Maintainers by Momoko

Maintainers by Momoko

Brand new single.

By Deepali Gupta

Momoko (she/her) is the experimental pop venture of New York-based singer, songwriter, & producer Momoko Ishiguro. She sits down with Deepali Gupta (she/her)—composer-lyricist, playwright, performer, & Earhart alum—to discuss branding, pop, & the meaning of it all.

Deepali: What is the language that you want to describe your work, if there is a world in which the things that you feel privately about your work would be acceptable publicly?

Momoko: I’m very much a believer in the long game. And so there’s always a discrepancy between where I think I am now and where I actually want to be. As long as I’m actually making progress, I try to be okay with...

D: You. 

M: I think the way that I would frame this work is in that ideal space, which is a beautiful framework, though you never think about that space existing. You think about achievement and think about being able to make the work. You want to make a sphere in which you can offer your work in an authentic way and have it be accepted and celebrated. 

Photo by Lissy Elle Larrichia

Photo by Lissy Elle Larrichia

D: I always think I need to find this beautiful, perhaps imaginary compromise between how I want to present myself in the world and what I know will bring in the biggest audience. 

M: Yeah. An acquaintance who released an EP in the spring, I was looking at her stuff, and the Apple Music entry for the EP was so interesting. I would never want to make music or talk about music in the way that the description was written, but it was so perfect.

Sometimes I think that’s going to be my downfall, that I can’t bring myself to want to please that audience because it’s just not what I’m about. But I see something like this, and I’m like that’s exactly what you want for Apple Music. A lot of them are just the very stereotypical music journalist words, like “punchy digital beats.”

I can’t bring myself to want to please that audience.

D: What is the difference between a song you want in your headphones versus playing on a boombox? What makes a song such that you want to play it for your friends off your phone?

M: So, one of the lofty things I like to think about is, what kind of music would you make if you weren’t thinking about press photos and social media, metrics and selling? There’s just such a weird economy around it, especially now after the major labels are holding on for dear life, and the social media landscape has put such a currency on authenticity, the individual, and the public self.

D: How has that been for you, navigating? Because it feels like to me, over the past year you’ve been having to reckon with a lot of things that could be called self promotion or branding.

M: I’m kind of retroactively doing what I know one should be doing. But with the next project, I’m trying to think of ways to either do it in a weirder way or to not do it. 

There are some parts that I really, really like. I think there are a lot of ideas that are much better to get across in a visual network around the music than through lyrics. There are some ideas I would never want to present in lyrics. And I think that’s what’s so interesting about the popular music landscape. There are just so many different ways. It’s the performance on stage, it’s the fashion, it’s whatever Grimes writes on her tumblr or who she shows up to the met gala with. You’re expressing your ideas through all these different mediums.

Photo by Lissy Elle Larrichia

Photo by Lissy Elle Larrichia

D: If you had to state your platform, as if you were a politician, what are the politics of your music? On the broadest level. 

M: At the most basic level, understanding the politics that surround cultural production and analyzing that in a context that’s thoughtful, oriented in history, and maybe borrows from academia. But it’s not academic…

Trying to understand how to exercise my personal politics through this is a question mark: whether it’s direct, or whether it’s through certain kinds of messaging. There are various ways in which I feel I want to do that, but I also know that’s a really hard thing to do.

What does music actually mean to people?

D: You were talking about different kinds of subjectivity.

M: I think when I say different kinds of subjectivity, I also mean trying to say things in a song that feel like a pop song. Ultimately, my interest in music is around the social…what does music actually mean to people, in people’s lives when they consume it?

I think pleasure is the important word around pop music. Pop, to me, is almost like an aesthetic more than it is a construct or genre.

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