Interview: Burlington Natives Madaila Set to Make Capital Region December Debut

Hailing from the same stomping grounds as jam aficionados Phish comes a unique, five-piece outfit known as Madaila. Fresh off the heels of their sophomore album release, Burlington, VT natives Mark Daly, Willoughby Morse, Eric B. Maier, Dan Ryan and Jer Coons, will make their Capital Region debut at Putnam Den on December 16. Their 2016 release Traces hit the public just over a month ago on November 4 , following up their explosive inaugural effort, 2015’s The Dance.

Although Madaila doesn’t fully embody the typically “granola” association of Vermont musicians, they take their roots and expand on them in a way that makes their sound and image truly unique. Members of the band run the local Future Fields studio, a musical hub in the midst of Burlington where The Dance was crafted. Their catchy and synth-heavy tunes undoubtedly display their musical intelligence.

At one moment,  vocals can be reminiscent of Justin Vernon in Bon Iver paired with electronic nods to Passion Pit and Tame Impala. The next moment, however, will toss you into a thirty second jam reminiscent of their geographical origins.  Throughout their music videos, the group has honed the talent of playfully moving between serious musical elements and all-out splashes of fun, knowing how to take their craft seriously, but not necessarily themselves. Many videos like “I Know” and “Give Me All Your Love” find band members dressed head to toe in eye-popping color schemes and patterns, resembling anything from an 80s dance party to a Lisa Frank fashion show.

These psych-pop steamrollers on the rise have curated a generous amount of buzz in a short amount of time and have plans to kick off their first gig in a string of six at the Den. More NY dates follow at Port Chester’s famed Capitol Theatre and Arlene’s Grocery for an extra Phishy NYE run after party. This year comes to a close with two New Year’s stops at hometown venue Higher Ground on December 30 and 31, following the legacies of fellow VT musicians Grace Potter and Twiddle who have filled the same slot in previous years. Madaila kick off 2017 with January appearances at the Press Room in Portsmouth, NH and StageOne in Fairfled, CT.

This Friday, doors open at 8:30PM with a 9:30PM show to follow for an 18+ crowd. Tickets are $10 with $5 surcharge for those under 21. If you are unfamiliar with Madaila, quickly become acquainted because their Putnam Den debut is not one you want to let fall through the musical cracks. Frontman Mark Daly and Madaila management/production/keys player Eric Maier lent some time to NYS Music to detail their latest album, how to correctly pronounce “Muh-dey-luh” and, of course, how being a phan helped shape their musical journey. ‘Madaila doesn’t sound a lot like Phish, but we are super weird people who resonate with the example they’ve set.’

 

Alyssa Ladzinski: For those who don’t know your music, what would you like them to know about you?

Eric Maier: We call our music “psych pop”. We like it to be at times catchy and at times exploratory. Our live show is important to us. We’re from Vermont! We make our music at the studio we run in Burlington, Future Fields.

AL: How was recording your 2016 release Traces different than the process of 2015’s debut of The Dance?

EM: We made The Dance before we put our live band together. Mark played every instrument, which was annoyingly impressive. Haha. Jer and I produced the record. We had input into the sound, but it was much more the product of Mark’s wild imagination. Traces also started in Mark’s freaky brain. But we made Traces after having been a band for a year and the record reflects that. Mark’s writing and arrangements were influenced by the growth and cohesion we have developed on stage. And, more directly, each of us plays on the record in ways that display our musical personalities. All of us see our responsibility as being to help “nurture” something birthed in Mark’s mind. Traces reflects a more mature version of that!

AL: Explain what it was like creating this album in Future Fields studios in the familiar territory of Burlington, VT. What were the pros/cons of recording in a place you call home?

EM: Future Fields is our musical home. The studio has grown in and around Madaila. Jer, Willoughby and I are the three owners. We rehearse there. Keep our stuff there. And have made both records there! It’s hard to separate the two! It’s definitely crucial to feel comfortable in your creative environment. Another huge plus is being able to spend as much time working as we need, without worrying about budget. We’ve thought about trying a new environment for the sole purpose of getting out of our comfort zone. Mark’s creative process for composing Madaila’s music has always been about pushing himself into new contexts and out of his comfort zone. So we may try and explore that idea in the future by mixing it up. As it were. But for now, we have everything we need and the price is right!

AL: You have some pretty interesting music videos and I love how much fun you have with them. How do you come up with the video concepts?

Mark Daly Well, a lot of the videos conceptually come from the combined powers of our very good friend Mike Mooney, founder of Hammer and Saw Films, and myself. A pair of other collaborations have come from a few amazingly talented friends in Burlington.

We’ve been so lucky and blessed with having a close friend like Mike to help produce, create and shoot a number of videos for the band. It’s a super collaborative and close relationship that helps the entire vibe and environment of our videos. It’s definitely obvious we are having fun, and that’s always been a part of the energy surrounding our band. We are extremely passionate and serious with what we do and our goals, but at the same time we try to always be ourselves and not take things tooooo seriously. Mike and all of us also really like videos with an arc and a theme to it, that tell a story. That’s been a catalyst in a bunch of our videos.

We like our videos to be eye catching and loose and playful in order to produce a unique outcome, but also because that’s honest to who we are as a band. It’s all a part of the Madaila nucleus.

We have a new video coming out very very soon and it’s probably the weirdest and most fun video yet so stay tuned!     

AL: Outside of playing music, how else do you explore and express your individual creativity?

MD: Music is where we predominantly express our creativity, but it also acts as a platform, or spring-board, that allows us to access several other ways to express ourselves. Whether that’s acting, being a salesman, making art, writing, etc.

I love writing music as much as possible, but acting has probably been the most active realm of creativity within me aside from that.

I love making videos and being different characters – just something I’ve done since childhood. It’s all part of loving to entertain I guess. It’s almost more natural to play an outlandish character than to be myself or act normal on camera. Several aliases have helped promote Madaila and Madaila shows over the years. Sometimes there are even appearances at the show or on stage. Music and comedy are two great fucking things and that’s that!  

AL: What’s one, or two bands, you would love to set up a tour with that you haven’t had the chance to?

EM: We love the band Vulfpeck and could see ourselves fitting well with them in that happy land between jazz and pop. Rubblebucket are old friends and would also work well. We also love Lucius and think that would be a cool pairing! It’s funny for us since we inhabit a bit of a middle ground between indie rock and jam worlds. We’ve had a great time collaborating and playing shows with our old friends Twiddle, who are also from Vermont. There are so many possibilities for putting bills together. For us it comes down to being turned on by a band’s music, whatever it sounds like. It also makes a huge difference when you hit it off as people. When you connect on a personal level everything is more fun!

AL: Do you guys practice any pre or post show rituals?

Both: Yes. 🙂

AL: Favorite musical purchase or release from 2o16?

Both: The new Frank Ocean. New Bon Iver. Solange! Chance The Rapper.

AL: What’s the most interesting pronunciation of your band’s name that you’ve heard?

EM: Oof. Let’s start by clarifying that it is “Muh-dey-luh”. Haha. We didn’t anticipate the pronunciation being a problem but it’s a weird combo of letters for people. We’ve seen at least 6 different spellings and a variety of pronunciations. The most common is “Madalia”, which adds a syllable by switching two letters.  “Madala” might be the most renegade since it just eliminates a letter altogether. Great question! This comes up a lot.

AL:  You’re playing a Phish after party in NYC on 12/28–how does it feel to get the opportunity play for a crowd of people who share love for the biggest band out of Burlington? I also have to know, what are your favorite Phish songs? Or album if that makes it easier.

EM: Yay! It feels great. We are proud to be part of a wonderful tradition of Vermont bands. The scene in Burlington is unreal. And we truly appreciate the history. We look up to Phish a ton for the way they built their band by focusing on their live show; on sustainable growth; on being true to their sound; on putting music first; and on embracing the various weirdnesses that make them who they are. Madaila doesn’t sound a lot like Phish, but we are super weird people who resonate with the example they’ve set.

As far as Phish’s music itself, people tend to take it or leave it. Which is fine. Mark and I are the Phish heads. Our first band was a jam band that we started (oof) 12 years ago. Pale Moon! We wanted to be Phish. We had dreams where we got invited on stage at SPAC. Haha. Hey! It could happen.

In terms of favorites. I lose Phantasy points for saying this but I’ve always gotten down with the 90s albums. Running a studio myself I love that expressive environment. I also love the track order on certain records, like A Picture Of Nectar. Live, I’m a sucker for the upbeat major jams like Antelope & Chalkdust.

MD: Growing up in Vermont and being a musician, it’s super hard NOT to know Phish or been influenced by them. Trey was probably the first person to make me want to play guitar. Because of that Divided Sky – the Junta version – and any Reba jam might be my favorite Phish moments. But there are a lot of them. If I had to list a few more off the top of my head… Trey’s solo at the end of Chalkdust Torture on A Live One, and I always love a good Harry Hood or Fluffhead. I feel like a hippy all over again. Haha.   

AL: What are your personal favorite tracks on Traces. Do you have a least favorite?

EM: We love all of our babies. Haha. Well, we developed a great relationship with “Secret”, which we played live before the record was recorded. We’ve really had fun recently with “Excelsior”. The live format is where we encounter these songs most often, so that tends to shape how we feel about the songs.

MD:  Ditto to what Eric said in “Secret” and “Excelsior.” Another favorite of mine has always been “Spring.” It just really gets me emotionally and is such a poetic and powerful song. We are currently and finally in the process of getting the crazy, long and challenging “Nurture” live ready and I have a feeling it will become an extremely fun, cosmic and energizing song to play live.  

AL: Who are some of your musical influences/heroes that people wouldn’t guess based on your music?

EM: Well, Phish, as mentioned! Mark and I both love jazz music. We were just talking about McCoy Tyner yesterday. I love Monk. Miles Davis & John Coltrane are two musical heroes. But both of us have a pretty insane width in what we like. I love what is happening with Sturgill Simpson & the alt-country movement. Jer got me into Chris Stapleton as well. Willy is the master of the indie rock realm. The two of us geek out on PWR BTTM, Alvvays, & King Tuff. He and Jer also venture into the world of metal & both have pop punk histories. Dan is the deepest into jazz – especially modern jazz – as well as old school hip hop. Yeaaaah. We’re all over the place!!!

AL: Which bands have been on your radar recently? Any up and coming bands from Burlington we should keep on our personal radars?

EM: Burlington is such an amazing scene. Running the studio also gives us an amazing view into various subcommunities here; aaaand somewhat of a responsibility to not play favorites. Haha. I will say that we worked hard assembling the lineup for our NYE run at Higher Ground, and that each of those bands are artists we love listening to; love hanging out with; and see having the potential to blow the f*** up. Those are: Arc Iris; Lux Deluxe; smalltalker; and Jeff Beam!

AL: Eric, how do you balance time between keys, production and management? Are you often overwhleed or have you perfected the skill of wearing many hats by now?

EM: I love being able to split time between different worlds. It can be overwhelming but I have great support on both the art and business sides – people I can rely on and trust! Like Madaila’s manager Mark Balderston! The business side of Future Fields grew out of a frustration with the challenges of our industry. I didn’t expect to like that realm as much as I do. It’s challenging & creative in its own way! And it’s mostly about connecting with other people, which I love. When that starts to drag a bit it’s not too long before I get to go down the hall to the studio and enter a different headspace; or play a show! It’s a privilege to get to push myself in multiple spheres.

AL: Mark, when you find yourself stuck on writing song lyrics, what are your go to methods to get your creative juices flowing?

MD: I wish I could tell you but it would be too inappropriate!… Just kidding.

Lyrics are definitely the hardest part of the songwriting process for me. It most often comes last but there are times when a line will stick during the scratch vocal because it just sounds good and flows well. I almost always have things I want to say, but it’s getting them to fit logically and rhythmically within a song’s meter that’s often the challenge. If I’m stuck on a lyric I try to move on to something else rather than beat a dead horse. There’s always another part to add or another song to start. But I think I write my best lyrics in the morning with a cup of coffee and a clear head. My fianceé and I just bought a house this past summer and the 3 season porch, with the morning light pouring in, has been a really peaceful and productive space so far for writing lyrics and music.