The most honest transformations start small.
Hot off the heels of their sophomore full length, Stefanie Blondal Johnson and Jodi Dunlop of Winnipeg rock outfit Mise en Scene have seen some slow and steady changes, but the metamorphosis is well worth the wait. Titled Still Life On Fire (Light Organ Records), the album is a burning holler, a swelling rumble indicative of the talented forces behind the monitors.
Johnson began writing the album while taking part in a musicians residency at the renowned Banff Arts Centre in the winter of 2014.
“With songwriting, inspiration comes to you and you have to articulate that emotion and that feeling,” Johnson explains of desiring to create a cohesive, conceptual album. “We’re trying to crack the code of what we’re trying to say.”
Beginning with the expansive “Intro (Nothing)”, the album builds through layers of hard hitting percussion, powerful vocals and catchy riffs. By “True”, your head is bopping and you can’t even believe how you came from light, folky jams to driving, resonant rhythms. The progression takes its time and pulls you along with it.
Recorded in Winnipeg and produced by Montréal-based mastermind Mike Nash (who has worked with everyone from members of The Dears, Blue Rodeo and Ladies of the Canyon) the album is a full, sonic delight capturing a full portrayal of the band’s journey.
Mise en Scene’s breakout album, Desire’s Despair (Pipe & Hat, 2012), was a rallying call that got the female forces noticed, and more importantly, heard. Produced by Howard Redekopp (Tegan & Sara), Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire) and Tony Berg (Beck), the album took them on a roller coaster of a career kick-off. It lived on the !earshot Top 50 national charts in Canada for weeks, received a 2014 Sirius XM Indies Award nomination, as well as touring across Canada, to infamous American music hubs such as SXSW, and to the prestigious Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona, Spain.
It was while playing at Canadian Music Week in Toronto that Mise en Scene was noticed by Dyllan Towle of Light Organ Records. Based in Vancouver, Light Organ represents Canadian talent with an independent edge, such as The Zolas and Mounties, a group featuring Hawksley Workman and members of Hot Hot Heat.
After going through a rotating cast of bassists while touring Desire’s Despair, they finally came across Hykawy. Shortly after Hykawy joined, the band also began performing with a second guitar, adding an even fuller sound to their cool-kid buzz. The result is Still Life On Fire, a record CBC Music calls “One of the most compelling albums you’ll hear this year”, and it couldn’t have come a moment too soon. The energy is infectious, caged and ready.
“Still Life On Fire is the name of the album and that whole world…the songs, the band members, the album art, it’s a living thing,” Johnson says. “It’s not just the music. What is our intention. What do we want to say. ”