MAITA Breaks Down the Anxieties, Disconnection, and Miscommunication that Loom Within I Just Want to Be Wild For You

Interviews
03/21/2022
Jasmine Albertson
photo by Tristan Paiige

In the five years that Maria Maita-Keppeler has been releasing music with her band MAITA, she’s quickly proved herself to be a master storyteller who can turn intimate moments into quippy, catchy indie-rock songs. The Portland band’s latest release, I Just Want To Be Wild For You, delves deeper into the anxieties and inner turmoil plaguing her and the disconnection those moments bring.

Released in February, the album follows up their 2020 debut Best Wishes and features production by the band’s guitarist Matthew Zeltzer. The band is rounded out by Nevada Sowle (bass, Wurlitzer, upright piano, synth) and Cooper Trail (drums, assorted percussion, piano, Rhodes, and synth). Maita-Keppeler virtually sat down with KEXP to break down the many thoughts and themes that make up the 11 songs of I Just Want to Be Wild For You.

Read the interview and watch MAITA’s Live on KEXP At Home session from 2020 below.

 

 


First of all, maybe you could give just an overview of when these songs were written and recorded?

So the songs on this record, basically when we finished recording our last record, Best Wishes, I already had a few songs in the works. Usually what happens is I'll write lyrics and melody for a song and then bring it to the band when it comes time to record the record or if we end up touring on it before we record a record. So the songs are pretty fully fleshed out by the time I take it to a band and then we decide what the production is going to be. So for I Just Want To Be Wild For You, I'd written all the songs and then I brought it to the band for the recording session, which we fortunately were able to do right before COVID happened. So we recorded our full band basics right before everything hit the fan. And then we were able to chip away at overdubs during COVID in smaller doses and with a much smaller crew.

That's actually kind of surprising because I feel like a lot of these songs feel very insular, so I was kind of thinking they might have been written during COVID. That's interesting to find out that it was actually before.

Yeah, I guess during COVID was kind of an odd time because I felt like it was a little bit difficult to write. I think that a lot of people experienced this great pressure to create, because of how much time they may have had and what I instead ended up doing was a lot of other things besides writing during COVID, so I was actually pretty happy to get these songs done beforehand. But yeah, I guess maybe these feelings of disconnect were things that I was kind of feeling before COVID happened and then COVID just kind of exposed a lot of the things that I think were already present in a lot of our lives. It just turned up the volume on them.

Absolutely. I totally feel that. The first song "Loneliness" is probably talking about that a little bit. What's this song about?

This one I wrote about a period of my life where I was living in Kyoto, Japan. It was several years ago and I was there to do a Japanese woodblock printmaking course. I was living alone in this old, old Japanese house in this neighborhood. And I had this whole house to myself, and my classes were all private lessons with just one instructor. I had no friends there or family, so I ended up feeling quite lonely. And I guess it was a degree of loneliness that I have not experienced since then and I hadn't experienced until then, and I kind of went a little bit out of my own mind.

I think when I go back and read my old journals. I am quite surprised to find out the things that I was writing because you just become your own echo chamber and things get really weird really quickly. But the song "Loneliness", I wrote much later and was reflecting upon that intensity of that time and how it was. There was a lot of actual romance, I think, or idealism to that kind of that level of intensity and emotion that came with loneliness. And I really missed that a little bit. I think just because since then, I've been fortunate enough to be surrounded by a lot of people who I love and who love me, but I did find myself kind of missing that solitude a little bit. I think if I was to be transported back, it would be completely different. Maybe I would regret returning, but from the outside, there's something sweet about that time. And so this song is a little bit of a of a wistful, wistful letter addressed to my own loneliness.

 

 

I love that. Yeah, there's a certain romance to when you're really like in the depths of loneliness, when it's not just a moment, it's just your experience it all of the time. Why did you start the record with this song?

I think we all just really loved the way the song turned out, it felt like I like starting records off with kind of a slow or a softer groove. We didn't do that on our last record, but I think there's something nice about putting like a strong but also a sensitive foot forward as an introduction to a record. And it kind of sets the listener up for a certain experience. Of course, all the songs on this record, as we're about to talk about them, are going to kind of jump all over the place and I felt like it was a really a good introduction to just the softer side of things and the more introspective side of things.

Ease listeners into itinstead of just jarring, straight ahead, full blown...

Totally.

So our second song on the record is "Pastel Concrete." Tell me about this one.

Yeah. This song I wrote about a trip to Santa Monica. I had a job that required me to fly out there sometimes, and I was on tour in Europe, actually, and I was working from the road and then was told that I have to be in Santa Monica for a business trip. And so I changed my flight. I canceled my last few shows and I had to fly home early and I flew to directly to Santa Monica from Italy. It was a pretty jarring change. And as an Oregonian, I guess I found the whole lifestyle of L.A., and Santa Monica in particular, hard to connect with and pretty foreign. And I was also going from this world of music and art into this very different kind of world.

But around me, what I was noticing, even as I felt a bit disconnected with the world, I was noticing that there were certain elements that I could relate to, especially in the hustle and that even all the struggling actors, the struggling models, we're all just trying to get the gig and like, get people to recognize what we're doing and make a career out of something that is kind of impossible to make a career out of. So, yeah, I guess I identified with that struggle and I wanted to try to find that thread. And also acknowledge the fact that I felt very out of place there.

 

 

Yeah, I also feel the same way whenever I go to L.A., I'm like, "Oh, this is just so not me." But at the same time, yeah, there is the hustle mentality that is kind of lacking in the Northwest. I mean, there's a reason that everyone moves there or New York! But to go back - you canceled European shows to come to Santa Monica for work?!

[sighs] Yeah, it was a new job and I think it was just like the last two shows and they might have even been house shows. I was able to do most of the tour, so I just had to maybe cancel a couple of them. And they weren't like super big shows. It was like a half independently booked tour, so it wasn't a huge one, but it was still a bummer.

That's a massive bummer! Though it definitely put the experience through a different lens, like, "I gave up something to be here."

Mm-Hmm. Yeah.

So the lyrics, "I can't afford your love," is that directed at Santa Monica itself and loving it and not being able to afford to live there?

Kind of. Yeah, I mean, I guess it kind of it felt like I couldn't afford to be the kind of person that the city would recognize or reward or give success to, I guess. But I also feel like a lot of people feel that way when they're in L.A.

Oh, for sure. So now we're getting into "You Sure Can Kill a Sunday, Part I." We're definitely getting more intimate here!

[laughs] Yeah. So I guess I'll talk about this song in tandem with the other part, too. This was a two-part song that I wrote about two sides of an argument that I had with a partner, and it was an argument that occurred about absolutely nothing. We woke up and he wanted to tell me about his dream that he'd had, and then I listened to his dream. And then I started to tell him about my dream and then he said no and stopped me and said that he couldn't hear about my dream because he didn't want to forget his dream. And it felt very unequal. I felt like a little spurned and it just killed the whole day. We had a little tiff and that was what ruined the Sunday.

So I wrote these two songs thinking about how these tiny moments of disconnect can kind of poison a whole day, even if there wasn't anything necessarily super heavy or important behind that initial moment. And so one song is supposed to be from my perspective and one song is supposed to be from his perspective. But when I pointed it out, when I explained the song to him, he kind of pointed it out to me that it's not really his perspective, it's my perspective of his perspective. So they're both me, I guess.

 

 

Yeah, you can't really write from his perspective.

Absolutely.

I was wondering what the connection [between the two songs] was. It definitely didn't seem like...I looked at it as like just this entire relationship where there's just an unbalance. But I love that it's just one argument and then you've turned it into songs that could be read as being about a whole relationship.

Well, the thing is that these fights that happen about nothing, I guess they're usually not actually about nothing. You know, there's a whole wealth of baggage or problems or disagreements that you've had that kind of come to a head around a moment that seems relatively insignificant. So I think that a lot of the things that I talk about in the song are symptoms of larger problems in the relationship or larger just features or factors in a relationship that just rise to the surface in these instances.

Oh, absolutely. I like the line, "Have you read the phone?" Because I think a lot about how artists still use a lot of outdated technology references like, "reading the paper" or "watching the news," or even just like calling on the phone because it sounds more poetic than texting or DMing but it's not accurate to what anyone's doing these days.

Totally. Absolutely.

Like, you're not getting your news on TV, you're reading it from your phone!

Yes. I think that pop artists tend to be a little bit better about that but I think there is a certain element of like trying to preserve the poetic language, even if it's not accurate when it comes to other kinds of songwriters. I try to keep it at a little bit of a balance, but I think that's just true who reads...I would love to read the paper someday instead of a phone, but you know.

Yeah, I actually get the Seattle Times every Sunday, and most of the time it goes in the recycle can.

Oh no!

Yeah, I have this romantic idea that every Sunday, I'm going to open it and read it with a cup of coffee but it's like one Sunday a month I'll maybe do that.

Wow. Yeah, I had that same romantic notion a couple of days ago, actually. we were like, "Oh, let's pay for the New York Times on Sunday", but I think what would happen is similar to what you described.

Yeah, you have to be realistic. They pile up and then you just feel really bad about it. I wouldn't recommend it.

Okay, thank you. You're saving me some money here.

No problem. And then you've got your "Road Song." Everyone's got to have their tour song. And I really like yours because it really does get into the minutia of just repeating the same thing over and over, but also you're telling it through the lens of being on tour with a partner and how your relationship is intertwined with the tour experience.

Yeah, you hit the nail on the head there. There's a bit of that feeling of like if you are with the same person every day and they kind of become part of that tapestry of monotony that touring can be, which is what I think a lot of people don't realize as they hear these road songs about like, oh, lots of driving and driving and driving and being away from home and being around strangers. But I think a lot of people don't realize how repetitive touring is and how, like you literally are doing the same thing every single day, just in a different bar, basically.

And so, it's like driving is a big part of it and it does get hard but I think a lot of what gets hard is like, "Oh, here's another soundcheck. Here's another like trying to find parking. Here's another trying to get a shower." And somehow, I don't know, I think you're right, there is a lot of like how do we find some kind of unique intimacy when you're in this scenario where everything kind of starts to look the same because you need a little bit of diversity to feel something different? And it's hard. It's hard to find that sometimes on tour.

Absolutely. I will say the line "Tell me something I don't know" says pretty much everything about this relationship.

Yeah. Well, in that too, I think that also applies to the people that we talk to just like when you're at a show. It's hard because we keep having the same conversations over and over again because people don't know us yet. And so they'll ask us where we're from, like, what are we touring in? Where were we yesterday? Where are you going tomorrow? And it's all the same, and the extra layer of that is like, we're having these same conversations with each other, with other people. So it's like if you're always in the public, which is often on tour, you're always in the public eye, you're just around each other saying the same things over and over again.

Yeah, yeah. It's not as glamorous as anyone thinks. I've done some tours managing in the past and it's definitely...I actually kind of miss it now, but at the same time, when I really think about it, like, do I? Is it really that great?

Yeah. Well, and that was the thing is like, I really, really, truly miss it. I'm so excited to go on the road. And when we released this song in the middle of the pandemic, we were just like, "Hmm, we really don't feel this way like this. We would be lucky to do that again." You know?

Yeah, the pandemic definitely did help people get some perspective on touring. So, "Ex Wife," this one's meaning is a little more difficult for me to decipher.

 

 

Mm yeah. So "Ex Wife," I was working at that same job that caused me to fly to Santa Monica, and I was on a business trip and there was this one coworker who would always come into the office and he would complain about his wife a lot, and I would just listen to him complain about his wife. And it was just very clear that he no longer felt any kind of a romantic connection to her, and it was just purely complaints-based. I tend to want to write about the perspective that's untold so I was immediately inspired by her voice and wanting to think about what she was feeling.

Eventually they did end up separating and getting divorced and I was thinking about how that meaning of the word "ex-wife" is very charged, I feel, in American society. Like, "the ex wife," you know, there's this whole feeling about it, and I was thinking about my own childhood. My parents got divorced when I was about nine and my mom was the ex-wife and it just got me thinking about the role of the wife and then the ex wife in our society and in a marriage. And also, in particular, an Asian wife or ex-wife and the kind of rules that are expected of that person, which was the case with this, this co-worker's wife - or ex wife rather - and my mom as well.

So I was just thinking about that and it kind of became this mixed musing on gender roles on Asian women in American society and my own mom, my people around me. And then I think a little bit about my own catharsis as well. Your own feelings always come into a song. So this song was really important to me. It's one of my favorites on the record.

I love it. That's great. Next up is "Honey, Have I Lost It All?"

This one was a bit of a writer's block song. It covers that feeling of when you are trying to write and you already feel like you've written some good things and you're fearful that you're not going to be able to recreate that ever again and that maybe you have lost whatever it was that you once had or the potential to have something that you had before. That's why it kind of has this like, frantic...like the video that we just filmed ourselves is literally running and chasing something that's a little bit unattainable.

I think there are some elements of thinking about artists and how we have to compete with one another. There's some elements of the idea that women feel a bit competitive with one another in music and wanting to like, be that singing bird that people tragically fall in love with, you know, and how it seems so easy for some people. And, for me, it felt like so much labor and it was not coming naturally. So this song covers that.

 

 

Before I had the lyric sheet I thought you said, "They've been evil" instead of "They believe, oh."

Oh, wow.

Which I think could also apply.

Yeah. That could. That might say something about you too, you know.

Oh, yikes!

Dark, dark turn.

It's like a Rorschach test of a song. Alright, next is "Light of My Life (Cell Phone Song)."

This song is addressed to your cell phone or one's connection to the screen and the world that exists within a screen. Thinking about how our social media and our internet lives are so intertwined with our own that this phone, this little brick, becomes something of a beloved possession, even though it's literally replaceable. So the song is a kind of sad, frantic, like plea to a phone or to social media, to that light to kind of ease your insecurities or tell you how you're wrong, or how you can do better and help you improve yourself and show you how you've been beautiful or you've been popular or happy, and you can look back at all the things that you've done. And this idea that you might just continue to cling to that forever. It's that desire to connect with this thing that actually inevitably won't really give you much back.

 

 

Oh, absolutely. I was reading this as a really toxic romantic relationship. I mean, it's still a toxic relationship, for sure. But knowing that, now the line of "I love you/ I hate you/ I need you/ Where are you?" [is in relation to your phone] makes so much sense. Like, where the fuck are you?! [laughs] And then we've got "Blue Has Gone Gray."

Mm hmm. I wrote this one during a period of a lot of fires when summer in Portland, and I think that since then there have been many of those such summers. So the song, which at the time I was like, "Oh, this is a particularly bad summer." But it was just the beginning of what I'm sure will be many, unfortunately. But "Blue Has Gone Gray" was this desire to try to save what we did have of the summer nights, even though it was so difficult to breathe and be outside and trying to resume some semblance of a regular American dream kind of life, like trying to figure out like how to be a person in the suburbs or in a neighborhood or like how to get a home, how to exist and have all those comforts and still find beauty in the world as well within this time that is very abnormal and often harsh. And yeah, so I don't know, I guess I hope that we're able to.

 

 

I love that and it's a beautiful song. I really like this one.

Thank you.

After that, we've got "Where Do You Go?"

Yeah, this song is about trying to bridge every gap that you might have between you and a partner. Like just that almost obsessive urge to know everything there is to know about someone that you're intimately involved with. It inevitably, I think, becomes a pretty futile act, trying to learn everything, trying to know what they're thinking. Because you can try and try and there's always going to be more or you're never going to get the full picture. But I also think, ultimately, it's not necessarily a good thing to want to know everything there is to know about someone else. I think that you're better off that there's a little bit of mystery and some secrets. But the song is caught up in that moment of desperation, in that moment of that desire. So where do you go when you're not here? Like, it's just when your mind is wandering or when you're dreaming or when you're just not with me, when you're not present with me, like, where are you? So that's what that's about.

 

 

Yeah, I totally understand that. Like that anxious attachment type of relationship where you want to know everything and you want to, but you can't.

Mm hmm. Yeah.

And, finally, got "Wild For You" our closing track and semi title track.

Mm hmm. "Wild for You" was written during the..it's well, it's not...it attempts to describe the final stages of a relationship. Not necessarily my own, but it was something that was happening pretty close to me or around me. So, basically, this song is about that desire to kind of bridge the gap when something is really close to being over and how there can be a lot of passion there and a lot that you're trying to salvage, even as you're maybe saying goodbye to it and remembering how things were in the early stages.

It's a kind of a sad, sad thing, that desire to want something more than you actually do, because a lot of that disconnect could be coming from yourself as well. So it's not just about the other person not being interested in continuing things, a lot of it is actually internal. So I felt like this was a good closure for the record, and I also felt like it was kind of a good title for the record, because a lot of the scenarios that I describe are affected a lot by your internal emotions, just as much as the external world around you because, at the end of the day, you control how you feel to some extent. And I think one of the hardest things to recognize is that maybe you, yourself, don't want something or you, yourself, is your worst enemy or that barrier between you and what you want. And so "I Just Want To Be Wild For You," I felt, captured that feeling.

 

 

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