The Style and Sound of Cellist Maya Beiser
When DC on Heels gave me the opportunity to chat with Maya Beiser, I was thrilled. A cellist with a hard-rock, high-fashion aesthetic, known for her love of boots and her covers of Led Zeppelin songs? Sign me up! A New York girl, she’s in the D.C. area May 10 for her performance of Time Loops at the Atlas Performing Arts Center with composer and pianist Michael Harrison.
DC on Heels: Maya! Thanks so much for chatting with me. How did you come to be a fashionista? Did you love music first or fashion? Was there a meeting of the minds for you, or did you have a first love?
Maya Beiser: I grew up on a kibbutz in Israel, like a commune. All of our clothing was hand-me-downs, we would go pick up clothing. There was so little room to put your own signature on stuff.
I was always a rebel, since I was a kid, I wanted to be dramatic. I couldn’t buy the kind of clothes I wanted to buy, but I started altering whatever I had. I would take a pair of boring pants and cut into them, reconstruct them. I’ve always had this thing for fashion from the very beginning, and the fact that I grew up in this environment that encouraged sameness made me even more eager to be different. Fashion was this fun way of expressing myself, it’s what it’s always been for me. A way to have fun with my aesthetic ideas and putting it out there.
DC: Your style has kind of a rock star bohemian vibe, which I totally appreciate! What are your inspirations, fashion-wise, who are your idols and who do you look to?
Maya: I love edgy, avant-garde fashion. I always love the idea of rethinking, reconstructing how to use things in a non-traditional way. I love shoes! Shoes are a huge thing for me. Really high heels, too. I wear crazy shoes onstage, I feel like they’re a huge statement. I’m really drawn into designers that are a bit androgynous and avant-garde, but still make sexy, feminine pieces. Combining those elements works for me.
The thing about a woman with a cello, there’s something we expect. And the cello has its own kind of female body, and having the cello between your legs, there are a lot of connotations there. I love to play with that. I love to play with boots on, to have the cello between my boots. I love to wear a jacket and a short skirt and boots when I play — not too mini, though, I need to open my legs to play! I think about interest in the arms, things that give a different focus off the body. I love really high couture as well, a whole range of things. Rick Owens is one of my favorite designers. His stuff is great! I have a lot of Giuseppe Zanotti, Louis Vuitton of course and Jeffrey Campbell! He’s a crazy, edgy, American shoe designer who makes very cool and very affordable stuff. These days with fashion, a lot of people don’t need to have tons of money to be dressed really cool. You guys have to know how to construct it. How to get it!
DC: So, I was going to ask if you’re more of a vintage hunter or a couture girl?
Maya: I like to mix and match! I love to wear some really fancy couture item with a down to earth leather jacket, pieces like that. I love shopping in the East Village and finding little boutiques. I love to mix high couture with a downtown edge.
Music in Motion
DC: How much style input do you get when you make something like a music video? I saw your music video for Kashmir and loved it. What a great song, and I love your take on it. I loved the style, and you’re a yogini yourself. Was that styled for you, or did you help in the styling and planning yourself?
Maya: It was very much a collaboration! We shot that video in this amazing place where they typically shoot films. All of the objects around me, however, are all from my own home! I’m obsessed with scent, as well. I always have a million candles and incenses lit. The guy who made the film, he came to me and collected objects from my home, and we just sort of brought them to the space, and his experience in my lifestyle. I live on the Hudson River and my house overlooks the river, so the very first shot of me looking over the river at the train station near my house, it’s this amazing place near the tip of Manhattan. There’s a lot that is really just about my life and my aesthetic world.
In terms of what I was wearing, I was wearing items from these three great New York designers: Yigal Azrouel, Three as Four and Rick Owens. There are stylists. I worked with a great stylist and the director, of course, but I always have my strong input!
DC: When it comes to performance pieces, do you have a favorite outfit you’ve ever worn? Or a favorite pair of boots? How about a dream pair of boots that isn’t in your closet yet?
Maya: One of my favorite boots that I’ve been wearing recently are these Zanotti boots with a really high platform. Knee high, black boots, and they’re incredible! They’re really fun. I also have several YSL boots, with very high heels, and ankle boots that I love. I have some really cool Marni boots that I love, too! I also love some Miu Miu Prada shoes, they make amazing boots.
In terms of gowns, recently I got three amazing gowns from Rick Owens that I love! Really cool, open gowns I can do a lot with. I love Donna Karan gowns, too! It’s a challenge to get gowns that I can play the cello with, but these are some of my recent most exciting looks.
Time Loops and ancient style
DC: Your upcoming performance in D.C., Time Loops is a selection from Just Ancient Loops. Let me ask you a question with a bit of synaesthesia: If this show were a person, how would you dress it? What’s the style of the show and how does it relate to your personal style?
Maya: I think the style of the show would be something between some ancient priest or a goddess — and then some kind of a modern, edgy twist. The reason being that this music is really a new way to present very, very old concepts in music: the way music was used with nature in Greek times and Renaissance songs. I have those images of those beautiful pieces, the mixture of that. Also, in our music, we look at ways different cultures view heaven as well as nature. A combination of a very earthy, ancient connection with something very edgy and modern.
DC: Maybe some YSL boots under the dress?
Maya: I think so!
You can see Maya’s fierce style for yourself at the Atlas on May 10 in her performance of Time Loops, from Just Ancient Loops.
Health editor, Tini Howard is a writer, aerialist and foodie from the East Coast.