Story by Laurel McLean
Photos by Will Geier
“The music scene has set a standard of how women are supposed to behave – well, I’m sick of that. I’m tired of being in the audience; I want to be on stage; I want to be loud; sex is interesting – let’s have it be a part of the music scene.”
Mikaela Cochrane has done just that with Future Womb, a psychedelic-darkwave-popera project formed in 2017. Captivating audiences with her pure voice, dark lyrics, eccentric costumes and makeup, and dramatic stage presence, Future Womb quashes the belief that music is just an audio experience – which is largely a result of Cochrane’s background in acting, musical theatre, and burlesque.
Growing up, Cochrane received formal piano and vocal training, and learned to play alto saxophone in her school band. However, she temporarily turned away from music when she discovered her passion for dance and theatre.
“When I learned that I could do musical theatre, that was like the ultimate art form for me because I get to not only be singing, but dancing and acting and being so dramatic – that sounded absolutely perfect.”
Despite her extensive background in the arts, Cochrane didn’t make her debut into the Calgary music scene until just over a year ago when her theatre company, Major Matt Mason Collective, required a band for a fundraiser. With Cochrane on lead vocals, keys and ukulele, and collaborators Jordan Moe (guitar) and Michael De Souza (bass) of The Ashley Hundred and Andrew Ellergodt (drums) of Andrew’s Pale Horses accompanying her, Future Womb was born.
Since setting her sights back on music after a multi-year hiatus, Cochrane has found it has offered her something her other artistic expressions have not: “a safe space to be holistically creative.”
“I have so many different art forms that all have their own little personalities and I wanted this to be the place where it all comes together and creates the whole version of me,” she explains.
This concept is encapsulated by the name Future Womb, which speaks to the way in which Cochrane utilizes her music as an incubator for her personal development while navigating through life. In this regard, her music acts as a medium to convey the struggles and challenges Cochrane has faced and translate them into something that can be personally understood, shared, and even celebrated with others.
“Even though the words I’m using and the concepts I’m exploring in my music do hold a lot of history and trauma, that’s not what it’s about when I’m performing,” Cochrane says. “It’s like a celebration. It’s victorious, like I’ve overcome something and it’s like, ‘Hey, look at us: we’re just having fun at a bar right now even though life is really hard, but here we are and we’ve made it.’”
As a newly formed band, Future Womb faced overwhelming support as they were welcomed into the music scene. After only several months playing together, they made their festival debut at Femme Wave, which led to playing live on-air at CKUA and CJSW, and was soon after followed by another festival performance at BIG Winter Classic when BJ Downey, talent director for the festival, “took a chance on [them] based on one Rockin’ 4 Dollars set.”
“I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this community is trusting us without really any reason,’” recalls Cochrane. “’They’re just being kind and nurturing us. It’s just so beautiful.’”
“Everyone really cares about each other,” she continues. “I feel like I’ve grown up beside this community – especially having an older brother in the scene; his peers became my peers and they’ve really supported me like older siblings.”
However, Cochrane doesn’t expect that everyone in the music scene shares her positive experience – and she admits to facing adversity herself as a female musician. Although she never experienced outright discrimination, she did encounter discrimination in subtler forms, which was a large part of why it took her until she was 26 to start a band. Cochrane explains that she didn’t feel confident performing until she truly felt that she could be perfect, whereas her male counterparts could be less polished and not have to worry about facing as much scrutiny.
“There’s so much of me that’s so frustrated with that . . . knowing that I could have been pursuing my dreams so much earlier.”
Realizing this and not wanting others to face the same barriers, Cochrane hopes to inspire greater diversity in the scene.
“Anyone who doesn’t fit this white dude rock-boy aesthetic: please make music,” she laughs, “because we need you. Let’s make this more diverse.”
When asked to cite the musical influences of Future Womb’s sound, Cochrane lists Mild High Club, Willow, Lana Del Rey, Joanna Newsom, Father John Misty, 90s and early-2000s pop, and contemporary R&B. However, Cochrane names local acts as her primary source of inspiration.
“It wasn’t until really becoming involved in the music scene and seeing what my peers were doing that really inspired the instrumentation side of my music,” says Cochrane. “The Ashley Hundred and Andrew’s Pale Horses are huge inspirations to me. That’s the reason I picked these guys to play in my band; they’re literally the reason I’m doing this.”
As the lead songwriter, Cochrane is constantly gathering lyrical inspiration, and she has most recently found an abundant source within stand-up comedians and public speakers who are addressing topics like mental health and feminism.
“They’re setting examples of how you can not just make art, but do a little public service in some way by being honest.”
Cochrane says that burlesque has been a predominant influence in a similar way.
“It’s people who are expressing their truth in the loudest, most deliberate way possible,” explains Cochrane. “Artists who are doing that are who I look to. If they’re taking a risk and putting themselves out there in a way that could be very vulnerable and backfire, that’s really cool.”
Aside from using her music as a conduit for emotional release and semi-jokingly stating that she wants to “make it big,” Cochrane ultimately hopes to achieve a similar goal and help listeners through her music.
“I hope that people hear a song and it echoes a sentiment they haven’t told someone and it makes them feel less alone. I feel like those songs where I’ve heard someone say something so honestly and it spoke to me in a way I didn’t know music could, those are just those moments where you’re like, ‘This song changed my life for the better’ and if something I wrote could do that for someone…If I were able to help one person that would be awesome, but if I am able to get a large enough forum to help a large number of people, that would be just amazing.”
Currently, the band is putting the finishing touches on the production of their debut full-length album, Babygirl Galactic, which has been approximately a year in the making with the help of her brother, Taylor Cochrane of Calgary band 36?.
The album is intended to document a portion of Cochrane’s life, and there is significant meaning behind the seemingly kitschy title. Babygirl Galactic captures the idea of wanting to belong to someone romantically while simultaneously not belonging to anyone by acknowledging that there is an entity as endless as the universe inside each of us.
“It’s about recognizing the infinity inside yourself when you are in a place where you feel contained,” she describes, “and you’re supposed to feel comfortable being trapped but you don’t and you recognize the potential and strength inside yourself – that weird tension of being stuck and knowing you can become unstuck but not knowing how to and using art to get out of that.”
However, Cochrane is in no rush to release Babygirl Galactic, as the personal significance of the album has her committed to creating a musical offering that holds up to her standard of perfect. With a vision for a multi-arts album release show – which she hints might occur in spring or summer 2019 – that draws upon her experience in theatre production, acting, and burlesque, Cochrane’s patience will certainly pay off; it promises to be an experience that varies considerably from the release shows Calgary has grown accustomed to.
Cochrane’s dedication to creating something of artistic sustenance through Future Womb coupled with her undaunted interest in taking risks and defying the norm will, without a doubt, push the boundaries of creativity within music and challenge the very nature of Calgary’s music scene.