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Mipso jam on stage while jammed-packed Slim’s twirl to narrative melodies

Joseph Terrell of Mipso (guitars, vocals) asked me what stood out about their show at Slim’s on Friday, why I enjoyed it so much. Over the phone, I said, because it looked like you guys we’re having so much fun on stage, we could feel it too.

That’s what their new album Coming Down the Mountain sounds like. Through the quartet’s many strings, you feel the stories told as much through narrative as through nostalgic melodies. See photos from the show, and check out Terell’s take on where Mipso’s music fits into contemporary indie/Americana/bluegrass settings.

Q: Homecoming and traveling are quintessential narratives in Americana, and the new album emphasizes those themes (i.e. title track, Monterey). How did that come to be?

A: That common thread is something you hope a good record has, with multiple writers hard to make that happen – we’re all in similar places in our lives moving out of North Carolina. That push and pull from home has always fascinated me. I have always been restless, getting away from this place and also grateful for the traditions of this place. Theres the back and forth. A teacher of mine said ‘there are two places a rambler loves: home and away from home.’ A lot of the songs are written in that messy and in between.

Q: On that note, what’s the band’s songwriting process like?

A: We all like writing, piecing together these puzzles. Part of the project of the band is taking these individual tunes and making them more than the sum of the parts. We do adjust each others’ lyrics, it’s like a quilt we weave around the main writer’s idea.  Other times we completely write together. The more we’ve played together the better we’ve learned to understand each other as musicians. When we bring the familiarity to the writing process and it becomes more flexible and inviting.

Q: To me the album cover art exemplifies what I hear in Mipso’s music — taking the age-old American stories but illustrating in a modern way. Likewise the bands’ music videos take a story that could be told in any time period but brings it back to today with visuals (I’m thinking of Marianne). How does Mipso approach the line between roots and making music in the present day?

A: We understand that were playing with those ingredients, but its not such a specific formula that were trying to tweak – it’s an honest expression. Like any other kid in the 90s we grew up going to shopping malls, but my grandparents are bluegrass musicians. Its cool that the combination of old and new feels present. We do have songs about trains and old stories, we didn’t live in those times and riding trains, so to incorporate any of that traditional stuff requires a delicate touch. It’s not like were trying to set out to make a bluegrass record about moonshine and trains. That would feel dishonest.

Q: How would you describe your music? Bluegrass, Americana…?

A: At this point of course bluegrass means something in diff areas. Tim O’Brien said that West of the Mississippi, Hot Rize was weird, but East of the Mississippi was totally normal. Bluegrass has been in new England as long as it has been in the south, so it’s not as regionally divided as it seems.

Artists get asked about genre a lot because we flirt with different stuff because we have the least perspective on that.  Sometimes I think the word ‘translation’ is helpful because taking something old and transforming it but keeping the core while making new group of people understand. Traditional music has been on for a long, long time even before there were banjos on MTV.

Q: What influenced your arrival at the style you just described, that Mipso creates?

A: I listened to a lot of my parent’s music, my dad had good music taste. My brother and I inherited his record player when it was much more of a weird novelty to have one in the living room. My heroes then were people from the seventies: Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Carol King,  Randy Newman, singer songwriter who elevated the form. My extended family is into bluegrass, but I didn’t think it was that cool until I got to college. I studied south American music on guitar when taking a year off, hadn’t taken it seriously until then.

Q: What’s next now that the band is back in North Carolina?

A: We just got back from San Francisco and we’re heading back tomorrow on a deep south Atlanta tour, but on the bigger picture we’ve already finished recording our record.

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Anna covers shows in DC and San Francisco, and enjoys cartography and bicycling. More of her work can be found at www.annamcgarrigle.com.

Mipso jam on stage while jammed-packed Slim’s twirl to narrative melodies

Joseph Terrell of Mipso (guitars, vocals) asked me what stood out about their show at Slim’s on Friday, why I enjoyed it so much. Over the phone, I said, because it looked like you guys we’re having so much fun on stage, we could feel it too.

That’s what their new album Coming Down the Mountain sounds like. Through the quartet’s many strings, you feel the stories told as much through narrative as through nostalgic melodies. See photos from the show, and check out Terell’s take on where Mipso’s music fits into contemporary indie/Americana/bluegrass settings.

Q: Homecoming and traveling are quintessential narratives in Americana, and the new album emphasizes those themes (i.e. title track, Monterey). How did that come to be?

A: That common thread is something you hope a good record has, with multiple writers hard to make that happen – we’re all in similar places in our lives moving out of North Carolina. That push and pull from home has always fascinated me. I have always been restless, getting away from this place and also grateful for the traditions of this place. Theres the back and forth. A teacher of mine said ‘there are two places a rambler loves: home and away from home.’ A lot of the songs are written in that messy and in between.

Q: On that note, what’s the band’s songwriting process like?

A: We all like writing, piecing together these puzzles. Part of the project of the band is taking these individual tunes and making them more than the sum of the parts. We do adjust each others’ lyrics, it’s like a quilt we weave around the main writer’s idea.  Other times we completely write together. The more we’ve played together the better we’ve learned to understand each other as musicians. When we bring the familiarity to the writing process and it becomes more flexible and inviting.

Q: To me the album cover art exemplifies what I hear in Mipso’s music — taking the age-old American stories but illustrating in a modern way. Likewise the bands’ music videos take a story that could be told in any time period but brings it back to today with visuals (I’m thinking of Marianne). How does Mipso approach the line between roots and making music in the present day?

A: We understand that were playing with those ingredients, but its not such a specific formula that were trying to tweak – it’s an honest expression. Like any other kid in the 90s we grew up going to shopping malls, but my grandparents are bluegrass musicians. Its cool that the combination of old and new feels present. We do have songs about trains and old stories, we didn’t live in those times and riding trains, so to incorporate any of that traditional stuff requires a delicate touch. It’s not like were trying to set out to make a bluegrass record about moonshine and trains. That would feel dishonest.

Q: How would you describe your music? Bluegrass, Americana…?

A: At this point of course bluegrass means something in diff areas. Tim O’Brien said that West of the Mississippi, Hot Rize was weird, but East of the Mississippi was totally normal. Bluegrass has been in new England as long as it has been in the south, so it’s not as regionally divided as it seems.

Artists get asked about genre a lot because we flirt with different stuff because we have the least perspective on that.  Sometimes I think the word ‘translation’ is helpful because taking something old and transforming it but keeping the core while making new group of people understand. Traditional music has been on for a long, long time even before there were banjos on MTV.

Q: What influenced your arrival at the style you just described, that Mipso creates?

A: I listened to a lot of my parent’s music, my dad had good music taste. My brother and I inherited his record player when it was much more of a weird novelty to have one in the living room. My heroes then were people from the seventies: Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Carol King,  Randy Newman, singer songwriter who elevated the form. My extended family is into bluegrass, but I didn’t think it was that cool until I got to college. I studied south American music on guitar when taking a year off, hadn’t taken it seriously until then.

Q: What’s next now that the band is back in North Carolina?

A: We just got back from San Francisco and we’re heading back tomorrow on a deep south Atlanta tour, but on the bigger picture we’ve already finished recording our record.

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