24 May An Interview with Habits
I didn’t want our time with Habits to end, really – it felt more like a friendly catch up than an interview. Habits are pioneering a new space for music in Melbourne, so I felt privileged to have the chance to chat with the pair about their thoughts on our local scene, music genres, the birth of Habits, and the process behind the creation of their music and visual art.
I am so excited not only for the future of these talented musicians, but also for the inspiration they spark in their peers, fans, and community. Ugly Cry, their debut EP, is absolutely magical. It’s so humbling to know that the artists behind such a creative and striking piece of work are also genuinely marvellous people.
Kassie: I’ve heard so many great reviews from friends about your Ugly Cry launch gig. How was it?
Maia: Well, there was a lot on our plate, so it was quite stressful leading up to it and I kind of don’t remember it. It was amazing but it just sort of passed in a flash, and I was kind of somewhere else just constantly thinking about the next thing. Looking back, there was really amazing energy from the audience, it was really special.
Kassie: I know that feeling, when you have a huge adrenalin rush from so much anticipation.
Maia: It did kind of rush past. Now I can look back and I remember it, but at the time it didn’t feel like that.
Mo: It did just rush by.
Maia: It was really beautiful though, everyone was dancing and giving us a lot of energy to work with.
Kassie: You have quite notoriously amazing live shows, what’s the preparation for a show like?
Maia: I find now, I have to be at least one to two drinks in, just to let out the inner diva. We do – I don’t know if this is interesting – but we do throat gargles so our voices are fresh.
Mo: We have a ritual. It’s Aspro Clear, at least two drinks.
Kassie: What’s Aspro Clear?
Mo: Kind of like panadol for the throat. Not that glamorous.
Maia: You gotta undo all the damage from chain smoking. Gotta chain smoke while we’re rehearsing and then undo it all when we perform.
Kassie: What was the process of creating the debut EP like?
Mo: Long. We recorded it about two years ago and then it kind of swapped hands once or twice. It took a while to get out there. It went between mixers, so it’s two years old.
Kassie: You can’t tell from the sound.
Maia: Thank you. Yeah, I still like it and it still represents us. Some of those songs are the first songs we ever really made together, so it definitely represents this time. Some of the songs we still play and I still really like them.
Kassie: How do you hold onto the freshness of the songs when you’re playing live?
Mo: They definitely have a place.
Maia: I think because we still play the songs live, we find new ways to relate to them. I think they were genuine when we wrote them so it’s still genuine. Also I think a two year wait is something to be expected in this glitz glam industry (laughs).
Kassie: I read in an interview about Reverend Mother that Maia, you bring the pop element, and Mo, you bring a goth sound – is that something that applies to your process throughout the whole EP?
Mo: I’m more attracted to gothy, industrial music, but I still have a place for R’n’B. I’m trying to mesh them together. I think post-EP, the sound has kind of honed in a bit more. It’s a bit more together. So yes, that’s the sound we were after, and it’s been an experimental EP and us getting to know what we’re after too.
Maia: It’s not intentionally formulaic, but I feel like it ends up with that pop/goth kind of mix. It just sort of happens every time.
Kassie: I feel like those two elements together do carve such a fresh sound. One of my favourite parts about Ugly Cry was that I felt no need to even try and define it within a genre. How do you describe Habits to people like your grandparents for example?
Maia: Anyone who asks me what kind of music we make, I struggle.
Maia: Yeah we usually say electronic. There are so many electronic music genres and I just wouldn’t even know some of them. I don’t really try to explain it, except one time years ago one of our friends was like “I like Habits because it’s like party jams but also sad goth”, and then we started using that phrase – ‘sad goth party jams’.
Mo: It’s everywhere now!
Maia: Yeah it’s got a life of its own now. So now I just say sad goth party jams because I think it works. It’s just easier to say that too.
Kassie: Your EP includes some remixes by Catlips, me_irl and Air Max 97. Has networking with other Melbourne musicians influenced your music in any way?
Mo: It’s quite special when you get another musician to extract something from a song that you’ve created yourself, and come up with something completely different.
Maia: I think the industrial vibes in Melbourne have been influential. I don’t know how much of that is ‘networking’ as much as just being fans and then happening to know them. We’ve just been very inspired by our peers in Melbourne.
Mo: We’re quite spoilt. Everyone is giving here, instead of like “no one’s allowed!”. Everyone’s sharing.
Kassie: Yeah there’s definitely an ambitious atmosphere, but not in a competitive way.
Mo: Yeah, especially at the level we’re at, no one seems bitter about “making it” – whatever that means.
Maia: The remixes just happened very casually as well. Catlips we met at Paradise, and she was just like, “Oh hey, I want to do a remix”.
Mo: Ollie (Air Max 97) also came to us – that was at Paradise as well.
Kassie: So I read that you started out as a garage band?
Maia: Kind of. I mean, we started out as a garage band that only sometimes had a guitar. We used to use my housemate’s guitar when she wasn’t using it.
Mo: And my drum kit.
Maia: Yeah, so Mo’s drum kit was at my house. It was still kind of gothy. It was a drum kit, my loop station, an old keyboard, and sometimes a guitar. It did have garage vibes.
Mo: Synth-garage Rihanna covers.
Kassie: Omg that sounds amazing.
Mo: And really loose rave bangers. Borderline tragic.
Maia: Yeah but our tragic is cool (laughs).
Mo: Oh teenagers…
Kassie: What brought about the change in sound?
Maia: I feel like we just sort of started working towards making the music that we liked listening to.
Mo: We took a chance and bought software. That’s what has really made it all come together.
Kassie: What do you use?
Maia: We didn’t know anything about music production, but we had already sort of started playing.
Mo: So we’ve just been growing with it.
Kassie: Did you learn to use Maschine from friends or just on your own?
Maia: Maschine is very user-friendly; I think it’s a lot easier to learn than Ableton, but still very vast in its capabilities.
Kassie: Yeah I’ve heard that sometimes it’s just better to learn it on your own and work out what works for you.
Maia: You come up with great stuff when you don’t know what you’re doing.
Kassie: I love your cover art. How long have you been making visual art? Is that something you share?
Mo: We met in art class, does that answer everything (laughs)?
Maia: Angsty teens in art class.
Mo: Emos without being actual emos.
Maia: I think – and I don’t know if this is embarrassing to say in an interview – but I kind of thought initially, something like the Versace logo. Just something that was uniform so they all kind of matched. Ever since I was a kid I have always loved things like that. Like the Power Rangers, they’re all the same but different colours.
Mo: Like a collection.
Maia: But to be honest they were all pretty like, “Oh shit, we need a cover! Oh..”
Mo: But I felt like it was a real collaborative effort. Our styles are quite similar, so it worked out well. We tried to include our latex black long fingernail hands.
Maia: Kind of a motif in our career (laughs).
Kassie: Which came first, visual art or music?
Mo: I think my outlet is music. It’s a lot more cathartic and somehow less stressful.
Kassie: Outside of music, what are your main inspirations?
Mo: Goosebumps on TV – that was integral. I’m really into horror; when I was a kid I watched so many scary films. The slime and the art was just… It was so spooky, and I loved it.
Maia: I guess just my peers and I moved to the northern suburbs from Oakleigh. Everyone is doing things that they’re passionate about there, especially the queer and trans scene. Melbourne is very inspiring for me; there aren’t lots of opportunities, but everyone is working away regardless.
Mo: Yeah, we started to play interstate, and it’s really eye-opening to how different it is, especially with the new laws – there’s hardly anywhere to play. Yeah, we’re spoilt here. And everyone is in a band!
Maia: Also Melbourne and its environment. The gloominess is really conducive to creativity sometimes.
Mo: Coming back from Sydney, we had a great time and we kind of weren’t ready to come back. But once we landed, it was gloomy – there was a big foggy cloud over the city – and it was sort of like, well, all of these industrial, gothy bands wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have the landscape as well.
Maia: After one of our shows in Sydney, people came up to us and asked us what Melbourne was like, and we said that there’s really amazing industrial synthy goth stuff, and they’re like “Oh, ’cause it’s so gloomy!” (laughs).
Kassie: What’s next for Habits?
Mo: We’re going to try and work on an album, hopefully by next year.
Maia: It’s going to be very collaborative, we’re going to get lots of our friends to work on it with us.
Mo: And then the goal is to go overseas!