Yorkshire-based producer and writer Alice Rowan perfectly embraces the DIY ethos of her Mayshe-Mayshe project with the release of her second album Indigo.
A collection of dream-pop gems, written, recorded, and produced by Rowan that focus on dark moods and ethical dilemmas. The album brings forward what she left with her rather intriguing 2018 debut LP Cocoa Smoke. Her new album features feelings of ennui, uncertainty, and melancholy against a backdrop of lush DIY electronica.
Rowan describes this new fascinating collection of songs as “pop-ponderings on the human condition.”
“It’s darker than my previous work,” she explains, “but with bright edges. There’s nothing like a catchy pop hook to help you process dark moments.” She adds: “Learning to self-produce my music has been such a joyful, empowering experience, it feels like having a superpower, having this new ability to create sonic worlds from my sofa.”
Rowan confidently examines dark themes with her music. The album delves into themes like anxiety, depression, and burnout as she talks about how consumerism can make it difficult to switch from a mentality of ethical dilemmas to something new and bright. If Cocoa Smoke was just outside the border, her new album Indigo with its enticing avant-garde electro-pop sounds goes deep into the heart of the forest.
Check out our interview with Alice Rowan / Mayshe-Mayshe:
I love that the music I make is a completely genuine reflection of who I am.
If you could blink your eyes and be in a favorite place right now, where would that place be?
The Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. I love swimming in mountain rivers and waterfalls, and these ones on Skye are the most magical I’ve ever seen. The whole island is stunning too: the mountains, the Atlantic coast – it’s just beautiful.
You described Indigo as a collection of “pop-ponderings on the human condition.” Can you elaborate on that?
Yes, I’ll start with the last part: in these songs, I discuss difficult experiences and ideas I live with, like mental health, how to face my own anxieties, and how to deal with big societal issues we’re facing like the climate crisis. I’ve summed this up as the human condition: in all these songs I’m trying to work out how to exist as a good human in a complex world.
I’ve described these songs as ‘ponderings’ because rather than carrying a clear, strong message, these songs exist to wonder, to think about these difficult issues: to ponder. I don’t profess to have answers, I want to ask the questions.
And finally, it’s pop. All the above can make these songs sound pretty heavy, but the music is light-hearted, dreamy, and full of pop hooks. I guess I like the juxtaposition between the dark subject matter and the dreamy pop music.
When you’re writing a collection of songs like the ones for Indigo, how do you know when an idea is worth pursuing?
I don’t! I don’t think I ever know till I’ve finished a song whether it’s going to be any good. So I try not to ask myself too much whether an idea is good while I’m writing, not to judge it too early on because some of my best songs were written in a hurry, when I wasn’t trying too hard, I was just going with the flow.
It’s been about 3 years since your debut LP ‘Cocoa Smoke’ came out and now you are releasing your newest EP titled ‘Indigo’. Did the pandemic have an inspirational effect on your creative output? If so, can you tell us how?
I hardly wrote any new music during the pandemic – most of the songs on this album were written before the pandemic. So it didn’t have an inspirational effect in that way, but like many other musicians, I had more time on my hands because I wasn’t touring, and I started working more on my music production skills. I could already do the basics before this, but I started listening to this podcast about women working in music production, which inspired me to try more things and to take myself seriously as a producer as well as a performer. That was quite a life-changing moment for me and now music production is probably the part of being a musician that I love the most.
What is your musical guilty pleasure?
Taylor Swift! I’m not even guilty about it, I think she’s amazing. Listening to her earlier albums feels like having a chat with your best friend about all your relationship problems – it’s like therapy!
What is your favorite sound in the world?
The sound of birdsong, especially in the early morning. This might not be the most unique of answers, but it really impacts me on quite a deep level. When I went through a bad period of depression a few years back, the sound of birdsong was like medication, somehow it connected me back to my own soul as it cut through all the layers of depression. That might sound cheesy, but there’s something about it that reminds me that all my problems are mostly just in my head, and that there’s a beautiful world outside of that, that I can be part of if I can find a way out of my head.
Which part of Alice Rowan is in the Mayshe-Mayshe’s music realm?
The fun, creative, mindful part. And probably the worried part of me too – I’m quite a worrier, and I channel all those thoughts into my music. I use my music as a sort of therapy though, so I think I translate all the worrying thoughts into mindful experiences, or sometimes just into fun, light-hearted songs. Sometimes the best way to deal with drama is not to take it too seriously.
You mentioned that producing music has been “such a joyful, empowering experience.” Is there anything you would change about the industry?
There are lots of things I’d change about the industry if I could! But with regards to music production, we’re in quite a special time now, because musicians no longer need to get past industry gatekeepers, like record labels, to be able to record and share their music with other people. Anybody can learn to record and produce their own music, with just a little bit of budget and some patience. It’s much easier now to be an independent musician and make the art that you want to, without having to adjust to what a label thinks you should be making. I love that the music I make is a completely genuine reflection of who I am.
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