OMNII PREMIERE — MUNA ILEIWAT LAUNCHES NEW SINGLE ‘BABY’
Omnii is proud to present the premiere of the brand new single ‘Baby’ by Muna Ileiwat. ‘Baby’ immerses you into a sonically diverse and fascinating world, and we can’t stop listening. We sat down with Muna to talk all about the track, her label Galang (co-founded with Niomí) and all things production.
Your new single Baby has such a beautifully crisp and staccato feel to it. Can you talk us through the recording process?
The song really came to life thanks to Harri Chambers, who recorded and produced the track. We recorded it over a weekend at NXNE Studios. This was the first song I’d ever recorded in a proper studio, so it was a new experience for me. Harri was really enthusiastic and encouraging throughout the process. Overall, we shared a similar vision for the song which made the recording process really natural and easy-going.
Structurally, the song is very simple so it was important that every sound had a unique identity and place in the recording. We wanted every sound to serve a purpose for the song and its structure. I work with my vocal pedal throughout the track (a TC Helicon Voicelive Touch 2), which let me lay down the initial loop and vocal parts. The vocal parts are sung through harmonies and doubling on the pedal. My voice pedal has sort of become a fundamental part of my sound and aesthetic. My vocals ran through a vintage Russian valve mic called a Lomo 19a19, which is pretty noisy.
The bass is an essential driving force on the track. We recorded on a super-cheap Quest bass from the eighties. The strings were very old and hadn’t been changed in a very long time, what Harri calls ‘15–20 years of skin grossness’, which made the bass sound fat and dull. It also has a ton of chorus and distortion on it to give it that really crunchy sound.
The drums were all samples played on a SPD pad. Recording them could have ended up being a really rigid process and we wanted to avoid that — we wanted to make sure there was a human element to them. The drums weren’t quantized, which we could have easily done due to their repetitive nature. We ran the pad through an amp that we then recorded in the staircase of the studio. We did a few takes, each time adding effects like space echo and spring reverb to add detail and variation to each take. There were also a lot of percussive elements that were recorded on cheap percussion — the studio had a box full. All of them were heavily saturated through a Culture Vulture distortion.
One of my favourite parts of the session was writing little melodic lines on a Roland SH-09. We referred to it as the ‘West Coast vibes’ on the track. I don’t own any synths but I write a lot of my music/ demos on midi keyboards using shitty midi sounds on Logic. I’m not gonna lie, it felt pretty badass recording on the real deal. The synth really lifted certain sections of the song, particularly on the last chorus.
‘Baby’ is being released via Galang — how have you found releasing through a label dedicated to female and non-binary musicians?
It feels empowering. My degree at university was very confronting because it was predominantly white and male driven. I don’t think I understood just how uncomfortable it made me feel until I graduated and processed the whole experience a few years later. Naturally when you dedicate three years of your life to doing a music degree, you become a part of a creative scene and that scene was reflective of the course (white and predominantly male). I didn’t feel comfortable in that space and it frustrated me. This was a mutual feeling that my friend and Galang co-founder, Niomí, and I shared so we decided it was time for a change. We started the collective Galang to support female identifying and non-binary musicians of colour. We wanted to create more comfortable and safe spaces for women like us within the industry to collectively share our experiences and creativity. I’m really excited to see where the project will go.
Some of your past work — tracks like It’s Happening Now have an almost found-sound feel to them. Is this something your interested in? How do you decide on the palette of sounds for a song?
‘It’s Happening Now’ was really an experiment for myself. It was the first track I had ever produced so I was experimenting with elements of production and sound. I wanted to move away from writing songs with my main instrument, which is guitar, so I decided to create a song entirely of samples. I spent a day with a Zoom recording anything and everything (a clock, drops of water, a bike wheel, a doorbell — a lot of random sounds) and then I just chopped them up and messed around with them through effects like reverb, delay, pitch shifting, EQ etc. It was a fun process and completely changed the way I listen to and create music.
There is definitely elements of this in my recordings. In ‘Baby’, it’s the unconventional sounds that tie the track together; e.g. a percussive creak that the piano stool made or my drummer, Sophie, using brushes against the bottom her shoe to create a really cool shaker-like sound.
It’s hard to say, the palette of sounds can change and shift when recording. I’ll go into a recording session with some idea of how I want certain elements to sound — e.g. I want the drums to sound straight and quite flat and the guitar to be washed out in reverb and chorus. Harri played a big role helping me explore these types of sounds, how to create them and find a place for them in a recording. There are so many different instruments and equipment to play around with in a studio.
‘It’s Happening Now’ and ‘Bones’ both featured on the NX Records Mixtape two consecutive years in a row. Do you feel that being part of that community has influenced your work in any way?
It gave me the space to explore and try new things as well as challenge myself in different ways. I was able to explore various areas of music-making that I had never done before. It was also the place where I met the artists I continue to collaborate and create with till this day (like my band!) and these are people who definitely inspire and influence me.
Bones was a collaboration with your label-mate Niomí. Do you collaborate often and do you find any differences collaborating with women/non-binary musicians as opposed to men?
I don’t actually collaborate often which is a shame. I would like to do more of it. I think it’s the best way to learn and grow as an artist. The arrangement of my songs is always somewhat of a collaboration with my bandmates. I do all of the arranging in demos that I then show my band to work on in a live setting, but there are times when things I’ve arranged or recorded don’t translate well in a live setting. I love working with them to create better melodic and structural elements to my songs.
I feel a lot more comfortable working with women. My band is all women and I love it. It’s refreshing and such a contrast to how I felt at university when group work meant I was mainly collaborating with men. There is no mansplaining in our rehearsals! It’s a comfortable space that feels genuine and unpretentious. It’s the kind of space I want to be creating in.
How did you first get into writing and production? What have been your influences?
I started writing songs when I was learning guitar at the age of sixteen. Initially, I learnt classical guitar and at the end of each lesson I got to learn a song of my choice. That was my favourite part of the lesson because I learnt chord progressions and song structures. It made me want to write my own songs.
Arghh influences — such a difficult question! Artists like Fiona Apple, Karen O and Regina Spektor had a profound impact on my songwriting when I was younger. Then there were artist like Dixie Chicks, Kaki King and Lauryn Hill that inspired me too in more musical terms. I was clearly drawn to female musicians who wrote and performed their own songs. I just thought they were all super badass — I basically wanted to be them. My influences continue to change as I grow and evolve as a musician. I’m influenced by a lot of different genres and have been inspired by so many different artists throughout the years.
Production came a lot later. I started learning that at university through different modules. It’s not something I am very skilled at but I enjoy being a part of the process and learning as much as I can from others. It’s an area that I hope to become better at in the future.
Can you describe your working method/ process?
My studio set-up is comprised of KRK Rokit 5 monitors, a Focusrite Saffire Pro 14 interface, a SM58 mic, a midi keyboard, my Gretsch and an amp, all which sit on or near the vicinity of my bedroom desk (fancy!).
My process has changed quite a bit over the years. I used to strictly write songs on guitar. I barely do that now. I mainly work with a midi keyboard that plugs into my laptop and then work through Logic. I create demos using mainly midi sounds. I like the freedom of working on keys because I don’t play keys, so I’m not critical of my musical capabilities. A song will either start with a vocal or melodic loop, a lyric or chord progression. I love the concept of layering and looping. I have a stash of tasty drum samples on my computer that I then mess around with. I am not too concerned with song structure as much anymore. As long as my intentions with a song are met I am happy. This mentality has given me more freedom and ease when composing. Also, living with two of my bandmates is a major plus — it means we get to share equipment and give feedback on any new material.
What is your personal ‘top tip’ for producing/ mixing?
I think trusting your instinct is the most important thing. I don’t think it’s about knowing all the technical terminology or owning the fancy gear — I think that’s when things can become somewhat intimidating to people who aren’t particularly “trained” in the area (like me). It’s important to go with your gut on creative decisions — what feels and sounds right to you.
What are you future projects?
The plan is to keep releasing music. I have a music video for ‘Baby’ that is coming out on July 19th. It was shot in Nashville and was directed and edited by my long-time friend, New York based videographer, Tara Bayat. I’ll be in the studio soon to record some new material as well. I just want to continue collaborating with like minded artists and create good music.
I’m also working alongside Niomí on building and developing our collective and label Galang. Niomí will be releasing her second single on the label soon. We are trying to organise some live nights and hopefully collaborate and release more music by women and non-binary musicians of colour. If anyone is interested in being a part of our project, please contact us through our socials below, or email us at email@example.com
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