When I listened to Mayfly’s (recently signed to Canadian record label Duprince) recent EP Essence, I have to admit I was speechless. It’s a powerful, dreamy project of sonic connection and harmony. The singer-songwriter duo comprised of Emma Cochrane & Charlie Kunce are a magical pair of talented young artists who I am glad entered not only my life, but also the lives of many listeners.
Originating from the suburbs of Quebec, the French-Canadian pair are the epitome of melancholy romanticism. Their sound is ethereal and their vocal control is unsurmountable. They’ve dabbled in both electro-pop and indie music, and after moving to Montreal for school, where they initially met, and then stayed after graduating to pursue their musical careers, they found a space in the industry as emerging indie artists. They had recently participated in the 25th edition of the music contest Les Francouvertes, which gave them well-deserved recognition in the Montreal music landscape.
When you listen to this self-produced project, you’ll be transported. The theme of Essence is “introspection” which is captivating, especially after a year like 2020 where all of us have certainly gone through it in one way or another. It’s the kind of project you’d expect from an indie film, an mis-en-scene where you find yourself sitting on your bed, fragile and alone, with no other sound than their music playing and vibrating against the four walls of your room. It would have just rained outside, and so there would be this quiet sound of cars driving across wet pavement and trees humming from a light breeze and the room would seem to expand while you remained in your place. However, somehow you wouldn’t return quite the same. After listening to the 5-track EP, I finally learned what it meant to feel “escapism”. I truly experienced a retreat of my soul to some other corner of my mind while the universe moved on.
Their music is as if you had put Cautious Clay, Billie Eilish, The Civil Wars, and Ruth B all in a room together and asked them to produce a song, but with a French twist. They are raw, and their strength lies in the duality of their simplicity and charisma. Not to mention, being bi-lingual and singing in both English and French only makes the music that much better and more seductive. There’s a hint of R&B in their indie melodies that give this darker touch of somber, sweet serenading sounds, thus making them these bittersweet lullabies filled with tension and eroticism.
“to jules” is the first song off the project and the song was written in relation to the fictional character Jules from the HBO Max Original phenomenon Euphoria. The acoustic guitar perfectly compliments their voices as they sing about a heartbroken love with an ache in their sound that has you yearning for the same kind of painful yet beautiful love.
“when all we knew was us” was their first song to be released to the public and for good reason. This is the perfect introduction to their reflective and transcendental music. Their voices seem to melt together as they slide acoustically through octaves, and almost like friendly phantoms, they drift through each other.
“tes larmes” ft. Tendresse & Joudi is their song in French, which is dynamic and a bit more energized than the other tracks. There is more lush production that shapes out their airiness to the song, giving room for you to float and breathe.
“sad song” is much more meditative and self-reflective. This is the song that reminds the most of a Billie Eilish kind of song, and it has the most potential to be orchestral in its instrumentation.
“show me the way out” is the last song on the project and it is a great demonstration of their range. They both hit these soft falsettos while making the experience of listening to the song all-in-all angelic. It is the perfect closer as it starts off quieter and grows only to calm back down and subtly fade out.
I am honored to have been able to have the chance to chat with to these two ladies as they explained their project, the creative process, and themselves to me. We had so much fun, and they were extremely kind, sweet, and thoughtful. I told them that next time we spoke, I’d promise to speak in French with them as I was nervous last time (took French all throughout school).
Both Emma and Charlie mentioned how each of the songs on the project were constructed as an homage to a film scene they had been moved by, but in doing so, they were able to create their own episodic masterpiece where each song is a narrative and a soundtrack. Every chorus you can envision a montage of cinematic B-roll takes, abstract shots of hands, lips, and faces and escapades of emotions played out by characters.
It is safe for me to say, I believe that Mayfly is a force to be reckoned with.
Here is our interview:
[Neelu Mohaghegh]: I would love to hear how you guys started this all how mayfly came to be and just kind of Yeah, why why you guys decided to take music on as a career path.
[Charlie]: Yeah, so Emma and I met about three years ago in college. We studied “Creative Arts”, that was the name of the program and it incorporated cinema, music, journalism, and for one of the music classes, we had to pair up and do any project that we wanted. So, we decided to pair up and make music. We did YouTube videos and cover songs. Originally, we weren't named Mayfly. We were named something else, and then we decided that we wanted to rebrand as the months went by because it was getting more serious, and we realized that this is something we really like to do.
So, we changed our name to Mayfly, we decided we're going to make only original songs. And that was kind of the goal that we set for ourselves. We had to make three singles by the end of the school year for the class project. So we reached that, and when school was over we were like, “okay, we need to continue on with this. This is so cool. We have a real passion for this.” And people actually kind of liked what we were doing, so, let's push it.
We moved to Montreal that same year, and we are just continuously writing music.
[Emma]: At first we were working with a producer. He showed us pretty much everything about the industry and stuff, and then maybe two years ago, we started doing our own production. This year, we can say that we are fully produced by ourselves.
[NM]: So, where are you guys originally from then? Since you said you moved to Montreal.
[Emma]: We are from Eastern Township. It's more like the country side.
[Charlie]: It’s about two hours away from Montreal.
[NM]: How has maybe what you grew up in? So the town kind of how has that influenced maybe the sound that you guys have currently? Or has it at all? Maybe Montreal influenced you guys more?
[Charlie]: Hmm. I don't think it's necessarily the city that we're in that influenced us. I think it's the music that we were listening to at that point in our lives. Maybe it would have been different if we were living in Montreal, maybe we would have been listening to different artists, but I'm not sure that it was necessarily the location of where we were. But the influences that we were listening to at that point in the countryside, those were for sure.
[Emma]: Since we lived in Montreal, we’ve been listening to a lot more Montreal artists.
[Charlie] Oh, yeah, that's crazy! For sure.
[Emma]: So, I think that may be also like, we get vibes from these artists that will listen now that we are in Montreal. Yeah. True. That when we go into like the French music scene, like in the years that we've been in Montreal, we used to not listen to French music that much before and now we're like, super into it, and French-Montreal music. So yeah, I guess that's kind of true.
[NM]: What made you guys decide that you definitely wanted to take this bi-lingual approach with your music? What made you guys decided “we should be putting out both sounds”?
[Emma]: We were just writing in English because we thought it was easier, but I think that French is a really beautiful language, and it's a really difficult language—but it is our main language. Like Charlie said earlier, we started to listen to more artists in French, and then we just realized how we can do really beautiful songs, and there’s good songwriting you can do with French too. It's really interesting.
[Charlie]: Oh, yeah. Exactly, and not just that, I think we realized finally, the importance of the French language in a Francophone province. We listen to so much American music and European music, but there's also beautiful French music, like Emma said, and it's super important for us to exploit that in a Francophone province, because there are so many opportunities for French music here. I think it's awesome, because we, we have kind of like two styles in French and in English that we develop. I feel like French is always a bit more upbeat. Whereas English, we always fall into this more dark, melancholic, r&b kind of vibe. So, I think it's cool to have those two universes.
[Emma]: I think we also wanted to do French even more this year, just because we listened to a lot of music that is in English. But in French, we don't have this style, so I think we wanted to go for a style that is like Europe and the US, but in French.
[NM]: I love that you guys are trying to give people this visual universe that's your own. I'd love for you guys to kind of maybe expand on that—what is it that you want your fans to experience when they listen to your music?
[Charlie]: Wow, that's a good question. I feel like for instance with the EP that we're gonna be putting out in June, I think this is the first piece of art that we're so happy to put out in the world, because I feel like it's the rawest version of ourselves. I feel like when people listen to that, they should be sort of in the same vulnerable state of mind that we were in when we produced this EP. And I think people just need to hear our music just to remember that they're alive and whatever they're doing is super important, whatever that is, and just to be in tune with their emotions. It’s okay. Be in the moment.
[Emma]: Yeah, exactly.
[Charlie]: Yeah, I think it's super important for people to be in the moment, and to realize that it's valid to follow whatever their dream is, if it's music or not music or in something else.
[Emma]: Yeah, I think those are sort of the things that we want to portray in our music and also we want to create a space for people to be like, “okay, these girls are really showing to the world a side of themselves that they would have not shown otherwise”. And yeah, just kind of encourage people to do whatever they want to do, because it's okay.
[NM]: How has the pandemic hurt or helped you in your music and its growth this past year?
[Emma]: Yeah, I think that for our music, it really gave us time to learn because our first EP was supposed to be produced by someone else. And then finally, because there was a pandemic, we decided to just equip ourselves and learn by ourselves. So, that's why the EP took a year and a half to do because we decided to just do it all by ourselves so that it would be more personal for our first big project, to show people and so that they can really see who we are and what is truly our sound.
[Charlie]: Yeah. Like Emma said, it took this whole year because we had to learn from the starting point of how to produce. That's been a really awesome journey. We've evolved so much since last year in terms of producing, and then recording and stuff like that. So, it's been just a whole year of learning. I feel like all that is being shown also in the EP, our evolution and our state of mind. It's been really helpful. We have a home studio in our apartment, which is the best thing ever. You can be creative at all times. We've just been doing that the whole year. So, in that sense, it [the pandemic] has been super helpful. But I think we've also, in terms of personally, as humans, as Charlie and Emma, it's been a rough year emotionally for everyone. Mentally, for sure. So, we also tried to portray that in the music.
[Emma]: To be honest, our project really helped us. It saved us from drowning mentally. It's a big chapter of our life that we can finally close.
[NM]: There’s always a cool dynamic when you’re in a band. How would you guys describe each other in terms of how you work together musically and how you two are a team?
[Emma]: We are really complimentary. I would say all of Charlie's strengths are my weaknesses and vice verse. Like when we work on something we just complement each other so well. Charlie, I would say, for production and all the tracks music, she just gets it easy. For example, I would explain something to her just with words, and she does it on the computer, immediately. She just always knows every melody.
[Charlie]: Emma is sort of like a mom. She's the person that will organize stuff and make sure that we have all these things planned, but in a very good sense. She makes all these opportunities come to life, and she's been carrying us since the beginning. We have all these things that we can do and push our duo into the world. She’s always carrying the team and in terms of music. She’s such a soft sounding artist and person, and it comes really to life in her melodies and her music. She has a very good ability to write music and write these beautiful lyrics, words that she's taught me. I'm like, "what is even this word", and she just knows a lot of really nice words. It's super cool to work together, because often times, she's going to have some lyrics or beginning of chords, and then I'm going to build on that and be like, "oh, let's push it here, let's push it there", and it's super cool to work like that, because I feel like we sort of vibe off each other.
[Emma]: I feel like in our personal life, Charlie's the mom and I'm her child. hahaha. But in our music, I'm the mom and she's the child.
[NM]: Are your families also musically affiliated, or is that mostly you guys who kind of trailed that path?
[Charlie]: Yeah, my parents are super musical in the sense that like I've been raised by music 24/7. My dad was a drummer in a band and he's showing so many different artists that I listened to as a kid—that I remember from when I was four, five, or six years old. Listening to like gangster rap, but at the same time listening to soul, r&b and pop, and I just grew up in like this mixture of all different genres of music. So, I've always been listening to music, and my mom as well. She's a huge fan of music, constantly listening to music. She has a huge sound system in her home, and always the music is still to this day blasting every time I go and see her. I've always followed a musical/artistic path in school—always been in music classes, dance classes, theater classes—I’ve always been super attracted to that. I'm kind of self taught, in a sense. I never took serious classes. I learned piano and guitar.
[Emma]: I think my dad might have played around with music just for fun. But my parents loved music and listening to music too. My dad, always we would go home to have dinner, and we would listen to music for like five hours in a row. He just never gets tired of it. I think it's kind of the same as Charlie, I was just attracted to music. And my mom was like, “yeah, there you go.” But she could not really understand, but really supportive. Then it was what I was doing always. I took more singing lessons but less of instrumental theory.
[NM]: I want to hear more about your single “when all we knew was us” and your EP. I’m so excited for everyone to hear this project. How did the inspiration behind it come about and how was the process of putting it all together?
[Charlie]: Wow. Okay, so we can start off with the single—it’s super important for us. It came about kind of because we started watching “Call Me By Your Name”. It's so beautiful. It's amazing. So, I think that kind of put an idea in our head. And then Emma, she's the one who wrote, “when all we knew was us", kind of inspired by that movie, but also by that feeling. Because in the movie, you know, it's like they're falling in love for the first time. It's like their first experience of like a homosexual love, and that's super powerful and intense. And it kind of reminded Emma of her first feeling of falling in love with a person. So we kind of wanted to recreate that feeling in a song, and that sense of such positive nostalgia based on sexual attraction. Yeah, the soundtrack of “Call Me By Your Name”, the theme song, which is the “Mystery of Love”....
[Emma]: We wanted it to sound kind of like that feeling you get when you listen to that song and when you watch the movie. And it's crazy because at first, the idea we had for the whole EP was very different. But when we started working on “when all we knew was us” and another song of the EP, which is called “to jules”, this is when our old idea about the EP shifted and we decided to really change it all. Because we wanted to add these two songs, then we really decided that we wanted to make it more memorable and acoustic sounding.
[Charlie]: I think each song is based off of an exterior source. And if they're influenced, for example, the first one up is based off the relationship between two characters in the series Euphoria. So, that first one is based off their relationship, between Jules and Rue. But you know, all the songs are kind of based off exterior sources, but in a sense, they're also based off of things that we've felt and we're kind of trying to tell a story through. These people in our songs are more us if that makes any sense? So, we're kind of building these imaginative lives, but they are actually ours. So, that's kind of what's going on with the EP.
[Emma]: Each song talks about something different. That's something that was really important for us--we didn't want to talk about the same subject. Sometimes it may seem like we talk about the same thing all the time. But I guarantee you, they're all about different topics and different stories.
[NM]: If you guys weren't doing music, what would you guys think you would be doing instead?
[Charlie]: Wow. That's a hard question.
[Emma]: I will go first. I would have a business, don't know what, but you know I like carrying projects, so I think maybe a business owner.
[Charlie]: I think what my plan B was before was teaching. I think I was really down for that. I did tutoring in college, tutoring students and stuff. And I was really thinking about it for a while, and my parents were like, "yeah, that could be a good backup plan, if ever you want to, like if ever music doesn't work out".
[Emma]: She taught me how to play piano.
[NM]: I was gonna say, because you guys definitely talk so much about visuals. And you were talking about how your classes in this film class you guys were doing and everything. So I feel like you guys have such a good visual eye, like you guys can really recognize sounds to scenes.
[Charlie]: She [Emma] has a really visual eye, if she hadn't been a businesswoman, I would have seen her being like a photographer or cinematographer or something like that. There's something super visual about Emma and she takes amazing pictures and she's always got such a specific visual for things. I don't have that at all.
[Emma]: Every time though, she will work on the song and then she'll show me, not even produced yet. And then as soon as I hear it, I have always visuals when I hear the music. And I always share it with her. But that's what is nice that she can easily see what I'm talking about. Like No, I don't have to convince her every time that it's a good idea to just use it
[NM]: If you guys had an entire day to yourselves, how would you guys describe your ideal summer day?
[Emma]: First of all grab a coffee.
[Charlie] Coffee, go for a long walk.
[Emma]: We love walking. If it's sunny outside, we will go for like one hour, two hours walk.
[Charlie]: And then and then in like the late afternoon we'll go to the park and just sit on a blanket, have a nice picnic, bring a speaker, listen to music, drink, maybe, come back home and we have a really nice rooftop on our apartment, so, we will just enjoy the sunset there, have a nice barbecue... that's an ideal summer day.
[NM]: What are some influences you guys have?
[Charlie]: Okay, from Montreal we have Geoffroy, Men I Trust, and Les Louanges. Those are some awesome French artists. Tora and Angèle, too. Lomepal and Swing, which is like rap from Belgium. Then from the States, obviously our big influence is Billie Eilish.
[Emma]: Just for the way she produces and creates her music. We get really inspired by the fact that she just did a whole album in her bedroom with with her brother. And that's kind of how we create too.
[Charlie]: We listen to H.E.R., Jhené Aiko, Daniel Caesar, so many artists. That's a big list.
[NM]: It’s interesting how you guys create this beautiful indie, soulful sound, but love r&b music. I’ll ask artists like what their favorite artists and they'll sometimes sound a little similar, but for the most part, usually artists are listening to genres that are completely different from the ones they make, which I think is really interesting, but I also love that.
[Charlie]: That’s so true. It's kind of a weird concept, but it makes sense. I think you pick a little bit of influence from each style, even without knowing it. You know, like, there's influence of r&b, I'm sure, in our EP in a way.
[Emma]: Yeah, I think that at the end of the day, too. There are some music that we listen to, but we don't do just because it doesn't fit our voices and music.
[NM]: If there was something that you guys kind of learned about yourselves in the past year and a half, what do you think that would be?
[Emma]: Haha, there's a list!
[Charlie]: For me, I think it would have to do with, honesty, like, I have to be more honest about what I am, and kind of have assurance in that also, and be confident in the things that I'm able to do. I think before the pandemic and all this introspection, I wasn't really realizing the importance of who I am and what I do, and that I can, and that I have a certain power, you know? I think it's all about confidence, and being honest with myself, that's what I learned. I've already seen improvements. As I'm building more confidence in myself, I'm feeling better, and things are also just being better.
[Emma]: Yeah, I think it looks a lot like Charlie, what I learned. Pretty much everything starts within yourself. Like, if you want change right there and are unhappy, you’re really truly the only one who can change it. At the end of the day, you decide where you want to go in life. And I know it may be easy to say and hard to do. But at some point, like it's just about your mindset. And when you decide that you want change and you don't like the person that you are at the moment you can change that. You truly can. Maybe it's really hard sometimes but I think that you are the one that can decide for your destiny and your future. So you should just also do what feels right. Never just sit and accept things that doesn't feel right for you. That's gonna sound really cheesy, but you just have to learn to do what makes you feel good and what makes you happy.
[NM]: Was there anything that you guys kind of picked up outside of music, like a fun hobby or a new skill?
[Emma]: Sewing. Oh, yeah. I started sewing. I made this shirt yesterday.
[NM]: Oh wow! That's amazing! I love that! You can make the fashion for the band!
[Emma]: Yeah! It's a thing I started doing recently.
[Charlie]: Yeah. And you're super, very dedicated. Haha. I think for me, well, it's not something that I'm now doing seriously. But it was just like a little phase. I started reading again, which was like "wow". I was super happy when I was reading. It's so awesome to read books. And even like, I still read a little bit here and there. But yeah, reading is something that I hated in school, but now you find a book that you actually like, and it's so great for the brain and for everything. So I'm doing that.
[NM]: What’s the most recent book you read?
[Charlie]: It’s called Silence: In the Age of Noise. it's super interesting. It's just basically about how we don't bring enough importance to silence and people hear silence and people are uncomfortable in silence. But in fact, it's like the most precious thing in life to have silence. That's kind of like the focus of the book. It's really interesting, because it's something that I very much vibe with.
[NM]: Do have anything exciting to share with us after the EP?
[Emma]: Well, we are already working on the album. It took us so long to produce the EP, but the week we finished, we were already working on the other project. So we really worked hard on some new music.
[Charlie]: But for like this summer, we have some cool content coming—we have some short videos of us. We're going to be speaking and being more like ourselves in these videos and talking to people about what the EP means and stuff like that. We also have teasers that are coming out that are so beautiful.
[Emma]: Yeah, to add visuals so that people can put images on our songs.
[Charlie]: So, the short video clips that we made with a really awesome producer are going to be coming out this summer, but we we don't have much planned for now.
[Emma]: In Montreal, COVID is really tough, like lock downs and everything. So for shows it's really hard to say but as soon as we can, we hope to for sure do shows. Maybe this summer we'll start working on a show for our EP.