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by Nur Lajunen-Tal

Miakie & Ethan Jupe: That Goosebump Kind Of Feeling

by Nur Lajunen-Tal

Miakie & Ethan Jupe: That Goosebump Kind Of Feeling

When two fun-loving young artists join forces, the result is a breezy but undeniably funky burst of energy that sounds like summer. The artists in question, singer Mia Söhnge, alias Miakie, and producer Ethan Jupe, released their new single Want The Goosebumps in January this year. Setting Söhnge’s ethereal voice against a musical landscape of shimmering guitars and warm, playfully grooving bass, Want The Goosebumps hints at a fresh musical direction for both artists, as Nur Lajunen-Tal finds out. Made with support from NZ On Air Music.

Mia Söhnge last spoke to NZ Musician in 2022 about steamy RnB track Infatuated, which she followed up later in the year with Flicker, before taking a break from music to travel. Another year on Want The Goosebumps is her comeback track.

“For me, Want The Goosebumps is a step in a new direction, because my discography is largely RnB-based,” she says. “I love RnB, but it’s something I kind of fell into, and I feel like my heart is more with indie pop – which I would describe this song as. I had been toying around with similar ideas with other producers, where I wanted to go into this new genre, but at the same time not make it something completely and totally different from what I have made before as to not confuse people! It just felt like a really good time for me to do something new, and Ethan just totally understood my vision and where I wanted to go with it.”

Though it’s their first release together, Want The Goosebumps is not the first time Söhnge has collaborated with Jupe, who has been following his own musical path since boyhood.

“I grew up playing guitar, taught by my dad originally,” he reflects. “I went through high school playing in bands, you know, doing the whole Rockquest thing, got to national finals and stuff, and it was just this sort of fostering of the belief that playing music to heaps of people is actually pretty cool, and maybe this is something that I wanna take seriously past high school, because that’s the point in the road where you kind of have to make proper, adult decisions – if you wanna call them that. I studied music at MAINZ, did my Bachelor of Musical Arts, and that took me through to 2021, which also coincides with the first sessions that I did as a producer, doing co-writing. I’ve been pretty much following that same sort of procedure ever since. You know, getting in the room with people that I either haven’t met before but I really like their stuff, or I know through friends and have a mutual appreciation for stuff that we’ve heard of each other’s, which hopefully results in material and songs getting released.”

Söhnge falls into the first category, Jupe initially contacting her after hearing one of her songs.

“Someone, I can’t remember who, played me her song Infatuated, and I was like, ‘Wow, this is amazing! Who is this?’ I shot her a message and then we caught up for the first time at a friend of mine’s studio, and just had a jam basically. We were like, ‘Let’s try make a song!'”

The session for Want The Goosebumps eventuated by a stroke of coincidence. Bigpop Studios’ co-founder Joost Langeveld had no idea the pair knew each other when he suggested they record together.

“I was talking to Joost about possibly getting into Bigpop Studios to do a session,” Söhnge relates. “And he was like, ‘Oh, I’ll pair you up with this really talented young producer Ethan Jupe.’ So it was kind of perfect. It was like meant to be for us to continue to work together.”

Once in the studio, Söhnge and Jupe discovered that they shared a current musical inspiration: the eclectic Houston trio Khruangbin.

“Coincidentally, we were both on this Khruangbin influence wave,” says Jupe. “I’d just recently discovered their biggest song, Time (You and I) and, I don’t know, the easygoing nature of that really put me in the vibe of like, ‘Well, just anything goes!’ We weren’t playing by any rules. We had this limited time constraint, but we weren’t putting any pressure on ourselves, so it was just real free flowing and we weren’t second guessing ourselves. It just made the whole process real fun.”

“I really liked the idea of using a lot of percussion, and also not adhering to a conventional song structure,” adds Söhnge. “Their sound is very much driven by a consistent and funky bassline and interesting percussion. That’s something we kind of took as inspiration for the track.”

Their decision to forgo rules has resulted in a playful and slightly quirky production which definitely embodies a carefree feeling.

“I remember in the process of writing it we’d have these games we’d play where we’re like, ‘Oh, why don’t we just sit in the groove for a bit and not actually change sections at the obvious time?’,” Jupe remembers. “But the one thing that stood out to me, and is my favourite part of the song, is the pre-chorus. It was actually Mia’s idea. I think we needed another set of chords, so I came up with some stuff and then Mia was like, ‘Why don’t you just change the chord on an odd time?’ And so we literally just like cut it in half where we were originally changing the chord, and it kept the momentum but made it a little bit more funky because it wasn’t quite on the one. It was changing chords every beat rather, then I think we had it as a chord per bar originally.”

For all its experimentation, the essence of Want The Goosebumps is still upbeat, catchy pop – which enthuses Söhnge.

“I think it’s so interesting that we went into it with this idea of no rules, no conventions, but at the end of the day, we still kind’a have a pop song! I think maybe to the untrained ear, they wouldn’t hear those kinds of quirky things that we did, but I love that. I love mixing the conventional with the unconventional to create something quite original but really listenable!”

“For me, this was another branch to add to my ‘genre tree,’ if you wanna call it that!” adds Jupe. “After making this song, and sitting on it in its demo form for a solid six months of playing it to just a handful of people who I know and whose opinions I trust, everyone said to me, ‘Aww man, this is by far the best thing we’ve heard you play us!’ I couldn’t agree more! Even right now, I could literally just have it on repeat, even after making it. I just really love it, you know? It’s one of those things that you can stand by and you think it’s bulletproof.

“Even though the structure and everything isn’t your conventional pop, it’s still got a lot of attributes that make up for a great, catchy, hooky song with the organic-ness and roots of funk and a cool groove! If I were to try and boil it down that is probably as close as I’ve come. Though it is kind of scary to have releases until this point of quite a different sort of tempo and maybe flavour to an extent, this was a real north star of being like, ‘Yeah, this is where I wanna go. That’s what I can envision my next few releases being.'”

Adding a note of wistful yearning to the mix, Söhnge’s lyrics draw from personal experience.

“At the time I was in a long distance relationship. My boyfriend was in Europe, was travelling around for three months, and I was planning my own solo travel for a month after he got back,” she laughs. “So we were really just putting ourselves through it! Essentially, the song is just about wanting to find that feeling of closeness while you are so far apart, and trying to find the best way to do that – which is really hard. I don’t particularly like doing long distance, but you’ve got to find different ways to make that work, and that’s just a compromise that comes with it. ‘I want the goosebumps to live on my skin’ is just kind of like, ‘I really wanna keep that feeling of having you here while you’re not.’ It’s always a matter of trying to say the same thing that hundreds of other people have said in a song before, but put it in a different way, and I think that line is a good example of that.”

A suitably playful music video accompanies the track. Directed by Dylan Martin, Söhnge, Jupe and friends perform the song in the very green outdoors.

“We were riffing ideas on a Zoom call, and we thought it would be really cool to try and convey that, ‘Actually, we can play instruments, and we can play live!'” Jupe smiles. “That was one of the key components, and we were just flirting with ideas of trying to get somewhat of a vintage sort of a vibe going in the visuals to try and somewhat match the funk element of the music. We ended up shooting it at my friend Greta’s property in Karaka, a massive big polo green. In hindsight, where else would you get sort of vastness and beauty of land in the middle of Auckland? We kind of just went about it with this idea of, ‘Let’s create this world for the day,’ in this vast openness of the polo green, and it’s us just jamming out, having a good time on our instruments. There’s no real deep and meaningful concept, but it does very well serves the music in a way that’s just pretty, and also gave us a chance to just have some fun.”