my sensibilities.
——Regardless of whether you’re related by blood, it’s great how you can share your sensibilities with another person.
Maika: Yes. Saou Tanaka, who created the artwork for the music video for Spider Dancing and System, understands my feelings or what I want to see. Even if I don’t explain much to her, she makes me think, “Did you know about this song already?” I found her on Instagram, and we’ve only spoken on Zoom. I’ve never met her, but her artwork helps me feel motivated.
Making powerful, honest points to create an album
——Using visuals from the music video for Spider Dancing, I heard the artwork for System wasmade via AI machine learning.
Maika: It was. There’s a scene where I’m dancing on stage in the Spider Dancing music video, and she used that image. System is a call-to-action song that says, “Let’s try breaking the existing systems.” Saou researches the production of videos and visuals that use AI, so I reckon she used AI instead of the existing systems we have because spontaneous, unexpected things can happen with that. But she was initially trying to make visuals with rocks and things that aren’t human.
——How did she end up making AI learn from you, a human being?
Maika: When I gave her the lyrics and a simple note about what the song’s about, Saou said, “There has to be a human [in the artwork].” Her sole aim isn’t to use technology; she has a solid idea of what she wants to express. I’m not good at verbally explaining my songs to people, so I was happy I could share the same sensibilities with someone else. She used AI as her choice, and it read the video and created a human in a liquid-like form.
——It seems like you’re very interested in the sense of touch, which you mentioned at the beginning, the exchange of energies when you interact with others in real life, and modes of communication that don’t require words.
Maika: Exactly. You know how there are people you could never understand, no matter how many times you talk to them? Of course, the power of words is immense, but words alone can’t solve many things in this world. I’m blessed because I can make music with those that fully understand what I’m trying to say with as few words as possible.
——The singles all have a different mood from one another. How is the story of your album going to develop?
Maika: My tracks have always had differing moods, so listeners might think, “The songs are so different.” But that’s because I don’t want to make something that’s fixed. Like, a routine. I think of stories as dots that become lines. I don’t draw a line from the start; what’s important is how I could make each dot honest, truthful, and strong. When the album is out, I hope those dots will ultimately become a line.