We spoke with Seattle-based musician Manatee Commune on his newest single “My Dearest Friend,” his creative passions, and how he got that name.
The title of “My Dearest Friend” suggests an actual person. Is the song inspired by someone close to you or rather is it a celebration of the experience of human friendship?
I just got back from my best friend’s wedding when I started working on this track, so a lot of the inspiration came from the warm afterglow I had from spending time with my closest friends. But as the writing process progressed, I found myself thinking a lot about interpersonal relationships and how sweet it is that despite all the crazy distractions in our lives, we all still find the time and energy to be with people we admire and cherish.
The track has a very euphoric sound. What was the process of creating something like that and ensuring the joy was so audible?
The initial sample that kicked off the track was just me plunking around on a Rhodes. I always wanted one. When I finally got it, I plugged it in and was ready to record. I just sat down and played all my favorite chord progressions and little melodies I had been working on the last year. I think the euphoric feeling comes from me being absolutely delirious I got to play with a brand new instrument.
There appear to be voices of children in the background every now and again. Why are these sounds important to the piece as a whole?
That’s why I love field recordings so much. Music is obviously the meat of what brings a track its emotion, but field recordings can add such a powerful setting. It brings the song into the real world. Rain makes me feel cozy, oceans and rivers make me feel contemplative, and playgrounds always make me feel nostalgic and free. I wanted this track to embody that felling of a careless summer afternoon with children just being crazy, yelling and laughing at each other.
Harmonies and symphonic sound standout so much throughout the track. How important to your music process is harmony?
I’m classically trained, so I always find the need for a full four part harmony. I love the richness that comes from a well layered chord progression. It allows me to reveal the potential of a well written song when all the orchestral parts can come in together.
Your music is known for mixing aesthetics, from thoughtful to dance beats. How do you maintain this balance in sound?
I really like challenging myself with how to keep something dancey and captivating. But to be completely honest, the thoughtfulness probably comes from my severe ADHD.
I can’t help myself from wanting to keep introducing new elements with every progression. I would love to be the kind of artist who makes simple, well put together dance tracks like SBTRKT or Disclosure, but if I even have a moment of simplicity, I immediately get an urge to change it up. It took me a long time to teach myself to stop, listen, breathe, and truly ask myself if I’ve gone too far.
How does your background, coming from the Pacific Northwest, influence your style as an artist? How does nature influence your work?
The cozy, rainy days we have 90% of the time up here probably lead to much of my need to make contemplative, complex, slightly emotional music. In terms of nature, I’ve always found the patterns and aesthetics that arise from eco systems to be really satisfying and poetic. There’s a great harmony between randomness and order that I always try to emulate in my music.
Why did you choose the name Manatee Commune?
I was on a huge Animal Collective kick and happened to see a gif online of a manatee and thought it would be a funny name.
Can you tease what we can expect from your upcoming 2019 album, PDA?
Lots of feel good tracks. I’ve been so inspired by all the sweet, peaceful music that’s been released lately. The whole concept of the record is what it feels like to turn to the person beside you, appreciate their presence and your shared moment together. There’s a truck load of dope, bouncy dance tracks too!
What drives you as a musician? What do you hope to share with the world through your music?
My biggest drive as a musician is to make things that sound pretty and make me feel satisfied. Ironically, I’m never satisfied so I guess I’ll be doing this forever. I hope my music allows people to let go of the details of their lives for a second and get lost in the moment. I know it’s a pretty broad concept but I love imagining someone walking, listening to my tunes, and smiling to themselves because they have that epiphany that life is pretty sweet and it’s nice to be alive.
What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?
Just keep making music. When you get writer’s block, just pick up a microphone and record something new. Have clear goals. Accept the fact your “vision” will ultimately mutate. Just start making something without the intention of it ever being anything in particular.
Follow Manatee Commune on SoundCloud.