MXMS, short for “me and my shadow”, is the multimedia project of singer Ariel Levitan and pianist Jeremy Dawson. Harbored feelings and trauma each had hidden away for a lifetime floated to the surface in Jeremy’s studio they lovingly refer to as “the grave”. Each story, each moment in their lives they recorded into a lyric, a song, into a vision. Starting with the song ”omg”, their dual documented story of a violent, toxic life was born.
Interview Meikee Magnetic
Where were you born and where on planet Earth are you now?
Ariel: I was born in New York City and I’m sitting in the valley in LA not by my own choice.
Jer: Not sure where I was born since I’m adopted, somewhere in South Texas I’m told. I’m in LA right now.
How did you both meet and what drew you both together to start creating music?
Jer: I was sitting in my studio worrying, freaking out and writing weird shit. I asked my English friend who is constantly hammered if he knew anyone who would not literally get afraid of the music I was writing and would like to try to sing on a song. He said “mate you have to meet this girl Ariel she is quite questionable” and she was summoned. We talked about cement trucks running over people, we loved and had a laugh and then she started singing. From that point I knew that all of our time, money, and credit cards were out the door because we have something to say and its loud as fuck.
Your song OMG is a powerful broken down track, the kind that reaches into your soul. You take a minimal approach with piano and a single vocal track on the verses which makes the chorus that much more powerful. I think it’s an absolutely beautiful song. The music video for OMG conveys the perfect imagery for the song, how did you come up with the concept for the video?
Jeremy: At the beginning of this project we were more interested in writing short film pieces, shooting them, scoring them, then performing the entire thing live as one piece of media. We met a lot of amazing people along the way and two of those people were Joe Slavin and Ryan Bircher. A filmmaker and producer who had a very clear vision for OMG very similar to our own. It was an amazing collaboration.
A few descriptions for your sound:
Funeral Pop and Dead Western.
Dark Beauty Magazine is all about it and we salute your project. What other sounds and genre will you be experimenting with sonic-ally?
Ariel: Grave hop, grimy baselines and drums with our funeral pop sound as we progress from chill piano vibes. So, its music about death, sex and blood that you can twerk to with friends.
What is your special connection with BLACK?
How would you explain what inspires you to do what you do?
Ariel: I pull most of my inspiration from our fans now. In the beginning and I guess these are still applicable: Mortuary Science, Funerals, turn of the century cemeteries, Psychology and Anatomy.
Jeremy: Fear, Adrenaline and Excitement. Fear will kill you but if you can keep it quarantined its like rocket fuel in the studio.
My other favorite of yours is ANNA, can we expect a video for it soon? Any details?
Ariel: Good question. We are so deep in the studio working on new music for our EP that we haven’t really thought about Anna in a bit.
During your live performances, what is your instrumental setup?
Jer: We change this a lot with trial and error. Right now we have a Roland Jupiter 8, Logic X running piano software through a system that allows all of my keys and synths to be affected by whatever the sound engineer is doing; whether that is some simple side chaining or other types of cool shit like parallel compression. Then we have bass, guitar and a baritone guitar plus different microphones for multiple vocal sounds. It all depends on the budget of the show as to how much of our gear we get to bring with us. Ariel creates all of our video content, we love fucking with projectors, scrims and screens. Since people come to see a show and not really so much to hear a show.
Jeremy, your also a DJ, what styles of music do you play and where can we see you destroying the dancefloor?
Hmm, depends on the gig. If I had my way I would play dark and slightly melodic techno. Sort of the harder sound of what’s coming down the pipe from labels like Kompakt and Drumcode. I play a lot of the fetish and BDSM events in Los Angeles. I guest DJ at Bar Sinister pretty regularly. I also guest at Cloak and Dagger; this tiny secret basement in Hollywood that’s one of the last truly curated dark music venues in the country. No it’s not a goth club its just dark as fuck and people disappear sometimes.
What’s in your iPod?
Ariel: Wagner, Future, Nine Inch Nails, Banks, ASTR, James Blake, Johnny Cash, The Black Angels, Massive Attack and Daughter.
Jer: The National, Grimes, Bob Moses, Death Grips, Vast, Kauf, London Grammar, Ritchie Hawtin, Run the Jewels and Serge Gainsbourg.
What’s next for MXMS?
Finish our EP and never come home.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you?
We think things that are dark are beautiful and precious; here we have discovered honesty and clarity. We feel safe.
Photo credit Wil Foster, Dirk Mai and Asa Moore