Maryze recently announced her debut album, 8, by posting an Instagram video of herself excitedly opening up a box full of freshly-pressed CDs. The joy in the Montreal-based singer-songwriter’s voice is palpable as she pores over shrink-wrapped copies of the album; and while it’s technically her first full-length, Maryze has been excelling in the world of pop music for quite some time. Even before she began her run of solo singles and EP releases in 2018, she had spent time in electronic duo Seaborne, and fronted Vancouver’s Spectregates back when she was living on the west coast. There’s a more obscure release in Maryze’s discography, too, tracing all the way back to her childhood when she was attending a French-language school in North Vancouver.
“There is a CD from my elementary school—they recorded some of the kids who were musically inclined; I guess that was my first record,” she remembers fondly of the foundational moment, adding, “It’s so funny, because I sound so puny on that recording, singing in French.”
Building on her Francophone foundation, Maryze has since made her bilingual identity a point of pride in her artistic output, combining her English and French-speaking abilities on all three of her major musical projects. Naturally, a bilingual dialogue is woven throughout the course of 8. Maryze floats verses sung in French through “Squelettes” alongside the anglicized bars from Polaris Prize-winning rapper Backxwash, but also pivots between the two languages, stream-of-conscious-style, during the spaciously-clanked “Mutable.”
“I sang in school choirs in French, but of course growing up in Vancouver the radio was mostly English,” she says. “I was also singing to Britney Spears and *NSYNC. It was a mix of the two, just the same as my languages have always been a mix of the two.”
Fittingly enough, her music isn’t singular in its approach, either. Throughout her debut’s 10 tracks, Maryze glides through literal motor-revving hyperpop (“Unofficial”), elegiac piano balladry (“Playing Dress-Up”), and adds a Big Shiny crush of guitar distortion to the song “Emo.” The latter, partially inspired by listening to My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy in her youth, reflects on vintage playlists and a toxic ex.
“This person that I was dating was always sending me these playlists that he thought were really cool. I would always listen to them and report back [to] tell him the songs I really liked, and why,” Maryze explains, noting the inherent intimacy of making a mix for someone. “Then I would make playlists and send them back, and he would dismiss them. This was [indicative of] the relationship, I guess…”
“I think it would’ve been weird if I just put out this sexy, fun track, and then offered no darker perspective.”
Nevertheless, relationships are a big factor behind many of 8’s lyrical moments. On a molecular level, much of the album had Maryze working with longtime creative partner and producer Solomon K-I, who had also been in Seaborne and Spectregates. Montreal beatmaker Margo had first teamed up with Maryze for “Squelettes,” initially released as a standalone single in 2020, and went on to bring choice production touches to another trio of album tracks. Maryze sings of another free exchange of ideas on “Experiments,” a decadent dance track about partners comfortably exploring taboos with each other. While full of these collaborative highs, she also rounds out the interpersonal themes by navigating “family trauma” on a capella opener “Mercy Key,” or weighing in on diverging paths of friendship on its closing “Playing Dress-Up.”
“There’s obviously so much nuance to a relationship,” Maryze muses of the spectrum of experience on 8. “I think it would’ve been weird if I just put out this sexy, fun track [“Experiments”], and then [offered] no darker perspective.”
On the lighter side of things, Maryze’s journey to 8 has also included a prolific burst of activity on TikTok, though some of her biggest hits are outside the scope of music. In early 2021, she went viral by ranking Montreal’s deadliest icicles—a video that’s ratcheted up more than a million likes. She currently balances those comedic posts with music promotion, a new normal that yields uncertain results within the TikTok algorithm.
“I feel like artists are told that we have to keep pushing and pushing, but it’s this sad thing: sometimes you feel like you’re just screaming into the void. Every day I’m looking at my TikToks like, ‘Wow…I feel like a fool.’ I look so ridiculous in these videos—so cringe,” Maryze says, though the artist is quick to add that she’s connected with creators and made both friends and fans through the platform. “The thing is, no one is scrutinizing you the way you are—people can tell when you’re being genuine, and [they] want to get to know you and support you.”
On “Emo,” Maryze sings, “did you ever listen to the songs I sent to you?” Though the line is directed towards an unsupportive ex, considering the freshly-pressed 8 and a much-watched TikTok presence, it’s clear more ears are tuning into Maryze’s music now more than ever before.
By Stephan Boissonneault
With fresh folklore in abundance, the east coast songwriter’s sophomore offering is a classic tribute to his beloved province.