We are excited to feature Mei Semones as our latest Artist To Watch. Mei is without a doubt someone that should be on your radar. The Boston based singer-songwriter has crafted something really special with her debut EP, Tsukino. The lush sting arrangement paired with her warm vocals completely enrapture you from start to finish. Mei is quickly becoming one of our favorite artists. Look, I know we're only in January, but I'm going to go ahead and say that this is one of my favorite releases of the year. THAT'S how much I've enjoyed Tsukino. We recently had the opportunity to talk to Mei about my funeral, the critically acclaimed movie Antz, and her upcoming EP. Check it out!
Mei's debut EP Tsukino is set to drop tomorrow!(1.21) Be sure to keep an eye out for it.
1. What have you been listening to lately?
Coltrane, Miles, Ichiko Aoba, Keith Jarrett, Monk.
2. Have you ever seen a ghost or had any paranormal experiences?
Not really. I used to have a lot of sleep paralysis when I was younger though, which seems paranormal before you realize what it is.
3. I recently learned that Jennifer Lopez did the voice for one of the ants in the classic film Antz. What is the last thing you learned?
Today I learned about sample rates. Apparently people work in different sample rates, like 44.1k or 48k, and depending on the sample rate the frequency range of the audio changes. Even though the human ear can’t technically hear a lot of the higher frequencies, just having them in there completely changes the character of the sound.
4. What did you listen to growing up?
Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins were the first bands I got into when I started developing my own music taste.
5. Who would win in a fight? The ant colony from Antz, OR the ant colony from A Bugs Life?
Honestly I don’t know who either of those are :,( I looked it up though and I think the one from Antz, they lowkey look scary.
6. When I die can you play “Homies” by Insane Clown Posse as they lower my casket? But you have to be in full Juggalo face paint.
Yes but I hope you never die.
7. When I was about 5 we had a pet parakeet that I wasn’t allowed to feed. For some reason its cage was out on our front porch. Idk why. One day I tried to feed it and opened the cage door and it flew away. Nobody ever found out what really happened. What's a bad thing you did as a child that you kept secret and told nobody?
When I was little my mom made this seaweed dish and served it on everyone’s plates. I didn’t want to eat it though because I thought it was slimy. So I threw it in the trash. But then my mom noticed my seaweed was gone and asked where it was. I told her I ate it, but then she looked in the trash can and it was sitting on the top.
8. Was there a specific album or artist that first made you fall in love with music?
This is kinda funny, but I was inspired to play guitar by the scene in Back to the Future where Marty plays Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry.
9. What is your opinion on the Boss Baby movie franchise? And do you think they should make a third?
Honestly I don’t know who that is hahaha. I looked it up though and my answer is yes, it looks sick!!
10. Any local artists that we should check out?
Reggie Pearl, Mackenzie Morris, Brazen Youth, Trophy Wife, G Luné, Clifford the Band, Gabriel Lazaro, there’s so many great artists in the community!!
Isaac Gutierrez for Born Loser Mag: To start things off, can you introduce yourself?
Mei: Hello! My name is Mei Semones and I’m from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’m living in Boston now, going to Berklee College of Music.
What was your first introduction to music?
I started piano lessons when I was 4 years old, because my grandma bought my family a piano. I took piano lessons til I was 11, and then switched to guitar because I wasn’t really enjoying piano lessons and I wanted to play rock guitar.
There is a lot of Jazz influence in your music. Was there anything in particular that drew you to Jazz?
I started playing jazz when I first entered highschool – before that I had been playing rock. At first I just played it because it was the only class at school where I could play guitar, but I ended up liking it a lot (although I didn’t take it that seriously until my second year of college). I think what draws me to jazz is the emphasis on improvisation, expressiveness, and individuality, as well as the history behind the music. I also really appreciate how important communication and listening is in playing that type of music.
You mentioned previously that you opened up for Sweet Petunia! I’ve noticed that a lot of artists/bands from Boston work together pretty frequently. Would you say the DIY/Independent scene there is pretty tight knit?
Yes I would say it’s pretty tight knit, at least among my friends! I feel a lot of support in the community and I’m really grateful for all my friends in the scene – it’s amazing to be surrounded by so much talent and creativity and to be supported by people who I am inspired by.
You also had a band back in high school called Rosewood, right? Can you talk to us a bit about that?
Yes! In highschool I was in a band called Rosewood with some friends. We played covers and originals. We were one of the very few highschool bands in Ann Arbor actively playing shows, but it was a fun time. We played some gigs and festivals, recorded an album of originals – it was a great experience.
What was the music scene in Ann Arbor like compared to the one in Boston?
I would say it’s overall much smaller. In my experience, going back to Ann Arbor for holidays and breaks, there’s not as many house show venues, and people aren’t willing to pay $10 for a house show, whereas in Boston that’s standard. I think it’s just because Boston has so many more colleges, and consequently more art students.
You’ve played guitar for Reggie Pearl, The Brazen Youth, and G Luné. You’ve worked with other artists on their music before, but what does it mean to you to be able to work on your own songs and your own project?
It’s really exciting to be working on my own music, but it’s wonderful being able to play in my friend’s bands simultaneously because I learn so much and draw a lot of inspiration from their songwriting. I’ve been writing songs since I was in middle school, but I feel like I am finally starting to find my own sound, and starting to write songs that I genuinely like and feel proud of. It’s great to be able to work on my own project in this environment because playing in other people’s bands inspires and informs the way I want to develop my own project.
Your EP Tsukino is coming out later this month! Are you excited, nervous? What's going on in your mind right now?
I’m a little nervous, but mostly excited! I have put a lot of work into this EP over the past year, along with the other people who worked on it, and I’m really excited for people to hear it. I’m so grateful for all the people who have contributed to the project and it’s something that I feel really proud of.
What were the inspirations behind the album and what was the writing/recording/production process like?
I am largely inspired by the people closest to me – both in terms of songwriting as well as the actual content of my lyrics. Most of my songs are about the people I love, whether it’s in a positive or negative light. In terms of the composition and harmony, I draw from jazz styles, since that’s the main genre I actively practice on guitar. Most of the songs were recorded in a basement studio in Ypsilanti, Michigan. One was recorded in a bedroom. All very DIY, but we were able to get some good sounds thanks to the recording engineers and musicians – Geoff Brown, Samuel Uribe Botero, Ben Wood, Addie Vogt. Following the recording sessions, my friend Noah Leong recorded the string arrangements remotely and sent them over, which always adds a whole new dimension to my songs. After that it was just mixing with Samuel and mastering with Piper Payne at Infrasonic Sound. The last step was finishing the cover art, which was created by my best friend Reggie Pearl.
Tsukino means “Of the Moon” (according to google translate at least) was there anything in particular that made you choose that name for the EP and song title?
It’s one of the song titles on the EP, and I decided to use it as the EP title as well because I think it has a nice ring to it. The name comes from a lyric in the song “月の笑顔” which means the smile of the moon, so I just took the “of the moon” part for the song title and the EP title.
I think my favorite song off of the EP is Kodoku. Can you give us some background on that song?
Thanks so much :) That one actually might be my favorite too. I wrote that song when I was not doing too well, in the fall/winter of 2020. It was during quarantine and I was feeling very alone. It’s about wanting to be with the one I love. I really like how it turned out, alternating between Japanese verses and English choruses, and I think the contrast between the two sections has an impact. I also love the string arrangements on that song, although that goes for every string arrangement on the EP.
I’m going to go through the tracklist for Tsukino, and can you help translate the titles and maybe give us some background on each of the songs?
Yoake: “夜明け” means dawn. I wrote this song in the fall/winter of 2020 as well, about someone I was seeing. I think the song touches on the balance of being fond of someone and being overly dependent on them at the same time, and the conflict/discomfort that arises from that feeling. It’s talking about when you really enjoy being with someone, but at the same time you feel like they have too much of an influence over your emotional state.
Tsukino: “月の,” as you mentioned earlier, means of the moon. I wrote this song in the summer of 2020. The lyrics started with imagery that in my mind described an imaginary world, but as I continued writing it, the song developed into being about my best friend, Reggie Pearl. The intention behind the song is about wanting the best for someone you love, and believing that they deserve the best out of every relationship and situation.
Muchuu: “夢中” means infatuation. The song is a love song about meeting someone who you’re really into, and wanting them to open up to you. I would say it’s one of the simplest and most repetitive songs on the EP, and I like that it’s different from the other songs in this way. It’s also the only song on the EP with no English lyrics.
Hfoas (demo): The title of this song came from me hitting the keyboard of my laptop when I was first saving this song on Logic, and I ended up keeping it as the song title because it made sense to me after a certain point. This is another love song – as you can tell I write a lot of love songs lol, although I’ve definitely been expanding the subject of my lyrics in the songs I’ve written since. Hfoas is just about being really in love.
Is there a song you’re most excited for everyone to hear?
I’m excited for everyone to hear all the songs, but in particular I’m excited for Kodoku! I’ve been playing all of these songs live at house shows around Boston, and it seems like people like that song. There’s been shows where people will sing along to the lyrics even though the song hasn’t been released yet, which makes me so so happy. I’m also excited for people to hear the demo of Hfoas, because it’s a completely different version of the song, and I think it’s cool to hear the origin of where it started in comparison to how it ended up.
There's this moment in the demo version of Hfoas that’s not in the single version that I really enjoy. Right around the 2:00 minute mark when you’re singing “you’re the one, you’re the one'' there's like a little guitar breakdown I guess you would call it? It’s such a cool little moment that makes me like the song even more. Was that a conscious choice, or did it just kind of happen?
I think it happened naturally – when I was writing this song it felt like the lyrics and the emotion behind the lyrics called for the guitar part to descend chromatically and fall out of time. The following section was also something that happened naturally (where there are quiet guitar chords and the sound of a chair squeaking). When I first recorded the guitar part I noticed the sound of the chair was in the background, and decided to keep it in because I thought it added character to that section of the song.
You go back and forth from Japanese and English throughout your songs. Is that a conscious choice when you’re writing a song, or are you just kind of following your train of thought?
I would say it’s both! For some songs, it’s just following my train of thought, and sometimes it’s very intentional. For me, it’s a useful tool in songwriting to help differentiate between sections of the song. I think it clarifies the form and structure while also adding a certain impact for listeners, depending on what languages they know.
How important is it for you to embrace your language/culture through your work? What does that mean to you?
I feel like I didn’t really find my musical voice, in terms of songwriting, until I started writing songs in Japanese. It means a lot to me because my mom is the only person that I speak Japanese with, so it’s a way for me to keep in touch with the language in a creative way. Although I grew up in Michigan, I’ve always felt very connected to Japanese culture because of the way I was raised, and it’s very important to me that I maintain that connection.
You have a release show coming up soon! What are your plans for that?
Unfortunately the release show got canceled because of covid :((( But as an alternative we are going to make a live video of a few songs, and the show itself is being rescheduled to March 26th at Brinstar, Allston MA.
Any plans to tour anytime soon? Specifically anywhere in Texas. I’m trying to catch a show.
Unfortunately not, but I would love to start planning for touring after I graduate from Berklee – I think I’ll be much more mobile. I would love to come to Texas :) I’ve never been before!!
What can we expect to see from Mei Semones in the near future?
I am currently working on my next project, which will be a 3 song EP! It should be ready for release in late April or early May. There will be a music video or two for this project as well. I think the songs are a good representation of the development of my song writing since I wrote the songs for Tsukino. I’m very excited for people to hear it :)
Is there anything that you want our readers to know?
Hope you guys are doing well! Lol
And to wrap things up, do you have any questions for me?
What got you into writing artist interviews and features? And what is your favorite part about it?
Mostly I just wanted to get to know my favorite artists/bands and ask them questions I was genuinely curious about. My favorite part about it is when I can make the interviewee laugh or if I'm able to get them to say "Thats a good question." I also really enjoy the community built around DIY scenes across the country. Being a part of that (even if it's online) is super cool. I've met a ton of really nice, supportive people.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us! I’m so excited about your upcoming EP, I’ve been listening to it nonstop all week. I wish you the best!
Thank you so so much for the interview!!! And thanks for checking out the EP, I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Looking forward to seeing the next Born Loser articles :) <3