Touching down in Oceania for the first time in a career that has now run over a decade, Mirah is finally going to be able to appease loyal followers who’ve held on to a glimmer of hope that she’d one day visit Australia.
Touching down in Oceania for the first time in a career that has now run over a decade, Mirah is finally going to be able to appease loyal followers who’ve held on to a glimmer of hope that she’d one day visit Australia. Although she’ll be touring as a three-piece and playing her own material this time around, the Philadelphia-born songstress has spent a good part of 2010 playing shows alongside Thao Nguyen, vocalist/guitarist from folk rockers Thao With The Get Down Stay Down. What began as an impromptu performance at the San Francisco Noise Pop Festival earlier in the year turned into a fully-fledged tour that saw each lass playing one another’s tunes and making the sets interestingly collaborative experiences.
“Playing shows with Thao is fun, super fun,” Mirah says with enthusiasm. “It’s much easier in a way to share the front of the stage with someone else, and it’s also been a great experience to work on performing each other’s songs. It’s like a weird combination of karaoke and guitar hero and some kind of game show where you just keep winning. We also just recorded an album of new material together, so we’ll be touring that starting in the spring, after the release. “
Although she’s spent the majority of her career performing on her lonesome, the 36-year-old has found herself joined by band members the last few years to give a better recreation of some of the sounds heard on her five solo albums, particularly 2009’s (a)spera. She still regards solo sets as important, however, and they’re not something she’s abandoned.
“I did a solo tour a couple years back that ended up being more satisfying than I expected it to be,” she contemplates. “I’d really gotten used to having more sound around me: more instruments, more people on stage, and I was worried that it would feel too empty with just li’l me. But instead I found that my focus was so strong – stronger than with a band – and that I liked all the silence between my songs and sounds.”
The first exposure to Mirah’s recorded material for many Aussies was probably 2004’s gorgeous C’Mon Miracle. There was a long wait of over four years between this and (a)spera, but she had remained productive by revisiting her past. Rather than shun her earliest material and forge ahead, like most artists, Mirah has no aversions to going back and re-evaluating songs she completed in her early 20’s. One disc titled This Old Days Feeling – released in 2008 – compiled a slew of out-of-print and never-before-heard material from the late ‘90s. There are some fans of her work that are actually more fond of this stripped-back sound over her current album work.
“Those were really fun times, when I was just running around with my cassette four-track and making things without any kind of filter of expectation,” Mirah says of those songs. “I’m not super organised about that old material. I know there are things I’ve made that I’ve forgotten about, recordings I mailed off to somebody to be on some 7" or cassette compilation.
“Maybe someday I’ll really go through all my old cassettes that are in storage and find some more material, make an Old Days Feeling sequel,” she smiles, “but who knows when I’ll get around to that. I’ll need some seriously rainy days and nothing else.”
Does she often get the urge to go back and re-record songs, such as While We Have The Sun (the final track on (a)spera, which was originally released six years prior)?
“If there wasn’t so much new to do and to record all the time I would want to do a project of re-recording everything I’ve ever recorded,” she answers. “I also have a four-track version of that song that was on a Portland compilation called PDX Pop Now a few years ago and it’s totally different than either of the two album versions.
“I find it really fascinating to re-approach the same song in a number of different ways, like how we recorded a disco version of Gone Are All the Days from (a)spera. I think songs love to be breathed into in new ways.”
As well as working on the aforementioned record with Thao Nguyen due next year, Mirah has also begun work on the follow-up to (a)spera, but she remains tight-lipped about any further details. As evidenced by her extensive body of work, the songwriter draws inspiration from all kinds of people and places, and she’s not afraid to admit that even a mainstream entity like Lady Gaga amazes her.
“She’s so balls-out and full of energy,” Mirah comments. “She manages to be incredibly honest and believable even while dangling from a hook covered in fake blood.
“I took an acting class this past year and it helped to remind me that acting is not actually acting… acting is when a person is being so real that you believe them, and you should, because they are giving something honest of themselves, even if the context is something that has been created. I think that’s what she’s doing; she’s acting/real.
“And she’s really talented. And young. She’s got a lot going for her!”
MIRAH plays The Northcote Social Club this Saturday October 23 and Sunday October 24 with guests The Smallgoods and Wintercoats (Saturday) and The Ancients and MSG (Sunday). Tickets still available for either show on (03) 9486 1677 or northcotesocialclub.com. (a) spera is out now.