Eight or nine years ago, one of my roommates went to a show at the Cabooze featuring this new hip-hop group called Crunchy Kids. He came back from that show – the group’s first-ever performance – and said he had such a good time that he wanted to go back the next night and asked if I’d like to come along. Always interested in checking out new music, I tagged along.
And the show was amazing.
In the years since that first mesmerizing show, I kept seeing Eric Mayson on keys, playing with all these different local artists, ranging from Caroline Smith to Lizzo to Toki Wright. I mean, this guy was everywhere! He makes music with just about everyone. He composes music for theater. He writes accompaniments for dancers. If there’s a genre of music he doesn’t write, I’d be shocked.
So, when I saw that he was releasing his first solo album, Detail, I was stoked. I listened to it right away and contacted him to do a feature on MNO. As we shot the story, he was really excited about performing a new song he wrote called “Aces” – so new, in fact, that it wasn’t even on that first solo album. I was pleased to see that it later became the closing song on his most recent album Ōp-Nope. Now that the album is out in the world, I asked him a few questions about his “newest collection of sounds and words.”
How would you describe the album?
Eric Mayson (EM): This record is designed to be listened to as 2 15-minute chunks. I’ve always been interested in a more through-composed format that transports the listener through many different sonic landscapes, rather than separate, isolated pieces. For the pallet of this record, we’ve got samples, electronic beats, live drums, piano, lots of synths and huge vocal stacks with lots of harmonies. It is a mix of warm comfy, cloudy electronics and bright, aggressive, live sounds.
What are some of the differences and/or similarities from your last solo album Detail?
EM: Detail came out fully formed in a very short period of time, and was mainly an examination of how an individual can maintain their autonomy and sanity while drowning in culture and city-scapes. This record was a much slower process, coming together over a period of 3 years, and has much more to do with change. The biggest similarities, I think, lie in the form, composition and arranging. New look! Same great flavor!
It’s been over three years since your last solo album, why song long?
EM: My solo music is just one aspect of the wide-ranging musical life that I lead. After the release of Detail, I returned to my roots. Making music for the Mixed Blood Theatre, writing musicals, composing for dancers, playing in bands with people around town, working on new stuff with Aby Wolf and DaNCEBUMS, and generally, collaboratively expressing my love for the Minneapolis art community through music. Now, I am again ready shameless self-promotion.
Who were some collaborators on the album?
EM: Eric Blomquist at RiverRock studios has been there with me since the beginning of this project, generously allowing me the use of his studio, pitching ideas, engineering, mixing, mastering and keeping me motivated. Much respect and thanks to that dude.
My best friends, Ross Orenstein and Theo Langason, co-wrote the lyrics on quite a few of the songs on this record. Ross and I had lived together for quite some time, and during the week we were moving away from each other, we wrote “People Move!”, “Better Present,” “I wasn’t looking” and “Time in One Place” while feeling those feelings.
The scratching sounds in the background of “I wasn’t looking” are the sounds of my fiancée, Kara Motta, sealing moving boxes with packing tape.
Toby Ramaswamy has been holding it down for me on the drums for years, absolutely love working with this dude.
Aeysha Kinnunen wrote the words and melody, and performed the vocals on “Hope Has.”
Big Cats co-produced “Breathe Easy” and “Strawman.”
What is the story behind the title Ōp-Nope?
EM: Ōp-Nope is a phrase we use when things don’t turn out the way we thought they would. When you accidentally turn on the wrong burner on your stove, when your landlord decides he’s giving your house to his son, when your job decides to cut your position, when you find a kitten in the woods, when your family members fall ill, when friends move away, or when Donald Trump gets elected president. The songs on this record explore the feelings that arise during times of upheaval and change.
What would be the one song off the album you’d recommend to someone not familiar with your music? Why?
EM: I would listen to “Neve.” It is emotional, has some of my favorite harmonic movement on the record, has weird, out-there moments, but is also ultimately pretty accessible. Or “Aces” if you’re into more sweet, ballad-y stuff.
Do you have a favorite song on the album? What and why?
EM: I think my favorite song is “People Move!” It’s fast-paced and exciting, has electronic, organic and sample-based elements. It’s got me singing in my highest register, fun harmonies and lasers. Pew, pew!
Is there anything else you’d like people to know about the album?
EM: If you can, I would suggest listening to it in its entirety. If it inspires you, I would challenge you to go make something about how you’re feeling. Whatever your medium, there is a you shaped-whole in the world, get out and fill it!
Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, but it’s never too late to relish this playlist of “8 Love Songs By MN Music Makers.” Chances are, you’ll see Eric Mayson appear more than once.