We spoke with Erin Birgy of Mega Bog about her latest release, Happy Together.
You just released a new album. Can you give us some details on it? Which label pressed it?
Yes, Mega Bog is working with experimental-pop-ish label, Nicey Music, on Happy Together. It came out February 3!
Happy Together is the title of your latest album released under Mega Bog. The record sound a bit different than your last, Gone Banana. What were some of the influences during the writing/recording of this album? How was that different from your other records?
It's actually the sixth album recorded as Mega Bog! Our resources and environments are always changing. Comparing Gone Banana to Happy Together, one (GB) was recorded without expectations and almost entirely in my bedroom at Magic Lanes. Happy Together consisted of a grouping of songs/pieces I was eager to unleash and start working on some other aspects of music that were frightening, but new... including studio production. It a good crossover because we started with basics in-studio, and I took much of the overdub tasks home with me. There are secret and not-so-secret messages throughout both, and the groups of people (which also change) around during each record have this little spiritual code sheet.
Who makes up Mega Bog and who was involved in the recording and production of Happy Together?
At this point the band, or facilitation effort, has a solid crew of players from all over. People come on tour/play/record when they can, and great lengths are made to get everyone on each new recording. The Happy Together band has some of my best buds from iji, Pill Wonder, Hand Habits, Heatwarmer, Aquaserge, Happy You, Sheer Agony, 1000000000s, EZTV, Big Eater and Big Thief (Zach Burba, Will Murdoch, Meg Duffy, James Krivchenia, Aaron Otheim, Jacob Zimmerman, Andrea Shiavelli, Ezra Tenenbaum, Jackson Macintosh, Julien Gasc, Clementine March, Matt Bachman).
Where are you currently based? How has that shaped your creative processes (writing, recording, etc.)?
Right now I'm on an airplane to Portugal where I will be taking notes while I read a book by Clarice Lispector and some of my favorite poems by Adrianne Rich. When I read, I write down quotes, phrases, and thoughts to flip through when I start arranging and narrating. My thoughts have been deep in community organizing and advocacy/alliances to demand and create safer spaces for humanity. These feelings have all been turning into songs - little essays with sound and fury behind it; similarly to the way Happy Together was written. I would take notes on particular songs or essays that moved me or were relevant to that point in life, and would hope to combine several abstractly similar notions into one piece. The track "192014," for example, was a collage of "S.P.Q.R." by This Heat, "Descent of Alette" by Alice Notley, the electronic record Ruth White did for Baudrillard's "Flowers of Evil," and Kenneth Anger images I watched in Georgia with Ash & Desi. It seems like one huge thesis every time a record comes to completion!
Who are some newer artists/bands you admire or draw influence from?
It's always the people I'm around in my personal life who could be seeking similar freedoms as a musician/composer, or are just in front of my face sometimes involuntarily, but welcomely accept each other. I always listen to iji demos for months after Zach sends them. The band Key Losers (Dear Nora/Katy Davidson) have been life-altering time and time again. I wake up with Big Thief songs stuck in my head about every other day. Moor Moor for futuristic advice for the present. Cate Le Bon simultaneously with Blackstar (or any other Berlin & post Bowie) for vocal warm ups.
Do you plan to tour the new album? Do you tour with a full band?
Yes, of course. I try to tour a song mix as I can, and have for almost a decade. That means about 6 months a year, and for this year is starting today. Mega Bog is doing a tour of the UK the next two weeks, with Big Thief. After this tour we have three record release shows in New York, Montreal, and Los Angeles. After that we have a West Coast tour booked with Hand Habits for the month of March. We have some more things in the works in North America. I'm hoping to go to Mexico City to play in July, and a full European tour is being booked in the fall.
Do you prefer playing your music to big crowds in big venues or smaller, more intimate settings? Is imagining the live aspect of your music a component of your writing process?
Maybe it could be more considered in writing, but it's not. Every venue we play seems so unpredictable. I'm happy and comfortable across the spectrum, from a living room with ten or less people to the proclaimed "proper" venues that hold 500+. Having intimacy during and around a show often validates the major reasons we play music more than a venue that assigns a micro class system to all musicians performing and expects you to play into the capitalism game. Although, captivating a huge group of new friends an allies feels quite good, too. It's all about what all of us (everyone in the room) is feeling, and I try to create a space where we can all rage, respectively.
What have you been listening to lately? Any notable albums you've been drawn to recently?
I've been listening to "The Dispossed" by Ursula K LeGuin on audio book in the bath. James has inspired me into the world of audio books. In the car I have a handful of cassettes I rotate every couple months, but "Another World" by the Roches, Younger Shoulder self titled, Cate Le Bon "Crab Day," "Diamond Dogs," and "Taking Tiger Mountain."