The Mynabirds Announce Their Sophomore Album,
New Album Out June 5th on Saddle Creek
Following 2010's critically acclaimed debut What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood and a year on the road touring as part of Bright Eyes, singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn teamed up with producer Richard Swift again and emerged with GENERALS, a sophomore album fully armed. In place of the Zen meditations found on the Mynabirds' first album, GENERALS is filled with armies of stomps and claps, sweeping full spectrum orchestrations, and moments that range from intensely personal pleas to shout-out-loud protests with teeth.
GENERALS is both a protest record and concept album. It's fueled by a full decade of Burhenn's political frustration and aimed at finding a revolutionary yet pacifist way in a world where, these days, it seems warring comes quick. Musically you can hear echoes of early PJ Harvey, politically-charged Nina Simone and Low-era David Bowie. It gets down and hip hop dirty, flirts with African melodies and rhythms, goes four-on-the-floor for all out dance jams and has plenty of percussion. Burhenn even plays drums herself on a couple of songs, and a 5-gallon bucket in homage to DC street Go-Go on another.
Lyrically, GENERALS sings the voice of the collective frustration, then moves beyond that. "It was important for me that this record made sense of my own anger and turned it into positive energy," Burhenn says. "I needed it to be transformative – of both the individual and the body politic. It's as much a meditation on Walt Whitman's hope for America as Gandhi's directive to 'be the change you want to see in the world.'"
The album's name comes from a Richard Avedon photo entitled "Generals of the Daughters of the American Revolution." Looking at the portrait of upper class ladies in their pristine satin gowns, Burhenn considered her own supposed eligibility to be a member of DAR and thought about what true revolutionary American women look like. The lineage of women that have stood up to injustice for well over a hundred years – women like Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Gloria Steinem, Naomi Wolf – they get their hands dirty. And Burhenn wanted to pay tribute to that.
In conjunction with the release of the album, Burhenn is launching a portrait project called The New Revolutionists (www.thenewrevolutionists.org). In an election year when so much time, energy and money will be spent on political contests, Burhenn wanted to shine a light on women making a difference – often on shoestring or even nonexistent budgets – in their own communities all over America, whether they're making headlines or not.
The Mynabirds will tour the US in advance of their album release this March, including dates in the midwest, on the west coast, and down south at SXSW. Saddle Creek will release the album on June 5th.
Check out The Mynabirds in a city near you:
03/06/12 Lincoln, NE – Zoo Bar
03/07/12 Denver, CO – Walnut Room
03/08/12 Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
03/10/12 Los Angeles, CA – Hotel Café w/ Big Harp
03/11/12 Santa Barbara, CA – SOHO w/ Big Harp
03/13/12 Tucson, AZ – Solar Culture w/ Big Harp
03/16/12 Austin, TX – Lamberts (SXSW) w/ Big Harp
03/19/12 Lawrence, KS – Jackpot Music Hall w/ Big Harp
03/20/12 Columbia, MO – Mojo's w/ Big Harp
03/21/12 Des Moines, IA – Vaudeville Mews w/ Big Harp
03/22/12 Minneapolis, MN – 7th St. Entry w/ Big Harp
03/23/12 Omaha, NE – The Waiting Room w/ Big Harp
For more info on The Mynabirds, please contact:
Pam Nashel Leto @ Girlie Action (212) 989-2222 x 111 Pam@Girlie.com
Jess Torraca @ Girlie Action (212) 989-2222 x 123 Jess@Girlie.com
In the spring of 2009 Laura Burhenn gathered her favorite books, records, and people around her and wrote what would become the first record from her new band, The Mynabirds. Following the break-up of Georgie James and some tough personal losses, Laura (one half of the former DC duo) started exploring the idea of collective consciousness and reading a lot of Jung and Sufi poetry. The first batch of songs she wrote didn't exactly work, she says: "Too much head and not enough heart." So she scrapped nearly everything and started again.
She went back to gospel hymns, to old country harmonies, to Rock and Roll records that shaped her. She stepped away from the piano and wrote whole songs with just a tambourine and the stomp of her feet. "I wanted to write something honest and raw," Laura says, "to make a record that sounded like Neil Young doing Motown, or a revival at a Buddhist monastery -- something simple and strong, old and new at once." With everything stripped to bare bones, Laura took her new set of songs to singer-songwriter/producer Richard Swift. And in a studio in the rugged hills of Oregon in the summer heatwave of 2009, they took turns at instruments and harmonies until the record was fully fleshed. What emerged was the definitive Mynabirds' sound: something new, but still raw with the emotion of old soul, nodding to gospel and garage, with echoes of Dusty Springfield, Carole King, and Bobbie Gentry bleeding through the tape.
"Those sessions were the most fun I've ever had recording music," Laura says. "When we finished for the night, we'd polish off a bottle of whiskey and dance to records -- Dandy Livingstone, Buffy Sainte-Marie, James Brown -- until the sun came up." That energy really shows itself on the album, particularly in "Let the Record Go" and "Numbers Don't Lie." Other songs, like "What We Gained in the Fire" and "Right Place," are more reflective, revealing lyrics that were clearly inspired by Eastern teachings. Even the album title, What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood, sounds like the reworking of a Rumi poem. While the album features mostly Laura and Richard, a few notable guests appear. Orenda Fink (Azure Ray) and AJ Mogis (Criteria) lent their voices; Tom Hnatow (These United States) played pedal steel; and Nate Walcott (Bright Eyes) arranged the horns that underscore The Mynabirds' soul-soaked sound.
When it came time to find a name for the project, a friend's James Joyce reference led Laura to consider the name "The Mynabirds," which just so happens to be synonymous with a band that included Neil Young, Rick James, and some other heavy-hitters; they were signed to Motown, but never released an album. That serendipitous discovery seemed like the perfect moniker for the project: a collection of sounds and songs, people and events, that all seem to fall perfectly in place.