Casey Manierka had a fantastic 2019. I know, right? Most of us barely endured to the end, but not the movie score-composing, electronic music-producing party-thrower also known as Casey MQ.
He began last year with his queer club collective Raven’s Vision dubbed “the sound of Toronto right now” by Now magazine, and ended summer with three films at TIFF bearing his musical scores. Then he entered autumn with new MQ dance jam (and self-directed video) “Wings are Growing,” welcomed winter with a solo slot at Toronto’s Festival of Cool, and capped it all by spinning at an RV New Year’s Eve party in a west-end industrial arts space.
“I did feel busy this year,” he admits, “but it just felt like what I’ve always been doing – making music for various projects, my own and collaborations. Things were moving. It’s exciting and awesome but I’m always thinking about what I’m doing next.”
Indeed. But out here on the West-downtown Dundas Street patio of Loveless, during an unseasonably warm winter day in Toronto, Manierka takes a moment to think about what he did first.
“It goes back to when I was six,” he recalls. His parents put him in piano lessons, and unlike his siblings, he stayed strong, continuing to classical training and songwriting. “I’ve always wanted to be surrounded by music and singing, dancing, acting, all those things,” he says. “I just wanted to be creative and in the arts in some way.”
He loved classical, but being a teenager during the electronic dance music (EDM) come-up also meant beats were “built into the landscape of what I now come to know as pop music and electronic music,” he says. Ever open-minded, he was as into Tiesto’s arms-up festival trance as Burial’s dark-hued dubstep experiments.
His musical worlds were kept separate, until a piano teacher’s advice backfired, when they told him if he was going to be a classical musician, he needed to only listen to classical music.
“I was upset by that,” he says. “What does that mean for me, as a person who likes classical music and who also loves pop and electronic music? I started to realize that they don’t have to be exclusive to each other. They can really live together,” he explains. “That’s where influence really comes in – you have a passion for things, and they make their way together, to create something that felt honest coming from me.”
“I don’t ever want to feel limited.”
Things also started making their way together career-wise, starting with a 2015 Slaight Music Residency at the Canadian Film Centre. “It was an interesting opportunity to meet so many amazing filmmakers and people who were making art,” he says of the year spent learning to apply his skill set to cinematic compositions.
He was also making his own experimental electronic music, and was accepted into the now-defunct Red Bull Music Academy, landing in Montreal the following summer, where he got to learn from industry mentors. Oh, and also got into DJ-ing.
Manierka and friends soon launched Raven’s Vision – yes, named after the Disney Channel classic That’s So Raven – and he started playing out, mixing his own songs, samples, and edits into sets. “I love seeing pop music come into the dance sphere,” he says, “so I’ll often really mess with some a capellas, and just stuff I’m really loving. But I want to see it completely hyper-accelerated, you know?”
Meanwhile, his movie-scoring career was taking off, a particular victory for a lifelong film fan who’d made movies as a high-schooler, then put film aside to focus on music. “At some point I just wanted to be closer to film and drama again, so this was a great way to connect back to that,” says Manierka.
He landed eight films in three years – including the indie features Raf, Tammy’s Always Dying, and Easy Land, scoring his TIFF hat trick, with the latter eschewing electronics altogether in favour of a string quartet. “They’re inspiring each other,” he says of his two disparate genres. “That’s just where I’m coming from, with my story, but I’m not afraid to explore and really let a palette speak.”
Speaking of exploring, Manierka is readying another left turn for 2020 – a solo pop record as Casey MQ. “I don’t ever want to feel limited,” he says. “If I’m going to make this pop album, I’m going to make it unabashedly. Who knows what will come after that, but it’s so exciting to dive into worlds!”