Chicago-Based Duo MUEX Searches For Nostalgia On Their Upcoming EP
Written by Vocalo Radio on April 15, 2020
The Chicago-based duo MUEX is gearing up for the drop of their EP on May 15. It’ll be a continuation of the band’s signature moody, sci-fi glam sound and can best be described as “late-night thoughts.”
Johnny McLachlan and Viktorija Vasiljeva met at The Remix Project in 2015, an alternative music and arts school in Chicago. They spoke to us about the continual journey of working together and not forcing any magic; embracing a little bittersweet nostalgia; and finding healthy escapism in today’s crazy world.
How would you describe your work to someone in a few sentences?
Both: Music is our biggest passion, we love to produce, write and perform the music we create. This is dark, moody music for uncertain, often bleak times, but it’s not downcast— there is real life to be found in our songs. But one thing is for sure: this is music for those who come alive at night.
I know you two met in Chicago, but where are you from originally?
J: I was born and raised in Berwyn, IL – a suburb just outside of Chicago.
V: I was born in Klaipeda, Lithuania and relocated to Chicago at the age of 13. Moving from a small Eastern-European town to the culturally diverse and vibrant city of Chicago greatly influenced not only my musical taste but also my writing style.
How has Chicago’s music scene influenced the work that you do?
V: The turning point for me as an artist was when I was accepted into Chicago’s alternative music school called The Remix Project in 2015. I found a safe-haven for my creativity and met long-term collaborators, such as Johnny, and mentors who have helped shape me as the artist I am today. I was exposed to a lot of hip-hop/rap artists in the local music scene where I started to explore and blend my European upbringing of mostly pop, R&B and electronic influences with more urban, alternative and hip-hop elements.
J: Growing up in a latin household I was introduced early on to genres such as salsa, bachata, and merengue. My parents constantly played me music from all over the world – from 80s synth-wave anthems to disco and house music. As I started to develop my own taste and dabble in music production I resonated with hard hitting drums, trunk shaking 808s and wavy analog melodies.
You’ve been a duo now for about 5 years…in what ways have you grown during that time – both as an artistic duo, but also as individuals who work so closely with another person?
Both: Being in any long-term collaboration presents many opportunities for growth, inspiration and challenges. Working through those challenges is what makes for better music and better self-development. Being from such different backgrounds and being able to explore new sonics together has given us a unique perspective on sound, style and composition.
When we first came together as a duo, our sound was a lot different from what we are now. Consistency and dedication are the biggest keys in succeeding along this turbulent creative journey.
J: I have grown to understand that music cannot be forced. It feels like magic when inspiration hits and everything falls into place. It is important to know when to take a step back and look for some new experiences!
V: I’ve learned that making music on your own and in collaboration are two very different yet rewarding experiences. Both absolutely necessary for understanding who you are as an artist. However, I truly believe now that the greatest opportunities in learning lie within working with other people. Long-term or short term. In the process of exchanging ideas, you open up to the possibility of combining two worlds that could have never collided otherwise.
The results are unexpected, fresh, and memorable. Finding the right people to work with is key to progressing as an artist, as those people will greatly influence your sound and learning curve. When you work with friends, the process feels more like play and less like work!
Your music “exposes the deep emotional cuts of heartbreak, late-night thoughts and nostalgia for the future.” Can you explain a little bit about how you found this message as one you wanted to tell?
V: As a writer I draw most of my inspiration from my life, and the best way to self-knowledge and healing is through exposing the things that hurt us most. Through that, it can transform into something more beautiful. It’s much harder to create art when everything is going well in your life, at least in my experience. The songs just naturally flow when you need to get something off your chest. To me writing is the best therapy.
I feel like this message is universal and most people find themselves amidst chaos and heartbreak at some point in their lives. No matter how hard it is to acknowledge the hurt we experience, exposing it and accepting it with grace is the best way to overcome any adversity. This project shares this message in different forms, but the overall feeling is that of nostalgia for better things, a little bittersweet that you no longer are the person you used to be, however you are ready for the future.
Let’s talk “Wasted” …. your EP’s lead single is about the self-sabotage that comes with escapism through substances and relationships. In times such as this, when many of us might be looking for a little escape, what are some healthy ways you’ve both been finding it?
V: Trying to be mindful with my own thoughts and acknowledging the negative patterns that no longer serve me. Sometimes that can include cutting out toxic people and relationships out of my life. Also, trying to keep a positive attitude, combined with a healthier lifestyle. No one is perfect, but I’m learning that it’s not about being perfect. It’s about the process of attempting to do better each day.
J: My escape has always been just making beats. Simple as that. If I feel some type of way it’ll come out in the instrumental.
What do you think is missing from today’s music landscape?
Both: We feel like the music landscape is a playground and a lot of people are too scared to experiment. A big part of that is boxing in the artists’ in their genres and listener’s expectations. Music is a free flowing, living thing and the less we worry about the perfection of the sound, but rather focus on the authentic and raw self-expression, the more we can appreciate the true fluidity of the landscape.
Who are your biggest influences musically?
J: My biggest influences as a producer are Mike Dean, Kanye West, Gesaffelstein, and Majid Jordan. I draw inspiration from all of these titans and find similarities in my sound within theirs.
V: I’ve always listened to a very wide variety of artists, but find myself deeply inspired by artists such as The Weeknd, Kanye West, 070 Shake, Banks, Kllo, Evanescence, Travis Scott, Rihanna, Juice WRLD, Lykke Li, Drake, Stwo, SAINt JHN, Majid Jordan, PARTYNEXTDOOR, ROSALIA…The list can go on.
What other mediums, genres, or art forms make up part of your creative identity?
Both: Most of our time is consumed by everything music related, but we do enjoy cinematography and visual arts. When it comes to music, we don’t put ourselves in the box, we simply enjoy the variety that is available throughout the genres.
How has the COVID-19 situation affected you as an individual and as an artist?
Both: Being studio rats, not much has changed for us, we are lucky to work from our home. Just being really cautious, staying healthy and already planning the next project and working on collaborations. Stay tuned!
How is creativity helping you to cope during this anxious moment?
Both: Music making in itself is a form of escape from reality. We just focus on making more music [and] becoming better artists, and what better opportunity than to do all that while in quarantine?! We do pray that this is all over soon and that this will be a productive creative time for many artists.
What’s next for you?
Both: We are really excited to announce our debut EP “Gateway” coming out May 15th, 2020. We’ve been waiting to share the sound of MUEX for a while now, and couldn’t be more stocked to let people into the world of MUEX!
Edited for length and clarity by Shelby Kluver