Blackbird Blackbird's Mikey Maramag is Hardcore No More

By Reyan Ali
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 13, 2013

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Mikey likes it: Blackbird Blackbird’s Mikey Maramag began consuming electronic music while attending UC Santa Cruz.

The two stylistically opposed Mikey Maramags you can research in the gossamer of the Internet are indeed one and the same. On one hand is the Maramag who drummed for Murder Practice, a pummeling, rancorous hardcore unit that lasted from 2003 to 2009. On the other is the Maramag now guiding Blackbird Blackbird, a polychromatic electronic pop project whose output is usually chilled out and fantastically fantastical. That said, if life had unfolded differently, the latter Maramag might have never materialized. “I really liked being in a band and playing shows,” the Hawaii- and Bay Area-bred, Oakland-located 25-year-old says. “That was really fun. It was a very DIY venture, and the only reason I stopped doing it was because I had to go to Santa Cruz.” If he hadn’t attended the University of California in that city, Maramag figures, he’d likely still be a hardcore drummer.

Away at school, Maramag began consuming electronic music: Apparat’s Walls, Aphex Twin, Modeselektor. This led him to fiddle with the audio-building programs Reason, Fruity Loops and Ableton Live before starting his own electronic endeavor in mid-2010 with Bye Bye Blackbird. After a run-in with a band called the Bye Bye Blackbirds led to the risk of legal action, Maramag tweaked his moniker into its present form. He’s been prolific under his aliases, assembling three EPs—2012’s Boracay Planet being the most recent, one album heavy on previous EP content and a B-sides collection. A proper full-length is en route, which is what Maramag hypes as “the milestone of this whole project.” The band has long consisted of Maramag on his lonesome, but current shows have featured Blackbird Blackbird in three-piece form, with bass player Adam Lowdermilk and drummer Theo Ballew.

Maramag takes inspiration for Blackbird Blackbird from sources that speak to both his aggressive and mild sides. Trash Talk—a Sacramento hardcore band he really digs—focuses on no-time-to-spare blasts of music with short, sharpened song lengths. For his early work, Maramag used this tactic of abbreviated run times; 2010’s Summer Heart’s songs range from about a minute to almost three. Boracay Planet, meanwhile, features tracks that run between three minutes and around seven. Boracay’s title originated in a dream Maramag had that reimagined Boracay—a gorgeous, beachy island in the Philippines—as its own floating orb, and he figures that his songwriting fundamentally grows out of his subconscious. “A lot of times when I write a song, I don’t even try to think about the song. I just kind of play instruments. I’m either just plugging my guitar directly into my interface and playing guitar over a beat,” he says. “It’s very experimental, like [it’s] naturally what I would make if I was asleep.”

Maramag mentions missing his time performing in the hardcore trenches, but the more he discusses Blackbird Blackbird, the more it sounds like the laid-back sensibility of this project is more in sync with the person he’s become. “I still find joy in just sitting at home and writing music,” he says. “I love playing shows, but recording and production [are] just where I get the most out of music.”

Thurs., March 14, 8:30pm. $13-$15. With STRFKR. Union Transfer, 1024 Spring Garden St. 215.232.2100.

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