When Northern Transmissions reaches Montreal’s Maryze, the musician is, like many in Quebec, holed up at home due to recently re-escalated COVID-19 restrictions. Just a couple of weeks earlier, she’d performed at the POP Montreal festival—her first show in months— to a distanced, mask-wearing crowd. The catharsis in the room was palpable, but the experience was bittersweet as it was brief. Because of this latest wave, in-person shows are once again off-limits indefinitely.
Despite this, Maryze’s music is thriving. After issuing her “Muse” single and a remix EP earlier in the year, the musician has now delivered the immersive and haunting “Squelettes”, where French-sung lyrics thread gossamer-like around producer Margo’s prismatic zoom of synths and beatwork. The single also features a fiery guest verse from Polaris Prize shortlisted rapper/producer Backxwash. Maryze spoke with Northern Transmissions on how the three artists came together to make the haunting, yet hooky tune, and what’s in the works for her forthcoming full-length debut. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Northern Transmissions: What can you tell us about the creation of “Squelettes”? How did you go about connecting with either Margo or Backxwash?
Maryze: I started writing “Squelettes” about seven years ago; I was in a pretty bad place [then]. I was playing with a band in B.C. called Spectregates at the time. We performed it, but it was a totally different version. It never really got released properly, but it was a song that meant a lot to me.
The Montreal music scene is pretty small and everyone kind of knows each other. With Margo, we connected over Instagram. I love her beats. There’s this energy to her music that’s really intense and raw, but also really cathartic. She sent me this beat, and I thought it would be a great way to revive this old song.
With Backxwash, we’ve played quite a few shows together in Montreal. We were slotted on a lot of the same bills, and [through that] we connected. She’s such a wonderful person, and we’ve always talked about making something together. The timing felt right with this track; it felt like it lined up with her energy and story as well.
NT: What about this song resonates with you still?
M: We’re just going to get personal, because the song is personal. The song focuses on addiction, and trying to break addictive tendencies. I was really depressed. I was drinking too much and not eating enough, and felt like I was becoming a skeleton of myself –squelette means skeleton in French. The song has this theme, a voice that’s talking to you through [your addiction]: ‘What are you doing? Why are you repeating these patterns?’
I’m definitely doing much better. I’m in a good place now; I have been for a while, but I think anyone who struggles with mental health still has a negative little voice that’s taunting you, and maybe not encouraging you to follow your best path. It’s a song that I feel grounds me in remembering how bad things can get, while also remembering to listen to the good voice that’s trying to help you out. To not lose sight of that when things get tough.
NT: When you’d performed “Squelettes” with Spectregates, had it also been sung in French?
M: It had been. It was really different and stripped-down. I’d written it on my synth and it had a really sparse beat. It was really simple, and I feel like I wasn’t really ready to explore the depth of what it meant to me at the time. It didn’t feel like it had blossomed into what I was really envisioning for it. I do think that with Margo’s production, which is so maximalist and intense, helped bring it there. Backxwash wrapped it up perfectly by bringing her experiences to it.
NT: Can you tell us about developing your voice as a bilingual artist? Do you have a French background?
M: My father’s from France. I grew up in Vancouver, but I went to a French school—not French immersion, a full French school. I didn’t start taking English until later on in Elementary school. I grew up in a Francophone home, and I was only allowed to watch French TV. It was annoying at the time, but now I’m grateful for it. If you’re in an English-speaking majority, it’s tough to learn and maintain [another] language.
In terms of music, I’ve always written in French and English. A lot of the songs that I was writing in French as a younger artist were the ones I wasn’t really ready to share their meaning yet with my friends—most of my friends were Anglophones. It was a way to get [my feelings] out there without really getting it out there. That just ended up in a lot of my darker and more personal songs being in French. The ones that were easier for me to express publically were in English. Now I don’t really plan out what language I’m going to write in. If I work with a French producer, I like to write in French, but both allow me to express what I want to say.
NT: “Squelettes” is your first track through Hot Tramp, a new label that evolved out of your management team (also named Hot Tramp). How does being signed to the label fall in line with your own aesthetic at this particular moment?
M: This is going to be really corny, but Hot Tramp is all about expressing every part of you, and being proud of that. Especially when it comes to sexuality, our politics, and what we feel strongly about. Sarah Armiento, who started Hot Tramp, is so supportive. Each individual artist has a different vibe and sound. You hear stories of managers who try to shape their artists; she’s the opposite of that. She wants each of us to strive individually.
I definitely feel like my sound is starting to take more risks. The album that’s coming out next year on Hot Tramp is all over the place, in terms of genre. I’m really, really excited about that, because I love a lot of genres. It’s going to be cool to see how the sound evolves, because it’s in this state of mutation.
NT: You’ve just hinted at this, but both yours and Janette King’s albums through Hot Tramp are set to be released well into next year. How much of your album has been crafted so far?
M: About half of it is fully finished and fleshed-out. Half of the songs are still in the works, but have at least started to take shape. I know Janette’s album is done at this point. Mine is still in the late stages. I’m really excited to be at this point, because the pandemic has changed my headspace, and opened me up to things I wasn’t ready to write about earlier. I feel like there’s nothing much left to lose. It sounds dark, and I don’t mean to be negative, but the state of the music industry isn’t good right now. We’re lucky to still have made progress this year, but I just don’t care about rules anymore, in terms of genre and presentation. I just want to explore everything, and work with different types of people to see what they can bring to the project.
NT: Can you reveal who all is working with you on the album?
M: Margo is a producer I’m really excited about, and who will have a couple of songs on the album, for sure. Janette King and I are also working on some stuff together. There’s a Montreal duo called La Fièvre, this dark witch-pop duo, who I also hope are on there.
NT: Margo dropped the beat on “Squelettes”, but would you work over a Backxwash track in the future, were she to bring you a harder, metal-sampling beat?
M: I would love to be on anything with Backxwash, really. I love her vision. I love her sound. That would be cool, stepping outside of my comfort zone.
NT: “Squelettes” is just coming out this week, but how much activity are we going to see from Maryze before the album comes out next summer?
M: We have a few other singles coming out in 2020, and some music videos. There are so many different sounds being explored, so I want to give a few different tastes leading up to the album.
Order Squelettes by Maryze here