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Interview with Manatee Commune

Do you enjoy lush, dreamlike electronic soundscapes a la Tycho and Washed Out? Then let us introduce you to Manatee Commune. 21-year-old Grant Eadie has been making music under Manatee Commune since 2012 but the past 6 months have seen him play at almost every festival in the Northwest, including Bumbershoot, Capitol Hill Block Party, Summer Meltdown, and Decibel Fesitval. Last week we caught him at the Haunted Pop showcase at Decibel along with Son Lux, BRAIDS, and Helado Negro. Before the show we had a (pretty lengthy) chat with him about music, college, electronic button-pushers, creativity and, of course, drugs and alcohol (what kind of music journalists would we be if it didn’t go there?). Animal Collective is also brought up multiple times.

 

So this has been a big year for you. Going from competing in SoundOff to playing at Capitol Hill Block Party, Bumbershoot, and now Decibel….how does it all feel? Have you noticed a bigger fan base?

Yeah definitely. The really key event was dropping the KEXP videos. That’s when Facebook kinda took off and then I got fans in pretty much every place on earth. And actually it was super exciting because I was in Spokane, that’s where I’m from, and I just played this kinda goofy little festival called Bazaar Festival and I was headlining the festival there and it just wasn’t the right vibe really. The beer garden was far away from where I was playing so I just had like a bunch of under-age kids that were like, “What the heck is going on right now?” which was fine, it didn’t really matter. It was in the middle of the day and in my hometown so it was nice supporting it. But I was sitting in a café and I looked at my Facebook feed and everything had like tripled. It was up like 300% and then I look again and it’s up like 3000% and I’m like “What is going on? Did I drop something that I don’t remember?” and then I see the KEXP videos had started blowing up. So that was really cool. It feels really good.

The thing that I always say is that part of me is like “Wow I can’t believe I got here like what an amazing place.” It all started with me just sitting in my room with my viola and my synthesizer just coming up with a bunch of random stuff to having just an amazing booking manager to then all of a sudden I’m playing shows to then all of a sudden I’m playing big shows to then I have a big fan base that actually there to meet me and I can talk to people and shake hands. It’s surreal but I’ve never been so humbled at the same time. Like whenever I play these shows I never look at them as like “Oh yeah I’m legit now.” It’s always like “I need to do well for the people that are coming to see me” and I’m really excited about that.

It’s funny, it always works in levels. I think it’s like that for everybody. Like especially when you’re going to school. I think of it like taking a math class and you’re like “Oh my god, Algebra is so hard” and then you finish Algebra and you’re like “Oh my god, now I have Calculus. That’s gonna be way harder” and you have to work up to each level. That’s how I think of it. It’s like yeah I landed Bumbershoot, yeah I got Decibel Festival, Summer Meltdown, Capitol Hill Block Party and those are great things and if I quit now I’d still have a great legacy to follow but all I can think about is the next step. Where I’m going from here. Getting a really good record label that I feel confident about, releasing some tracks that I’m super excited about, finding new artists to work with, getting a good, creative work-flow. That kinda stuff.

 

Yeah definitely. Are you signed?

No not to a record label. I’m signed to a booking agency called Autonomous Music down in Portland though.

 

So where did it all start? How long ago? Can you pinpoint an actual moment that it started? Because it seems as though you’ve been playing music for a long time.

Yeah totally. I’d say there are probably four major pinpoint moments. There was obviously the time I started playing music which was playing viola in high school. Then there was…I didn’t want to call myself a professional musician until I was recognized as professional musician so when I took first in state for viola performance in my senior year that was when I was like “Okay now I actually am a distinguished artist” and I started to realize how important that was for me.

And then I’d say the next one was when I started learning production. When I got my first MacBook I splurged and got Logic Pro, which is the program that I use. I bought Logic and Reason and Ableton and a bunch of other programs. It’s so funny, my friends like recognized this gap in my life for about 6 months where I didn’t actually exist because I was learning the programs and just so excited about it. And once I learned all that stuff I brought my studio space all the way over to Bellingham while I was going to Western and I was working on my music major and I was just writing music as much as I could and it was really exciting. It was more of like a form of procrastination than it was a form of artistic expression at first. I would go to write a paper and be like, “I really don’t wanna do this right now” so I’d stay up all night writing a song and then black out from sleep deprivation and then be like, “Oh I have a cool little piece.” So that started.

And then I would say the final pinpoint of when I actually really did start taking it seriously was when I released _ EP which was the first little 7 track album that I released, it’s only like 25 minutes long. Poorly produced. Not very good ideas. I mean, I still respect it ‘cause I’m happy that I came up with it with as little experience that I had. But I released with the impression that it was just going to get lost in the abyss just like everything else that I had released had.  And it went from being this little thing that I had that only got like 15 likes when I posted it on my own profile to being passed around Bellingham every day. I would have people come up to me on the street and say like, “Oh you’re the guy” and “I really like your album. I love your project” and stuff like that. And I was playing in another band at the time and it was really exciting because I’d never had that with that band before. So then I had someone approach me and ask if I’d like to play a small music festival in Bellingham and I was like, “Yeah, absolutely” and after that happened I just kept getting show after show after show and I just kept showing up more. Then, just by chance I played a show for my current manager and he had no idea who I was and I had no idea who he was but he called me up one day after that and was like, “Hey we should go grab coffee.” So we went and got coffee and talked about what we wanted to do with the project and he was like, “Alright man, I get a percentage of what you make and I’ll book all your shows and do all your promotion. Let’s make it happen.” It’s been an amazing experience ever since.

 

That’s really cool. So, how do you manage classes and music?

Oh man. Before, it was almost impossible and the only way that I could do it was to take classes in the evening time and then working in the morning. But it got to the point where I was balancing classes, orchestra, work, and doing the music thing all at the same time and I had like no time. And I’m the kinda person that unless I have a ton of free time I’m not gonna do anything awesome so I wasn’t really doing anything awesome. I was bummed out so I stopped taking as many classes, cut down my work hours, and I stopped doing orchestra for awhile. I cut my classes down so that I was only taking musical things so I could kind of embrace what I was doing which I think was really key. That actually made me realize what I wanted to do with school in the first place because this just translates to my hobbies and now my hobbies can be my career like what a great way to live. It’s gonna happen one way or another so if I’m gonna procrastinate it might as well be for schoolwork. So it worked out, it was cool. I’m actually not doing school right now, I’m really close to getting a degree in audio engineering.

Well, that’s definitely relevant.

Yeah, exactly. Audio engineering and then I was hoping to do a music degree but that one kind of fell through. So I kind of like paused everything when I got signed to Autonomous because now with tours and trying to pump out as much music as I can in the next 6 months is becoming really important. It’s pretty crazy. The world of music does not function like any normal career or like any schoolwork, for that matter. It’s one thing that I haven’t really gotten used to. It’s so momentum and time-based which is really starting to blow my mind. It’s crazy how your career is based on how many listeners you have and your listeners are kind of like babies in that you have to keep dangling things in front of their face in order to keep them interested so if I pause for a second then they’ll look away and I’ll lose them. It’s kinda interesting. So not doing school is really important because I need to focus on dangling more keys.

Yeah, you can finish school anytime but you have to ride the wave right now of what’s happening with music. I totally get it. Makes sense to me. Are your parents okay with it?

Um, you know that was a pretty long discussion that we had but you know, there’s no one more supportive as they are. They are 100% into that stuff and, I mean, money is one way that they show me support but they also show up to all my shows and are extremely excited about what I make. They give me critiques. They sit me down and talk to me about feelings they got from my music which is really important to me because I am an extension of them so I feel like the things that I make can relate to them in some way or another. It’s really cool. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and I’m like, “Oh my god, I’m so lucky. I need to call my mom.”

Awww that’s cool. So, I watched your KEXP performance and I saw you at Block Party and I really love how you incorporate the live instruments while mixing because it’s so much more dynamic and interesting to watch. How difficult was it in the beginning trying to figure out how to perform all these instruments at once by yourself during a live set? Did you ever consider getting a backing band instead?

Yeah, I did have a live drummer for a little while. To be honest, the reason I don’t have a backing band is ’cause I haven’t found somebody who is as into what I’m making as I am. I also am pretty awkward with people when it comes to social dynamics with artwork and with like just straight up work-involved. If there was somebody who was like me but was a harder worker then I’d definitely have that person with me. But I have had a drummer in the past and it just didn’t work out. I didn’t feel like I could grow as much because I feel like I grow at a really weird pace. But yeah, it took a LONG time to figure out the instrument thing. The first experience where I really brought it all together was – actually I remember the date, it was December 12th of 2013.

That’s very specific.

Yeah, I opened for Odesza and that was the big one because I was the main support and they’re from Bellingham. Completely sold out show. That was one of the coolest experiences because I had prepared so much and I had just finished “White Smoke” and I had just finished a few of the other really big tracks that I was really excited about and I was also going through a bit of a breakup at the time so it was perfect timing. I had all this energy and I guess I realized at that time that the mix of all my instrumentation could come together if I just let go and let myself do it versus trying to pre-plan everything and getting all my ideas in one set score so I know exactly what’s happening, I more just get up and listen to myself and how I relate to the music in the moment and just let it happen. And alcohol really helps with that. (laughs)

(laughs) Well that’s honest.

Yeah I have this thing lately called the Two Beer Rule which is where I won’t play unless I’ve had two beers. Once I finish two beers then I feel confident enough to be able to play. It’s really weird. Part of my music comes from just over-thinking everything and being an anxious person naturally and being a perfectionist. But when I’m in a live setting being a perfectionist is pretty pointless because you can’t go back and fix anything that you’re doing, it’s all in the moment. So yeah…it’s fucked up and I really wish I could be the kind of person that’s like, “I meditate for approximately 1 hour before I play” but my form of meditation is just to like pound a couple beers and then go up and just tell the audience that I’m stoked to have them and have a great time.

But the instrumentation thing, it comes from…I realize that button-pushing is easy and it’s nice and especially if you are drunk. It can be great because you don’t have to focus too hard and you can just dance and have a good time. As one of the Animal Collective members said, they love doing DJ sets because they’re basically getting paid to hang out with friends but I didn’t wanna be that person. I wanted to be the kinda person that when somebody comes up to me and they say, “You did a great job” after the show, I say thank you because I’m proud of the moment that I was in.

Yeah because you actually did something. Performed. I think that’s probably my biggest problem with electronic shows is just wondering “Why am I paying to see you press buttons?”

Totally. I mean, there are some situations where I think button-pushers can do something cool. Like Odesza now has live percussion and stuff but they still mix their music really well and work really hard to come up with new mixes and stuff. But the live instrumentation thing came from a labor of love kind of thing and that I can actually express to people how appreciative I am for them being there by playing music and like walking toward the audience and showing them that I’m here. I don’t know, it’s a presence thing but it’s really important. It’s really really important.

I agree. And I really appreciate it. How many instruments do you plan on using tonight?

Same amount that I used on KEXP minus the windchimes. The windchimes was a KEXP specific only thing. I just wanted to see what would happen. It was a hokey, fun little deal. I just wanted to do something weird so that’s what I used. So yeah, tonight it’ll be floor tom, high tom, ride cymbal, viola, guitar, and then I have my APC and my launch pad and that’s it. Pretty simple.

Awesome. Definitely excited to see it. So, when you’re trying to get inspired, what do you do?

That is such a huge question! Um, to be honest I don’t know. I wish I knew. It just comes. It’s so funny, I was actually just having a conversation with my roommate about this. I live with three other people and one of them is a DJ/sampler that goes by People and the other one is the singer of New Lungs, his name is Nick, so I live with a bunch of musicians basically. So we talk about that kinda stuff all the time and I don’t think anybody really knows. If you have a formula for creating your creativity it probably comes from drugs honestly. (laughs) There was this Pitchfork documentary about Flying Lotus and the first part of the documentary is just him buying weed I think. So I think he probably has a formula. But for me what I’ve been trying to do lately is writing things down because creativity comes from absolutely nowhere. I’ll be listening to a track while I’m at work and I’ll remember that there’s a really cool production idea that I just had and I wanna write down some feelings that I was getting from something so I’ll just write it down in a notebook. So the creativity comes pretty randomly. But when I sit down to write something, a lot of it comes from a sensation that I get from a specific sample that I take. The best way to get myself to be creative is to go and just do something I’ve never done before.

Like musically you’ve never done before?

Not necessarily. Just whatever. Sometimes when I’m feeling especially restless I’ll – I have a really cool fish tank that I’m really excited about  – I’ll go and just buy a new fish to put in the fish tank that’s like a totally wild color just to see how it makes me feel and just stare at it for awhile and think about it. I think a part of the problem with being creative is you can be creative all day but it’s about using the tools that were given to you to be creative. That’s the problem. Like people who say, “I’m not a very good painter ’cause I just don’t know how to use a paintbrush” but everybody has the thoughts and everybody has something inside of them that they can translate. It’s just a matter of finding the tools and learning the things in order to get that out of your mind. And that’s the thing that I struggle with. I’ll have a disconnect between what I’m feeling and what I’m thinking versus how I can put it down on paper and how long it takes me. But I don’t know man. I wish I knew! You should ask more people and then get back to me so then I can see if I can try some stuff.

Yeah totally! I mean, I agree that drugs are probably a pretty common answer.

Oh definitely. I’d say Adderall has probably been one of the most important ones. It’s crazy, I can spend like 48 hours writing music with that.

Dude I get that. So, like you said, there’s a lot of momentum now but are you thinking of the future like 5, 10 years down the road? Do you think you’ll still be making music under Manatee Commune? Or do you think you might go other directions? Do you think about that?

I do think….no actually I don’t think about it very often. I think this is actually one of the essential problems of me as a person is that I don’t think of things beyond like maybe 4-6 months in advance. Which I think can be a good thing in some sense.

Yeah I’ve heard it’s good to live in the now.

Yeah you could say that. I imagine that I’ll probably be making…I can’t not be making music. I just physically can’t do it. Sometimes I will literally sit down on my couch and I’ll black out and I’m writing a song and I don’t know how I got there.

Whoa.

Okay that’s not true. That’s an exaggeration. But it feels like I just drift to making music. So whether I might wake up one day and decide that I wanna completely restart my musical career and get in some indie band and tour the world writing cheesy Animal Collective covers or something like that, you never know. But I really do like Manatee Commune. I think it’s a really sweet project that I’m really excited about and it has a lot of elements that can be filled in and that’s what I love about the project. I’ve really just scratched the surface of the programs and the production, the musicality that I can use. I’m kinda just drifting around and it’s getting me places and so I feel like in 5 years I’m gonna have some kind of maturity that I don’t have now that I can apply to my project and it’s going to be maybe more accessible or maybe not. I don’t know, we’ll find out.

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