Last month, people from all over the world traveled to Day for Night Fest in Houston to see art installations by Bjork and hear Aphex Twin's first U.S. performance in 23 years. But there were some homegrown acts on the bill, too.
One such Texas act was MNYNMS, who stood out for their brand of synthesizer-driven art pop, which fit perfectly with the overall technology-meets-art theme of the festival. The group is based in Houston but its vocalist, Jessica Wahlquist, grew up in Dallas. She's joined by Lacey Youngblood on synths and Jacob Childs on drums.
Within their brief recording catalog MNYNMS have already explored a wide musical vocabulary stretching from 2015's atmospheric, ambient-leaning Projection Series to the more synthesizer-driven pop music of 2016's Rite of Passage, which suggests a band with many layers yet to be revealed. We talked with Wahlquist over email to learn more about the band's history, and where they're headed.
Dallas Observer: Where does your band name come from?
Jessica Wahlquist: Our band name, “MNYNMS,” is pronounced “Many Names.” We have dropped the vowels to signify sigil representation. While there are many layers to the meaning, our name comes from the parallel dimensions of the self ... and the limitless possibilities of multiple incarnations. “Thru Many Names, Thru Many Lifetimes.”
How did the band get started?
We formed several years ago. We have an array of musical backgrounds, and decided that all of them combined would [make for a wonderful journey of] music and artistry.
What are your musical backgrounds?
I have a musical background that is very immersed in songwriting, singing and constructing melodies, keys, and music production experience. Lacey Youngblood has a music production background and is a wonderful keyboardist. She is also an acclaimed DJ who held a residency at Webster Hall in New York in addition to traveling internationally with her craft. Jacob Childs has a very strong music production background and has also traveled internationally as a DJ, an artist, and a producer, in addition to his talent with drumming.
Is there a concept or specific approach that you take to writing lyrics?
I conceptualize all of the lyrics that I write based off of experiences and emotions. In addition to creating lyrics tailored toward a song format, I write poetry, which I feel builds and blends certain facets of that writing structure into the songs that I craft. ... To me, writing is entirely about heart and soul and something that I have always done to convey my experience.
How often do you play live? What do you have planned for future road shows?
We enjoy playing live often and when shows that we are interested in arise. Our most recent show was Day for Night in Houston. We have previously played at Houston Whatever Fest, The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, Los Globos in Los Angeles and The Mohawk in Austin, among other venues that we love. We are currently planning future shows that will feature songs [from] our debut EP Rite of Passage.
Are there any bands that you enjoy sharing the stage with?
We enjoy sharing the stage with like-minded artists whom we have either performed or toured with [before], developed remixes for, or who have created remixes for us. Several of them are FM Attack, The New Division, Teeel, Night Drive and Nite.
Tell us about The Projection Series.
We have layered The Projection Series with multi-faceted and ambient trance-like sounds that tell an auditory story. We have many plans for incorporating our songs from The Projection Series into a visual installment for the future as well.
What drew you toward synthesizer-based music?
We are naturally drawn toward progressive ways of creating music. ... Lyrically speaking, music of this nature is a wonderful platform for presenting deep lyricism that dovetails with our sound. I have always adored the emotional power that creating music utilizing synthesizers presents to the listener, and I feel as if it tells the story of a song beautifully. Utilizing synths in our music opens doorways to ... convey a dark, eloquent and poetic tone that is the origin of our music.
Do you have a favorite synth?
There are many synths that we are fond of. I adore my Arturia Keylab 49 MIDI controller. On stage Lacey Youngblood perfects our keys utilizing a Roland Juno-D, and Jacob Childs appreciates the artistry of a JX-8P.
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What is the story behind the “Oracle” music video?
The music video for “Oracle” is inspired by the ambient and dance-like textures in the song as well as the lyrics. “Oracle” represents a transformation of the self. ... It is a song that is tailored toward the realization of patterns in events, in the self, and in others.
What is your connection to Dallas?
I am originally a Dallas native; I was born and raised here. I wrote my very first songs in Dallas, and possess a deep appreciation for the art, fashion, and music scenes that are thriving in this city.
Does living in Houston have an impact on your music?
Houston is drenched in many layers of sound. We definitely draw inspiration from everywhere that we live, have lived and have traveled to.
What is next for MNYNMS?
We are looking forward to many things that we have in the works for this upcoming year which will include shows, new song releases, new remixes, music videos, the launch of our clothing line and various other artistic endeavors.