Upon first seeing Maika Loubté perform at Contact Club in Shibuya, a few of us remarked how surprising it was that her songs were so danceable. It transpired that she had expertly adapted her setlist for the dance club venue. Loubté has been performing solo for nearly a whole decade, so in retrospect this professionalism is only to be expected.
With this length of time comes change. One week after our interview was confirmed, she announced her pregnancy via Instagram, in what had been an impromptu photoshoot after performing at Summer Sonic Festival.
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We tell Loubté about the Rihanna photoshoot for Vogue and how similar both photos are. Serendipity, some may say, as Loubté wasn’t familiar with the American singer’s photograph. As a supporting member of the band Kirinji, she had been told to “wear something vivid.” Coming off the main stage, the photographer quickly snapped a couple of full-length shots.
When asked about how pregnancy is treating her, Loubté is very positive. “Many people, especially in Tokyo, have the idea that pregnancy is hard, but I’m just appreciative,” she says. “I feel like my body is a hotel and I have an incredibly important guest, who I’m asking if everything is fine? Do you need anything?”
She considers herself lucky in that she hasn’t had any weird cravings and is simply trying to eat healthily for two. Loubté has, however, been listening to unexpected music.
“I thought that I’d want to listen to classical and ambient sounds but that’s not the case,” she says. “I’ve been listening to techno and rock.”
She’s now looking forward to her break from work. “I’m a big video game fan,” says Loubté. “Before my hotel guest arrives on earth, this hotel owner will be trying to finish all these video games I’ve not managed yet.”
A self-confessed homebody, she’s particularly into RPG games, listing Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy amongst her favorites.
We move on to chat about her recent album, Lucid Dreaming which was released last year. “Around the time I was making the album I had a lot of dreams in which I was listening to good music,” she says.
She wanted to share this with listeners, so recorded the sound by remembering what she saw and heard in the dream. By realizing her dreams, she came to consider the bigger picture, of whether humans are containing the planet or vice versa. As someone who likes to disappear into the world of RPG, this issue is something she thinks about a lot, describing it as an “eternal question.”
Loubté worked with producer to the stars, Ryan Hemsworth, on “System,” one of the songs on Lucid Dreaming. The process was very quick, she says, although for her newest album Lucid Dreaming: Synthesized Symphony, she hasn’t contacted him.
The new album is a reconstruction of the original, featuring Loubté’s own recreation of each track, using her voice and a bunch of analog synthesizers. With an abundance of electronic music having a beat, she was “obsessed” with trying to find out what it would be like to remove that and create a song with just the melody.
Even though she had the idea to recreate an album in such a way for a while, when she got down to it, the process had its ups and downs. While some tracks were easy to adapt, others such as the dance track “Spider Dancing” were tough, although in the end it came together well.
Normally one to complete her own mixing and mastering, Loubté was surprised to find that, this time, she couldn’t finish the album herself. She enlisted the help of support band member and friend, Sountrive. She ended up happy with the project, which she says was her “experiment.”
Earlier this year, Loubté was asked to join the Spotify Equal campaign, which aims to close the gender imbalance gap in the music industry by raising awareness of the issue. The campaign is based around the results of a study which found that only one in five of musicians are non-male. When asked to participate, she admits that it was bittersweet.
“The feeling that we, as women, have to walk a harder path is something that I always felt,” she says.
She started looking into it herself and found a website showing the Japanese gender imbalance within the creative industries.
In the Japanese music industry, Loubté says, the number of men in top jobs is massively skewed. These companies — and maybe even Spotify too, she adds, should do their own studies into the gender balance within the organization. And on a personal level, we should learn to recognize that our inbuilt dismissal of instances of sexism on the grounds of “it’s because I’m a woman” etc., is merely a societal construct.
Earlier on in the interview, Loubté revealed the “physical” sex of her baby, a hot topic on many expectant parents’ lips. As they navigate their way through parenthood, many are aiming to offer their children the chance to choose their own genders.
Loubté adds: “I want [my child] to express themselves as they wish.” Although it may take a while, with this attitude from the new parental generation, it seems that gender equality may be more attainable than we may think.