A Chat with the UK Mad Scientist and her Retro Album of the Future
In the past few years, Mica Levi has blossomed into a beloved indie figure known for weirdifying everything she touches. A versatile producer, songwriter and performer who dabbles in everything from grime to psychedelia, Mica (right, in the photo above) has collaborated/remixed/shared a stage with the likes of Kwes, tUnE-yArDs and Toddla T, creating experimental electronic loops out of MPCs and homemade instruments, i.e. the vacuum cleaner.
Her most consuming project these days is Micachu & The Shapes, a three-piece band coming out with their second album Never on July 23 through Rough Trade. I spoke to a humble Micachu about the psychedelic preview single “OK,” about surrealist 70s flicks, and how she hates vacations.
Cool new track. Do you think you’ve grown in the last couple of years since Jewellery?
Yeah I guess so. Yeah I think so. I suppose so, I haven’t really thought about it. We’ve all been off and done different things, basically. We’ve all kind of grown in different directions and then come back.
There’s a Beatles futurism psychedelic theme on “OK.” Are you playing with those kinds of influences now?
Totally. Basically that’s it. The whole thing is really 60s influenced. I just wanted to test it out and see about doing that kind of thing. The record is quite like film-inspired. It”s like a mix of 60s music, and 70s films — the psychedelic, surreal, the films from that era.
Well I haven’t seen all the films from that era, but a bunch of classics — nothing specific. But if you’re gonna take something like A Clockwork Orange, it’s that kind of surreal. That was just the point of interest, and yes, the Beatles.
Has being on Rough Trade helped or hindered the creative process?
Rough Trade is amazing, they’re really good because they let us get on with whatever we want. Obviously there’s support, but I’m never really good at doing what I’m supposed to do: making a kind of album that was a commission kind of thing. Though it’s hard to tell if it’s made things more difficult. I can’t really remember the time before, I was still really young.
Has ‘not doing what you’re supposed to do’ been a theme in your career?
Yeah. It’s something that happens. The music becomes your job, and you have to make it not your job. That’s why I end up dipping into different things. There’s a rebellion.You’ve kind of got to take it out of the format a bit. That’s why I made an old-fashioned sounding record.
Hear “OK” by Micachu & The Shapes
How has your personal role in the band evolved along with Raisa’s and Marc’s?
Um, well I guess we know each other a lot better than when we first started out! The band started halfway through making the first record.
Have you been involved in the grime and garage scene in the last few years or have grown a little more distant?
I would say I’ve grown apart from that. I still write that kind of music. That was what I started off doing. But if I’ve had enough of listening to the guitar I’ll just do that.
It feels like UK hip-hop is really diversifying now. Since you started, do you feel like things have changed?
Yeah. I think that there’s some really good stuff happening in the UK hip-hop scene. It’s pretty much an institution now. I hope it’s kind of got its own flavor. There’s always been quite a lot of good stuff, at first sort of on the underground, now it’s so chart-busting. The underground stuff is now taking more of a left turn [into experimentation]. The straight stuff is pop music now.
You’re producing the videos?
Yeah, it’s quite a lot of work. It’s a big part of this record — the visuals. I’m quite excited about that.
What kind of aesthetic are you going for?
Very simple, and its all got the same visual world. It’s very obviously all tied together. All very consistent.
Do you ever have a guilty peek at the YouTube comments about your stuff, and say, what the hell is wrong with people? Or do you keep your distance?
Yeah I totally keep my distance. There might be quite a lot of abuse, but I don’t really look at anything like that. I don’t think it’s productive — once you put it out it’s out. But, when I look at YouTube and see people writing those kinda comments, I think they can be quite funny sometimes. I think it’s all the nature of freedom of speech.
What are you looking forward to the most with the release?
I don’t know, I guess just doing the next thing! It feels like I haven’t really finished yet because I’ve got all these videos to do. I’m excited, it’s nice to put things out. It’s quite nervewracking though.
Best show you’ve been to in the last few months?
tUnE-yArDs at Terminal 5. Amazing.
Best show you’ve played?
Oh I don’t know. I can’t really remember, I’ve got a terrible memory for this kind of thing.
What would you do with a bunch of downtime?
I’d be doing the same thing I think. It’s kind of your life — if you work like this, you do it all the time, it’s a daily thing. It’s a healthy daily thing. If I had downtime I might be doing some art stuff. I don’t really like going on holiday to be honest. I like returning from holiday. I like the feeling of returning home, which you can only do if you go away I guess. I don’t get on with the beach very well. Yeah, I’d probably be doing the same thing.
Can we expect any vacuum cleaner on the new album?
No you can’t expect any homemade instruments. The homemade instrument thing is just a continuing project I guess. I just looked into it a bit and tried to specifically for an orchestral project i did, hope to look more in the future. There’s none in the album coming up. It’s just like how you perceived it, speaking to the 60sy, traditional songs. That’s the attempt.