22.08.2011, Words by Charlie Jones

Maria Minerva interview: "It's relevant but it's strange."

I first happened across Maria Minerva’s music when I saw the video for California Scheming. Taken from her debut tape, ‘Tallinn At Dawn’ Not Not Fun, the track is a delicate, warped pop song. The video’s her messing about, lipsyncing over images of snowy castles and digital cocktails, half kid-in-front-of-the-mirror, half pop-superstar. The album, which I bought instantly, has stuck with me more than many releases this year. Essentially ten laptop jams on the theme of pop music and the weird dreams we have when we hang out in our rooms. On paper, the album isn’t a hundred miles from a huge amount of h-pop around, but listen closer and you find it’s music based a long way away, bathed not in some vague Midwestern glow but the tough romanticism of London music, the current magpie irreverence of the east end Maria calls home. It’s a sardonic record, happy to use the harsh noises and hard ideas currently so rare. Like Hype Williams, her music is soaked in both dub and the gritty attitude that lights London music like headlights through the rain. Sad Serenade (Bedroom Rock & Roll) goes the name of track three, and Bedroom Rock & Roll is a pretty perfect description of her music.

Maria Minerva – California Scheming from Not Not Fun on Vimeo.

She brought out a new album called ‘Cabaret Cixous’ [Not Not Fun again] a few weeks ago, and I called her up to see if she wanted to finish an interview we started a while ago. She turned up to the pub garden wearing a business suit, explaining with a shrug “I was wearing sweat pants an hour ago, but I don’t want to feel like a loser bumming around Hackney Downs.” It’s a funny, forthright thing to do, and to say. In conversation, she’s both funny, clever and forthright, curling her lip at things that bore her, saying when a question is stupid, laughing when it’s funny.

Her music is funny, and smart. Like a surprising number of other artists working today, her background is in cultural theory. Her father is one of Estonia’s highest-regarded music critics, and she studied art history in her hometown Tallinn, and an audio & visual culture MA at Goldsmiths in London. “I love John Maus and I like his music a lot, and he’s giving lectures on every website – I’m not sure if it’s how it should be. Sometimes it’s relevant, but it’s strange that underground music has got to a stage where academics are making music and reflecting on their practice as a practice,” she says about another person-who-makes-pop-music-about-pop-music-and-knows-more-about-Derrida-than-most-people-do. “When you’re making music, you should put all of you and your ideas into the music, but everything else around it can castrate it, because there is so much talk around it. It can become like death. So maybe I shouldn’t give interviews either, but there is so much say. I’m still fighting through all these things.”

MARIA MINERVARUFF TRADE from Not Not Fun on Vimeo.

Her music is made on laptops but is full of great ideas, about music, about language, about fantasy. It’s clever enough to wear its brains lightly, orientated around hooks and catchy melodies and the lightness of touch that makes a great record. Some of these hooks are almost puns – absorbing a distant house tune, or a euro-disco hit, or an IDM line to throw away, building up a swarming pattern of drifting passions, like smoking a joint in the room you threw your first posters up. It’s radical, it really is.

“My music seems very language orientated; I can’t escape my background. And I realised recently that I’m not an academic person and have maybe wasted my entire education. But I can’t change it now and I can do anything I want.”

Not Not Fun released Maria Minerva’s album ‘Cabaret Cixous’ on 1st August 2011

Maria Minerva will play BleeD at the Shacklewell Arms on 22nd August 2011

Tickets Here

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