She’s only just finished her Masters thesis, but Estonian-born lo-fi electronic darling Maria Minerva - real name Maria Juur - is about to get on the plane and fly halfway around the world. Her first stop, as she begins two intense months of touring, is Auckland, where she’s playing at Whammy Bar this Friday.
Concrete Playground caught up with Maria, who's in London, via Skype and talked insomnia, moving to New York and spending winter in Portugal.
The only thing that scares Maria Juur about her first tour of New Zealand and Australia is not being able to sleep.
“The idea of going to Australia and New Zealand doesn’t really scare me at all, because I’ve been preparing for it mentally for a long time. The only thing I am afraid of is the insomnia,” she says. There’s the prospect of jet lag, not to mention the eleven hour time difference, which, she says, is crazy. It’s 9pm in Auckland when I call her, but only 10am London time.
“You make it to the other side of the world, you have all these shows, it’s a lot of work and then you’re at a point where you can’t sleep - this is the kind of stuff that really scares me.” But it’s not like Maria’s a stranger to hectic scheduling commitments - she’s somehow juggled making music and playing shows with finishing her Masters thesis.
“I’ve had a very funny lifestyle for the last few months,” she tells me. “I have flown to wherever almost every weekend and played festivals and done shows, just one-offs, and I fly back on a Sunday or a Monday and then spend a day vegetating and then go to the library the next day.”
With the thesis handed in just days ago, Maria proclaims that she has, in a way, already forgotten about it. “A new life has begun.”
Maria’s signed to the notoriously cool, widely acclaimed LA-based label Not Not Fun, which released her debut tape Tallinn at Dawn in early 2011. They also released her debut LP, Cabaret Cixous, last year, while Not Not Fun’s dance-oriented label, 100% Silk, put out her 12” Noble Savage as well as her second EP, Sacred and Profane Love. Her follow-up LP, Will Happiness Find Me? is due for release on Not Not Fun next month.
“It’s a nice souvenir from Portugal,” she says of Will Happiness Find Me?, which was recorded almost entirely in Lisbon, where she lived over the European winter. There's a pause and then she laughs.“It’s a long story,” Maria says.
“There was a person I was sort of interested in who I met in London and we never got together. We both moved to Lisbon and it never worked out so all these songs are sort of an expression of my frustration over the circumstances,” she says.
“I sort of understood how small Europe is, or how mobile people are. But it takes so much for people to actually get together, so that never happened, but I think the album turned out pretty interesting.”
Many have dwelled on Maria’s Eastern European roots and whether that perhaps makes her an oddity, or something more exotic. In any case, it’s not something that bothers her. She left Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, two years ago.
“I remember when I left Tallinn, it was August 20, it’s like our independence day [Estonia has, in fact, two independence days, but this one celebrates the country’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991]... there were flags everywhere and I felt a bit like a traitor to me homeland,” Maria says.
“People often say that it’s interesting that I come from a place like that, so probably I’m just going to keep on spreading the word,” she tells me.
“It’s nice to release music and do shows. Maybe, you know, people find out about your country and if your tape is called Tallinn at Dawn, then they find out that the capital of Estonia is Tallinn or whatever."
But she’s not some kind of tourist ambassador. “I just do my music,” she says. “At the end of the day I’m pretty much an Estonian person out in the cold.”
The 24-year-old has spent the last two years in London, where she's attended university. But now that she’s no longer a student, Maria says she’s not so much tied to any particular place - she doesn’t need to be close to her university library, for example.
“It’s the first time in a long time where I really don’t have any attachment to anything, which is a bit sad, but also very exciting.”
While she isn’t totally sure of her plans beyond the upcoming tour, one thing is certain - she’s going to live in New York for a while. “It’s super exciting for me at least,” she says.
“I’m constantly just dreaming of New York. It’s going to be very busy, of course, I’m going to do shows and record music, but just like the idea of being in New York.
“Also, career-wise, I feel if there’s anything you want to do in life, you should give it a shot and New York especially, in terms of music,” she muses.
“I don’t even know where I’m going to end up living or anything like that. As always, I’m just a homeless person with two suitcases and a lot of enthusiasm.”
August 21, 2012 by Sarah Robson