by bess meade, ig: @bessplease
photos by caitlin indermaur, ig: @indermeower
2018 was a breakthrough year for montreal dream-pop goddess josie boivin, aka munya. she released her first two eps, which are part of a trilogy released by luminelle recordings, with the third ep set to drop in early 2019. she toured the u.s. for the first time and secured a coveted spot at sxsw 2019, who featured her as their artist of the day in december.
i caught munya’s set at mississippi studios in portland on december 17th, a stop on her tour supporting indie pop-rock staples, cults. while she appeared a bit shy at the beginning of her set, she quickly gained confidence, and ultimately maintained complete control of her performance and the narrative surrounding it, switching between guitar and synthesizer, and charming the audience with stage banter between songs. near the end of her set, she brought her uncle stuart up to the stage, who played acoustic guitar with her for an endearing cover of the beatles’ “michelle”, which they had played together at a family member’s wedding earlier in the year. she ended her set with the catchy, unreleased song “benjamin”.
with striking synth-pop melodies and airy vocals, munya’s music is optimistically ethereal and otherworldly, with an underlying, gloomy sense of nostalgia just below the surface. while her songs are undeniably catchy in a contemporary sense, her songwriting still somehow feels ahead of its time. i sat down with josie before her set at mississippi studios, where we chatted about the inspiration behind her first two eps, writing songs in two languages, and her journey in finding her path as an artist.
tell me about the inspiration behind the two eps you put out in 2018, hatley and delmano.
i released hatley in may. i live in montreal, which has such a great music scene; all of my friends there are musicians, and we’re all constantly making music. last year, a group of us stayed at a friend’s parents’ cottage in north hatley, a small village in quebec. everyone picked a different room, and we spent the trip making music and recording, separately. i wrote the song “hatley” at that cottage.
and delmano is about hotel delmano in brooklyn, which i love. i was meeting a friend there, and at the same time i was watching a video by the french band vendredi sur mer, la femme à la peau bleue (the woman with blue skin). later, i dreamed that i was having a cocktail with that woman at hotel delmano, and i was so inspired by that dream that i ended up writing “delmano.”
do you think that your background in jazz and classical music influences your music?
yeah, i think it’s all related. i played classical piano as a child, which gave me the piano skills that i use now. i’m definitely inspired by bill evans, one of my favorite jazz musicians, and i use a lot of major seventh chords, which are common in jazz. i’m also inspired by a lot of other contemporary indie artists.
“if i’m gone tomorrow (it was aliens)” was the first song you wrote in english. how do you decide if a song you’re writing will be in french or english?
it depends on the song, and the vibe. my songwriting process is very quick; i usually write a song in just a few hours. when i’m coming up with the melody, i will hear the words either in french or english.
“if i’m gone tomorrow” is a breakup song about aliens, inspired by independence day, which i loved as a child. while i was writing it, i heard it in my head in english, so that just felt right.
when i wrote the vocal melody to “hotel delmano,” i heard the words in french. i like writing in both french and english; i speak both languages, so they are both part of my life, and feel very natural.
it’s interesting because people in the states normally don’t speak french, but i noticed a few nights ago at our seattle show that people who don’t speak french were singing along to my lyrics! i thought that was so cool! i always include the lyrics as subtitles in my videos, so that if anyone wants to look up a translation, the lyrics are accessible.
your song “some more” is inspired by your sister’s boyfriend, who gave you a hard time because you were living at her place when you first started making music. do you have any advice for people who are trying to live a creative life, but have resistance from people around them?
oh my gosh, yes, i was there! i have always made music, but i wasn’t ready to put myself out there and make my own music until last year. i wanted to do something—i knew it, and i felt it—but i just wasn’t there yet.
this period of my life was quite hard. i had no job, no money, no partner. i felt like i wasn’t going anywhere. but at the same time, i asked myself, what do i want to do with my life? where am i going? and it’s all about choices, of course, so i made the decision to work really hard and release some music.
life is so interesting, and there are so many paths you can take to get where you want to be. the good path is yours. i read the war of art by steven pressfield, which talks about how hard it is to create with a blank page in front of you. for example, you decide to write a song, but then you end up getting distracted by daily tasks. so, i was very strict and i forced myself to create and work on a consistent schedule. i worked really hard, and then i released my first songs, and the attention that i got gave me so much confidence. it opened the door so i could finally justify and validate the work i had done. i knew i was on the right path, and could keep making music.
so my advice is: listen to your inner voice, it’s always telling the truth. keep doing it and work hard until you find success, which is bound to happen.
stream munya’s hotel delmano music video on youtube here.