Maurice Maladroit, the visionary London based freak folk artist who recently release of his debut album, "Half Baked," in July 2023. Drawing inspiration from the psychedelic folk pioneers of the sixties and contemporary artists alike, Maurice's music offers a captivating journey into the depths of his mind.
Having spent his formative years across Europe, Maurice was exposed to a diverse range of sounds that left an indelible mark on his musical sensibilities. Fascinated by the obliqueness of everyday life, he felt compelled to channel these experiences into his art. The result is an unconventional collection of songs that delve into the complexities of love and loss, reflecting the turbulent times we find ourselves in. Maurice's music transcends conventional boundaries, seamlessly blending psychedelic production techniques with an enchanting vision of a timeless world. As you listen to his beguiling sound, you'll find echoes of the transformative era of the Beatles' "Revolver," combined with the contemporary essence of artists like Aldous Harding, Cate Le Bon, and Fleet Foxes.
In this interview, Indie Boulevard uncover the creative process behind "Half Baked," delve into Maurice's artistic influences, and gain insight into the unique perspective that shapes his music.
INDIE BOULEVARD: Hello, Maurice! It's truly a pleasure to connect with you, and talk about your music and debut album "Half Baked". It's fascinating to learn about the pivotal moments that shaped your artistic path and how they align with the unconventional and enchanting sounds of freak folk. Could you take us on a captivating narrative through the twists and turns that ultimately led you to embrace the mesmerizing world of freak folk and create your debut album, 'Half Baked'?
MAURICE MALADROIT: Hi Indie Boulevard, thanks for amplifying the voices of unsigned artists and showcasing independent music. Although Half Baked was written during a recent burst of creativity, I’d always been keen to capture a sound representative of my outlook. Stumbling into a combination of folk and psych happened naturally as I began to explore more unusual structures and delivery. Half Baked is as an expression of everyday experience from the ridiculous to the sublime. Ridiculous inspirations include malaprops and songs about sweet potatoes while my sublime is the fleeting evening light delicately dancing in the canopy. This is a personal album originally intended for my ears only and a combination of folk, psych and even jazz enabled me to realise my vision.
IB: Maurice, your diverse experiences across Europe undoubtedly add a rich tapestry of inspiration to your music. From the vibrant cultures you encountered to the unique landscapes you traversed, every encounter must have left an indelible mark on your creative spirit. How do these experiences manifest themselves in your music?
MM: Many years ago, in a small town somewhere in central France I encountered an old man. Bent and broken, the man shuffled through cobbled streets. The sun settled high and the smell of lavender wafted on the breeze. All along the beaten boulevard stood the townspeople, retreating from that stifling sun under doorways and in trees. As the old man passed, howls of derision left their lips: “imbécile!”, “va te faire voir!” and so on. Undeterred by this twisted scene the old man continued his procession like the sticky second hand on a creeping clock. Suddenly a loose cobblestone gave way and he tumbled to the ground. The howls only increased as a sheltering commerçant shouted “Maurice é maladroit”. Poor Maurice with dirt in his face and the sun on his back! Carefully he rose dusted down his overalls and let out an unmistakeable sound: the roaring laugh of a man unburdened by the weight of the cruel world. All at once the townspeople fell silent as Maurice’s laugh echoed along the avenue. I’m sure I glimpsed a smile as his gaze meet mine and I knew I was he as he was me.
IB: With the absence of elaborate production and additional layers of instrumentation, how do you believe the stripped-down nature of your songs highlights the power of lyrical storytelling and enables a deeper focus on the subtleties and nuances of your vocals and guitar playing?
MM: Strangely the sparseness of Half Baked’s songs made the writing more complex as I knew I needed to work harder to keep the listener’s attention. Most of the songs have short intros or forgo them entirely and many take unusual turns in terms of structure and melody. Lyrically I focus on journeys we all make in love, loss and life. One of my favourite performances is ‘Dream Your Life Away’ as vivid imagery runs wild while languidity collides with soaring choruses and the album’s weirdest sidesteps. To be at once unashamedly unguarded and silly was a result of the freedom offered by recording live and acoustic.
IB: How did you approach blending the traditional folk elements with psychedelic elements?
MM: Much of the joy in my music is in its simplicity. Like the best folk music I hope the listener lives the journeys and connects with their universality through my storytelling. Psychedelic experience influenced my sound in the use of unsettling segues and unexpected structures. But an unconventional collection of songs is nothing without melody: narrative thread, psychedelic production and moreish melodies collide to hopefully create a feeling at once familiar and new.
IB: What were the most interesting and exciting moments during the recording of "Half Baked"? And what were the most challenging aspects of the recording process?
MM: Not knowing what intricacies each performance would bring was fun, joyous and mad. ‘In The Morning’ encapsulates the feeling of making music on your own terms while a persistently squeaky chair on ‘Janine’ (can you hear it?!) is as haunting to me as the song’s tale of fading love.
IB: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, both from the sixties psychedelic folk era and from modern times?
MM: Aldous Harding, Devendra Banhart, Harumi, Gilberto Gil, Revolver-era Beatles, Ted Lucas, Weyes Blood, Y La Bamba
IB: What do you hope listeners will take away from your music and the stories you share in your songs?
MM: Half Baked moves from new (‘Try Something New’, ‘Love Is Real’), to lost love (‘Janine’, ‘Why Was I So Mean?’), traverses inside and outside the mind (‘Dream Your Life Away’, ‘Notre Dame’) while reassuring the listener, no matter your troubles, tomorrow is always another day (‘In The Morning’, ‘Alright’).
IB: "Notre Dame" is not only a standout track on your debut album, but it also carries a significant narrative that we're eager to uncover. Could you share the story behind the creation and writing of this captivating song? How did the initial spark of inspiration ignite, and what were the key experiences or emotions that drove its composition?
MM: Notre Dame is the bewitching strangeness of abandoned fairgrounds, crumbling hotels and fortune tellers. It’s too often moments we shy away from the unknown, scared to stop and see. Notre Dame is a penniless wanderer’s dream recounted nightly with unwavering vigour. It’s life and love flying high and free.
TIME & SPACE
IB: Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and goals as an artist, and what can we expect from your future projects?
MM: Early mornings I amble through a green expanse of forest on the outskirts of the city. Yesterday as the birds painted pretty patterns, I spotted a crouching rabbit on the dewy plains. Much like that rabbit assessing the new day, I’m untroubled by the possibilities of tomorrow. Tomorrow may see a continued pursuit of timeless melody, a shamanic soliloquy or longing love songs by the fire as the nights draw in. Wherever I'll be noodling wearing that same half-baked smile.
IB: And the last question. Are there any specific collaborations or projects you dream of pursuing? And how do you envision your sound evolving as you continue to explore and push the boundaries of the freak folk genre?
MM: My dream project involves a transportation device unrestricted by the boundaries of time and space. Once construction is complete, I’ll revisit sixties psych pop/folk pioneers and collaborate on songs for the ages. Who knows, the next time you find an old record and wipe the dust from the crumpled sleeve you may spy a credit that reads “M. Maladroit on the congas”…
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