February 25th / 9 - 11pm / $7
Aster Cafe, Minneapolis
With twinkling lights, the majestic riverfront, and a cozy seat in front of live music (with drink in hand), there's no better place to be this Thursday night in Minneapolis. Join me, Casey Dubie, and MISCH in Northeast for a night that will heal (or break) your heart.
She's evolved from "folky singer-songwriter to moody and percussive with some electronic elements," as her bio states. This latest stage of evolution displayed on the EP may not be her final form, so to speak, but it is one with moments of perfection and true talent - both for the choices in its making and in the literal making of it. So, sure - it's trendy and hip to combine folk, singer-songwriter, and electronic elements. In fact, it's my favorite genre to date. (It's even the genre combo that I, myself, try to make music in.) I'm biased, I get it. But to use these pieces in a way that creates a greater whole, and not a scattered attempt at novelty, is a rare accomplishment, even in the plethora of indie music today.
In "Fugitive," a tune with folk and piano pop influences, Dubie relates to the life of a musician, but also perhaps the broader modern experience as a career-chasing woman. She lightly sings, "this is all I know / always on the go / always looking over my shoulder, to see if you're gonna catch up with me," only giving away a little of the emotional exhaustion that might be lying under the surface. Her luminescent vocals highlight the notes she carries when she sings "you make me feel" in the track of same name. It could be mistaken for a happy tune, if "You Make Me Feel" wasn't riddled with lines of "disappointment's all you provide" and "it's been a hell of a something" that illuminate the underlying feeling as likely sadness of a sort, over joy. The "bah-dum"s in the background soften the blow, but the eternal question remains in mind, despite the contemporary vernacular. Is it really better to have loved and lost?
The final and title track, "Strangers," doubles as a finale to the story on this EP. In a heartbreaking narrative, Dubie poetically chronicles the post-breakup journey that so many can identify with: "now we're like strangers who pretend / closest of friends [...] keep thinking maybe it'll change, but it won't." She laments, "why can't you just give me what we both want?" while her vocals soar, the instrumentals behind her build, and it all comes to a glorious, musically-layered climax. If this song doesn't make you feel something, you might want to get that checked out.
Strangers is not only beautiful and insightful for its lyrics, but for its arrangements, melodies, harmonies, layers, and sounds you can't quite put your finger on. Each of the five songs is a piece of something greater, of a greater experience that she has shared and we can now share in. For us, the listeners, the answer is easy: it is better to have loved and lost, if it means that we get to live in a world where EPs like Dubie's are created.
I got to ask Dubie a few questions about this latest release, and the related tour that brings her here to Minneapolis.
CD: My goals this time around were to present myself in a professional way and to take a serious step forward as an artist, versus before, I would randomly put out content to see people’s response and because it was fun, honestly! I was kind of testing the waters. This time it’s exploring a career path. Strangers is fully produced compared to my past stuff, which was acoustically driven. It was fun to hear my music become more sonically interesting.
KS: What was the process of recording Strangers like? I'm curious perhaps who you worked with, time frame in which you worked on its completion, or what influenced its creation.
CD: These songs were written in my living room. I had the opportunity to play them with a full band for the first time in Nashville, where I gained confidence in myself as an artist and in the songs themselves. I ended up doing a Kickstarter for the EP and got connected with Micah Tawlks, who is an incredibly talented producer in Nashville. He has a great ear and really took my songs to the next level. The project only took about a week to record. A lot of the songs are processing through conflicted relationships and spirituality.
KS: I'm especially taken by the title track, "Strangers." Beautiful, and heartbreaking. It has actually provided, for me, some much needed processing of recent emotion. I'm curious, do you use music more as a way to work through events in life, or as a way to escape from them?
CD: Thank you so much, I’m glad to hear that it helped you sort through some things, because that’s the reason I write. I want to sort through things myself as well as help people name experiences they may not have the words for. I like to think of songs like swimming pools where I push people in and force them to experience something that I have. When they get out, their clothes are wet, clinging to their frames and they’re left to process the emotions of the song, whether they wanted to or not.
CD: I think just word of mouth. Valley Maker especially is such an inspiration lyrically and such a good example of simple production but excellent songs. I’ve listened through his album dozens of times and I still get something new out of it, which is the mark of a good song. Also, it was a privilege to share the stage with Lemolo. It’s really cool as a fellow female artist to see such a talented musician like Meagan. Her music is so interesting and beautiful and complicated.
KS: Also, what is the music scene like in the NE? I assume it's a folk-friendly area of the country, but am curious what else might be happening up there outside of New York that the rest of us don't know about.
CD: You’re right that there is a huge emphasis on folk music, which are definitely my roots. There are a lot of amazing artists that may not get the attention they deserve but are still making music and trying to make a living. It is definitely on the smaller side, scene-wise, but it’s fun because there is a camaraderie and a supportive community among local musicians.
KS: This show at the Aster concludes a winter tour of the PCNW (and Midwest). What's been your favorite part of recent touring, and what other exciting plans are in store for 2016?
CD: This was the first tour that my team put together ourselves. It was impossible to know what to expect but we were pleasantly surprised by people’s responses and how well it went. It’s so fun to go into a venue where no one has any expectations, you don’t know anyone, and you get positive feedback. You meet new people every night and get different perspectives and reactions every time. I have a lot of anticipation for 2016. I’m going to keep writing for my full length, as well as try to book a lot of shows and maybe a tour of the Midwest and the East Coast.
I'm having a hard time describing her music (past "awesomesauce"), so I'm going to cheat and say you'll just have to come see her live! Opening for Casey Dubie this week, I asked Michelle some questions about herself, her music, and what we can be looking forward to next.
KS: So, tell me about MISCH! How long as this musical project been in the works? And is this a solo or collaborative effort on your part? Also, where does the name come from?
MS: My music has been officially "MISCH" since December 2014. It's a nickname coined by my first college roomies! My first burst of shows and songs recorded were part of my senior project in college. I write all of the songs I record and perform, but have had a lot of incredible people help with band production along the way - I have WAY talented friends!
KS: I found your singles "You'll Find It" and "Maybe" online, which are superbly fabulous. It's obvious to me that there was a lot of time spent on the quality and production of these recordings. I'm curious who these songs were recorded with, and if you have any other songs out or in the works currently, such as an upcoming album or EP?
MS: It was recorded by a good friend Luke Hundeby - a music business major and classmate in college! Again - my friends are WAY talented!! I plan to record an EP this spring/ early summer. Release date coming soon!
MS: "You'll Find It" was filmed by a friend at Relive Films. They mostly shoot weddings, but we decided to venture out and try something new! That shoot was such a fun experience! Both the videographer (Alyssa Katane) and I learned SO much from that day (I learned how to brave 40 degree weather with minimal clothing, yikes) and hope to work together more in the future.
KS: Have you ever played the Aster Cafe before? Anything exciting to expect at this show (such as new songs)? And do you have any other upcoming shows in 2016?
MS: I have never played at Aster as MISCH before! I'm excited to hang in the cozy environment and see Casey [Dubie] and Ben [Noble]'s shows! It's right in my neighborhood, so I hope for it to be a good homey feel with new and old friends! I am playing a few songs that I don't have recorded yet, so I'm pumped to share those with everyone! I do have a few shows lined up for the year, but a lot of them are still in the works, so I just ask that everyone follow my social media pages to catch updates!
Find MISCH on Facebook, Twitter (@mischlynn), and Instagram (@mischlynn).
Special thanks to Liz, Casey, and Michelle.