by Chris Snyder
CN: “Coming Down The Mountain” will be released next week. You guys will be going on a tour across the country in support of the album. Are there any rooms that the band will be playing for the first time that you’re excited about?
Most definitely. Lincoln Hall in Chicago, The Sinclair in Cambridge, Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Definitely excited to check out Milkboy. We’ve been hitting the pavement pretty hard for four years now, and those are all places we’ve hoped to play. It’ll feel good to get on those stages. Mostly I’m excited that the band feels tight. Even if we were playing bar mitzvahs, I’d be feeling good to play these new tunes. Nothing against bar mitzvahs. We played one once. It was awesome.
How did the recording process of the new album differ from the previous releases? (any “one takes”)
We recorded this record in our hometowns, Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina, and we had some friends around who we love and trust. We were relaxed and comfortable in the studio and I think that shows. Our producer, Brad Cook of Megafaun, gets a lot of credit for that, too. It’s taken us a few years to figure out how to sound like ourselves. Every recording process, every tour, every time we arrange a cover song, we adjust and experiment and get a little closer to being a tight, cohesive unit that sounds like nothing but us. I think that’s our white whale. We let ourselves chase that feeling on this record a lot. We cut a lot of it live, adding overdubs here and there. “Monterey County” and “Cry Like Somebody” are almost totally whole band moments captured in a take. It’s magic when that works. It’s so awful and painful to listen to when it doesn’t.
Are there any musicians/bands that influenced you guys to start Mipso?
We were raised up in the Chapel Hill scene. We got to college at 18 and all of us were getting interested in traditional music and bands that were playing with that formula. Chatham County Line, Megafaun, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Mandolin Orange, Hiss Golden Messenger. North Carolina has a really vibrant scene, very welcoming and supportive. We were snot nosed kids just banging on acoustic instruments. We were raised by the village, so to speak. I love old Doc records and Clarence White and Larry Sparks and Norman Blake a lot, too, and our scene was full of bluegrass jams (shout out to 2nd Wind, Steel String, and Armadillo Grill) where that stuff spiraled into meeting other songwriters and working on weird new tunes. I’m sure we wouldn’t have felt encouraged to make music and take it seriously without help and a healthy dose of inspiration from all those folks.
What it is the meaning behind the name “Mipso”?
It’s a Japanese word, we swear! Just kidding, It’s an acronym made from all our dad’s favorite movies. Ok, but seriously, It’s a type of Greek cheese, and we all really, really love cheese.
You guys will be at a number of festivals this summer. One of them being in your home state, North Carolina, Merlefest. What does Merlefest mean to you guys?
The way Nashville talks about the Ryman, Merlefest feels like the mother church of our type of music. Doc Watson’s influence is all over it. He called it “traditional plus.” He wasn’t a bluegrass musician or a blues musician or a folk musician. More like all of those things, a Piedmont musician who drew from every style he was exposed to, a real polyglot guitarist. Merlefest does a great job of staying aware of that legacy, putting fiddles and string band music next to blues rock, next to a gospel hour, next to an Irish band and a country singer. It’s all a big unwieldy American experiment. It feels in flux and hard to define, sort of fraying at the edges, and it’s exciting because of that mix, everything rubbing up against something different. I think we fit right in.
Are there any groups on the festival circuit that you’re excited to see live for the first time this summer?
I’m a guitar nerd, so I can’t wait to see Critter and Julian Lage do their duo stuff. We all love Brent Cobb’s new record, and I’ve heard his band is great.
What does the future hold for Mipso?
A truckload of Grammys and a tour bus? Or… just a lot of great songs and good shows. We’re cranking out the highway miles, so I hope y’all can come see us soon.