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An Interview With Greenvale Manitou

A new EP release from Greenvale Manitou brings together a unique combination of genres that have a way of becoming confluent with each other and in turn creating something highly addictive and refreshing at the same time.

The Born of the Same EP consists of three tracks that each stand on their old two legs in the way of singles but listening to the full ep as a whole is the right way to soak this in.

The tracks are a blend of hip hop, alternative rock, edgy pop, and so much more but it all has this undertone that bleeds character which is the bigger part of the record.

To be able to try and describe the eps one piece isn't easy because of the styles that it transposes however, when broke it down song by song you get some of the best parts of each individual genre.

The amazing thing really is how all three of these songs come together as a unit and make so much sense together.

Again, I think it has to do with the personal attributes and character of the release itself, but it's just so well done in terms of releasing something that has fewer boundaries than its predecessors.

This I think we need a lot more of when it comes to music of any kind. I think it's a beautiful thing to hear a release that doesn't follow the guidelines of everything that's out there already.

This was able to open up lyrically and be honest and keep that edginess in tow along with a lot of hooks and melodies that stick in your brain for days after the songs have ended.

The only way to satiate something like that is to play the EP again and to me that's just smart song writing.

This record has just the right swagger to it and attitude to be able to let it get wrapped around you and keep you right where it wants to.

You definitely find yourself paying attention to the lyrics but also grooving with the songs themselves because these do have some deep pockets in terms of the groove and the vibe that they give off.

The guitar work is subtly perfect, and the vocals really do kind of change character along with the premise of the song so it's very alive and breathing in the end.

It is definitely quite refreshing to hear such a unique record and one that ranges so much style and approach within a three-song spectrum because you just don't come across that very often anymore.

This record has a very particular way of hitting all the sweet spots and with its release we wanted to have a sit-down with Greenvale Manitou to find out where this actually came from and what might be coming up next for them.

Here's what happened.

Buzz Slayers: Okay, let's start with the Born Of The Same EP! This record had a killer genre mix with a hip hop and hardcore feel! How did this EP come about?

Thanks, mate! Glad you liked it! The EP is first and foremost a collaboration between two creatives possessed with the same drive. That's the logic behind the EP's title and the eponymous single. I very much wanted a collab for my first release! A fusion between two people who grew up in different cultures (I am a French Breton and Jeenti is Indian Assamese) where one can still find many sonic connections and resemblances. We had fun fusing peculiar elements of each other's cultures, songwriting, recording and mixing approaches. Jeenti's was the Bollywood-like incorporation of real-life samples with crazy British rock sounding guitars and I was more about the French Chanson-like focus with meaningful vocals and quality lyrical content pairing with my upbringing playing African percussion. The EP's cover art conveys that quite a bit! It's both of our fists clenching together in friendship, you know? It's all about not really caring about the traps of genres in the first place. Each song on this EP could be categorized as such and such. I'm sure Born of the Same sounds dream pop rock and hip hop for instance. Skies & Grain is reminiscent of metal and post-grunge, with Tool-like odd time signatures. Queen of All the Animals flirts with R&B and lo-fi. But the truth is each song incorporates a variety of influences and is attempting to be as fluid as it can be on its own. Each song incorporates both acoustic and electric instruments, electronic beats and samples. As an artist, I find it absolutely crazy how hard it is for people to even dare escape the current urge to fit things in genres and categories, you know? We do like our little drawers, our teeny-tiny boxes, you know? With each single release, I want to remind people of their plurality, or their complexity.

Buzz Slayers: How did this all start for you as a band?

Greenvale Manitou is the name behind my solo music project. We are not a band per se. With each release, I like to surround myself with new partners, fish for new local talents, things like that. Jeenti is a pretty busy guy, talented as he is, and he will be moving on with other projects after this EP. He and I will probably work on a few songs in the future, he may be popping up on a few live gigs here and there but I am already transitioning to a new crew for this summer’s gigging period. New faces, new approaches, new blood. Nolan and Berit are accompanying me live right now. We’re bringing acoustic, electric, tons of traditional drumming, loopers, cool hip hop backtrack beats, violin, accordion and a bunch of other goodies to each show. I might actually make use of them both on my next record, which I will be working on this coming winter! As for Jeenti and I, it all started with Covid, like many other indie artists out there. He and I were both ready to go. He had recently purchased a house and had built a great recording studio in it (which is now an LLC under the name “Summit Stream Studio''). He honestly is the greatest effort behind the EP's mixing and mastering procedure. I had my own studio at the time and was trained with sharp recording and editing skills, but I was seeking studio engineers to finalize the mixing/mastering of my projects, so I could invest more time in creating new songs. And that’s how I met him! Then Covid hit… Cabin fever was intense during these long Minnesota winters… We got bored, everything slowed down and everyone got somehow depressed… So we decided to be a social bubble of sorts! The both of us are young parents so it was crucial that we stayed the safest possible for the sake of our youngsters. He and I had wives who were academics working crazy hard to get tenure, you could not bring the kids to daycare if they had a fever, or vice versa, sometimes daycare would close for weeks without a warning because they got exposed to one kid with Covid… So it all slowed things down quite a bit for us, and we would sometimes not be able to see each other for elongated periods of time. But we finally made it! A couple of years later, I have another kid, a fresh EP out, and I'm ready for what's next!

Buzz Slayers: What kind of things really inspire songs for you?

It can be anything, from daily events from the international public scene to very private introspection or else symbolic/spiritual/political reflection on whatever object or topic. I tend to address socio-political problems at the time they occur, I like to strike while the iron is hot, you know? A few years back I wrote Song to the Fascist right when Trumpism was emerging, back when the liberals where all cocky thinking he would never win, with universities around avoiding the topic for fear of losing precious money coming from their more conservative alumni, and with the impossibility of having an honest discussion with anyone in an extremely divided and dysfunctional political environment. I had no support from the surrounding liberal elite and a lot of crass from the hard-working poor whites. No surprises there… Same thing with this EP. Skies & Grain is about the war in Ukraine and was written right after the battle of Kiev (the song actually begins with the air raid siren that blasted over Kiev last year), in a political context where the West was extremely cautious and official discourses were sugar-coated, with barely anyone condemning the attack yet… So I do things like that, because only artists can! It’s part of our duty not to be refrained by the limits and impositions of an office space, a political discourse, nationalisms of all sorts, religious rigorism and puritanism… My inclination to escape genres is a response to the idea of being confined in a bubble, whatever it is. I do music to burst bubbles, to open drawers, to break down boxes. Or else to open up our perspective to the spiritual, which we seem to have strayed away from for far too long. I like a good challenge too! Queen of All the Animals was crafted like that. We wanted to explore Lo-fi, and I wanted to be able to write the lyrical content of a song mainly based on the minute observation of a picture (the song was written after the cover art picture for the single). Another good example is a forthcoming song called Fire, Plural. I was challenged to write a song from scratch in 30 minutes in a context of pure improv and surprise. I gave the guitar riffs about 5 minutes, the vocals another 5, and used a good 20 minutes for the lyrics… It turned out pretty well... In general, I'd say that I try to be primal in my approach to singing, earnest and playful at the same time, and I tend to be crafty in my wordsmithing, like I'm both a poet and a spellcaster of sorts!

Buzz Slayers: This EP has some great styles on it! Can you give us some of your biggest influences musically?

Jeenti is very much about psychedelic stuff and we connected a lot when it comes to the London scene we grew up listening to. Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Steven Wilson, the Big Beats era with the likes of The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, etc. We also both like the origins of trip hop... Massive Attack, Portishead, things like that. I used to be a metalhead, a punkhead, a technohead... Each period was its own little box full of clichés… I used to work on my vocals singing to Iron Maiden. It was great training. I was in a pretty successful metal band back in France, but I left because I hated the confines of the genre… There was no room for growth past the expectations of the audience, and we know that metalheads are extremely loyal to the genre and that genre only. Each attempt to veer away from it still carries the word “metal” in it and is then so ridiculously hyphenated all over the place it should really be obvious we ought to reconsider the way we brand things. Music especially. I later indulged in the traditional French Chanson because of its moods and its poetry, in Celtic folk(lore) because these are my deepest roots, especially Breton music, but I was also trained in African percussion by natives from Morocco and Senegal… I was once in a Funk Latin fusion project with Puertoricans and Peruvian immigrants too. The more I look at it, the more I realize that I’ve been enjoying being all over the place since my early days!

Buzz Slayers: What are all you doing when you're NOT working on music?

I've been serving as a wine connoisseur for businesses around and am currently working on becoming a sommelier. I’ll be back teaching French at Saint Olaf College in the next 2 years. All this is a good way to raise money. But most importantly, I’m slowly turning my property into an LLC called Manitou Studios. I'm a Renaissance man, so the idea is to gather a collection of artists around the location and make it a place where art can bloom freely! I currently have a painter (who is also a tattoo artist and a published poet) living in her own studio on location! I have spaces to rent for recording artists, for performances… I am also organizing wine pairing dinners for the local foodie crowd, or else teaching French for adults. I am also an aquarist hobbyist, with many serious fish tanks and one outside pond. The property is often visited by deer, foxes, so many birds and such. I own a cat, a dog, a bearded dragon… It all makes the place look great and vibrant, extremely inspiring and relaxing for everyone involved. I have turned the living room into a pro music practice/performance space, and the basement into a 2 rooms vocal booth and a recording studio. Everything is going in the right direction! As for Jeenti, he is probably cooking great Indian food and is looking after his beautiful daughter. He's also doing a few odd jobs to help with the studio expenses and is serving as a guitarist and producer for quite a few projects.

Buzz Slayers: Who's in all your headphones right now?

I'm working on a playlist of my favorite 2,000 songs from 2023, to be released publicly at the end of the year on Spotify, so there's been quite a lot of albums, all genres included, blasting through my headphones of late! I've been listening to it while I was answering your questions. I can tell you for sure that in the last hour or so, Avey Tare (from Animal Collective) has been playing alongside the last Metallica single (Lux Aeterna), Avatar, Logic, Oddissee, Depeche Mode, Fever Ray, Shame, Orbital, Adrian Younge, Sleaford Mods, Gorillaz, Iggy Pop, and quite a large array of newer artists and material, like, say, Bar Italia, Adam Nass, A Certain Ratio, etc. I try to keep it as versatile as possible, you know, never to give in to what's too easy and predictable.

Buzz Slayers: Are you guys doing any live performances right now?

Jeenti is busy performing live with another project of his during the whole Summer, so I've been promoting the EP mainly on my own, with the help of my new sidekicks. Given we’re all from (or in my case, residing in) Northfield, MN, we have been focusing our live efforts there. We started strong with the Grand Theater, one of the nicest locales in town and will be playing the Arts Guild Theater in August. Both places, which are the top places you could wish to play at in Northfield, approached me as soon as the EP was out. The Arts Guild gig even comes with a producer and top-notch sound engineer. Past that, we’ve hit the popular breweries and foodie places we like to go to. The Defeat of Jesse James Days (Sept 6-10) are coming up and the town will be busy. So will we! After that, this coming Fall, the plan is to take the show to the clubs in the Twin Cities and keep pushing it until we make it to the more renowned places like 7th Entry, and at the end of that road, hopefully, First Avenue.

Buzz Slayers: Did you guys record this yourselves or hit a big studio for this?

Most vocals were recorded in my own studio, because I like my mics and my singing booth set up. So was the percussion, for the same reasons. I have been doing some comping, quite a bit of cleaning and editing too. But the great majority of the EP has been recorded, mixed and mastered in Jeenti’s studio. When the single Born of the Same came out, we had it professionally mastered by a friend of his who has a studio down in Nashville. But since then Jeenti developed his mastering skills and invested in all these nice plug ins, you know? In this case, the now pretty standard Izotope Ozone 10. It was a great journey for us both and we learned a lot. We are psyched at how the record sounds, it’s amazing we managed to accomplish that on our own!

Buzz Slayers: What can your fans expect from you in the near future?

I am working on what’s next, which is on another album for next year and on my new relationship with Nolan and Berit. I’m always looking for more musicians to work with or do collabs with. I am currently working on a remaster of Song to the Fascist. It will be the next album’s first single, to be released this coming Fall. I am also planning on releasing Santa Closet and Playing with Knives as a 2-song packet around Christmas time. Santa Closet is kind of a comical song I wrote as part of a challenge to write a Christmas song. Along with Country Pop, Christmas songs might be my least favorite genre. They are riddled with expectations and clichés! So I wrote a Country Pop Christmas song that begins with the line “Santa is a hobo dumping plastic from the sky…” and that plays with clichés quite a bit. Same for Playing With Knives. I have sampled and looped kitchen knives striking a wood platter and each other, with additional blade sheathing sounds. The song, written both in French and in English, addresses the many clichés Americans have against the French. It’s another funny tongue-in-cheek kinda tune! Both are available as demos on my Soundcloud for now. As for the upcoming album itself, you can expect much darker moods, with grunge-like electric pieces, half a step down acoustic singer songwriter tunes, some electro, some hip hop, and a lot of world instruments tribal beats and loops.

Buzz Slayers: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music?

Whatever you do, whatever you listen to, however you dress like, keep it real, keep it fun, keep it fluid and playful. You’re not the niche your peers are pressuring you to be into. You’re not your dressing code. Your clothes, tats and jewelry should be used to express the many versions of you. Similarly, listen to the same music, the same genres, and you will stagnate. Deep inside of us, we are nomads, we are travelers, we are curious entities. Be that every time you can! Peace out!

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