In-depth: Montreal’s May Have

There is a pantheon of pop that exists in the music world.

When I first heard the track “Summer” from May Have, it felt like this song deserved to ascend to that level. It is a song full of quirky fun that delicately touches on heartache, a recipe for a good catchy tune in anyone’s playbook.

So when I had the chance to meet with three of the members of May Have: Maerin Hunting, Sebastian Balk-Forcione, and Matt Rousseau. I couldn’t pass up the chance to find out more about the creators of such a dynamic sound.

Though upon first meeting them, the obvious synergy between the musicians spoke of the seamless sound of their song. Their comfort with each other as people and as artists was obvious as they finished each other’s sentences and wordlessly pointed to who would give the best answers to each of my questions. But that is perhaps to be expected from a band who have spent so much of their life together.

“Choosing a name took a very long time. It was very frustrating.”

Sebastian Balk-Forcione of May Have

Sebastian and Matt have been friends since high school, and lived in the same neighbourhood as Maerin. Though it wasn’t until they went to Vanier College that they officially met.

But life and education separated the group for a number of years until Maerin, Sebastian, and Matt reunited.

For instance, Matt studied at the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music at The New School located in New York City. Though while he studied jazz in school, Matt said that there wasn’t much of a transition to pop.

“I grew up listening to a bunch of different kinds of music,” Matt said, “and the most important thing about jazz, hat I was taught, was to have an open ear. That means listening to everything else. Every style of music has evolved from either blues or jazz, and they all have components that you can latch on to.”

“I studied jazz singing,” Maerin added. “My kind of favourite part of jazz singing was the big band stuff. That’s very poppy, especially for at that time.”

Sebastian explained that they had all studied jazz and that with playing that style improvisation is a key element of the style. This is something that they have adopted into their music, both in the studio and live.

However, when the trio came together again, the task of coming up with a band name became the next hurtle.

“Choosing a name took a very long time. It was very frustrating,” Sebastian said.

“I process a lot of my feelings through singing.”

Maerin Hunting of May Have

It was Maerin who discovered and settled on the name in the end.

“I did it. I found the name,” Maerin said. “I was just going through a book and just visually looking at words side by side, trying to pick out ones that look nice together.”

When “may have” came up, it was a unanimous decision to adopt that phrase as their band name.

And from that beginning, May Have continued to grow, including taking on two new members, Dan Rougeau, who had been at Vanier with them, and Emily Rockarts.

May Have’s “Summer” is now available, with the video set for release Sept. 17.

While May Have began as a trio, Matt explained that they learned that in order to recreate their recorded sound live on the stage, they needed to have two more musicians. But making this move didn’t change their sound in any way.

“I think they caught on to the vibe really quickly,” Maerin explained. “And they were just like seamless additions.”

Cohesion is a big part of what makes May Have work.

“[Music is] the best representation of myself, and that’s what I can do to show people who I am.”

Matt Rousseau of May Have

In regard to who wrote “Summer,” they explained that songwriting is more of a group activity for them. Sebastian initially started writing certain parts of the song, but Maerin wrote the melody and the lyrics.

“We have a Google Drive folder where we have song ideas,” Maerin said. “So I think our songs are more complex now because of that. Then I also get to sing differently to different structures. It was really great for me.”

“I had it all figured out,” Sebastian said. “And I was like, ‘Here you sing on this.'”

“I can’t tell you how I do it,” Maerin added. “I listen to the track a billion times and hum along, sing along, words come out and I’m like ‘Oh yeah I like that!’ Then usually a chorus will structure it for me.”

Music is an integral part of their lives and the lives they share. So much so that when asked about, their answers all point to a similar conclusion: that music is essential for their well-being.

“Music makes me feel the happiest, and the worst,” Sebastian said. “I can I can be on either end of the spectrum. But when I’m on that side of happiness it’s like the best feeling. It’s like I couldn’t live without it. Even if I go like a few days without playing music or doing something musical, I start changing into a person I don’t even know. So I almost feel like it’s kind of integrated into my soul. It’s latched on. I can’t get rid of it.”

“For me it’s an extremely emotional process,” Maerin said. “I process a lot of my feelings through singing. It’s the same thing, if I’m not singing, then I’m not processing my emotions.”

“It started out just being something I absolutely love doing,” Matt said. “And after spending a ton of time rehearsing or practicing and writing, it’s the thing that I’m the best at now. It’s the thing that I’m most proud of. It’s the best representation of myself, and that’s what I can do to show people who I am.”

May Have is currently busy working on new music and will be releasing the video for “Summer” on September 17, and the track can be found on their bandcamp page.