Mica Levi
Levi in 2014
Born
Micaela Rachel Levi

February 1987
Guildford, England
Occupations
  • Composer
  • producer
  • singer
  • songwriter
Musical career
OriginLondon, England
Genres
Instrument(s)
  • Viola
  • vocals
  • guitar
  • electronics
  • found objects
Years active2006–present
Labels
Member ofGood Sad Happy Bad
Websitemicachu.biz

Micaela Rachel Levi (born February 1987), known professionally as Mica Levi (/ˈmkə ˈlvi/) or by their stage name Micachu, is an English musician, composer, producer, singer and songwriter.

Having been classically trained, Levi came to prominence as the lead singer and guitarist for the experimental pop band Good Sad Happy Bad (formerly known as Micachu and the Shapes from 2008 to 2016). The band's debut album, Jewellery (2009), was critically praised and they since released several other studio albums. Levi is also known for their solo projects and frequent collaborations with Kwes or Tirzah.

In the early 2010s, Levi made their debut as a film composer, creating the widely praised score for Jonathan Glazer's film Under the Skin (2013).[1][2][3] Levi received a European Film Award for Best Composer and a BAFTA Award for Best Film Music nomination, and won multiple other awards for this first movie composition. Levi then collaborated again with Glazer on his next film, the acclaimed The Zone of Interest (2023) (for which they won the Soundtrack Award at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival), and two short films. In 2017, Levi received their first Academy Awards nomination for Pablo Larraín's Jackie (2016). They also worked with director Steve McQueen on his Small Axe anthology film series.

Early life

"My granddad played violin, so I think I thought there was prestige in it. [...] He escaped from prison with his violin in the Second World War. He was a German Jew, and he was arrested, but he escaped and hid out on a farm nearby. He decided the best time to ski across to neutral territory would be New Year’s Eve, because the guards would be drunk. But he left his violin at the farm, and years later he went back to get it. [...] I think I had a certain amount of obsession with it as a child."

– Levi about music and their family history[4]

Micaela Rachel Levi,[5] known as Mica Levi or Micachu,[6][7][8] was born in 1987 in Guildford, Surrey, England[4][9] and grew up in Watford, near London.[4][10][11] Levi is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent; their grandfather was a German Jew violinist who managed to escape from the Nazis during World War II and fled to the United Kingdom.[4] Levi was raised in a musical household.[4][10][11] Their father, Erik Levi, is a respected music scholar — the director of performance at Royal Holloway which is part of the University of London and an expert on music in the Third Reich — besides being a pianist.[4][8][11] Their mother, meanwhile, was a cello teacher.[4][8][10][11] Levi has a sister, Francesca, who is a video artist and has worked with her on various art projects.[12][13]

Levi began learning the violin at the age of 4 and also learned to play the viola as a child.[4][8][11] They then won a scholarship place at the prestigious Purcell School for Young Musicians at the age of 9 and studied composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London from 2006 to 2009.[4][8][9][10][11] There, they started an experimental pop band with two friends, keyboardist Raisa Khan and drummer Marc Pell, called Micachu and the Shapes.[8][9][11] The name Micachu was an obvious Pokémon reference.[8] They quickly took off, and Levi never finished their composition degree.[4][11] Performing as a DJ, they also released a mixtape titled Filthy Friends, which was posted on their official Myspace page.[4][8][9][14]

Music career

Micachu and the Shapes/Good Sad Happy Bad

Main article: Good Sad Happy Bad

After dropping out of university, Micachu and the Shapes signed to Matthew Herbert and Accidental Records.[4][8][11] With the Shapes, Levi's focus was experimental pop music. Most of the music prominently featured an acoustic half-guitar with various non-standard tunings, extensive distortion, and use of noise and found-object elements, as well as occasionally unusual time signatures. Despite these experimental leanings, the artist categorizes their output with the Shapes as "pop music." Their debut album, Jewellery was recorded around Levi's composition studies at Guildhall School. In the wake of growing buzz, Micachu and the Shapes were signed to Rough Trade,[15] which released Jewellery on 9 March 2009 to critical praise. The band performed with the London Sinfonietta at Kings Place, London, in May 2010, and in March 2011 released the live recording as the album Chopped and Screwed.[16] The follow-up to their debut, Never, was released on 23 July 2012. The band then released the album Good Sad Happy Bad on 11 September 2015.[17][18]

In March 2016, the band announced on social media that they were changing their name to Good Sad Happy Bad.[19] The band then expanded to a four-piece, adding multi-instrumentalist and producer CJ Calderwood and Raisa Khan becoming the band's lead vocalist.

As a film composer

Levi in 2013

Levi's first major film score was for Jonathan Glazer's 2013 film Under the Skin.[20] The film is based on the novel of the same name by Michel Faber and stars Scarlett Johansson. Produced at age 26 and created in collaboration with Glazer, Levi's film score themes are so tightly woven into the film[21] that they give a symbiotic quality, in which the aural feels inseparable from the visual.[22] The score was widely acclaimed for pushing the boundaries of music and sound design and Levi was nominated for multiple awards. They won Best Composer at the 2014 European Film Awards,[23] and tied with Jonny Greenwood for Best Music/Score at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Critics Awards.[24] They were also nominated for the 2015 BAFTA Award for Best Film Music.[25]

In 2016, Levi completed their second major film score, for Pablo Larraín's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis biopic Jackie.[26] Larraín had been a juror at the 2013 Venice Film Festival, and thought that Under the Skin deserved a film score prize. Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, also on the jury, was enthralled by Levi's bold score for the film, and he and Larraín spoke passionately of their accomplishment,[22] which led to the collaboration on Jackie. Levi was nominated for Best Original Score at the 89th Academy Awards[27] but lost to Justin Hurwitz for La La Land.

In 2017, Levi contributed to the science-fiction film Marjorie Prime. The same year, in association with musicians Demdike Stare and Gruff Rhys, Levi contributed to the soundtrack for Phil Collins' Ceremony: The Return of Friedrich Engels which was screened at the Manchester International Festival and then broadcast by the BBC.[13][28] Two years later, Levi worked with Colombian director Alejandro Landes and composed the Monos (2019) score. In December, it was announced they would be writing the score for the dark-comedy thriller film Zola which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020.

In 2020 Levi composed the score for Mangrove, the first, feature-length episode of Steve McQueen's Small Axe series for the BBC and Amazon Studios.[29]

In 2023, Levi composed the score for The Zone of Interest, directed by Jonathan Glazer. It won the Soundtrack Award at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.[30] Previously, Levi had worked with Glazer twice again, writing the soundtrack for two short films made by the filmmaker: The Fall (2019) and Strasbourg 1518 (2020).[31]

Musical collaborations

Levi (left) and Tirzah in 2014

Levi is also known for their various collaborations with English singer and songwriter Tirzah, a close friend she met at Purcell.[32][33] Levi notably produced the Devotion (2018), Colourgrade (2021) and Trip9love (2023) albums.[34][35]

Solo works

In 2021, Levi released their solo debut album Ruff Dog.[36]

Personal life

Besides their musical learning, Levi played a lot of football as a child and even turned up on the first day at Purcell in a football uniform with shin guards:[8] "I played midfield, although now I think I’d be a striker."[4] In 2016, Levi told in an interview that Bernard Herrmann is their favourite film composer, Bruce Langhorne's work for The Hired Hand their favourite film score of all time and Cliff Martinez's score for Spring Breakers their favourite recent film score.[37]

They came out as non-binary in 2020.[8][38]

List of film scores

Feature films

Year Title Director
2013 Under the Skin Jonathan Glazer
2016 Jackie Pablo Larrain
2017 Marjorie Prime Michael Almereyda
2019 Monos Alejandro Landes
2020 Zola Janicza Bravo
2023 The Zone of Interest Jonathan Glazer

Short films

Year Title Director(s)
2016 Delete Beach Phil Collins
Marisuke Eguchi
2019 The Fall Jonathan Glazer
2020 Strasbourg 1518

Television

Year Title Director Notes
2017 Ceremony: The Return of Friedrich Engels Phil Collins In association with Demdike Stare and Gruff Rhys
2020 Mangrove Steve McQueen Small Axe anthology
Lovers Rock

Discography

Studio albums

Year Album details
2016 Remain Calm (with Oliver Coates)
  • Released: 25 October 2016
  • Label: Slip
  • Formats: CD, Digital download, LP
Jackie (OST)
  • Released: 16 December 2016
  • Label: Milan
  • Formats: CD, Digital download, LP
2018 Slow Dark Green Murky Waterfall (with Eliza McCarthy)
  • Released: 24 October 2018
  • Label: Slip
  • Format: EP
2019 Monos (OST)
2020 Ruff Dog
  • Released: 16 December 2020
  • Label: Self-released
  • Formats: Digital download, LP
2021 Blue Alibi
  • Released: 27 January 2021
  • Label: Self-released
  • Formats: Digital download, LP
Zola (OST)
  • Released: 1 July 2021
  • Label: Invada
  • Formats: Digital download, LP

Mixtapes

Year Mixtape details
2009 Filthy Friends
  • Released: 9 February 2009
  • Label: Self-released
  • Formats: CD, Digital download
2010 Kwesachu Mixtape Vol.1 with Kwes.
  • Released: 5 June 2009
  • Label: Self-released
  • Formats: Cassette Tape, Digital download
2011 Meat Batch with Kwake Bass
  • Released: 22 March 2011
  • Label: For BTS Radio
  • Formats: Digital download
Chopped & Screwed Mixtape with Brother May
  • Released: 2011
  • Label: Self-released
  • Formats: Digital download
2012 Kwesachu Vol. 2 with Kwes.
  • Released: 30 April 2012
  • Label: Self-released
  • Formats: Cassette Tape, Digital download
2014 Feeling Romantic Feeling Tropical Feeling Ill
  • Released: 27 November 2014
  • Label: Self-released (Demdike Stare Self-Released)
  • Formats: Cassette Tape, Digital download

Singles / EPs

Production

Year Artist Title Album Label Credit
2023 Tirzah all tracks Trip9love (LP) Domino Production
2021 Arca "Muñecas" Kick II (LP) XL Co-production with Arca
Tirzah all tracks Colourgrade (LP) Domino Production, co-mixing with Kwes
2019 Wiki 'Dame Aquí (feat. Princess Nokia)' Oofie (LP) Wikset Co-production with Alex Epton, Rob Mack and Tony Seltzer
2019 Mica Levi all tracks Monos (OST, LP) Invada, Lakeshore Composer, production
2019 Brother May all tracks Aura Type Orange (LP) self-released Production on all tracks; co-production on 'Reppin' with Rob McCormack and 'Backpack Melody' with Coby Sey
2018 Tirzah all tracks Devotion (LP) Domino Production, co-mixing with Kwes
2018 Taz & Meeks 'Obviously' Taz & Meeks / Brother May / Coby Sey (Compilation EP); Curl Compilation (Compilation LP) Curl Production
2017 Mica Levi all tracks Delete Beach (Single) DDS Production
2016 Mica Levi all tracks Jackie (OST, LP) Milan Composer, production
2016 Mica Levi & Oliver Coates all tracks Remain Calm (LP) Slip co-production with Oliver Coates
2016 Good Sad Happy Bad all tracks Mash One / Looking Up at the Sun (Single) self-released co-production as part of Good Sad Happy Bad
2016 Brother May all tracks May & Meeks (EP) Curl Production on all tracks, mixing
2016 Micachu all tracks Taz & May Vids (EP) DDS Production on all tracks, mixing
2015 Wiki 'Cherry Tree' Lil Me (Mixtape) Letter Racer Co-production with Sporting Life
2015 Tirzah all tracks Make It Up (Single) Greco Roman Production
2014 DELS 'RGB' Petals Have Fallen (LP) Big Dada Production
2014 Micachu all tracks Feeling Romantic Feeling Tropical Feeling Ill (Mixtape) DDS Composer, production
2014 Micachu and the Shapes all tracks Good Sad Happy Bad (LP) Rough Trade co-production as part of Micachu and the Shapes
2014 Tirzah all tracks No Romance (EP) Greco Roman Production
2014 Mica Levi all tracks Under the Skin (OST, LP) Rough Trade, Milan Production
2013 Tirzah all tracks I'm Not Dancing (EP) Greco Roman Production
2012 Micachu and the Shapes all tracks Never (LP) Rough Trade co-production as part of Micachu and the Shapes
2012 Kwesachu all tracks Kwesachu Vol. 2 (Mixtape) self-released Production with Kwes
2011 DELS 'Violina', 'Melting Patterns' Gob (LP) Big Dada Production
2011 Micachu hosted by Brother May all tracks Chopped & Screwed Mixtape (Mixtape) self-released Production
2011 Micachu & Kwake Bass all tracks Meat Batch (Mixtape) BTS Radio Production
2010 Micachu & the Shapes with the London Sinfonietta all tracks Chopped & Screwed (LP) Remote Control and Rough Trade co-production as part of Micachu and the Shapes
2009 Kwesachu most tracks including 'Closer (cover of Ne-Yo's song) ft. Romy of The xx' Kwesachu Mixtape Vol.1 (Mixtape) self-released Production with Kwes
2009 Micachu and the Shapes all tracks Jewellery (LP) Rough Trade co-production as part of Micachu and the Shapes w/ Matthew Herbert
2009 Micachu most tracks Filthy Friends (Mixtape) self-released Production

As featured artist

Awards and recognition

Year Awards Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2013 British Independent Film Awards Best Technical Achievement Under the Skin Nominated [39]
2014 British Academy Film Awards Best Original Music Nominated [40]
Chicago Film Critics Association Award Best Original Score Won [41]
European Film Awards Best Composer Won [42]
London Film Critics Circle Awards Technical Achievement Award Won [43]
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Original Score Won [44]
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Original Score Won [45]
2015 ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Best Film Score Nominated [46]
2016 Academy Awards Best Original Score Jackie Nominated [47]
Austin Film Critics Association Awards Best Score Nominated [48]
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards Best Use of Music in a Film Won [49]
British Academy Film Awards Best Original Music Nominated [50]
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Original Score Won [51]
Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Score Nominated [52]
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Musical Score 2nd Place [53]
Hollywood Music in Media Awards Best Original Score – Feature Film Nominated [54]
Houston Film Critics Society Awards Best Original Score Nominated [55]
London Film Critics Circle Awards Technical Achievement Award Nominated [56]
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Music Runner-up [57]
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards Best Score Nominated [58]
2020 Platino Awards Best Original Score Monos Nominated [59]
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Music Lovers Rock Runner-up [60]
2023 Cannes Film Festival Soundtrack Award The Zone of Interest Won [30]

References

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