Making Of An Artist: MSEA's Dance Parties And Canadian Spit

Making Of An Artist: MSEA’s Dance Parties And Canadian Spit

Making Of An Artist: MSEA’s Dance Parties And Canadian Spit

Published July 5, 2019

Photo by
Blair Bouskill

MSEA is a Reykjavík-based Canadian musician making intriguing, textural electronica-and-voice music. Her work often includes collaborative visuals—her first single, ‘Sex Self,’ was launched with a multi-disciplinary exhibition. Her new EP, ‘Hiding Under Things,’ is out now. “I’ve always found it difficult to articulate my inspirations,” she says, “because I tend to find it everywhere. This is more like a quick history of influencers, and definitely not everything!”

The secret to becoming an artist is really just suffering a medium amount of brainwashing. At one point you will realize you don’t want to follow the “word” of any gospel and you will grow a fondness towards the dark. This one is from bible camp. I had quite the religious family. It wasn’t all bad. There were many singalongs with my grandfather who really does sound like bible Elvis.

Dance parties
I was lucky to grow up in a neighbourhood with children my age who loved to dance. We would spend all of our time choreographing dance routines together, usually to Britney, Christina or Aqua, but I remember stumbling upon “The Score” by the Fugees and falling in love. I think I was eight. The kids weren’t into it so I kept it for solo dance parties. And I can’t forget to leave out Electric Circus—a live dance music television program that aired on MuchMusic—my only religion and probably where I got all of my awesome dance moves from.

Canadian spit
I will admit that the first time I heard Broken Social Scene I was a little confused. I had never heard music that broke structure, used brass, had interlude and, noise, and used voice as sparingly as they did (and could still be considered “accessible” music). I fell into the abyss of the BSS family (Do Make Say Think, Metric, Stars, Apostle of Hustle, etc.) and went through a couple of years of listening only to Canadian indie instrumental music like Godspeed You Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion. I felt like if I moved to Toronto, I too could be a part of the fam! It didn’t really work like that but I did get to see them live a bunch.

What is a body anyway?
I first saw Antony Gormely’s work at the MOMA in San Francisco. The piece was called ‘Quantum Cloud VII’ and I somehow felt like I was looking in a mirror. There was a feeling of the inner self reaching beyond the skin, energy expanding, networks connecting. I have had this experience several times while meditating and it’s something I think about now and again. The boundaries of our bodies, the skin as a “container of personal space”, as Gormely would describe it.

Sylvia Plath
Her obsession with death, sexuality and womanhood was familiar and comforting to me. I liked the candidness in her work, the imagery of nature, and the fact that, even though we are from different eras, her words still resonate with many people. ‘The Bell Jar’ is still one of my favourite books. The heaviness of being a human is real sometimes.

I find intrigue in oppositions. Maybe this is why I enjoy living in Iceland so much—the darkness of the winter and the brightness of the summer. This idea in art is very important to me. To have beauty and the grotesque, noise and discomfort while not being afraid of silence or minimalism. Or maybe it’s really about balance. Because we’ll topple over otherwise.

This might seem like an obvious one, but for me it is an immense influence. The spaces we enter into to create, perform, and exhibit are a part of the work itself. This is why I am obsessed with lighting in my personal space, as well as on stage. The slightest dimming or colour change can have a monumental impact on the mood. And I like it moody! This also links to multisensory experiences and how it is becoming frequently explored. I’m curious to see how scent, taste, and touch will develop into a part of the artistic space in the future.

Moody ‘90s
Speaking of moody. PortisheadCocteauTwinsNirvanaTwinPeaksCranberriesSonicYouthPixies.

Other Humans
EVERYONE AROUND ME! I would like to give shout outs but it would take up this whole article. I am forever inspired by the communities I have been a part of. They have offered a safe environment for exploration, mistakes and collaboration—support systems are everything. I am nothing without you.

Listen to MSEA’s music at, and find out about her latest shows and exploits on most social media at @mseasik.

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