Q&A: Mipso is back with a new album, 'Book of Fools'
A band that got its start more than a decade ago on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill is back with a new record.
Mipso's sixth studio album is called Book of Fools and offers some musical contrasts. Every member of the band has released solo work, but they came back together for the new release and an ongoing national tour that includes four dates across North Carolina.
Two members of the band, Libby Rodenbough and Joseph Terrell, joined WUNC recently to talk about the album and their latest tour.
This is an excerpt of an edited transcript of that conversation. You can hear the full interview by clicking the LISTEN button at the top of this post.
That opening song really caught me by surprise the first time I heard it when it transitions to that rockier sound. What were you thinking about when you made that choice, Libby?
Rodenbough: "I think that we intended it to feel that way. And there was a there was reason behind it being the first track, but that arrangement idea wasn't mine — that was our producer, Shane Leonard, the first half of that song I brought in, and it just stayed consistent tempo wise. And Shane felt like that chorus deserved to have a more dramatic moment. And so, we went with it. I think that was the first song we tracked in the studio, and we only did two or three live takes and stuck with them, because we really wanted to like have the band feel that transition in a natural way."
Terrell: "That was the first time I've ever switched amps while recording. When the song changed abruptly, I hit a little button on the floor, and suddenly I was all fuzzed out."
Joseph, you co-wrote Broken Heart/Open Heart with Jacob Sharp, who sings the lead vocal. It's a song of loss and hope. That opening line really sets the stage for the rest of the song.
Terrell: "It does. And that's the way the song started was — you know, Jacob and I have a long friendship and a long history of writing songs together, and he has a way of getting to a kind of emotional immediacy and honesty that I think is rare and special. He had the first line of that song, and he was like, 'This isn't much, but I think this is something that we could really follow.' And we sat down — it's sort of like, the way you imagine co-writing happening, it doesn't usually happen that way, but in this case, it kind of did. We run a little band retreat, and we sat down by a creek in the mountains, when the leaves were all yellow around us, and in about half-an-hour we sort of banged out this beautiful little song."
Wood Robinson put out a jazz record awhile back and you've all put out solo releases. What is it that draws you back together as a band?
Rodenbough: "We were a band first before we did solo stuff, and I think we all had a little bit of an itch to scratch to be kind of like at the helm of the creative process. And that's really enjoyable in its own way, but I think for me, it's been a good experience to come back and do it with the band and realize that I want both of those processes to be a part of my creative life because they forced me to think about making music really differently."
Terrell: "Absolutely. Like, I love making music Libby. I feel like we grew up making music together. We started when we were like 19. And like, I can play my songs with my fingers on my guitar any day, but when we get together, I kind of get to play with Libby's brain and Libby's voice and Libby's fingers. And that kind of collaboration is unique in my world."
Carolina Rolling By can be heard as an upbeat, catchy travelogue, but then, when you listen closely, you get a darker feeling when pain killers come into the song. What was the experience that prompted you to write that?
Terrell: "I suppose there was some amount of general awareness of our nation's struggle with addictive substances that have been in my brain. And how could you not be aware of that living in America in the past five — I'd say five years, but also 10, 15, 20 (years)? But I had a particular accident where I fell out of a canoe onto a root in Jordan Lake... I tore some deep muscles in my back. They thought it was a kidney or they thought it was a spinal injury, so I went to the ER. I couldn't walk for a couple of weeks. And while I was on the painkillers that was giving me any semblance of like, presence of mind or like ability to live, I wrote that song.
"So, I thought that was beautiful because the painkillers made me feel good, good enough to write a song, which is — that's not just powerful, that's magic. But at the same time, when you feel that happening and you know your actual body situation, that's scary. We got some magic that's scary.
"We have so many options to either numb or distract ourselves. Which feels like a good idea to do sometimes if the alternative is looking with clear eyes at the severity of what's actually happening."
Mipso's new record is called Book of Fools. It's out now.
The band will be playing four shows in North Carolina beginning in Carrboro on Sept. 21, and then moving on to Asheville, Charlotte and Raleigh.