Written by Ivy Emily Trim
In June, Maddy Street blew our isolation blues away and replaced them with Blue, the second five-track EP from the French-English 'hip-pop' artist. What we’ve heard from the multifaceted Maddy Street so far has been nothing short of impressive, but this most recent release weaves together Street’s strengths into a net cast desperately across the ocean to capture our hearts.
Unsurprisingly - at least for those who have listened to the record in its entirety (which we recommend you do) - Blue is of its very nature a synaesthetic concept album. Each track is tied together by a thematic thread pulling you through heartbreak and longing and loving again. The album emerges from the experiences of the year Street spent living in Melbourne, leaving a love back in France to discover love with and within what has become her second (...third) home.
"I don’t know how to explain it, the EP just feels blue. I associate it to blue so strongly, because of the Melbourne sky and the oceans and everything."
The introductory, titular track sets the tone for the rest of the record. 'Blue' draws together brooding synth, call-and-response vocals, and deliberates on distance, separation, and the record's fundamental allegory: “Never leave me feeling blue / like the oceans that split us in two”.
The EP hits a perfect note, however, with standout track ‘Cycle’. Delving deeply into internal and external emotional experiences within relationships, the fourth track balances acoustic with electronic sound, melodic and rap vocals, scattered and composed melodies to devise a delicate daydream which is only elevated by its visual accompaniment - an incredible music video recreating artworks of history. The last, resonant line - “I’ll miss you to death” - makes a graceful transition into Blue’s denouement.
‘Miss You’ strips back each layer built up over the record, not unlike ripping the band-aid off a festering wound to treat it face-on. Equipped with choked-up vocals and a ukulele, the closing track draws out from some deep, dark place that not-quite-regretful retrospect and bittersweet desperation hiding in the memories of all our past heartbreaks; an ode to loss and loving across land and ocean, to no longer being just blue.
Radio Monash sat down with Maddy Street to talk the inspiration and production behind Blue, the land she loves, and creating art from vulnerability.
How does it feel releasing a record you wrote in Australia, from France? What does Melbourne mean to you?
“Nostalgic, mostly … It feels so weird that it’s taken so much time to come out after all the inspiration for it, like when I was actually writing it.
Melbourne means a lot to me. The year I lived in Melbourne was probably one of the best of my life … I discovered that there was something that I personally believe might be slightly better than Paris, a place for me to live long-term. So yeah, I just really miss it.
I love Melbourne. I love the people and I love the culture - especially the queer culture. Not that there’s no queer culture in Paris, but there’s just less openly queer culture for queer women. So I’m excited to rediscover that in Melbourne as well, once I come back.”
What has been the response to the record?
“It's really good - like, I haven’t become internationally famous yet - but, no, people really like it. It’s definitely the project I’ve released that people resonate with the most, that they enjoy the most, and that they’re sharing the most. I’ve had a few songs added to a few playlists on different platforms, and I’ve had a few articles about it and stuff. That’s traction I hadn’t gotten as much before with previous projects. So it’s cool, and it feels like a step up and in the right direction and I’m excited.”
Which producers did you work with to create Blue? What did those collaborations look like for you?
“The main producer of the whole EP, and the person I recorded all the vocals with, is called Saïsama - his real name is Simon. He’s a friend I met during my first year of uni in France … three, four years ago. He has a basement studio and we made the whole first record I released, Medusa, in that basement, and the second one we did as well. It’s just really cool, and we are just really, really good mates now. We’re currently working on more of an indie pop rock EP that might be coming up this year, so that’s really exciting.
Then there’s Gilbert Rogers, an American exchange student I met during my studies in Melbourne. We actually made the song 'Blue' together, and that kind of launched the idea of collecting all these songs and putting them into a project. And he’s just such a cool dude. He’s so nice. He’s a great musician and I was just so happy to meet him."
The Maddy Street discography has always been an eclectic blend of pop, indie, and hip hop genres, where would you say your main stylistic influences come from?
“The main ones would be Frank Ocean, that kind of soulful pop that’s very deconstructed and I just really enjoy that. More recently, Loyle Carner in terms of the rap, he’s a very chill British rapper who has such smooth and very raw lyrics, very personal and I just resonate with that a lot. I think I have to mention Ed Sheeran, just because I was so influenced listening to Ed as a teenager, as a songwriter as well. Like, his use of guitar and voice to write songs and then turn it into something more produced, that’s something that I tend to do a lot when I work on my own stuff.
I listen to a variety of hip-pop and pop and indie stuff, and then my parents would listen to stuff that’s more funky, more rock, so I had those influences from my childhood.”
How do you feel you have evolved as an artist from your debut EP in 2018 to this sophomore EP, Blue?
“I can feel it, the evolution - and in the right direction. Not that I’m gonna talk shit about the first EP, because it’s a cool EP, but when you listen to it and then you listen to Blue, it’s more homogeneous.
It’s also probably the EP I had the most input into in terms of composing and writing and structures for the songs themselves, because now I’ve had more experience with music production. Even if I didn’t produce the tracks myself, I could have more input in them. For example 'Cycle', which is probably my favourite from the EP. I started writing that song with my guitar and then came to Simon with a structure and ideas and then we just built it together. So I’m very proud of that as well.”
Being a concept album revolving around the colour blue, how did you select the five tracks which make up the EP? Were they written with this concept in mind, or were they songs you had written that fit together in that way?
“They were written with concept in mind - except for 'Feel Cruel', which the start of it was written like four years ago. We had a demo version of it just kind of kicking around and I just thought it would fit in well to the project. The others were written with the EP in mind, and with the order in which the songs were going to come in, as well as the transitions and the story. The EP story, if you listen to it from the first to the last song, there’s a narrative that follows through.
I wrote ‘Blue’ and then thought ‘Okay, there’s a concept here.’
I had this general idea of what I wanted the EP to be, which is probably why each song connected really well with the preceding one.”
What is the narrative, the 'EP story', that you create throughout Blue? How is each song thematically connected, and what experience does it foster within the listener in their particular order?
“I think I was trying to retransmit my own narrative, when I had my long-distance relationship and then the breakup and then going through a few mental health issues and music was a way to help with that. I was writing as it was happening, so it just follows my own storyline from the beginning of going to Australia until the end, pretty much.
Like that road trip to Uluru and stuff and just all the images that I associated to that. The sky was just so blue. I just remember it was just… the colours are so vivid in Australia, the skies.
The whole EP, the narrative was intentional. Going through my breakup, then about how to get back up on my feet and how that feels."
Like many artists, a lot of your music revolves around the trials and tribulations of romantic relationships. How do you deal with the vulnerability of releasing these deeply personal emotions out into the world?
“It’s interesting, knowing that some lyrics you write, especially about other people, are very recognisable for your friendship group and for that person if they do end up listening to it, that can always be a bit of a weird dynamic.
I just think my way of expressing myself through songs is just being super personal, because that’s where my inspiration comes from. It’s just, like, musical therapy. It sounds like I’m a wanker when I say that - but it’s true!"
On a related note, how do you express your queerness through your music?
"My songs are inherently queer because I am queer myself, more than I am making them queer on purpose. I don’t necessarily do it explicitly - yet, because there are some songs on the way that are over-the-top queer - it’s just small things like using pronouns but normalising it. Like, the focus of the story is a relationship, not the fact that it’s a queer relationship. It’s just implicit, it is there because it is me and my songs are me.”
Have you always had this kind of connection with colour? How do the visual and musical arts connect for you?
“I’ve always been a very visual person. I’ve always loved making videos and anything artistic and creative, being able to write and then have visuals for it. Anytime I write a song, I pretty much already have an idea … because it’s always very, very visual.
Obviously, the whole ‘Blue’ song, blue is in the lyrics. Thinking about the oceans and everything, which is what it represents, the long distance and the kilometres and kilometres of blue that separated me from my girlfriend at the time. I don’t know how to explain it, the EP just feels blue. I associate it to blue so strongly, because of the Melbourne sky and the oceans and everything."
Speaking of visuals, talk me through the incredible execution of the music video for ‘Cycle’.
“Originally, the video supposed to come out pre-EP was a clip for 'Feel Cruel'. We had a whole concept for it, we had a budget, we had a team, we had people who were going to be in it, we had the date it was going to be filmed - and then COVID happened. So I was like ‘ah, shit’.
I was confined at my parent’s house after my girlfriend left, and I just needed something creative to hold on to. I needed to do something that wasn’t sit at home.
I was like, well, my favourite song from the EP is 'Cycle', so I probably want to do a clip for that. There was the Getty Museum challenge that was going viral on Instagram at that point. And I was like … what if I did videos, recreating famous pieces? So that’s mainly where the idea came from. My Dad’s an antique dealer, so he has a lot of old shit kicking around the house. So I was going to use those props, because they’re not going to cost me anything. I used my Dad’s 20-year-old camera that’s a bit shit. We just had that, and a nice neighbour who gave me lots of old clothes. And I just went for it.
I brainstormed with my parents and friends of the family who are artists like, what works of art can we recreate? Which ones do I like? Which ones will resonate with people and recreate that idea of the melancholy of the songs, in a cycle that repeats itself through art that has always been represented?
In the video, it’s in chronological order. The first painting, Millais’ Ophelia is the oldest one. Then the last one is Banksy, which is obviously street art and modern. It’s just a cycle and it repeats itself throughout the video.
The process was just like: cheap camera, whatever we could get our hands on, whatever we can make work and still look beautiful. And a shit tonne of patience and editing, basically."
What does the future hold for Maddy Street?
“Coming back to Melbourne, performing as much as possible, and finishing this third EP. They’re going to be bops and it’s going to be fun and a huge contrast from Blue. Hopefully finally making a living out of music as well, which is something I’m trying to transition towards. Writing for myself or writing for others, which is something I’ve been doing. But yeah, that’s what I can hope for Maddy Street’s future.”
If there's one thing that you hope really resonates within someone when they listen to the record, what would that be?
“I suppose the fact that sometimes being sad and melancholy can be something that you can turn into something beautiful, something that you can use for yourself. Because often when you’re in a dark space, or you’re focusing on negativity and the darkness of it… I was using music as a way to create something that I liked and I enjoyed from what I was feeling. I hope that people can relate to that. And let people know that they can live through dark moments and take something out of it.”