Interview: MMC Alumnus Douglas Makuta On His Band MAKUTA

We all know that Marymount alumni go on to do incredible things and Douglas Makuta is no exception. Makuta graduated Marymount in 2013 and has since been signed to Bluestone, Timbaland's production company, along with the rest of his band, which includes his three sisters and is appropriately titled MAKUTA. With a recently released music video featuring people from around the world, a new single that drops this Friday, November 13th, tour dates up and down the East Coast in December, and an EP to be released in late January this is just the beginning for this family band. HC MMM got the chance to chat with Makuta about the role Marymount played in his life, his influences, what sound we can expect from the EP, and what is up next for MAKUTA.

 

HCMMM: So you graduated from Marymount in 2013 and I think students would love to hear about how Marymount helped you, prepared you for the real world, stuff like that.

Douglas Makuta: Sure! For me Marymount was an amazing school...I love, love, love Marymount and the reason I do is, number one, the student to teacher ratio is phenomenal. I never felt like I was overlooked or didn’t get attention. They, specifically Dr. Levin and Dr. Rao in the business department, they made themselves available and were very encouraging. Just great mentors that I still talk to today. I mean I’ll reach out with questions to them, especially when we were starting our own label a year and a half or two years ago, I would reach out to them and say alright I remember in class you said this but how does this pertain exactly to building an LLC? Or I’d ask them marketing advice or advertising advice. They had nothing to gain from telling me this except to help me. They didn’t buy stock in our record label or anything like that; they just genuinely cared about what I was doing and about me as a student well beyond the classroom. For me, Marymount gave me a complete education. You can study your craft or your discipline whether it’s dance or music or theater or anything you’re studying, you study that discipline, you study your craft, but that’s only half of it. You need to learn how to be an entrepreneur. You need to know how to market yourself and how to implement and get yourself out there to cut through the noise of the other thousand people that want that one spot. So for me at Marymount I had the business education I needed to not only make music, but also how to market it. How to do an Excel spreadsheet. How to advertise things in a clever way. Just real world applications that allowed me and facilitated us being able to do what we can do. I would say that the teachers are invested, especially in the business department I can’t speak to other departments really, but I’d imagine the same more or less. But just very focused encouraging mentors that are there and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. Another thing Marymount has amazing internships. I interned at Sony for a year studying music and I learned so much from that. So they offer that and it’s a great way to get experience through their internship programs. 

 

HCMMM: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about how the band began. It’s a family band right?

DM: It is. Well it depends on if they’re good or not and if they’re good and have a good performance I claim them as family and if not I’m like I don’t know these people at all [laughs]. But yeah my dad was in the marines for thirty plus years and we moved around a ton growing up, sometimes once a year. So we were continuously uprooted and moved around a lot. There are a few consistencies in life and basically the way we grew up it was our faith, family, and then music for us. My dad’s not so musically-inclined, but he’s super supportive. He’s like yeah what do you need to carry I’ll get it to the gig. Or what lessons do I need to pay for.  My mom’s the one who started us all, and yeah I mean I don’t remember starting. It’s just always been and I started singing and playing piano very young and then made up songs growing up and sang with the family.  We didn’t ever have the agenda to start a family band or anything like that. It was never like “we need to be the white Jackson 5.” No it was just this natural sort of relationship we have where they were the perfect people for the job and it happened very organically. I don’t think there’s a clear cut moment where we were like all right June 2nd 1992 we’re a band, you know? It was never that.  It just happened organically. Before we knew it we were booking gigs and making albums. 

HCMMM: So I watched the music video that you guys released. It was so cool! Where did you guys get the idea for that?

 

DM: We’re a live band. We love that. And it informed how this next album came to be. One big thing we loved is that we wanted to have audience participation be in the forefront. We love going to shows where the artist is really immersive and gives the audience a great time, by getting them involved.  We had all these songs that were very dance-y, with huge choruses, and a lot of groove and soul to them. So, I had this idea.  Because I write for a lot of pop artists outside of the band, we’ve been able to open for a lot of these pop artists all over the world. Because of that,  we have a pretty good-sized international fan base, and so we thought this album is our first major label debut, in a sense…let's do it for the fans. We want to do it for the people who supported us when we had two people coming to the show. And so we wanted to incorporate that and let them be part of it. We thought with the first single let’s get all these people dancing wherever they are; in Akron, Ohio or Spain. Let’s get them dancing to a clip and have them send them in, who’s brave enough to do it, and compile them all together and start the album as a really fun explosive fan immersive project. I’m always a pessimist and I under sell so I thought there were going to be two or three submissions, but there were like seven hundred. So the response was really, really awesome. So yeah that’s how that all kind of unfolded it was just a wacky idea I had and somehow it worked.

HCMMM: So the single, "Tear My Life Apart," officially comes out November 13th. Would you say that song is representative of what’s to come on the EP?

DM: You know it’s funny. It was between that song and another song to be the first single. I think the reason we picked that one in particular is because it has a darker sort of groove and undertone to it. We also released the music video on Halloween and the song’s coming out Friday the thirteenth.  But you know it’s funny, it is indicative of the album in terms of the groove and production.  Some of the stuff you might hear on “ Tear My Life Apart," you will hear throughout.  You’ll notice interesting little soundscapes and distinct sonic palette throughout the album. But yeah we felt like it was a great way to come out of the gate, and say okay here’s a taste of what to expect…but there’s also a lot of left turns on the EP [laughs].  For us, it is a good way to introduce the new project, and put people in that space.

 

HCMMM: In watching the music video and listening to your stuff it’s so different from anything I’ve ever heard so how would you describe your sound or your influences?

DM: I grew up classical and then also equally had gospel music around. So there is the element of the technicality, sort of a facility of classical music, and then there’s also the gospel music, which is all about all about the Spirit and feeling and that’s stuff you can’t teach. So growing up having that kind of dichotomy of music it really taught me to be open to all sorts of things and I’m really, really grateful for that. So when I started writing, just making up songs that were absolutely stupid, when I was like seven or eight, I was just kind of mimicking a lot of what I heard. Then I kind of started to cross genres and make up stuff that I don’t know really had no genre I guess specifically, it was just weird stuff. In my early teens I continued to explore and listen to just music of all genres. You know for us I had also always been a massive fan of Motown and I love, and you’ll hear a lot of that influence on this next coming album, but I love Motown and I love that late sixties rock and roll. Then you go into the seventies where you have Queen, where they’re so eclectic and they had so many different songs, and I love Queen. I love Michael Jackson, Pavarotti, Prince, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Andrea Bocelli, Glen Campbell. So I had a ton of different interests and artists that really inspired me, Stevie Wonder and stuff like that. And for us it was always just about never trying to dictate what the song was going to be and the specific genre. Just kind of writing the song and whatever the song is, it is. If it’s kind of a pseudo country song, it’s a pseudo country song. If it’s a pop song, then pop song. But one thing that really helped us when we were working on this next album is having other producers coming in and producing it with us. We defined a specific sonic sound that we wanted for this album. And so yeah all the songs are pretty different, but there’s this kind of thread of cohesion in the sounds you might hear on this next one. My main gig for a long time that was bringing a lot of recognition and a lot of me being able to support myself was writing for other artists, specifically pop artist. There’s a sort of formulaic sort of way to do it, you know doing that for so long it did inform some of my songwriting about form and structure and all of that, but with my band it was more of just like all right I know what I love to do and it might break a couple rules in the process, but this is what I’m excited about and passionate about. So I guess I’m just inspired by great lyrics and great melodies and a good groove and whatever comes out of that I guess comes out of that.

You can follow MAKUTA on Twitter, like them on Facebook, follow them on Instagram, and visit their website.