Resonant Body, the third studio LP from producer and seasoned DJ, Maya Bouldry-Morisson (aka Octo Octa), is at its core an album about love. Tackling themes of togetherness, embodiment, healing, and survival, it's a sprawling record that can be lush and pastoral one moment and bouncing-off-the-walls energetic the next. The project covers a wide cross-section of house-driven sounds, from breaks to acid and even trance, blending seamlessly into one another like one of Bouldry-Morisson's exquisitely eclectic DJ sets. It's for anyone that has ever fallen in love, found safety, or a sense of belonging while packed in the heart of a dancefloor.
Tucked away in a quiet corner backstage after a set, Bouldry-Morisson remarks that "it might be the happiest record I have made." She explains that the album came together in about a month after a rigorous year of touring that saw here playing three or four shows every weekend. "It really surprises me still because it's a lot of work to do," she says.
"It's more spiritual and connected to nature than any of my other previous work. Everything still has a really emotional core, but with things that have been happening over the past year of my life and how positive I felt about everything." In many ways Resonant Body is a testament to Bouldry-Morisson's relationships with her two partners. The album is the second release on T4T LUV NRG — the label co-run by Maya and Chicago-based DJ, Eris Drew — and features album art inspired by a day-trip all three took in New Hampshire earlier this year.
In a world that feels like it's growing colder and scarier each day, Resonant Body reminds us that the bonds we share with the ones we hold close can give us strength and that love can be a radical political act.
PAPER sat down with Octo Octa to talk loving cheesy records, what it's like to run a record label with her partner, and giving back to the trans community.
How are you feeling?
About life and the state of the world? My life feels absolutely wonderful, things are really good. Extremely busy in a way I've never been busy before, but that's going okay. About the world in general, very scared all the time [laughs]. It's an odd thing to navigate. My personal life is very good and solid but then I go out in public and I have to deal with the public's fear and that's never a fun thing for me to do as a trans woman.
You came out as trans in 2016. How have things changed for you personally in the years since?
Three years ago was a moment I got to finally have my body actualized in a way that I see myself in the world and start placing myself in the world in that manner. It's been a tough road publicly to navigate, but otherwise personally it's been wonderful and fulfilling and great. I'm a non-passing trans woman. It's a thing I have to deal with constantly, especially with traveling and things like airports are tough, constantly being misgendered and dealing with hotels and the world in general is not too appreciative of who I am as a person. But spiritually I feel very fulfilled and happy in a way I never was. There was a lot of hiding that was really tough and really hard.
You've been very open about that, which is very inspiring. How has that creatively opened you up in your music?I have more perspective on it now via friends that have told me about the shift that they have seen in me personally. More bodily actualized and more comfortable being a performer in general. I have been performing for a very very long time always kind of a spastic performer in general. I now actually get to be myself in these spaces and the same thing with music I make, like my album Between Two Selves is a coded message about being a trans woman. I wanted to come out in 2013 when I put that out and I didn't. Post that moment, I'm able to put out creative work without hidden messages. They are overt and they are in a public sphere. They are messages I can sing proudly versus trying to hide it before. I get to be myself.
Has that bled over into the way you craft a set? I noticed a lot of really rave-y, trance, even baseline, stuff towards the end of your set.
My bag of music for DJing is a lot of UK music because I grew up on drum and bass, jungle, and hardcore. Rave is something I enjoyed when I was younger but wasn't something I participated in. There was a rave scene in New England, I had no idea, I can't pretend I had any inkling that was happening around me. That music is straightforward and a lot of it is positive in a way, very open. I am able to engage with what people consider cheesy in a way that's very real. Typically when people are like "I don't like that it's too cheesy" I sometimes think they think its too femme or too gay or something like that, but I'm a fun gay girl, that's what I want to go bring out.
Growing up in New England, how were you exposed to all this UK stuff?I found drum and bass through the internet when I was 13. I got the internet when online radio stations were kind of a thing. I had been listening to electronic music for a very long time and I clicked on a station that said "drum and bass" and my little mind exploded. All my friends were really really into punk music, so I would go out to punk shows because I like to hear live music and engage with that but it never really lit me up. I heard drum and bass and I was like, Oh here's my punk rock.
I remember my first exposure to electronic music being this Ultra Electro CD my parents got me. It was mixed by David Waxman I think.
How many bikini babes were on the cover?
Just one but it was in full lime green neon...
I know just the exact cover you're talking about actually.
Funnily enough, it kind of was a formative record for me.
That's totally ok, my first CD was DJ Keoki that wasn't particularly great. It's funny to go back to now. I was listening to a DJ Keoki remix recently, which is not that far off from the first CD I got. I'm playing those records 20 years later now.
I have such a nostalgia for it even, I think it even had a Sebastian Ingrosso remix of Moby on it?
That's totally fine. If it ignites you in some way, that's wonderful. What's interesting is when talking about nostalgia, especially when playing with rave records, is that I try to put it in a modern context because I wasn't actually there at those times. I'm not trying to recreate those times either because although time is flat, there is no time machine to bring me back to that location, at that time.
What record do you associate with falling in love?
It probably would've been like a Roni Size Represent album or some shit like that. Not a particularly great one either at the moment, but that's most likely what would have been playing. There's a lot of music right now that I really deeply entangle with love. It's been more of a recent thing of me retroactively looking back at music that I really enjoyed. Me and my partner Eris [Drew] purchase each other records that we listen to in moments when we're together. I have records with my partner Brooke that make me think about them constantly. Meli'sa Morgan "Still in Love" is an absolutely wonderful ode to love that's been there longer, because we've been together for such a long time. I think Opus III, Mind Fruit, which is a trance album, is a very beautiful love record. I fell in love listening to that record.
How does being in a relationship inform the decisions you make in that process?
It's interesting, it's definitely the two of us working together. It's very much about uplifting each other with this work. My partner Brooke did the artwork for the album, these two paintings that are going to be the front and back cover of it. So it's nice to have two partners being involved in this object. I may have been able to make those decisions with some other label, but it feels really really good to be doing it myself. I like that I have full control over all the things. I own all the music, I don't have weird people hitting me up about things I don't want to do regarding it. It's all mine.
What kind of future do you envision for T4T LUV NRG?
On a wider scale for other people also? I'm not sure yet. Ideally there would be something in the future where we would A&R things for other people or do compilations or bring in other specifically trans, when I say trans I mean non-binary, trans-folks in general, artists. The only issue at the moment is we're busy, so it will take a tiny bit of time to pull that together but that would be the focus. It is really really important to me to uplift others in my community. Something like how with Eris Drew's Raving Disco Breaks, Vol.1, all the profits are going to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. My album we're giving 50% of the profit to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. I'm trying to have some charity element involved with everything going forward.
For more information on the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, visit srlp.org.
Photography: Eris Drew