Photo by Mansoor

Maryze, to infinity and beyond

“There’s this special energy in Montreal, where people are so creatively fuelled. They have so much to share, and people actually want to hear it and discover new music. It feels like an incubator for a lot of new creativity.” 

You can’t rush great art, even if it takes up to eight years. 

For Maryse Bernard, better known as Maryze, the result is a fierce, nostalgia heavy pop album influenced by a whole mess of musical genres, while also showcasing her tremendous talents.

The bilingual Montreal-via-North Vancouver songstress is about to drop her debut album, 8, on Hot Tramp Records. Releasing on May 6, the album is years in the making — though she’s spent more than two years properly working on it, some of its songs were written as far back as eight (yes, eight) years ago.

“I think it’s going to be an interesting amalgamation of all my music influences and experiences I’ve had throughout my 20s,” Maryze says. “I’m nervous, but mostly just ready for the catharsis of putting it out there.” 

Having released her debut EP in 2019, Maryze quickly shifted focus toward a full-length, while also collecting years’ worth of unfinished tunes she’d made with other projects. 

“I wanted to collect the songs that meant a lot to me that I had been writing over almost eight years, but also make sure that at least half of the album was really current,” she adds. 

“Some of the songs weren’t even finished until a few weeks before completion. It’s been a mix of older songs and other experiences mixed with things that literally happened six months ago.” 

The title 8 is a reference to Maryze’s lucky number since childhood. She likes how round the number is, her birthday is December 18, it’s symbolic for infinity, and how life cycles can repeat themselves, and because music is often structured around eight beats. But her love for the number eight runs even deeper than all of that.

“When I was a kid, my friend and I were walking in a forest. I told her that, behind these ferns, there were our two lucky numbers,” she explains. “I brushed the ferns aside, and there was an eight and a three. I don’t know how I knew that as a child. I told her that her lucky number was three, and my lucky number was eight. I’ve kind of just held that through life.”

With this debut album, Maryze will also be flexing her muscles as a producer, self-producing some of the tracks. “They’re either me a capella, layering harmonies over my own voice, or just me on piano,” she says. “But I really wanted to set that challenge for myself where I was writing, performing and producing some of the songs.” 

“Experiments” by Maryze

Born to an Irish-Canadian mother and a French father from Brittany, Maryze’s influences also come from some of the most disparate of musical worlds. On 8, she takes cues from hyperpop, jazz (she spent years studying the genre, and was in her high school’s jazz choir), Celtic folk (her dad’s from a Celtic region of France), soul music (Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald are favourites), Édith Piaf and the emo scene bands she loved in high school.

There’s even a song titled “Emo” on the album, and the tone of its bass parts are influenced by that of Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy — a band she’s seen four times. She names Panic! at the Disco, My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, Bring Me the Horizon and late-aughts crunkcore duo 3OH!3 among her other favourites.

“My favourite Warped Tour was 2009 — you know, 3OH!3, Abandon All Ships. Not necessarily great music, but it makes you feel something,” she says while laughing.

Though she grew up in an anglophone majority, the community around Maryze was largely francophone, as she went to school with francophone kids who’d moved to B.C. with their families who wanted them to continue speaking French. She also went to a fully French school, where she only took about two classes in English before Grade 7. 

Even at home, her father would have her watch French TV for most days of the week to ensure she’d become fully bilingual. Though she was allowed to watch Pokémon in English once a week, she’d sometimes sneak it past her dad while he wasn’t looking.

“I remember hearing my dad coming down the stairs and trying to switch back from Pokémon to the French channel,” she adds. “At the time, it was annoying, because I wanted to watch what I wanted to watch and I have to watch all these foreign films. But I’m so grateful for it now. It does give me a larger sense of identity and culture.”

Having visited Montreal multiple times as a child, Maryze decided it was a matter of when, and not if, she would relocate to the city, packing up and moving to la Belle Province during the summer of 2017. “Montreal was this kind of very magical land I always hoped to get to when I was a kid,” she adds. 

Since she’d been working a “steady and comfortable” desk job in Vancouver (where her colleagues encouraged her to take the leap of faith), her move to Montreal represented an opportunity to pursue her music career in earnest. Having already established herself as a fixture in this city’s music scene, Maryze appreciates the openness of Montreal’s underground music community to new acts and voices, and felt welcomed by that community after arriving.

“There seems to be this special energy in Montreal, where people are so creatively fuelled,” she continues. “They have so much to share, and people actually want to hear it and discover new music. It feels like an incubator for a lot of new creativity.” 

Alongside previously released singles like “Too Late” and the 2000s-inspired “Experiments” (which even interpolates Justin Timberlake’s “Señorita”), there’s the menacing, hypnotic Backxwash collab “Squelettes.” Though both artists are from wildly different ends of the musical spectrum, Maryze says the musical chemistry between them was seamless — after all, they’ve known each other and played together for several years now.

“I think a lot of my music is about darker subjects, and her stuff is also extremely cathartic,” she says about the hyperpop-tinged number. “I’m really happy that we both enjoyed each other’s music so much that we wanted to bring it together… It was a fun challenge, but it didn’t really feel like a challenge! It was natural.”

Maryze Cult MTL Montreal april 2022 issue magazine print cover
Maryze on the cover of Cult MTL, April 2022.

Those who don’t recognize Maryze from her musical output may know her from her social media activity. In the winter of 2021, she uploaded the icicle TikTok. The hilarious clip of Maryze putting on a fake European French accent and warning viewers of the dangers of falling icicles (rating each one out of 10 based on deadliness) has racked up more than 4.6 million views on the platform, with TikTok even referencing it in their own Canadian marketing campaigns.

“Who could’ve predicted that icicles would change my life so drastically?”she says, laughing about her unexpected viral success. As a result of the clip (which got publicity nationally and abroad), her TikTok follower count skyrocketed.

“I thought everyone would unfollow after a few months,” she admits. “But they stuck around. I think people came for the icicles, for sure, and then stayed for the music — but at least they liked the music enough to stay!”

The icicle queen has only returned on rare occasions, and every icicle in Quebec has presumably melted by now. But Maryze says there very well may be more icicle ratings in her future.

“I don’t want to make any promises, but I did tell people that I would make a follow-up icicle video,” she says. “There are no icicles left, but I have videos that I’ve saved. So I might just try to get that in before winter is fully over, just to thank everyone for the icicle love.”

The clip’s even had an impact on her music career: she soon started enjoying a boost in listenership, gaining as many new ears as there’d be if she’d just released a new single. “It’s really incredible, the power of TikTok,” she adds.

For the rest of 2022, Maryze will be playing a handful of Canadian cities in May, where she’ll play the album live for the first time. Though she also intends to take time writing more music, she’s also hoping to film more music videos for the LP, and possibly play shows stateside.

When asked what she thinks her debut album says about her personally and how far she’s come artistically, she believes it’s her ability to be herself while embodying her tastes and interests without feeling any restrictions.

“It demonstrates, even to myself, that I’m also able to take on different roles as a producer, songwriter and performer, and really be my full self,” she says. “Even if the genres seem kind of disparate, I think they tie in together, and I don’t really care anymore if people think that it’s cohesive or makes sense — because it makes sense to me.” ■

Maryze is playing a pre-8-release party (with support from AWWFUL and Sisi Superstar, with a DJ set after her 10 p.m. performance) at the Diving Bell Social Club on Friday, April 29, doors 7:30 p.m., show 8:30 p.m., $12/$15

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