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Finding a balance between music, school and sanity

by Jessica Romera September 24, 2013
Finding a balance between music, school and sanity

University is tough, there’s no denying that. Most students struggle to keep themselves together throughout the semester with five classes, let alone hold down a part-time job on the side. Yet, somehow Concordia graduate student Maica Armata has been seamlessly juggling her academic career with her creative passion for several years now and is set to perform once again at this year’s POP Montreal festival.

Maica Mia is a collective effort between Armata, Jonny Paradise and Mauro Pezzente, (founding member of Canadian rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor). Armata says they met through music, “About six years ago, I went in to a studio to do some back up vocals on a friend’s album. Jonny was the recording engineer. From that day on, we started being a music couple.”

Pezzente joined the two in early January of last year. “We would see him around a lot, while keeping in mind that we really liked his bass playing in Godspeed You! Black Emperor,” said Armata. “One day, we just asked him if he would play on our new album. Then we started asking him to play shows and here I am, at 26, playing music with two of the most talented people I could ever imagine playing with.”

Armata has always had a passion for music and has now been playing and performing for over a decade. “When I was 13 years old, I sang in the Concerto Della Donna choir. At practice once, I experienced full body resonance from all the vocal harmony for the first time. It made me shiver all over and from that point on, I knew what it was that I was seeking for in playing music.”

To add to her musical talents, Armata took up playing the guitar around the age of 19 and performed under the moniker ‘Maica Mia.’ “The name itself was used since I started playing dark and slow country songs in 2005,” she said. “But as a ‘serious’ band, Maica Mia only really took its shape a year and a half ago.”

With a sound she describes as “dark, heavy, explosive and loud with interspersed moments of quiet, ethereal delicacies,” she lists a vast number of different musical influences including Morton Feldman and Michael Gira of Swans. “I’m also a sucker for slow country songs , such as those of Hank Williams and Lee Hazlewood,” she admits.

The new album, dropping in February 2014 will explore a different, heavier sound for the band. “I needed to get old songs off my chest in order to make space for new territory,” said Armata. To get a sense of the direction in which Maica Mia are headed, we were previewed a track off the upcoming album. The track, titled “Wish” is a seven minute otherworldly trip that gives listeners an idea of the gripping intensity they should look forward to at their upcoming performance during POP Montreal.

As a musician, she draws inspiration from a multitude of different genres, but also from those closest to her. For Maica, her mother serves as an extremely important artistic muse. “She is a very powerful woman and artist. I feel that our artwork is very similar, only hers is visual and mine is musical. To me, she modeled this ability to express oneself’s raw intention.”

When she’s not busy juggling her musical career with her linguistic studies at Concordia and a part-time bartending job, Armata tries to see her family as often as possible. “I don’t really have any free time. It’s something I have finally come to terms with,” she said. But whenever she gets the chance, the Montreal native goes out to the Lachine Canal to sit and unwind on the grass.

Despite her busy schedule, Armata and the rest of the band are ecstatic about once again playing at this year’s edition of POP Montreal. “I’m looking forward to playing in one of Montreal’s most beautiful and best sounding churches with our friends in Big Brave. We went on tour with them two summers ago and it’s been over a year that we haven’t played a show with them. They are amazing,” she said.

Even though she has her plate full with school, the band and a part-time job, Maica would not trade any of it in. “You just got to work hard. You always have somewhere to be and something to do. It’s just a matter of getting into the right pace, like marathon running or something.”

Maica Mia will play at the Red Roof Church (The Church of St. John the Evangelist) on Friday, Sept. 27.

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