IF YOU EVER WONDERED WHAT PRINCE’S GIRL GROUP VANITY 6 OR MUSE APOLLONIA, WOULD SOUND LIKE TODAY, THERE’S AN ENIGMATIC NORWEGIAN SONGSTRESS BY THE NAME OF MAYA VIK THAT MIGHT SATISFY YOUR CURIOSITY. BEHIND A BLONDE TUSSLE HAIR STANDS A MODERN DAY TRIBUTE TO PRINCE, SOMETHING STRAIGHT OUT OF MINNEAPOLIS’ NEW JACK ERA. HER WISPY VOCALS, SPARKLING SYNTHS AND EXPLOSIVE GUITAR RIFFS ELICIT MEMORIES OF THE PURPLE ONE’S MOST ICONIC HITS. HER DEBUT LP, ‘CHATEAU FAUX-COUPE’ AND FOLLOW-UP ‘BUMMER GUN’ WERE A HELL OF A WAY TO LAUNCH A SOLO CAREER AND TWO YEARS AFTER STEPPING OUT ON HER OWN, SHE REMAINS WIDE-EYED AND FULL OF PROMISE. MARCUS HOLMLUND AND VIK CATCH UP IN NEW YORK CITY TO TALK SOUNDS, ASPIRATIONS AND HER NEW EP THAT WILL DROP STATESIDE LATER THIS YEAR.
PHOTOGRAPHY JASON KIM STYLING ANDREW MUKAMAL INTERVIEW MARCUS HOLMLUND
MARCUS HOLMUND You live in New York now but you are originally from Norway. What was it like growing up?
MAYA VIK I grew up in a small town outside of Bergen on the west coast of Norway. It was very safe; I had lots of good friends and went to a good school. But, it was very boring and cold of course, so much rain. You had two choices as a kid: you were either a boy scout or a rocker. I ended up being a rock chick. I got into music because I wanted to do something. Something different than the usual path, you know. I had a lot of free time, [laughs].
MH What was the first album you owned?
MV My first album was a Prince album that I got when I was thirteen years old. It was my first CD. I got it from my big sister who is five years older than me and I looked up to her. She was really into music, especially the big acts of the day: Madonna, Prince, Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson. The album was Prince’s greatest hits. It had his side profile on the cover, I’ll never forget it.
MH Did you grasp how explicit his lyrics were at the time?
MV I didn’t. It was funny, because it was my parents who really didn’t know what I was listening to. I mean, songs like ‘Head’, were crazy to listen to at thirteen! I just assumed they were poppy lyrics, you know. Especially songs like ‘Little Red Corvette’, I don’t think I realised what it was about or the hidden meaning behind the lyrics until maybe five years ago! I think it’s because I wasn’t really into lyrics until I started writing my own recently.
MH When was this?
MV I started writing my own songs only two years ago. It was when I started as a solo artist that I started writing my own songs and singing them myself, if you can believe it.
MH So, you’re a new to all this?
MV Yes and no. I’m new at writing and singing my own songs but I have been in a band since I was 19. There was no time to experiment.
MH What were you doing before you joined your first band, Furia?
MV: I was going to high school. I absolutely hated it because I didn’t get into the music school I wanted to due to my grades being so bad. I was longing to get out of my small town. I started to play with four of my girlfriends. We were all from the same place and decided to move to Bergen, which is Norway’s second largest city. We stayed there for a year, learning how to play different instruments all on our own, and then we moved to Oslo to focus on the music full-time. We got signed to EMI in Germany and ended up becoming
Norway’s most touring band. It was sort of like, we went straight from school to being on tour – there was no time to develop on our own because we were so focused on touring together. I passed up going on a trip around the world to stay with the girls and go on tour. It was like weighing the two: tour or travel the world. And I chose to tour.
MH When you were on tour with all the girls, were there any catfights?
MV No, no, just a lot of drinking. A lot of crazy experiences. We were so young. When you’re touring Norway, it’s all about tiny places, small venues. You’re playing in front of maybe twenty people or two hundred, you never know. But, it was always relatively small. We were able to hone our skills musically around one another. We were in so many different places, I can’t pin-point one specific spot with a certain experience. We were all over the place. You go to your hotel, you go to the van, and you drive, and the distances in Norway are huge, so, you’d be on the road for quite awhile. A lot of driving. A lot of drinking but none done together [laughs].
MH What is the legal drinking age in Norway, anyway?
MV 18, so we were okay [laughs]. We were safe! In 2005, we actually toured supporting Lenny Kravitz throughout Scandinavia and Germany, and that was cool as well. He was great. He’s super down-to-earth and just a normal guy. He was one of my idols as a kid. So, it was kind of strange, you know, ending up sitting beside him in his limo chatting about music especially since he inspired me so much growing up.
MH That’s incredible. He also had both a female guitarist and drummer in his band.
MV Yes, and it’s so funny because I think his drummer has a big Afro like me [laughs]. He always has a female artist or two in his band, which is also really inspiring.
MH When did you join the band, Montee?
MV We quit Furia in ’06 or ’07. I had broken up with my boyfriend along with the band, and I was living in Oslo and I was like what am I going to do now? I was actually checking out apartments to rent in New York and I was like, I don’t have anything in Oslo to do, so, I might as well. At that point, I received a call from a friend who said he was starting a new band. He asked if I wanted to join. I wasn’t thinking at all about a solo career at this point and agreed to the idea of joining something new. But, honestly, joining a new band is like starting a new relationship. I had to think about it. I listened to some of their demos and thought it was cool, so agreed to do it. It turned out great – we ended up releasing two albums, one of which went on to win a Norwegian Grammy Award. Actually, they’re still going on without me and they’re doing great. They’re working on a third album.
MH You were working with all guys at this point. How was touring with all men?
MV It was so easy! Super easy! It’s just easier to connect to guys, I think. At least, for me, they were taking care of me, you know, like a family. They were amazing. Two of the guys from the band are actually part of my band now, too.
MH What made you decide to strike out on your own and go solo?
MV It all started with a photo exhibition, actually. My friend called me and wanted me to model for a photo exhibition he was having and I had some demos lying around which ended up becoming the soundtrack for the exhibition. It grew out of my songs and then working with the photographer to develop what would be the image for the sound. It was an evolving thing, we ended up inviting thousands of people to the opening and it culminated into the release of my first album. I didn’t plan on going solo, actually, until we saw the reception the exhibition got. In the end, I think I just loved being my own boss for once.
MH There’s a definite difference in sound from your group effort to your solo work. What influenced this evolution?
MV When I went to record on my own, I wanted to make music that I wanted to listen to myself. I’m really not good at listening to new music, when I put on music at home; it’s always what you’d call ‘older music.’ Music I listened to growing up: Prince, Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis productions and other ‘80s music. I wanted to go into the studio and create my own take of music from 1983 or 1985. To this day, I am very strict with sounds that I like and I want to honour the era that these sounds come from. I play the bass guitar and the synth and much of what I do is really inspired by the music of the people who gave these sounds prominence.
MH If you had to give your sound a temperature, what would it be?
MV Cold. Especially the first album. Especially the song, ‘Oslo Knows.’ When you live in Norway, it’s cold and I think the sound sort of reflects that as well.
MH What would you say has influenced your own image?
MV Again, probably back to those I grew up admiring – Prince, Michael and Janet Jackson. I like to mix the old and new. It’s not so concrete, though. I mean, I like to be ‘updated’ and I’m trying to be but at the same time, not really [laughs]. I just love the ‘80s! Everything I do is influenced by that era of funk.
MH You love the sounds of the past, but are there any current artists that you really admire or would be down to work with?
MV I like Kindness, a group from Britain, a lot. I’ve been listening to their album, which came out last year quite a bit. I also like Jessie Ware. And, I guess if you consider Janet [Jackson] as current, I like her stuff, too, obviously. I’d love to go on tour with her, [laughs]. I saw her last tour stop in Oslo and couldn’t get over how she could perform in just a tank top and jeans and could command the stage, at her age. It’s really amazing. I also really enjoy Dawn Richard who does R&B. Her sound is also really great. My favourite song on her new album is “Return of a Queen.” She’s also someone I would love to work with. And there is The-Dream, he’s more of a mix of Prince and R. Kelly. I’ve been listening to his stuff all week.
MH: When crossing over to America, what did you want people to know about you?
MV I’m a bass player, through and through. And I want people to know that I’ve built both my sound and skill on experience. I’m not a girl who just came out of nowhere and got a deal because she was pretty or something like that. I’ve worked at this for a long time now. Another thing is coming from Norway and trying to make it in the States, it’s always important to get the words right. I write my songs in English, so, I usually have someone check to see if everything I say sounds right [laughs]. I work a lot with Morgan Phelan, who’s worked with Justice in the past. He’s in LA and is a good friend of mine and helps me out with that kind of stuff.
MH: And what’s next?
MV: I will be releasing my first EP with four or so songs from my first two albums in the United States. I want to do a couple of shows in New York City, too. Also, there are a few festivals in Norway that I want to play at. I’m also going to be working with a few producers here in New York City on new material as well.
MH: If you could choose anyone to be your dream collaborator who would that be?
MV: Well, Prince, obviously [laughs]. But also, I’d have to say, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. If I could get a song from them, or even better, write a song with them, that’d be my dream. I just love everything that they do.
MAYA AT FAST ASHLEYS IN NEW YORK BY JASON KIM, MARCH 2013
SHIRT MOSCHINO, SUIT OSCAR DE LA RENTA AND BRA DOLCE&GABBANA
HAIR JUAN CARLOS MACIQUES @ SEE MANAGEMENT
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PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT JORDAN ZUPPA
SPECIAL THANKS TO FAST ASHLEYS STUDIOS