Today we have a fresh one to end the week with or Spotlight – Maumaumau. We got to chat with this talented artist about his music and just how he came to be. With new music hitting all the platforms what a better time to meet a new artist. Check out the convo below.
Hi, and thank you for sitting down with us! Your stage name is MAUMAUMAU, but your birth name is Mauricio Jimenez. How did you come up with your stage name, and what does it mean?
It’s my genuine pleasure. Thank you for giving artists a platform to share their music and giving us a voice. Well, my nickname has always been Mau. Especially in the US since pronouncing Mauricio is a little odd to the English tongue. So, when I was coming up with the stage name, I wanted it to be simple and tried for just MAU, but the SEO was garbage, so I tried MAUMAU and still had many other hits. MAUMAUMAU just worked, and I feel like it has a nice ring to it too. Besides, 3 is my favorite number, so it all just fell into place.
You are originally from Mexico City and then moved to Williamsburg, VA, which is almost as opposite a place I can think of. What was the culture shock like?
I was six at the time of the move, so I don’t think I can consciously remember it. I just know it was a shock in middle school when I moved back to Mexico City. Learning all the school topics in Spanish again was weird. Changing from American history to Mexican history was a nightmare too. I was made fun of for being bilingual and bullied a bit. It was a tough transition, but it’s been an instrumental event in my life that has shaped me to be the quirky, lovable dork that I am, hahaha.
Last I heard you are in LA? What drew you to decide to live there?
Initially, it was a band decision. I was in a band called Night Lights when I graduated college, and everyone wanted to keep the project going, so we decided to make the move to LA since the industry is basically all here. After a year or so, we just fell in love with the quality of life here and the weather.
Something interesting about you is that you did not initially plan to be a musician but were studying to be an engineer. What was it that finally pushed you to switch? What initially drew you to engineering?
My first answer for most of my upbringing to the question of what do you want to be when you grow up? Was always, inventor. But music has been a part of my life since I was like eight or so (my first instrument was the drums). However, when I graduated high school and had to decide what to study, I liked math and science and physics enough to want to study something in the field of engineering.
I wanted to see if that inventor thing could become my career, so I enrolled in la Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City to study Mechatronic engineering (mechanical and electrical). I still loved making music, and I’d take my guitar to school for all my breaks so I could sit down somewhere and play some music on campus. Eventually, my parents confronted me and said I looked miserable studying something I wasn’t into and challenged me to pursue what I loved so long as it was done right and at the highest level. Mom was like, ‘put it in the hands of God. Apply to the school you think it would be impossible for you to get into and take it as a sign.’ I applied to Berklee College of Music and somehow made it in. Been making music ever since.
Growing up who were some major influences that inspired you? Who are some artists that you admire today?
I grew up in the 90s, so I had the good alt-rock pop upbringing that everyone wishes they did. It was a nickelodeon and cartoon network when they had amazing programming, and all the colors and kids still played outside, hahaha. I really loved my childhood. Anyway, musically, it was blink 182, Sum 41, Dave Matthews Band, The Mars Volta, and my all-time favorite, Radiohead. I think Radiohead has been timeless for me.
Out of all the bands I’ve mentioned, Radiohead has been the only one to stand the test of time. Thom Yorke is an outspoken activist and stands for more than just the icon of his music. I always admired that. So currently, Radiohead is still a big source of inspiration on and off the mic. Musically, I’m currently inspired a lot by Still Woozy, Oliver Tree, Jawny, Remi Wolf, Mob Rich, and so many more. I think there are brilliant musicians out there pushing the limits of what Pop is, and I love that. I think music needs a lot of that.
You were part of the band “night lights” and really took to performing and playing music. What were those early days like, trying to find your sound and navigating the industry?
Yeah! I still love Night Lights, and we still make music, but performing has slowed down to a crawl since our drummer had to move back to Norway. Anyway, the early days were amazing. We felt unstoppable, and our music and performance were world-class. We could’ve opened for anyone in the world, and the audience would’ve felt like they were getting two headliners. It was awesome. The most significant deterrent to our career was the lack of support from industry professionals, and that’s always been the scary part of the industry. It’s so oversaturated that no one wants to hop in on a growing band until the band is already huge. A&R-ing has become less of a development career than it used to be. Unfortunately, that never took off, and it discouraged everyone in the band a ton.
You came out with your first singles, “Heartbreak Police,” quickly followed by “Mouth Breather” both have a strong message while simultaneously being super fun. Was your goal to make music a political vessel?
You know what, I don’t want to be a politically driven artist. I don’t always write with that intention. However, as an artist, I cannot look at the world and unsee our collective shortcomings and celebrate our collective victories. I think it is our duty as artists to reflect society as objectively as we can so we can stand on the right side of history and foster future generations with awareness and empathy. 2020 was a very politically and mental health-driven year. Lots of injustice and oppression and depression. So, it seeped into my music. While I don’t intend to make MAUMAUMAU a political vessel, I will always write my truth and my opinion on the socio-political happenings that move my spirit. That is a promise.
Your new single: ‘B!L!NGVAL’ is mind-blowing. I am obsessed. Gives me late 90s mid-2000s vibes. What was the inspiration and writing process like behind it?
This song also happens to be somewhat political, hahaha. I wrote it with a sense of frustration, so I wanted it to reflect that in the musical realm. The funny story is that when writing, both mouth breather and b!l!ngval, I had a different vision for their thematic content when I thought of the titles. I have a whiteboard with the songs I want to write and release. Both of those are on there, and I wanted them to be more about me and my dorkiness, but they had such an excellent thematic relevance to the state of the world at the time that when writing the songs couldn’t help but redirect the context towards something socio-political.
Anyway, b!l!ngval was really fun to write. It was a challenge to find a way to speak about the Trump supporters’ opposition without being aggressive and somewhat condescending, but that’s the whole point of the song. To find common ground that doesn’t condemn the opposition, but instead, in its frustration, looks to comprehend and accept despite disagreement. It’s the same frustration we get when we don’t speak the same language. It’s funny and ridiculous at first, but eventually, it just becomes frustrating and exhausting.
Mouth breather might be my favorite quarantine music video. It is certainly the most unique. What was it like coming up with the idea, and more importantly, how did you convince that many people to participate?
Wow, I’m super honored to receive that praise. There are a lot of incredibly creative quarantine videos out there, so I don’t take the compliment lightly. Initially, I wanted to get people to wear the mask and just to party tricks from home and send that and have that be the music video. Still, somewhere along the lines of brainstorming the concept, my friend Bobby Bloomfield and I thought it would be amazing to get people to do their party tricks at home and to use the facemask as a sort of green screen so that I sang for them. It was a pain in the but for him to edit the video frame by frame to get my mouth in, but he’s a hero and made it work somehow, hahaha.
You now have three singles and a video under your belt. I must ask. When is the album dropping?
An album might be a bit away at the moment, but this year will be a MAUMAUMAU filled year of music. I have an EP coming out in May and a couple more singles leading up to it. I am also finishing up a Winter EP that will be a sort of breakup album. It might be a bit of a surprise for anyone that follows what I do, but I’m hoping they can fall in love with that side of my sound as well.
Something I appreciate from you is how open you’ve been about living with ADHD. I would love to hear about your journey in learning about yourself via the lens of ADHD and how you approach life differently because of it?
Well, it was a very odd thing growing up because it’s hard to pinpoint just why you struggle so much in school and social interactions. I thought it was just normal to be an oddball. When I got diagnosed, I was in second grade. Being the incredible humans they are, my parents opted out of medication and instead looked for therapy to solve the issue through work and not a prescription. It marked me with that very concept that the challenging problems in life require work, time, and interest. I’ve felt like I struggle with a lot of things others don’t, like study. I suffer in study.
Love to learn, but I suffer in the classic sense of reading and the traditional intake of information. Practically, I learn in application, but there are many things that just don’t translate to practice. It’s been rough, but not so much that I’d pretend my suffering is anything to boast about. It has been a wonderful blessing if anything. I feel like it made my perspective in life so unique and my curiosity boundless. I have a profound love for people and a profound curiosity for stories and all the little bits that make up a person. It comes from the untraditional form in which I can interact with others and the social queues I notice and instinctually act on. What was the question again? Tangents… am I right?
As mentioned, your songs carry a message, and you have done advocacy work with BLM, Homelessness, and more. What instilled in you that drive to do more and help people?
I think that, and I say this with a little bit of fear to be vulnerable about this because of the social perception, it has to do with my belief in Jesus and my pursuit for spiritual purpose? I’m Christian; I guess that is what I want to say. And I know that that comes with a ton of baggage, and I am a little scared to say it so openly because of those preconceived opinions on religiosity. But it truly has guided me to purpose and to caring for others and wanting to involve myself with less of me and more of those around me. I don’t think Christianity or religiosity is exclusive in giving a damn about others, but it has been instrumental for me in my care for those around me and guiding me on the how-tos of caring for others.
I am curious if it was difficult for you or if you struggle with your identity as a white presenting Mexican American given the ebb and flow of Latinx racism in America?
Honestly, I am very fortunate that I have yet to feel any of the Latinx racism in America. Most people perceive me to be a white American and not what they might stereotype as Mexican. So, I guess most of the discrimination hasn’t fallen on me. I am aware of it, though, and it saddens me that it’s something any minority must face. I have been racking my brain to get more involved and address these issues more without victimizing myself falsely.
Recording and creating music, and especially performing in 2020, was interesting, to say the least. What was it like for you doing digital shows and not being able to play on stage in front of people?
I didn’t get many opportunities to perform, honestly. It was more of a year of creation for me. However, the shows I got to do were very different. Not having that energy exchange was always weird, but it also gave the audience a new look at artists as far as vulnerability goes. It has a form of intimacy that I don’t think can be achieved in a live setting. I honestly can’t wait to play live shows again, especially with this project.
Now that things are somewhat heading back to normal, what are your plans for 2021? Any travel plans or touring dates?
I think my plans are just to release the music. I am doing this project mostly solo. Still surmounting a team that can help me navigate the complexities of the industry. A booking agent would be one of my goals for 2021 to start landing some of the cool live shows happening worldwide. I’d love to travel to Mexico to perform, though. That is where my biggest following is right now.
You had a season worth of interviews and press releases. What is one thing you wish that people knew about you that you never get to talk about?
I love dorky things. Big on the MCU and videogames, so if anyone ever wants to geek out on that, hit me up!
Lastly, as our favorite independent and smaller businesses are hit hard because of Covid. What are some of your local favorite places to hype up and give a shout out to?
Ah, this is amazing! I’m a huge fan of the North Hollywood Thai restaurant strip on Vanowen and Coldwater. If you all are ever craving some great Thai food, there are so many tasty spots in that area that you can’t go wrong. Krua, Sri Siam, and Swan Thai are currently my favorites, but you really can’t go wrong.
Spotlight – Maumaumau is a wrap! Big thanks to Mauricio for chatting with us
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