Content warning: Sexual harassment
Pink Things interviewed Maryze earlier this fall, the Montreal pop-R&B who’s staking a stance against abuse and harassment in the music industry. Her upcoming single Men Like You, in collaboration with Vancouver artist Ciele, premieres this Friday, November 9th. We shot our editorial at The Diving Bell Social Club in Montreal.
Malaika for Pink Things: Who is Maryze? Tell us about yourself, and your music.
Maryze: My name is Maryse Bernard, I’m a 26-year-old bilingual pop-R&B artist in Montréal. I’ve been writing and singing songs in bands for a long time, but only started releasing music as Maryze earlier this year. It’s been really liberating. The lyrics are probably my most honest and personal so far, and the beats are dark and sultry.
PT: How did you get into making music? You had mentioned that you started as a singer, but have gotten more involved in the production and technical side of it. What signalled that evolution?
Maryze: I’ve been making music for as long as I can remember. My parents put me in singing and piano lessons at a young age, and I started writing songs when I was six or seven. In high school, I joined the jazz choir, began performing in bands and have never really stopped!
My technical knowledge is still pretty limited, but after working closely with producers in electronic projects like Seaborne, I’ve learned a lot about vocal recording and production. Especially thanks to my long-time collaborator Solomon K-I, who taught me about Ableton Live. I’m not satisfied knowing only the basics though – I like to rely on myself creatively, so my goal for 2019 is to become a more self-sufficient producer!
PT: What themes are prominent in your work? What messages are important for you to get across? Why?
Maryze: The themes I explore most in my music are relationships of all kinds, but especially to mental health, sexuality, and feminism. I would say my most important message to get across is: “You are not alone in whatever you’re feeling, and it’s okay to feel it.” That sounds corny, but I really mean it. It’s important to me because whenever I was going through a hard time, finding music that I could relate to always helped me through those experiences. Writing a song about mental illness or trauma plays a part in my personal healing process, and I hope it can empower and bring comfort to others. If my message resonates with anyone or helps to make them feel like they’re going to be alright, that’s the best I can hope for.
PT: Who or what are some of your musical influences?
Maryze: Stylistically I’m super influenced by late 90s-early 2000s R&B and soul, probably since those were my formative music years (Destiny’s Child was my first concert). I really look up to innovative, boundary-pushing pop artists like Lady Gaga and Stromae. I’m also influenced by the insanely talented artists in all disciplines around me that I’m lucky to call friends.
PT: Your single Men Like You is a collaboration with Ciele. Tell me about your creative, collaborative process, and what it was like to intentionally only work with other women/femme/ non-binary peoples.
Maryze: Ciele was an absolute dream to work with. I had the lyrics and melody for “Men Like You” sitting around for a long time. I started working on them around seven years ago, and couldn’t figure out what to do with them. She and I shared our similar experiences of sexism and sexual assault in the music industry with each other and built up a solid foundation of trust and support. When the conversation around #MeToo picked up last year, I felt compelled to finish the song, to contribute in some way. Ciele was the only producer I wanted to work with. I sent her some rough vocals, and she crafted this perfect track around them. We wrote, recorded, and produced the song by correspondence (she’s in Vancouver), which went smoother than we expected! Everything felt super organic, and we were on the same page throughout the process. It’s been amazing to be able to lean on each other as we get ready for the release.
It was essential for us that this project is entirely orchestrated by women/femme/non-binary people. Given that the song is about the harmful experiences we’ve had with men in a position of power in the music industry (musicians, producers, promoters), this was a way to reclaim our power, and demonstrate that we don’t need them to achieve our vision. We are in full creative control.
Other vital players in the Men Like You project include multi-disciplinary artist Gaëlle Legrand who sculpted and photographed the artwork, our publicist Sarah Armiento and Malaika Astorga (you!) for showcasing our message on a platform like Pink Things.
PT: You describe Men Like You as a “call for accountability” and “a message of solidarity for survivors” who have been silenced or doubted. Could you expand on how you’ve incorporated these messaged into the song, and how you think that accountability can be achieved in the music industry?
Maryze: Nearly every woman/femme/non-binary artist I know has experienced some form of gender-based harassment in the music industry. There are far too many musicians who abuse their influence over young fans. There equally are far too many producers who hit on the artists they work with, try to make you feel like you owe them something, or get cold/angry/abusive when you shut them down. It has to stop, it’s unprofessional and unacceptable. These kinds of interactions would never happen in a business exchange between two men.
We didn’t feel there was enough musical content about these issues, so Men Like You is our way of contributing to the conversation. We are informing all abusers that their behaviour will no longer be tolerated, and telling survivors that we stand with them and believe them. By sharing our truth, we retaliate.
PT: You recently moved to Montreal from Vancouver. What are the differences between the two cities’ music scenes? How do you find navigating these scenes as a female musician?
Maryze: Vancouver has an incredible music scene with so much talent, but there aren’t enough accessible venues or art spaces for emerging artists. Since the cost of living is so high, a lot of creative people struggle to find the time for art, and as a result, are pushed out. I still miss it, but Montreal has become home so quickly. I’ve wanted to move out here for as long as I can remember and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now. I’m constantly inspired by the city, and as a francophone who felt a bit out of place in Vancouver, I feel at home. The music community has been so welcoming, and I feel really lucky.
I think navigating a music scene as a female musician anywhere, feels like you have a lot more to prove. Your musical knowledge and skill are often questioned, or you’re treated like a prop. For example, I’ve noticed the different ways that sound technicians address male and female musicians on stage. Women who ask for the same things as their male bandmates can be treated as divas, or as if they don’t know what they’re talking about. However, Montreal has more womxn sound technicians who have been refreshing to work with!
PT: In your experience, what kind of support and healing methods can be useful for healing from trauma or explicitly oppressive environments? Are there any particular musical safe havens that you choose to use?
Maryze: Writing music has always been a safe haven to express feelings I’ve suppressed or felt ashamed of. I find that talking with people who “get it,” and have experienced similar stories, has been helpful in my healing process. Especially when I start blaming myself for trauma, or doubting my worth. I also try to observe the way I support my loved ones, how I undoubtedly believe them and then try to offer that same love and support to myself. It’s hard, but responding to harmful thoughts with the same words I would offer a friend in need has been super helpful.
PT: Do you have any projects coming up in the future? What direction are you hoping to take your music in?
Maryze: My next big project is the release of my debut EP as Maryze. It’s been really cool to see my musical evolution, and how I’ve come into my sound as a solo artist. I have most of the tracks recorded, and they range from slow-burning sexy R&B ballads to emo electronic bangers haha. Some of the songs are in French, and I’m really excited to release Francophone music as Maryze! Being a bilingual artist is a really important part of my identity.
There may also be a music video on the horizon...
PT: We ask everyone this – How does pink influence you or impact you?
Maryze: I think I used to dislike pink (or tell myself I did) to avoid being seen as too girly since society told me that equated being weak. Now I see the femininity evoked by pink as beautiful, and a symbol of resilience, kindness, sisterhood, and healing.
PT: Finally, where can we find your music?
Maryze: You can find my music on all streaming platforms. Look out for my debut EP release in early 2019!
This interview was conducted via email and has been condensed and edited.
Photographer: Malaika Astorga
MUA: Carole Méthot
Wardrobe provided by: Canadian Tuxedos
Location: The Diving Bell Social Club
“Men Like You” collaborator: Ciele