Q&A: Producer/DJ Mija Is Existing in a Music World Beyond Genres

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Genres are less for the artist than they are the for the listener. The classification of music into genres theoretically makes it easier to allow listeners to find more of what they already like and make it easier for music to be marketed to consumer. Yet, as the recent couple decades have shown, the strict classification of music into genres has become increasingly difficult – terms like genre-less, genre-meshing, genre-fusion are increasingly commonplace in our current conversation about music. There is a clear trend occurring in the music world of looking past genres and no artist embodies this ideal as much as Mija.

Amber Giles, the young woman behind the Mija moniker, is a producer, DJ, and promoter from Phoenix, Arizona, who through her sheer ingeniuty as an independent DIY artist has earned the support of some of the industry’s biggest tastemarkers, namely Skrillex for one. It bears mentioning that Mija is very much both a promoter and artist, as she launched her own series of shows in 2016, FK A Genre, that takes its namesake to heart. By ignoring conventions of what you’d find on your run-of-the-mill cohesive show lineup, Mija is throwing shows where artists would typically never come together outside of a festival setting. This sentiment of moving past genres, of existing in a world where all genres of music are free to coexist, extends to the way in which Mija approaches her own music. 

The first song I ever heard from Mija was “Better,” a heart-pounding anthemic collaboration with Vindata. The second was her EP time stops, a dreamy 8-bit style soundtrack for a short film. Then just the other day, I stumbled across a Radiohead cover of “No Surprises” Mija had done, providing an angelic yet haunting take on the timeless classic. The artist’s latest is no different when it comes to defying any lingering expectations. Her latest EP, HOW TO MEASURE THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOVERS, is a highly-intimate and personal record that speaks volumes with its subtlety and dispels any notions that Mija is an artist who can not coexist in any real of music she wishes.

As an artist existing in a world beyond genres, I was more than eager to find out exactly what informed Mija’s approach to the music world up to this point, so I caught up with rising star ahead of her performance at 2018’s Air + Style. A music festival that is as much about the music as it is about the skate and snowboarding culture that has historically gone hand in hand with music. The Shaun White-curated festival skirts the normal conventions of what a music festival, and really does seem an all too fitting setting for an artist on the verge of music’s inevitable step into a genre-less world.

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OTW: So how did you make the transition from DJ and club promoter in Arizona to where you are today?

Mija: I took every opportunity put in front of me, ran as fast as I could, and never signed a contract :)

OTW: And what’s been the wildest moment of the journey so far?

Mija: It’s hard to say…because when you’re having so many consecutive wild moments, your brain begins trying to 1-up each previous moment. So whenever I get asked this question, my answer usually depends on the last dope thing I did. So as of right now, the wildest moment of my journey has been releasing my EP today.

OTW: You’ve created this amazing series of shows, FK A GENRE. In an industry where genres are so used often as selling points for shows and cohesion is often so stressed, what inspired you to take such a genre-meshing/genreless approach?

Mija: I just wanted to hang out with artists that inspire me, and provide a unique gig experience for them to not take anything to seriously and just have fun. I also wanted to bring together listeners of all different sub-genres, to dance together under one roof.Just to showcase how even though our personal tastes/opinions may differ (drastically), we all love this for the same reasons. We’re all humans, and we’re not actually that different.

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OTW: When it comes to booking a genreless show, how do you go about deciding who you want to play?

Mija: I just make a list of people that inspire me (close friends or far-fetched acts), and then my manager usually goes down the list and sees who is available. Sometimes if I want someone really badly (and I have a direct connection to them), I’ll reach out myself and just ask politely. It can be like a slow game of chess. Business is weird.

OTW: And as someone who’s seemingly moved past genres, how would describe your music without using genre terms?

Mija: To be honest, I don’t even know what genre to call my own music. It’s just noise, really. Organized noise.

OTW: “Notice Me” is absolutely beautiful and entrancing in its soft-spoken nature. It may even come as a sort of surprise to people familiar with your catalogue. Mind speaking on how this track came together?

Mija: This was the first song I wrote on the EP. It stemmed from days of isolation, mixed with the anxiety of social media, and watching your past lover’s life continue on without you through a fucking iPhone. I was stuck in-between my daydreams and reality. “Notice Me” is just a depiction of how I felt in those moments. I wrote most of it in bed.

OTW: And that’s you singing on the track, right? As a producer and DJ, what was it like stepping into the foreground like that?

Mija: Yes, it me. I sang on all but one of the tracks, but it doesn’t feel like I’ve stepped into the foreground. I wouldn’t consider myself a “singer”… I just have a lot to say. Poetry has always been a form of self-expression for me.

OTW: It’s hard not to feel instantly overjoyed when listening to yours and Vindata’s track “Better.” So, I’ve always been curious, what moment in time does that opening sample come from?

Mija: The sample is from the song “Keeps On Getting Better” by Darren Styles (OG happy hardcore LEGEND). It’s an anthem that I grew up listening to in my teenage rave days.

OTW: Musically, what’s next on the horizon for you?

Mija: I’m working on my next EP and going to continue dropping various remixes, collabs, covers etc. I feel really good about it.

OTW: In addition to music you also have your own fashion brand, Made by Mija, what originally drew you to the world of fashion?

Mija: It’s just another form of expression for me. Apparel is its own art form and you can say a lot with it, if you try.

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OTW: Where do you draw inspiration from fashion-wise? Music-wise? Or do you feel that it ends up being two in the same?

Mija: Sometimes the same, sometimes different. inspiration comes at its own leisure. It can be the places you travel, or the people you meet. Maybe it’s people-watching, or going for a run. Sometimes, it’s as simple as mixing shades of paint, or seeing a funny meme on the internet. Inspiration can be drawn from anywhere at anytime. It’s channeling it that proves more difficult.

OTW: Ultimately, how would you define success for yourself as an artist?

Mija: If I can make one person feel something, I did my job successfully. My own personal success is based on my level of happiness (and not the other way around).

OTW: Who are your Ones To Watch?

Mija: Yaeji is about to be BIG, but you probably already know that. Also, Ryan Forever is low-key hiding so many songs that are going to make waves.

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