What do you think of when you think of Mumbai? A bristling metropolis; hectic, noisy, a place of almost anything but quiet. What you’re unlikely to picture is someone making gentle, contemplative, introspective folk music in their bedroom, yet that’s exactly what Maeve Aickin does. Maeve’s musical journey started a year ago when she saw Julien Baker in concert and was inspired to pick up her dad’s guitar. Maeve’s debut EP, Waiting Rooms, was self-released back in July.
Discussing the tracks on the EP, Maeve has described them as tracks written, “in the margins of my notes, on my bedroom floor while sick at home, and in waiting rooms”. Songs about battling with health issues, the loneliness that being sick can bring and the fragility of human existence; these are raw, sketches of songs, big ideas presented in understated packages. Throughout the record there’s no adornment, just Maeve’s cracked beauty of a voice and an untreated electric guitar. This choice of instrumentation, whether by design or limitation, serves to perfectly amplify Maeve’s words and way with a melody. The fragility of the whole thing is never more obvious that on the delightful closing track, Guilt, from the crushing honesty of the line, “I guess I wasn’t kidding when I said this might have been the hardest year of my life”, to the repeated mantra of the outro, “guilt isn’t gratitude”. This is just the start of Maeve’s songwriting, these diamonds are uncut, this glass is unpolished, and yet despite that it’s hard not to feel you’re listening to something that could be the start of something incredible.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who is Maeve Aickin?
Maeve Aickin is a sixteen-year-old singer-songwriter living in Mumbai who just spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to come up with a witty way to answer this question!
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
The first show I really went to, as opposed to being taken to, was a Mitski concert. It was my first bar show, and I was the youngest person there. I started crying during “I Will.” The first show I played was a benefit concert for a local NGO. I’d only started teaching myself the guitar a couple weeks prior, but somehow thought that I was good enough to be on a stage. (I wasn’t.) It was this song I’d written about cutting onions to make myself cry when I felt numb, a total bummer, but I cracked up twice in the middle of it. I don’t think the lyrics really registered with anybody because I was just laughing and smiling the entire time. Two different performance groups, independent of one another, performed two different La La Land covers that night. It rocked.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Music is one of the most recent art forms I’ve been experimenting with. I make short films, I direct and perform in theatre at school, and I cook all of the time. I only came to music seriously a year ago. I got to see Julien Baker in concert, and it no-hyperbole changed my life. My dad had to watch me have this out-of-body, tear-stained experience when she played “Rejoice.” It’s my favorite song, and seeing one human on a stage with just a guitar and some loop pedals rendering this guttural, exquisite sonic behemoth was transformative. I picked up my dad’s acoustic one week later and started teaching myself. I played with writing songs because I just thought that was what I was supposed to do, but as I started getting sick, it became more of a coping mechanism. I have the illness POTS, but I didn’t know that for quite a while, so I was feeling completely divorced from my body as it got weaker and weaker. I had no idea what to blame for the sickness. Instead of taking the guilt and frustration out on myself, I followed the cliche and tried to use it to make stuff. Music was the right medium in those moments– intangible, transient, mostly dependent on factors I felt like I could control. It isn’t always the right medium, and pursuing music more actively hasn’t changed that for me. It is not the first or only door I turn to. That said, Waiting Rooms collects the songs I wrote when I couldn’t find any other way to lighten the heaviness.
FTR: What can people expect from the Maeve Aickin live show?
Lots of Rilo Kiley covers! I frankly don’t usually know what to expect from a Maeve Aickin live show. When I perform a song, I feel a facsimile of the emotions I felt when I was putting it together, but as soon as I finish it, I can release those feelings. So there’s a lot of juxtaposition; I sing about Catholic guilt and then I’m joking about the weather.
FTR: What’s next for Maeve Aickin?
Graduating high school, I hope. I’m planning on playing gigs around Mumbai throughout the year, and possibly tracking some more material later on. Waiting Rooms was recorded in a couple hours, so I didn’t have the time to get all the songs I wanted down or to fix all the little mistakes I wanted to fix. I like it as a sort of incomplete, sort of imperfect product right now, but I’m definitely thinking about expanding and refining it if I get the opportunity.
They Listen To…
Long Beard – Countless
Countless is a pearlescent opener; its first lines cut right to the bone. The instrumentation is smart and subtle, and Leslie Bear’s voice frames every syllable so thoughtfully. When she says “then I moved away quietly,” I feel like I’ve been slapped.
Loud Letters – System Sound
What a great car song! I’ve followed Austin on Twitter for a little bit and was super stoked when he released it. His instrumentation is really smart, and system sound feels like a piece of art that has truly been cared for.
Knife Wife – Lobe
Knife Wife is so unbelievably sick. Lobe encases a very specific emotion in a very intentional manner, and the “lobotomy” screams at the end are cathartic in a way I did not know I could be cathart-ed. I don’t want to claim that this band captures “the” teen experience, but they capture a teen experience that I could connect with instantly.
Mannequin Pussy -Drunk II
I feel like you can both cry and mosh to this song, maybe simultaneously? The outro refrain just drowns you in emotion– it’s so intense and visceral. I listen to it over and over again, just marinating in its colors and textures and sensations.
Jamila Woods – ZORA
Jamila Woods is a genius songwriter, and LEGACY! LEGACY! is my favorite release this year. Songs like ZORA are examples of this transcendental, completely boundless music she is so adept at crafting. Please check out this record in its entirety!
Waiting Rooms is out now. Click HERE for more information on Maeve Aickin.