Mantra Sounds Poetically Brings ‘The 7 Deadly Sins’ to Life
Bass producer Mantra Sounds, aka Giana Rifici, has been blasting venues on the East Coast with her experimental sounds and poetry for the past few years now, sharing stages with artists like G Jones and Khiva, and Shades, all while producing her own work. Rifici is hitting the stage full force in 2022, fully devoted and debuting her new album, The 7 Deadly Sins, as well as her new project and alter ego, Grim Steez.
“It’s really great to see everyone getting back into the swing of things,” Rifici said, “and seeing newer artists getting the recognition they deserve. This is my first actual tour that is based on a body of work, so it’s great to be able to perform.”
Rifici was just 19 when she created Mantra Sounds in 2016. Her heavy bass drops and rhythmic beats have landed her on the line-ups of recent festivals such as Moonwalk Festival, Nocturnal Funktion, and Yonderville in West Virginia.
Four years later, Grim Steez became the lyrical ying to Mantra Sounds’ musical yang. The two projects unintentionally complement each other, giving The 7 Deadly Sins the perfect combination of words and wobbles.
“Grim is really raw and emotional, while Mantra is more put together and organized — they’re basically two separate personalities,” she said.
“I thought I wanted to produce stuff that sounded more like CharlestheFirst and CloZee — like a spiritual dubstep — but as I started to fall into my production and find my own sound, this just naturally came about,” she explained. “[The track] ‘Grim Steez’ on the Seeing Sequences EP was the first time the idea ever came about. It was the first time I had a true breakthrough in Ableton. I felt like the song was embodying an entity or person’s aura, and that’s how the name came about.”
The 7 Deadly Sins is sleek and sinister, using Mantra Sounds’ production as the vessel for Grim Steez’s poetry in the album, depicting each track as a separate deadly sin.
“I’ve wanted to do this album maybe a year before I even started,” Rifici said, looking back at her process (and growth). “At first, I wanted to do it strictly as a Grim Steez album. I would have a bunch of other producers make the beats and then Grim Steez doing the vocals, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized this would have to be a full production of both projects because I need to make it how I want it.”
Rifici devoted the larger part of a difficult year to the album. She opens up about the highs and lows of production, and how she pulled herself out of some dark times during the process.
“I normally get writer’s block when I’m not in tune with myself, and I was going through some shit as I was writing the album, so that played a huge part,” she explained. “There was a point in time last summer when I got COVID where I sat down at my desk, sick as shit, and I said to myself, ‘You need to finish this.’”
The original plan was to drop the album in October 2021, matching the theme of the album with the Halloween season, but it was already August and the album wasn’t even halfway done. In order to further push the concepts reflected in the work and her production style and limits, it would need to be released later in the year.
“I kept pushing it off,” Rifici said, “thinking I’d have it done in time. Little did I know I’d have to do a January release.”
The first track, “Envy,” dropped in January 2022, with “Greed” and “Pride” following suit.
“It’s deep, but also upbeat and fun to vibe to,” Rifici said about the final project while discussing the various styles heard throughout. “Each song has its individual sound and hits different points, but you can tell they’re all cohesively made.”
“Lust,” for example, is 140 minimal deep dubstep, she said, while ”Gluttony” and “Sloth” are more layered and upbeat. She notes “Envy” as really heavy dubstep. Rifici’s always had range.
Inspired by the expressive angst of Avril Lavigne, femme hip hop trailblazers like Nicki Minaj, and heavy vocals from artists such as Pierce the Veil and Bring Me the Horizon, Rifici’s ear has always been open to new sounds and possibilities. Due to her varied influences, she’s allowed herself to tap into a new sound that EDM hasn’t experienced before.
“I feel like my old music library influences my sound way more than I realize. It’s something that is ever-changing. I don’t like to put myself in a box, which is why I label my things more as experimental and freeform, even though I know it’s such an umbrella term.”—Mantra Sounds
Rifici initially thought the album had a dark and melancholy finale, but that goes to show that art and music are all about perspective. The final track, “Affirmations” brings the body of work together in a poetic finale, shedding a little light at the end of the tunnel with Rifici showcasing (her) Grim Steez’s lyrical ingenuity one last time.
“That was a lot of fun to write,” she said, stating it was the most planned out song of the bunch. “It’s what I depict from each sin, and how to…overcome it? Well, not exactly that. But for example, for the song, ‘Pride,’ I write that pride is one of those books that you have to reread. You can practice how to not be prideful, but that’s what it is. It’s still practice, not something you learn overnight.”
Rifici brings this badass energy wherever she goes. She recently rocked Yonderville over the Fourth of July weekend and is set to bring the bass to Denver next at The Black Box on July 27. She also hopes to create an all-femme collaborative EP within the next year.
“I’d love to get NotLö, VEIL, Entangled Mind, Yoko, and more,” she said, excited for the future. “I have a whole list of artists that I’d love to work with. They’re running shit and it’s cool to see.”
Rifici’s journey is one only too familiar. No matter what the goal is in life, the journey will be a rollercoaster and it will always take work. The question is, what is one willing to sacrifice and overcome in order to achieve it?