Manatee Commune: inspired by the Northwest and on the rise
Grant Eadie has been busy. Within the past five months, the 20-year-old Western student, who plays under the name Manatee Commune, has played shows at the Wild Buffalo opening for the likes of Teen Daze, Blue Sky Black Death and On and On. In August he played the Friday night slot as the first electronic act of Summer Meltdown, and most recently, in December, he played to a sold out crowd at the Wild Buffalo where he was an opener for Bellingham alums Odesza. The good news didn’t end there though. The next day, a single off his first soon-to-be-released EP Brush received airplay on KEXP, and he was also chosen as a semi-finalist for the Soundoff! Competition in Seattle.
Not bad for a kid who played his first live show less than a year ago at Yellingham 2013.
Born of fog-shrouded evergreens, moody introspection and more than a few cannabis-fuelled writing sessions, the music of Manatee Commune draws heavily upon chillwave, ambient electronica and plenty of textural sound sampling. Eadie names Tycho, Flying Lotus, Gold Panda and producer Clams Casino as influences, and the melancholy Pacific Northwest weather as inspiration.
“Whenever I listen to electronic music, it’s usually walking through arboretum on way to class, walking downtown, or riding my bike. Or its in my room looking at the rain outside my window or something like that,” Eadie said. “The music I try to capture is the sound of the feelings and emotions you get when you’re walking through the woods.”
Although Manatee Commune is a relatively new outfit for Eadie, he had played guitar in Bellingham indie pop band Soccer Mom before they disbanded, and prior to that had played viola for more than 14 years. His past musical experience is evident in Manatee Commune. He plays both guitar and viola during his live sets, which is unique in a landscape dominated by laptop DJs.
“The thing with Grant that I liked was that he was playing live instruments during his set, it wasn’t just an Ableton set, which is what a large percentage of people I see performing that kind of music do,” said Austin Santiago, talent buyer for the Wild Buffalo and head of the BuildStrong Music Group. “It was very apparent that he was musical. That alone separated him. It’s an additional step a lot of producers can’t or don’t do.”
Santiago was so impressed with Manatee Commune’s sound after seeing him open for a Palisades and Specters show in the spring of 2013 that he approached Eadie about being part of BuildStrong. Santiago had heard tracks from an early Manatee Commune EP, but it was seeing Eadie live that made him take notice.
“At that time, I had just started working with IG88, and I found a commonality in both of them that they were better than they were big,” Santiago said. ‘Based on my limited knowledge of world music, I just thought, ‘this band [Manatee Commune] should be bigger than they are.”
Eadie said that although Manatee Commune has grown immensely over the past few months, he still has work to do. He is still honing his live set, as well as his song writing process. He has come a long way from the release of his first EP, which he put up on a Bandcamp page his freshman year of college and then later took down out of embarrassment.
“This was back in the day when my only writing process was to smoke weed and sit in my room for as long as I could,” he said.
His new process is much less straight forward – and for that matter much less stoned – and the peaks and valleys Eadie experiences are evident in his music. He said his music has been described as “moody,” which he takes as more of a compliment than a criticism. He describes his song writing process as a hyperbolic landscape of highs and lows.
“I start with a single sound, and then I get a good mood that way. Guitar and viola start really well and then I can come up with a good tone from there. Then I work on the chord progression. It usually just flows really naturally – I just sort of puke it up. This is where the process gets really emotional,” he said. “I have a powerful idea and I work on it for awhile, and then I take a break and I listen to it again and I say, ‘This is bullshit, this is the worst thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life!’”
It’s a feeling that any musician – or artist, for that matter – can relate to, and Eadie said his whole album was written this way. Part self-conscious, introspective musician and part ambitious star, Eadie said he is motivated by making each new track better than the last.
“I’m still working, for sure. And I think in way that’s what’s cool about this project and why I’m excited — I know I can get better,” he said. “Every time I finish a song, I think it’s my best but I know I can do better.”
His efforts seem to have paid off, at least the night he played to the sold out crowd at the Buff.
“I had put in the most practice for that show than anything I’ve ever committed to, so I’m super stoked that the reaction was positive,” Eadie said. “I just took a super deep breath before I stepped out in front of more than 200 people, closed my eyes, and lost myself in my own tunes. [It] felt amazing.”