Interview with Manatee Commune

Back in May 2017, my pal Daniel Young – aka the owner of VIES Magazine – shot me a message for one of the greatest last minute opportunities: covering Sasquatch! Music Festival 2017.  My friend Buhlebenkosi Chinhara, and I caught up with Grant Eadie, the mastermind behind Manatee Commune‘s classical influenced electronic art. Being so close to the border of Canada – hailing from Bellingham, Washington – we had a lovely chat talking about his favourite places in Bellingham, his second job, performing with Flint Eastwood for the first time, and who’s influenced his live set – among other things.

Manatee Commune - Sasquatch 2017

Alexis: So to start this off, do you have any pets? I saw a photo of a dog on your Instagram.


Grant: Yeah I do take a lot of photos with dogs but unfortunately I don’t. I think I’m more of kind of a godfather for this one dog named “Moxie”, but other than that I don’t have a dog which is really unfortunate.


A: Who does Moxie belong to?


G: [Moxie] belongs to a good friend of mine; his name is Jake. We’ve been working at an ice-cream shop together for a really long time. He’s always gone so I always get a chance to take care of her and she’s so sweet. Oh my god, so many licks. That’s all that I care about. *laughs*


A: So do you still work at an ice cream shop?


G: I do, yeah. I have a little job up in Bellingham, Washington. I work for this place called Mallard Ice Cream. That’s kind of like, my, ‘I-don’t-have-any-shows-I-need-some-money’ kinda work. It’s a great job though, god, it’s so fun.


A: Yeah? What’s your favourite flavour that they serve there?


G: Um, it kind of changes. I mean, avocado is always gonna be a winner for me.


A: [in disbelief and wonderment] Avocado flavour?


G: Yeah, it’s really good. That one’s awesome. I know, it sounds so gross, it’s unbelievable. That one’s really good and then there’s this orange creamsicle flavour that’s unbelievable. All the time, it’s always so good. That or maple walnut, ah man; the more I think about it the more I can’t pin it down. Depends on my mood I guess. Ask me again another time.


A: *laughs* cool. So you played on Friday at El Chupacabra. We stayed and watched your whole set. Two years ago I saw you perform at Make.Shift…


G: Oh yeah?


A: That show, that was on Record Store Day?


G: Yeah, that was really crazy. That was for a little benefit thing to help the radio station that was coming up.


A: Yeah, that was really cool. That was the first time that I ever saw you, so seeing you play [the El Chupacabra tent]… ‘cause [Make.Shift] was super low-key and there was just people just jamming out and everything. And just going from that to seeing [your set on El Chupacabra] was just so crazy to me.


G: That’s so cool, yeah, that’s crazy. It’s a wild transition.


A: How does that feel for you?


G: Um, I mean, I think it’s like with any job, like when you’ve been working on something for long enough, you kind of just focus on the work aspect of it, and not so much the response from people. But that being said, it was still a magical experience to be in front of all of those people, have people singing lyrics and people getting down with me and it was really refreshing. Like, after a long time of working on my music and really pushing this whole thing, to see it kind of come to fruition like that was really special.


A: It was a really nice set and I noticed that your visuals have also progressed from then. So who designs them?


G: That’s all me.


A: It’s all you!


G: Yeah. My friend, Trevor, who’s incredible at lighting and sound work, he’s running the visuals but I do all the designs and stuff. It’s a pain in the butt but I’m glad that it works.


A: So have you designed them always, from the beginning?


G: Yeah, yup. It’s kind of a one man thing. I just haven’t really found somebody yet that I’ve been really excited about about the visuals that they make, so we’ll see. I’ll probably find somebody eventually.


A: Hopefully.

Manatee Commune - Sasquatch 2017

A: So you just came off tour with Bishop Briggs and Shaed. How were those shows?


G: They were really fun. So [Bishop Briggs] is an up and coming pop artist. She had just toured with Coldplay. So I think it was only 3 – out of the almost 30 shows that we did together – that weren’t sold out. All of them — 500 to 2000 capacity rooms — were all sold out. And I was playing earlier in the night, but the shows were completely filled to the brim with people which was just mind-blowing; I’m not really used to that. So this whole tour has been kind of winning over crowds, which has been really exciting. And they’ve all been all-ages, which is always kind of a funky vibe just because people tend to dance better when they’re drunk and I don’t know how many drunk youth were there. And it was at 8 o’clock so, you know, people don’t usually pregame that early.

But it was really fun, I mean, I earned my dues with that because I was kind of just travelling the country by myself, following her bus around to tons of markets I’ve never been to in my life, and to have all these fans in these new places. It is pretty crazy. I feel like I could turn around and do a headlining tour and I’d have a bunch of people come out, so it was really exciting; it was a life changing experience.


A: That’s really cool. What was your favourite spot? I think I saw that you were driving alone too?


G: Yeah, it’s crazy, in a little Honda Civic.

That’s a tough one, I mean, they’re all really different. I think one of the most important shows for me was Brooklyn. Just because Brooklyn is kind of an intimidating place. And the shows that I’ve played there in the past have been… people aren’t nearly as blown away by my sets because they’re kind of used to seeing that stuff. So I’ve just been working so hard on some new stuff so it’s really cool to go back and have everybody respond in this really sweet and excited way. That was really fun. But I’d say the most off-the-chain, ridiculous set that I played was in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably the hottest thing I think I’ve ever done in my life; it was so humid there. And it was only for like 200 people but the show had been sold out for almost 2 months, and they had me smashed up against the stage, like, I was on the very edge, my drums were about to fall off. And there was this big pit of people in front of me, and nobody knew who I was, what the heck I was doing, why this kid was dancing around like a crazy person, but everybody got down in such a short period of time — the moment my first song cracked off people were jumping and hooping and hollering and stuff. And that was really cool because literally not a single person there knew who I was. It was just really fun to have that; to turn an entire crowd into fans was really fun.


A: Yeah, I imagine. Especially with the heat too, like it’s really hot here but—


G: Aw man, it doesn’t get cool in the evening either in the South. I was totally blown away by that. I would step outside for a breather and it would be hotter outside at 10pm, than it would be inside, and I’d be like, “aaaargh!”. It’s brutal. But I learned my lesson; now I know what I need to do.


A: As for travelling, you mentioned that you were driving. As you were driving through, was there any location that blew you away?


G: Yeah, a couple spots. Chattanooga, Tennessee is one of the most beautiful places I think I’ve ever been. It’s kind of a really magical outdoorsy scene with a lot of amazing rock climbing. And really sweet people! I played a, not really a house show, but more of like… this group of friends, it seems like, had been putting together these little shows where they have touring artists come through and play at somebody’s house or something like that. And they had me on the roof of one of the buildings in Chattanooga and you could oversee the city, and you could see the sunset and stuff, and it was just a beautiful evening. I kind of fell in love with everybody there and all the beautiful nature surrounding the area. So that was a really easy one, and then I guess the next best one is Phoenix because I stayed in an Airbnb where the rooms were shipping containers and that was super fun.


A: Shipping containers?


G: Yeah, I had a really good time there, that was really fun.


A: What was that like then?


G: Oh it was cool, it was really cozy. They just did them up in such a cute little way. There was a little outdoor shower too. And it was so hot, oh my god. I feel like it’s just been hot this entire tour, it’s been brutal. So that’s kind of the motif for this whole thing.


A: *laughs*


G: Yeah, so those have got to be the top 2.

Manatee Commune - Sasquatch 2017

Buhle: I had a question ‘cause I’m personally invested in this. I saw you playing violin at your set and I was wondering: was that something that you picked up after you started making music, as like, ‘this is something that I like’, or were you classically trained before?


G: Classically trained, yeah. So, I did the fourth grade, what-instrument-do-you-want-to-play thing, and I picked up my violin and then picked up playing viola after that. And then I went to college originally for music education, and then this project kind of took over and that’s kind of what ended up becoming. But definitely I was a classical musician, classically trained. That was the thing I wanted to do for the longest time. It wasn’t until, I don’t know, I guess I got kind of bored, and then when I found out that people actually liked the music that I was making, then I was like, ‘alright, cool. I’m gonna do this’.


B: Okay, so it bored you then you turned to electronic music; who would you say were the people who made you feel that electronic music was something you wanted to do?


G: Yeah. I mean, Ratatat, when Classics came out in like 2009 or something like that, I was obsessed with that album. I grew up listening to Daft Punk like crazy. There’s always kind of been this thread, but it wasn’t until I heard Gold Panda’s “Lucky Shiner” that album that came out in 2010. It’s a heavily sampled album, like all these Chinese records that turned into really interesting house music. And that was when I was like, “aw man, one dude can make something really cool”, and that was when I got into it. But the classical stuff has kind of always been there for inspiration. I just never really got into writing classical music; I’ve just always been performing it.


A: Did you play any other instruments beforehand? Like piano or anything like that? Did you get any training in those?


G: Yeah, totally. With the music education stuff I had to kind of learn everything so I could teach kids. So cello and bass and guitar and piano and drums. All that stuff is kind of necessary to have a full spectrum of things to be able to teach kids. So all that stuff is kind of in my brain but I’m not very good at a lot of those instruments. I can just kind of tink my way through them for the most part. Or make it look like I can play them, I can definitely make it look like I’m playing them.


A: Do you see yourself busting out a cello on stage?


G: Actually, I have this dream of having a string quartet on stage with me, so that would be really fun to sit down and do that. We’ve chatted a few times, I mean, it’s just, it’s hard to pay people is what it comes down to. And finding people that are excited about, doing something that isn’t directly their project is kinda tough. But, someday, when I have a good budget, I’m definitely gonna hire some people to come up on stage and play a bunch of those instruments and have some fun, like that. It’d be cool.


A: Speaking of on stage stuff… with how you perform on stage, just how nuts that is. Your setup’s quite similar to a lot of other musicians… the first time I saw you was when you were looping, and that was so crazy just to see that – one guy with a set up of drums, keys, a guitar, and violin – what inspired that–


G: The live set?


A: Yeah, what inspired that part of your live set?


G: I mean I’ve seen, *pauses* okay just gimme one sec *pauses*. I think, Slow Magic, when I saw him play, just the rawness of his set, was a really big one. Or like Ratatat, is another example, their live sets are really interesting. I’m really happy with a lot of electronic music, musicians, that, get away from the table, and actually try to actually put their controllers in kind of an interesting setup that they’ll want to move around on. That was what was really inspiring for me about Slow Magic’s setup, is that he, had like such a small and raw looking little live set that it was really easy for him to bounce around and engage with the audience, and that’s what I really wanted to do. So, I guess, everything is kind of tilted forward with the intention that I just want people to know that I’m just a guy, with a controller, and I’m just making beats and stuff. There’s no mystery or intense magic behind it, it’s just I just want that rawness. It’s just me dancing around like a crazy person up there, it’s just me up there. And this is what my setup is. And I don’t know, it’s a good question. It keeps changing all the time, and I can’t tell if it’s like, I think just every time I play a show I’m like “okay I know what I need to do now” like I know what I want to change. It changes a lot, I don’t know, it’s a good question though.


A: I think I also saw that you were performing barefoot?


G: Always do!


A: Always?


G: Yep, always. I can’t help it. When I do start getting nervous for shows, my shoes are the first thing to go. I don’t know why (laughs) but it’s always been like that. And also, it came from like playing shoegaze when I was in highschool, and being able to feel the pedals – of the guitar pedals and stuff. And then just, it’s just like a comfort thing now.


B: Talking about, you saying like “this crazy guy dancing around”, I wasn’t sure, was that your first time performing with Flint Eastwood, your song with Flint Eastwood?


G: Yeah, yeah that was the first time, yeah we’ve never performed together before.


B: How was that?


G: Oh, it was really fun! [Jax Anderson] is – she’s insanely good at commanding a crowd. I’ve like, I’ve never seen anything like what she can do. I mean (pauses)


B: So are you!


G: Oh thank you-


A: Yeah!


B: and I mean, the two of you [on stage] together…


G: Oh thanks, I appreciate that. I mean it’s pretty wild, because she’s a huge inspiration for me. Just in terms of vibe, like she lets loose, she has her aesthetic, and she just sticks with it. Her dedication and her confidence in her musicianship is unrivalled, so to be on stage with her is really exciting, but also really intimidating because I’m not totally sure, like, I almost feel like I had to kinda tone it back a little bit, just because she was so in front, just killing it. It’s really fun! God I want to perform with her forever.


B: So did you plan it a little bit before or were you just like “oh we happen to be at the same festival, let’s do it,” it wasn’t planned before?


G: We planned a little bit before, yeah. I mean we had known like, a month in advance like “oh yeah, we’re going to be at the same festival” I mean we have a song together, we might as well. It honestly would’ve been weirder if she didn’t play. Y’know, so…


B: [Alexis] called it! I was like “oh so…”


G: Yeah, totally, it was a blast so.

Manatee Commune Interview - Sasquatch 2017

A: Yeah I noticed when you guys were on stage the energy was so intense. I watched their set beforehand, and I was super impressed. That was the first time I had really, gone off and listened to her… so, how do your collaborations come about? How do you meet all the people that you’ve been collaborating with?


G: Oh man, that’s a good question. A lot of it is [pauses] I think like, this is one of the beautiful things about the music industry, is that a lot of the networking that you have to do, it’s not networking to be like [pauses]. The networking you do is not like “let’s maintain a relationship” and then like “we can use each other” sorta thing. Networking that ends up happening for me is like, we just happen to run into each other at a party or something like that and then we both, admit that we make music and then something just ends up happening. So, it’s very random, the collaborations that I end up having, totally off the wall, like, I’ll meet somebody at a gathering, at a show, online somehow… with Flint Eastwood it’s kind of a unique situation… she like, was searching through SoundCloud, one of my tracks came up, and she commented on the song, she just said “this sounds really nice!” And then I saw that she had an EP out, and I listened to it and I was way into it. So I sent her a track and I was like “can you make some vocals over this?” And then, What We’ve Got ended up coming out of it, which was, one of, by far, one of my favourite tracks I’ve ever made.


A: So did you guys record that together or was just like, sending files across…


G: [The] Postal Service style. We were just sending files back to each other… she has an amazing studio back in Detroit, so I couldn’t match anything she was working with.


A: You mentioned earlier, thinking about doing your own headline tour… do you have any plans?


G: *laughs* No. Unfortunately, after this whole Bishop Briggs thing, I need to kinda go and [pauses]


A: Sell ice cream?


G: *laughs* sell ice cream for sure… and think about what I want to do with this project, and the next rebrand, and stuff like that… it’s been awhile since… it’s been a year since the single of the record came out, so it’s kinda time to come out with some new stuff. So I’m probably just going to kinda, take my time over the summer and work over some new music and see what happens.


A: So, I’m assuming that you have a single that you’re… thinking of releasing after that?


G: Yeah, absolutely. There’s a remix here, that’s coming out in just a few days. I remixed this guy called “Petit Biscuit” he has a track called Sunset Lover, and that’s going to smash really hard, so I’m really excited about that. But other than that, I’m just kinda chillin’, doing some music festivals, writing some new music… should be easy.


A: So are you… do you have any other touring plans after that?


G: No, not at the moment. Which is kind of a bummer.

Manatee Commune - Sasquatch 2017

A: So, being from Bellingham, I wanted to ask, what are your favourite spots in Bellingham, to hike, or just to go out?


G: [pauses] I mean, Teddy Bear Cove is nice, it’s where I’ve always gone to hang out with friends and drink on the beach and stuff. Teddy Bear Cove. Oyster Dome is amazing. I’ll always love Rock’n’Rye, I love that place for cocktails. Same for the Red Light and the Temple Bar… gosh, so many memories in those places. And then… there’s this food truck there, taco- wait not taco truck – it’s a Salvadoran burrito truck called Super Mario’s, and it is, to die for. It’s heavenly, and I dream about it every day. So that’s probably my number one spot, I think.


A: What’s the best thing to order from there?


G: It’s called a “Super Burrito”… Er, no! Wonder! “Wonder Burrito” that’s what it’s called. And uh *laughs*, every time I go… they know me there, which is really embarrassing (laughs). I go there probably twice a week. Just walk up and do the “a-sad o Wonder, please!” And it pops in your hand like, five minutes later. It’s incredible. I love that place.


A: So, we also were wondering, who would you like to collab with, dead OR alive?


G: Oh man that’s [pauses], um… so Emily King is probably like one of my top, top people to work with- she’s a Brooklyn artist. I’d love to work with her someday. I mean, it would be incredible to do… let’s see I’m trying to think… it’d be awesome to work with Scott Hansen someday, from Tycho. It would be awesome, I’d just love to know what he does with his work. And then… let’s see… I think… Nosaj Thing has always been on my mind of somebody I want to send tracks to. And then, for vocalists, you know… she’s a hip-hop artist that just came up… “Noname”? You guys know Noname?


B: No…


A: No…


G: Ah man, she’s incredible. Unbelievable hip-hop artist, I would love to work with her someday. And then… yeah I think, I can’t think of… I think that’s it. Those are probably my top five. I don’t really have anybody that’s dead that I’d want to work with.


A: No?


G: That’s a good question though, I mean like, [pauses] no I can’t think of anybody. Most of the people that I would want to work with are alive, yeah.


A: That’s fortunate then!


G: Yeah, totally! So I can at least- there’s a possibility I could work with them.

Manatee Commune Interview - Sasquatch 2017

A: So, we did talk about it earlier, but, you’ve been here all weekend… who have you seen so far? Which sets have you got to catch?


G: Um, LCD Soundsystem, and Kaytranada, and uh, I don’t know if I saw anything yesterday. I didn’t really get a chance to. And then Sisters of course, I just saw them a few minutes ago, and Porter Ray. Just kinda, been walking around the festival and hopping into some of my favourite sets. I’m bummed I missed Vulfpeck last night, I heard that set was unbelievable.


A: Ugh, it was so good.


G: Yeah… it’s okay. Next time.


A: Next time! Is there anyone that you’re hoping to catch today?


G: I mean, I gotta see Phantogram, I haven’t seen them before. It’s a necessity. So I’ll probably catch them. Beyond that, no. I think just them for today.


A: Just them for today?


G: Yeah, I’m pretty pooped to be honest.


A: Well I mean, it’s pretty hot out here, I’m sure you’re quite busy, doing lots of interviews and stuff.


G: Ah man, yeah. It’s been fine. I’m just a bit too fair skinned for this shit, y’know?


A: *laughs*


G: It’s all good.


A: Well, thank you for your time!


G: Yeah, no, thank you! I think I’m gonna go drink some water.


Gallery of his set at Sasquatch:

Manatee Commune - Sasquatch 2017