Bellingham’s Manatee Commune on Festival Crowds, Collaborations with Major Producers, and Genre Expansion

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(Bradley Morin assisted in putting together this article.)

Bellingham electronic music producer Grant ‘Manatee Commune‘ Eadie is taking the underground by storm. With slots at major festivals ranging from Bonnaroo to Sasquatch! to Bumbershoot, coverage in major publications like NPR, Seattle Weekly and Noisey, and an ever-rising debut album Brush, released last year, a record so compelling in its beauty and creative sound-craft that one of our writers named it his favorite Pacific Northwest-released album of 2014Manatee Commune is on a pretty fast and steady rise in the ranks, and is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.

We recently had the chance to sit down and catch up with Grant during his time at What the Festival in Oregon:

NWMS: How does the music scene in Bellingham compare to the other places you’ve played?

Grant: Naturally, being that it’s my hometown, it’s pretty easy to go play a show there and have the people be there who already know the music and know who I am, what it’s all about. So in that sense, I think the music scene in Bellingham, the people, are a lot more open to fresh ideas and getting out their box, which is really cool. I actually feel like the music scene in Portland is very similar, in the sense that people are willing to dance and willing to get down and experience the music. So, I think Bellingham is pretty unique, but it’s not like the only place in the world that’s like that.

NWMS: Have you noticed any difference in the crowd from show to show?

Grant: I think at festivals, people are always down to let go and be free, have fun, and let their experience take over and not be hypercritical. In that sense, I think festivals are really cool, like Bonnaroo, Sasquatch! and Summer Meltdown are kind of the same category, and WTF as well. People are on a lot of drugs and are just down to do whatever. Going down to California was a really cool experience. I only played a few shows there, so I can’t really tell you what it was like as a whole, but San Francisco was so receptive and so excited about the project. Even just opening for a band that wasn’t exactly the same kind of music, people were still down and I got a lot of good fans from the experience. And then LA was very similar and it just seems like, maybe it’s just the music and stuff, but I’d say I’m just getting to the point where my shows are becoming very similar in the sense that people are going to know my music and know how to respond to it, which is cool. Opening for Slow Magic was the danciest and most open experience I’ve ever had in an audience. They were just so excited to let go, mess around and be free. But I also opened for Bluetech, which was chiller. There was a lot of Burning Man kind of people there. People were open, the dancing was less tense, the music was a lot quieter. A bit of a chiller vibe, for sure. I guess opening for Slow Magic has been the coolest experience because it always brings out the people that I want to play music for.

NWMS: It seems like you’ve blown up very recently, in the past few months, with Bonarroo, Sasquatch, WTF, that obviously has been a dream come true, but how has that affected other parts of your life, like school, work, etc.?

Grant: With school, I have been blessed with taking classes whenever I want to. I am the height of the project right now I am kind of just letting that sit for a while.

NWMS: You’re pretty close to graduating, aren’t you?

Grant: Yeah, I don’t really know what I want to graduate in so I am just kind of letting that happen. I would much rather see where this project goes than get a degree that I’m never going to use. I also work in an ice cream shop in Bellingham, and that’s been crazy because they are so excited that I’m going places and doing things. That is the coolest thing in the world to be able to come back to that spot and just work a “normal, serving ice cream, making food” job, and having people that are like “How was your time?”, “We missed you man!” “Tell us about all of your experience!” I’d say the project has definitely affected my life, but it’s been very positive. The people around me have been really excited about it. I think having less time at home has actually been really nice for my psychological state. It has kind of helped me. Every time I come back to Bellingham, I’m always like “Wow! I really like this place!” I always remember why I’m here. Getting back from Bonnaroo and being in an airport for 12 hours, and coming home and going for a walk in the woods, is just like “Wow!” Like, this is my spot and my home and it’s really cool. It’s a good thing. I’ve been really enjoying it so far.

NWMS: Is there a point where you’re willing to drop everything else and only commit to producing?

Grant: Yes, definitely. I’d say when Manatee Commune comes to the point where I can support myself financially and have time to be able to work on it, then I think that’s when I will literally drop everything around me and really focus on it. I think I’m like really close to getting to that point, I think in the next few months, it’s probably going to get there. I’m at the cusp of a very massive career opportunity. I’m getting to the point where I kind of need to do it. The problem with when you’re in a young band is spending a bunch of the money you make to promote your record on radio or buy new instruments, and building up a studio. That’s the hardest part, I think, is that I don’t have a lot of the equipment that a lot of bigger artists do. A lot of the money that we’re making on these shows just end up having to go back and blow it on stuff that I broke or stuff that I need. It’s kind of tough.

NWMS: Who are your major influences and inspirations that made your jump from classical to electronic?

Grant: Originally it was Gold Panda. That was the first time I was like “okay, this is what beat-making is all about.” That was the first time I had heard kind of hip-hop beats but in kind of a different context. Ratatat was probably the second. I got really into Tycho when he dropped his first album. And Boards of Canada. I’d say the key point was after I got all my audio equipment and stuff, I started listening to this artist called Evenings. And Evenings is on the Friends of Friends label. He’s released one album called Your. It’s pretty short, but that album is like what I wanted to do originally. I can’t imagine him playing it live because it’s the most chill-out music of all time. But that’s what I wanted to make from the beginning.

Then Shigeto, Balam Acab, then Slow Magic. Then I started listening to Triangle. I have this huge playlist that has a collection of all my stuff that I get inspired by and there’s tons of crazy stuff on there. Nosaj Thing, Giraffage, of course, and Shlohmo was a really big one for a while.

NWMS: Have you thought of doing any collaborations with any major producers?

Grant: Yeah, maybe. It kind of depends on who I can get a chance with. The whole Bonnaroo experience was basically that: where I got to work with a bunch of people who were on the Red Bull Sound Select. So that was really cool. Meeting up with Mike Gao, Eureka the Butcher, Roger Sellers, I’m probably going to do something with him pretty soon. I’m always looking for vocalists to do something with. The last few months have been trying to figure out more of my workflow and trying to pump stuff out, so I think the next few months will start paying off on that end. I would love to get a chance to work with Shlohmo, or I’ve thought about actually contacting Evenings and asking if he wants to do something… Now that I’m kind of at the point that I feel like we could actually have a chat. Maybe Swish, it would be really cool to do something with Swish.

NWMS: What’s has your experience been with Red Bull Music Academy?

Grant: It’s been really cool; they were my splash into Seattle. They had me open for Yacht like a year and a half ago. That was my first Seattle experience. It kind of gave me an idea of what I needed to do. Opening for Flavor Blue and then opening for Yacht was really cool. And that’s how I got working with Devin, they had me down for a lot of stuff. (*Devon is his Red Bull Sound Select guy in Seattle. Sound select is one program, and the Music Academy is another. They are part of both. Music academy is when he is in the studio collaborating, and Sound Select are the shows.*)

For that Slow Magic show, that was a Red Bull Sound Select thing, which was really cool because they had super cheap tickets, sold out immediately, the line was like out the door around the corner at Doug Fir. I played for 300 people a totally packed house at Doug Fir my second show ever at Portland. I feel like at any time I could go back to Portland and do a show, and those people would be there. And then the other one was the Sasquatch experience; that was really cool. They made us a bunch of these wooden shaker eggs. It’s branded with the Manatee Commune thing. We just passed those out at Sasquatch!, which was awesome. This was a really expensive endeavor and they made it happen. They flew me out to Tennessee to do the Bonnaroo thing, which was really crazy. All expenses paid, food, water, beer, and of course I can get as much Red Bull as I want. It’s been a really good experience. I feel like its only going to take off from here. Just touching the very start of it all.

NWMS: Are you working on another album right now, or just focusing on your shows?

Grant: The last few months I’ve definitely been focusing on shows since I’ve been swamped in May and June. I’ve had maybe collectively, like 2 weeks at home, maybe not even that, probably like 7 days total. So I’ve been kind of just working on my set. I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights in that sense. I am working on some new releases for sure, and definitely talking to a few people and getting some stuff worked out. I imagine it will probably be a while. Brush, despite it being like a year old, it’s just now starting to get a good push. I’m still trying to get that one running as much as I can, it’s charting on a bunch of college radios. That is probably more important to get pushed than it is to come up with something fresh. I’m still kind of figuring out my sound and what I really want to do, what the project is all about, and my workflow. I’ll get it though.

NWMS: Are you planning on expanding to any other genres?

Grant: Having worked with so many people in the last few months and talking to so many different people, its kind of hard to not be influenced by other genres. I really feel like this is electronic culture these days. If you’re a producer, you can decide on your sound, you can take elements and tropes and ideas from every form of music. I’ve been kind of getting more into 808’s and trap beats, kind of understanding how that stuff works. I do incorporate it into my music sometimes. It’s more just like experimenting. I think the genres that I’ll end up touching on in the latest releases will be involuntary. I don’t really choose “Okay, I’m going to make a jazz-pop record,” its just like: I’m just going to make music, and I’ll just put together the sounds that feel right. I wish I could be like, “Alright time to hone in on one specific genre, I’m going to do this,” but whenever I do that it always ends up sounding like crap.

NWMS: Have you thought about other big producers remixing your songs?

Grant: Definitely, it would be really cool. When you’re doing the remixes on the bigger level the money kind of ends up getting involved. That’s always kind of tough. Being that Brush was a self-release, I didn’t really have the budget to be able to contact, like Shigeto, and be like “Hey do you want to do a remix of one of my tracks?” Unless he really liked the record and was like “Yeah, I really like the record,” which – yeah I should really send it to him. Yeah we have a bit of a remix album but it was a single. But it’s all on one song, which is kind of funny. It’s a remix album with one song. I don’t know, maybe a little EP of like 5 local producers.

It’d be cool to do “White Smoke.”

Austin Santiago (Manager): When we actually released the record, the EP, it was of “Brush,” and “White Smoke” wasn’t even done yet. “Brush” got pushed as a single initially. After that got released, he made “White Smoke” and sent me a Vine of it, and I was like, “That’s the song.” I think the first time he played it, opening for Odesza in December in Bellingham, that’s when that became, “Oh shit, this is the single!” So when we actually released the record in May, that’s what we pushed as a single, and since then it’s been the most popular song. It’s something about the melodies on “White Smoke.”

Grant: I think it would be cool to do a remix EP of that. I actually have like a bunch of people who hit me up about that. So maybe we should do that.


Anna Kerr

Anna Kerr has always been into a wide variety of music and loves going to concerts and festivals. She is currently studying photography at WWU in Bellingham, but grew up in Spokane. She hopes to pursue a photojournalism career, covering stories on things that bring people to life, and things that she believes needs to seen.