By Chase Larson
Mideau is Libbie Linton and Spencer Harrison, two local musicians who have come together to create music somewhere between contemporary indie pop and vintage singer-songwriter fare that would make Joni Mitchell smile. Despite living on opposite coasts, the duo gears up for a new album and rapid ascent into the public eye.
Inquiring minds want to know: what does Mideau mean?
Libbie: Mideau (pronounced mid-oh) is a composite of two words, and it loosely translates to “Middle of the Water.”
How would you describe your sound?
L: It’s been categorized as art pop. We use both electronic and traditional instruments, and it’s really heavily influenced by a lot of different genres. We’ve been told by people that have heard the record that it’s got an air of familiarity but they don’t know what to compare it to.
Spencer: I really think it sounds like your favorite record from the ’70s, but very hybridized with the music of tomorrow. There’s a lot of classic elements but with a modern twist.
What was the draw and inspiration for the new album?
S: We really set out to create something that we would be proud of and that would hold a lot of meaning for the both of us. That was the underlying inspiration – to keep it honest and to push ourselves to explore new territories both conceptually and musically.
L: A lot of what Spencer and I both seem to be inspired by is finding beauty in the unremarkable; things that are familiar and relatable to all of us but written with a different perspective. We tend plays off of and explore aspects of the ordinary: driving to work, common childhood experiences, and so on.
S: And that’s why this album has such a familiar feel to it. They’re songs that talk about waiting at a stoplight and being retrospective. Those are the moments in this record that people will connect to. It’s like what’s in every man’s journal, but hopefully written with a creative spin.
What was your creative approach in creating the album?
L: One of the tenets – philosophies – that we had early on is that we wanted to stretch ourselves. We wanted to make ourselves think outside of what we normally do.
S: That’s definitely how we approached it. Initially it started simply with, “Let’s learn some covers so we can sing together.” That morphed into, “Let’s write and maybe record some songs.” It turned out that the songs we were writing really called for us to push ourselves, and it continued to progress into such a more detailed and complex production than we could have imagined previously.
How important was collaboration in the process?
L: This album truly relied on the input and ideas of multiple people. That inherently leads to new combinations and new ideas that otherwise wouldn’t exist if we worked independently. And then on top of that, we brought in Nate Pyfer as a producer to act as a third creative mind to really push the boundaries and contribute a lot of amazing and visionary ideas to the production of the album.
S: The process and logistics of actually doing this project is interesting, and perhaps a bit unique. I’m very much a Utah boy, but I’ve been living on the East coast for the majority of this project. As a result, we rely a lot on technology. There’s a lot of Skype. There’s a lot of songwriting in airports. The fact that we currently don’t live in the same city, or same state, or same part of the country certainly impacts our process, but we’ve so far been able to find ways to deal with every constraint that comes up.
Give us a “behind-the-scenes” insight into a couple of your favorite songs off the new record and what they mean to you.
L: “Benny” is one of the more hopeful songs on the album, and is really a call to action. It has a lot of those unremarkable elements of life in it — driving to work on an icy highway early in the morning and thinking of the possibilities of life. It’s dealing with day-to-day anxiety and concern. It’s the desire to invoke change, and recognizing that many things can be possible. The choruses are soaring, and there are a lot of details and sounds and rhythms that are intended to give the listener a big lift, deep in their chest.
S: One of the main underlying concepts of “Maude” is how things change as we get older. For example, you can look back on specific experiences in life and realize that, when you were younger, you may not have seen things as they actually were. One of the specific references in the song is watching a house burn down, which was an experience Libbie had, and at the time it’s just exciting. It’s beautiful. But as we get older we realize what a tragedy that really is. It’s also that innocence and inexperience in a way keeps you free. That’s why perhaps many of us long for our youth. As a kid, you don’t notice the complications of life. As a kid you only notice the details that matter to you.
What is your proudest accomplishment as a band so far?
L: I can’t help but be proud of us for putting as much of our energy into it as we have. And there’s no prouder feeling than the point where you listen to and hold the tangible final product, and feel satisfied with the efforts of all involved to get to that point.
S: It doubles the sweetness by having people care and people that want to help. Every moment of support is satisfying, from having a successfully funded crowdsourcing campaign to help fund the album, to playing the Provo Rooftop show to 3,000 people and having an overwhelming positive response. Seeing the connections between creating this thing, and having it well received in real time was very fulfilling.
What else inspires you?
L: Oh, a lot of things. The process itself of creating. With this project, working in a collaborative setting has provided a lot of inspiration. This isn’t something alone I could do alone. In general, I’m inspired to create music because music has a rare ability to connect people and to invoke feeling. Whether it’s happy or sad, it’s a device that helps us all better understand our lives. Music gives you a tidy way to reflect on what’s going on around you.
S: Inspiration comes from a lot of things for me too. And a lot of that is personal and you don’t necessarily want to state so much. There’s an aspect of proving yourself. It’s proving that you can build your own house.
Here’s an abstract question: if you had to relate the album to a specific food, what would it be?
S: Fondue, obviously.
S: Actually, Libbie hates cheese. The album is everyone’s favorite food except cheese.
L: No cheese.
S: Seriously though, for me I’m less interested in albums that give away all of their secrets in the first listen. What we were striving for is that there are almost secret ingredients — there was enough to the album that every time you listen to it there was something new you understood or didn’t notice the first time.
What are your thoughts on Provo’s (and really Utah’s) growing music clout?
L: To me, a big part of it is how supportive many of the bands in the Utah music scene are of each other. We’ve been astounded at times at how many of the members of other bands have come to our shows or donated to our Kickstarter or offered encouragement. That’s a really amazing quality. And the fact that there are venues like Velour in Provo that really offer a resource for local bands to play great shows and connect with other bands and people involved in music is really important.
To learn more and hear samples from the album, visit www.mideaumusic.com. The album will be released locally at Velour Live Music Gallery in Provo this Friday, September 13. Tickets can be purchased at 24tix.com.