A recent conversation with Mitski…
When and why did you start playing music?
I always played music because that was just what I did. I never thought about it or questioned it, I just needed to. I seriously started studying it around middle school, and I started writing my own songs at around 18 or 19.
What kinds of music do you think influenced your sound? Specific artists?
I don’t know. I think it’s a mix of Japanese music from the 70s-80s that my mother listened to, old-old american and irish/scottish folk music as well as silk road field recordings that my father listened to, combined with whatever pop/rock music entered my brain while I was growing up.
What was your biggest inspiration when writing your newest album, Bury Me At Makeout Creek?
It was all about paring things down. My first two records were big orchestral extravagant projects way beyond my means – by the third record I was dead-tired, and wanted to use less instruments and less equipment, work with less people, and have less flourish and more “raw”ness (whatever that actually means)
What are some specific themes that the songs on this album cover?
Being broke but still having lots of heart.
It’s interesting to see a reference to The Simpsons in the album’s title. Are you a big fan? Who’s your favorite character?
I’m not a “big fan”, more like it was one of the few english-speaking shows on TV while I was living abroad so I grew really attached to it. I don’t think I have a favorite character – they all have their moments.
What’s it like being a woman in the music industry and trying to develop your own solidarity in the midst of your male peers?
Oh boy. Please refer to this interview I did on a blog my sister co-runs: http://mobmaterial.tumblr.com/post/100672748823/we-were-fortunate-enough-to-be-able-to-ask-the
What do you like most/least about touring and playing shows?
Most: it’s what I feel I’m meant to do. I am in my element when I’m on tour, like I am who I am supposed to be. I grew up moving around a lot, so maybe that has something to do with it too. Also trivial things stop mattering on tour. The thing about always being on the road and not having a home and having very minimal resources at all times, is you start to become clearer about what you actually need versus what is trivial. You need food and clean water and to stay as clean as you can, you better appreciate comforts like soft beds and rooms with nice temperatures, and you really become grateful for your general health. When I got back from tour, I suddenly didn’t give a shit about any of the dumb netflix shows I’d been watching, like I didn’t need them to pass the time anymore. Your perspective shifts.
Least: you are never alone, ever. I am introverted and need to be alone to recharge, because basically I lose energy during social interactions. so I have to make sure to deliberately plan alone time – taking quick solo walks, telling my tourmates I’m going to chill and not talk for a while, or going to sleep alone while everyone’s still hanging out – just so I’ll last for longer tours.
Have you had any particularly bad experiences on tour?
Yes, but everyone who’s toured has, and everyone who’s lived has, and it’s just part of life.
How would you define the term “success” in relation to your life?
When I’ve finally “made it” will be when I can finally be left alone to make music the way I want to, without having to do anything else to pay for my rent.
If you could go back in time, would you do anything differently?
Everything I did and that happened to me before is what made me into who I am now, and I think I like who I am now, which actually feels like a crazy thing for me to say because I really truly hated myself for most of my life.
But I think if I could make a slight change, I’d be kinder to myself. I abused my own body and soul a lot, and that’s not how you should treat your true “soulmate,” the one you’re stuck with for the rest of your life.
What have you been listening to lately?
I’ve been listening to M.I.A nonstop for a fucking decade. But lately also Bjork – I was religiously into her in high school, then got distracted and stopped listening for a while, but now I’m back, like “sorry mom I had to go away to find myself but now I’ve returned and I’m even more grateful for all you’ve done for me”
What do you do in your spare time?
Haha, “spare time.”
Red because it reminds me of my mother, but actually Black because it’s my real favorite color.
Lolita. I know “of course Mitski loves Lolita” right I am a caricature of myself.
Really into foxes right now, but also wolves. Again, “of COURSE Mitski loves wolves.”
omg you don’t understand I love movies I can’t fucking choose.
Okay. Imagine me putting everything Hayao Miyazaki made into one uber-long stream and calling it A Movie. That’s my favorite movie.
What are your plans for the future of your music?
To be able to only make music I want to make and not have to worry about the money it’ll make.
Are there any final thoughts you would like to leave the readers with?
Take pictures of yourself as you are now! I’m assuming a lot of you are young, maybe in your teens. When I was a teen, or like, until very recently, I hated pictures because I hated the way I looked. But now I wish I took pictures of every year of my life, because I will never be that way again – you will never be this young again, and when you get older you will look upon your baby self and love hir.
Check out her music: http://mitski.bandcamp.com/
(illustration by Valerie, aka @eggflowersoup on instagram and sympathyfaucet on tumblr)