Manitoba Music has teamed up with Fresh Radio for a new monthly spotlight on local music, dubbed Manitoba Fresh to introduce audiences to a stellar slate of buzzworthy local artists emerging on the Canadian music scene. Featuring on-air segments and online performances via Fresh Radio, and in-depth band profiles right here on manitobamusic.com, Manitoba Fresh continues this month with indie rock outfit Mise en Scene. Tune in to 99.1 Fresh Radio and stay tuned for so much more...
By Jillian Groening
It’s rare to find a band as well-known and well-liked as Mise en Scene. Ask any 20-something in Vans and a denim jacket about the indie rock outfit and you will most likely be greeted with a big smile, a slap on the back and a squinty-eyed “I love those guys”. But don’t mistake the fandom for finicky local hype, their admiration is as honest and deserving as it comes.
Formed when art students Stefanie Blondal Johnson and Jodi Dunlop started jamming one listless summer in Gimli, MB, the talented twosome, whose first show involved covered a Camera Obscura track at a backyard Canada Day party, is now charming audiences across Canada and the globe.
“We work really well together on canvas and if you can paint together…well I think that’s the hardest thing in the whole world,” Dunlop says of her relationship with lyricist and guitarist Blondal Johnson. Dunlop, a drummer who is known for her manic moves behind the kit, is fresh off the plane from the group’s third SXSW performance and just as eager to talk about the art galleries the band visited as she is the shows they played. “We went to the Blanton [Museum of Art] to check out this 90’s exhibit. It’s so fun to go to galleries and get away from the noise.”
Achieving a powerful stage show from their days as a two piece (not to mention Blondal Johnson’s insane vocal skill and Dunlop’s percussive prowess) the duo is now joined by Corey Hykawy on bass and Dave Gagnon on guitar. The added energy allows the group to perform more naturally and allows for sonic furor on their latest recording, expected to be released in the fall of 2016.
“It doesn’t feel like you have to overcompensate,” Dunlop explains of the joys involved in expanding the group. “And I’ve always been a huge fan of hooky guitar lines and now I have that!”
The highly anticipated album is the follow-up to 2012’s dreamy Desire’s Despair (Pipe & Hat), nominated for a Sirius XM Indies Award and recorded at the renowned Banff Centre for the Arts, and 2010’s independently released Late Night Triple Feature. Recorded with Toronto and Montréal-based Mike Nash, a self-described musical “hack of all trades”, the new album promises even more danceable tunes that’ll have you shaking till your beer spills.
“[Nash] is just this machine,” Dunlop recalls of the intensive month-long recording session. “He’s so inspired all the time. And he fit with us perfectly. I wouldn’t have changed that experience for anything.”
On par with the music is Dunlop’s and Blondal Johnson’s art direction. Shifting from glittery vintage jackets and black bolo ties to denim and shades, Mise en Scene’s distinct and cohesive aesthetic keeps all photo shoots and music videos delightfully inspired. Being in control of their image is not just a fun point of expression, but also an important message of control and confidence. Ripping a page from the art school notebook, where tough critiques are part of your daily practice and personal growth, Dunlop and Blondal Johnson discovered that believing in your work and your vision is key when dealing with the in’s and out’s of the music industry.
“We do all of our own artwork, styling and social media and I think that’s super important,” Dunlop says. “It’s so huge to be in control of your image. I just want to be authentic, and It makes you feel more connected to the music.”
In the very near future, Mise en Scene will take their raucous dance tunes to The Good Will on April 8 before heading to play Canadian Music Week where they’ll open up for Canadian shoegaze cool kids No Joy.
Dunlop and Blondal Johnson also plan to return to the Banff Centre to concentrate even further on the creative and collaborative bond they share.
“We’re just these weird life partners,” Dunlop giggles.