Just by seeing her, you assume she must be a cool girl. And, in this case, appearances don’t lie: Amber Giles, aka Mija, got into the music industry when she was a teenager as a promoter. But she’s been a DJ and producer for some years now, making people dance worldwide – although she’s also into fashion, painting and poetry. Three days ago, Mija released How to Measure the Distance between Lovers, an intimate and personal EP composed of, as she herself says, “an open-ended collection of songs I’ve written to my past, present, and future lovers”. Get to know her better in this interview while you listen to her hypnotizing tracks.
“Shredding a tidal wave of whiskey on a surfboard made out of don’t care”. This is the sentence I found in your Soundcloud’s description side. Is this how you would define what you do and who you are?
No, I wouldn’t say this is how I define myself. However, I do think this is a methodology I try to hold onto throughout life. Basically, just don’t take anything too seriously and have fun.
Before we get more serious, what song do you wake up to and which one helps you relax before going to sleep?
To wake up, General Elektriks’ Bloodshot Eyes – I always say this would be my opening credits theme song if I were in a sitcom. And to go to sleep, Agustín Barrios’ El sueño de la muñequita or Sigur Ros’ Sigur 3 (Untitled), depending on my mood.
You’ve just released your new EP, titled How to Measure the Distance between Lovers, which is very different from your previous work. What is this new course/direction about? What are the reasons behind this drastic change?
This EP comes from a very personal place, deep inside of me. It’s not Mija making tracks to play out in a DJ set; It’s me (still Mija) as I am. I’ve spent the past few years exploring sounds and trying to figure out what my sound is, what makes me stand out. This EP is just a short glance at what’s to come. I’m still making dance tracks but I had to get a few emotions off my chest first.
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One of the main differences or innovations is that you sing in almost all songs. Why did you avoid using your voice previously, and why have you decided to start using it now?
I never avoided using my own voice, I just never had a proper reason to showcase it. I’ve used it often in previous songs, but more so as a production tool. I am singing on all of these new tracks because I am telling a very specific story. The story is raw and vulnerable, as is my voice. So I felt it was important to maintain that baseline emotion.
The EP starts with Notice Me, which seems like a call for attention; then goes through 5am in Paris, Never Forget, Speak To Me, Falling ApART, and ends with The Last Song I Ever Wrote U, which to me seems like the band ending of a relationship. Is this EP based on a not-very-positive personal experience?
The EP is based on multiple (good and bad) relationships. It’s sort of like an open-ended collection of songs I’ve written to my past, present, and future lovers.
The EP has a dreamy, otherworldly vibe. It mixes string instruments, your singular voice, and a wide range of electronic sounds. What is the main sonic aesthetic you were looking for? How has the music evolved from its inception until the final result?
It’s taken me two years and way too many versions to get to this final form. Sonically, I wanted to keep it small and intimate. I want the instruments/vocals to allow the listeners to fall into their own world, and let the music take them on their own personal journey. That is why I chose to keep a few of the songs extremely under-produced. What I’m singing about isn’t specific to only me. I know a lot of people can feel the same emotions, and I want to let the music resonate with the listener at whatever frequency is most relevant to him/her in this moment.
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But your EP is not the only music you’ve been producing lately. You’re also behind the soundtrack of Time Stops, a short film that you’ve also directed together with Ryan Forever. Both the music and the film’s poster transport me to Japan, but there’s not much information about it. Could you please tell me what is it about and how did you end up directing a film? Was the audio-visual world something that attracted you before?
Time Stops is a four-track soundtrack for a short animated film we are working on. There is not much information about it, as it is a developing long-term project. I didn’t expect it to turn into this when I initially began writing it, but like most good ideas, they come in waves and we really drove head first into the concept. Ryan Forever is my partner on this project. He has always wanted to create audio-visual experiences, so when he brought the idea to me after listening through the Time Stops EP, we decided to make it into something bigger than I could have imagined.
In addition to music, you’re a multifaceted creative working on several other projects. One of them is a self-made clothing line called Made by Mija. Could you please tell me how did you get into fashion, how do you approach it differently than music, and how is it going so far?
I’ve always been into fashion. I’ve always been that kid who goes to Goodwill and buys a bunch of junk and turns it into something cool. I went to college (for a second) for fashion merchandising/design. So had this whole DJ thing not picked up, that’s what I would be doing – in theory. Made by Mija is just another outlet for my creative expression. I don’t think I approach it differently than music. I just do it when it feels right. No expectations. So yes, I would say it’s going well. I’m excited to continue that journey this year.
A new EP, a short film, and a clothing line. Life seems to be pretty good right now. What are your plans for the next months? Are there more surprises on their way? Are you already experimenting with a new artistic expression, like painting or poetry?
(Laughs) Wow, you know me so well. I’m an avid painter/drawer/writer, so yes. I painted a lot of artwork for my music. I wrote a lot of poems and turned them into songs. I guess I’ll just keep remixing all the shit inside my head into different forms and put it out into the world. But that’s not really a surprise, is it?