Much has been written about Maya Bouldry-Morrison (also known as Octo Octa) and Eris Drew. This makes sense. Both are well-loved in the world of dance music: DJs and producers who’ve headlined major festivals (including Dekmantel and this year’s Lente Kabinet) and countless club nights, solo and together. Plus, their love story – they’re partners in music and life – beats the bestselling romance novels.
But Maya and Eris are fans of narrative and words too. Not in an attention-seeking way; they don’t need an elevated or well-lit stage, instead making a case for closing your eyes when dancing. “So you can focus on the more personal and subjective experience of music,” says Eris. They use words to understand – and, crucially, communicate – these opaque experiences. You can hear it in their music’s vocals, read it in Eris’s Substack or in interviews like this. Words also play an important part in the roots of their relationship, thanks to Eris’s ability to describe something that Maya had already felt, but not yet had the language for. “She really nailed it,” Maya laughs.
Still, some things are harder to narrate, especially in an interview. The intimacy between them, for example, which asserts itself in mundane details observed through a Google Meet: Maya casually toying with Eris’s necklace, Eris touching Maya’s shoulder, their cat parading in the background… Other things – spiritual, transcendent moments – are just as hard to put into words. Sure, Eris once heard the party in her car’s air conditioner, resulting in her understanding of the motherbeat. Maya had a spiritual and intimate out-of-body experience post-sex. But these just read as cute anecdotes if their meaning can’t be conveyed, intrinsically. Nevertheless, this is an attempt. Keep on reading to get familiar with Maya and Eris, or come dance at their upcoming set at Lente Kabinet on Saturday to feel the love yourself.
You’ve probably been asked this a thousand times. But could you tell the story of how you met?
Maya: Should I start? I was going to Chicago to play at Smartbar, where Eris was a resident and doing hospitality – driving – as a side gig. She picked me up, and I thought she was extremely cool. Not only was she cute, but she played really good music in the car.
Was it music or love that initially brought you together? Or a bit of both?
Eris: We were music friends at first. But we’re both trans women, so there was this instant bond, which feels important to mention because we were going through similar things at a similar time. Also, at the time, I talked a lot about dance music as an ecstatic ritual with roots that go pretty far back. And Maya connected with that.
Maya: Eris was putting the language around DJing and dance music that I felt, but I didn’t quite have words for. There was something so wonderfully refreshing about how she was talking about everything.
It’s amazing when someone has words for an experience you’ve been having. But then, with the language, you can fully understand it.
Eris: Raves are more than a party for many people. It’s been so commodified and filtered through the idea of entertainment, that putting language around that helps us talk about it and solidify it. Obviously, people have very powerful and subjective experiences at these events. There’s almost a stigma around acknowledging spirituality because we see how detrimental religion has been, especially in the queer and trans community. So we need the distinction between religion and spirituality, reclaiming – in a sense – what is our birthright as spiritual beings. 
Production-wise, you took the winter off to work on a demo together. Is there anything you can share about that already?
Eris: Maya and I have a project coming up called Alchemical Sisters. It’s like our band. It’s us, working on hardware and writing songs with synthesisers of course, and samplers, filters, guitar pedals, dulcimers, turntables…
Maya: We’re just happy to do music together. Because we’ve been together for such a long time and always had our solo projects. So this was extremely fun.
Despite playing together harmoniously, you have distinct individual styles, which shine through during your solo sets or releases. How have those developed?
Maya: I’ll say this first. In Eris, I finally found a partner with whom there is so much overlap in what we like about dance music. Eris likes to say that we play ecstatic house.
Eris: Which is a general term!
Maya: Yeah, house music is extremely broad. So we play house, techno, trance, breaks, tech-house, electro and acid tracks. But what we’re reaching for is an ecstatic-ness and a feeling throughout all of it.
Eris: We share some deep musical values. We both love musicality, tonality and orchestration. We’re both really into narrative. People still say vocals in house music are corny. But the human voice is so powerful. We try to weave in a lot of language. Not every vocal sample in every record has meaning, sometimes it just sounds cool. But if you collage that with another record, you can create sentences and meaning.
Maya: Which… collaging is DJing. 
“We both love musicality, tonality and orchestration. We’re both really into narrative. People still say vocals in house music are corny. But the human voice is so powerful.” Eris Drew
Do you plan a lot before playing together, or is it an intuitive process?
Maya: Our sets are never planned, but we have a few guidelines. Namely, with every set, we alternate which one of us starts.
Eris: It’s not just ceremony. We believe if we break this chain, something bad will happen!
Maya: And a technical aspect, when playing back-to-back, is that we each play three records. This allows us to match what the other was playing, take it where we want to go, and leave the other person with the chance to continue whatever narrative was built.
Eris: And a huge part of our practice is sharing music. At home, we’ll play each other the records we have, listen, internalise, etc.
Do you have strategies to connect with the crowd?
Eris: We try to engage with our bodies. If you’re putting your body into it, then your body and musical decisions form a synergy. You’re dancing with the music but also with everyone else. You permit people to let go.
Maya: I love all the music she plays. So when we’re back-to-back, I don’t just stand there waiting for her to play her three records. I’m dancing the whole time. And when I’m playing my records, trying to do technical mixes or concentrate on beat-matching, she’s behind me getting excited.
So do you feel like DJing is more physical or mental… is there even a distinction between the two?
Eris: The latter, yeah. You can’t pull these things apart. If there’s anything I’ve learned as a trans woman, it’s the deep connection of the mind and body. It’s one of the false dichotomies we have to unlearn from Western rationalism. We also tend to neglect the subjective because it’s not quantifiable. In doing so, we’ve created a distrust of something that is purely subjective, purely mental.
Maya: It’s why I love practising magic so much. It’s a subjective experience, focussing on the power of intention over anything else. I think it would do a lot of people good if they permitted themselves to do that.
Since we’re getting spiritual, Eris, could you tell me about the motherbeat?
Eris: Oh god, I could talk about this all day! As a teenager, I was a raver in the Midwest, which was still totally countercultural back then. One night, I took acid with my friend, and we had to leave the party early. So we were just in the car listening to the air conditioner, hearing the party in the air conditioner and weirdly hearing the air conditioner in the party. This fundamental pulsation in something as rudimentary as a stupid piece of technology – what’s more American than a bloody air conditioner?! – made me realise that all things are interconnected. And that, fundamentally, techno music had always been there, even before humans expressed it through technology. My friend looked at me, pupils huge, and said: “It’s the motherbeat!” Later, I found out that other people had experiences like this. But I didn’t really know how to integrate it. Even now, I can’t impress upon you just through language how intense that was.
Maya: It’s like, you have these very fundamental human experiences. But what do you do with them afterwards? Because the space around us isn’t necessarily built to carry that forward. Because then, the next day, you’re just at the DMV in the queue waiting to sign a form.
“You have these very fundamental human experiences. But what do you do with them afterwards? Because the space around us isn’t necessarily built to carry that forward.” Maya Bouldry-Morrison
Did you ever have an experience like that?
Maya: How lewd does your magazine get? (Laughs) I had an extremely powerful spiritual experience after days of ritualistic sex with Eris; ritualistic in the sense of duration, but also love, speaking with each other and sharing our souls. Afterwards, I moved forward with a connection ritual that I continue to do to this day.
Since the pandemic ended, I have noticed a shift towards more mindful raving: day parties, hearing protection, people minding their nutrition, being conscious of drug use and being more present for the music. Have you seen that as well?
Eris: It’s this constant shuffling of the deck. This mindfulness was already happening in some queer spaces before the pandemic, and some of these spaces really suffered as a result of the pandemic. I’ll never forget, when I went to England to play the first week after the pandemic, there were ambulances everywhere. There was, understandably, a lot of reckless hedonism. So I think we’re seeing some retraction from that.
If someone is visiting, say, Lente Kabinet and wants to take a more mindful approach to festival-going. What advice would you give them?
Eris: Since it’s easy to get carried away in the party’s momentum, set your intentions and boundaries beforehand. What do you want to do, explore, and try? And what don’t you want to do? It’s good to discuss with your group of friends. It’s also good to bring hearing protection and leave it in.
Maya: Know that it’s okay to have boundaries. Don’t let people push you into things you don’t want to do.
Eris: And make part of your raving taking care of other people. A community forms at an event, so offer your friends some water or check in on people who look like they’re having a hard time. 
On the note of Lente Kabinet, how do you feel about your upcoming set?
Maya: I’m very excited. Eris has already played a solo set there.
Eris: It was very cool. There were these high winds coming off the field and the sound crew had taken a good chunk of the day to tarp the backstage and redirect the wind, so I could still play my records. The sound crew and team they work with here are just exceptional. And during the set, everyone was moving together in such an intense yet gentle way. I’m excited to go back and play with Maya.
Who will kick it off?
Maya: Yeah, who is playing first?
Eris: You! It’s your turn to kick out the jams!
Maya: I’m not sure which song yet. But I’ll play first, yeah.