I hear a lot of influence from New York No Wave bands, both in the post-punk reappropriation of heavily rhythmic music (dub, funk, krautrock, et al) with an aggressive, fuck-off attitude that frees you to put sounds together in very unorthodox ways. Your vocal style is one of the most apparent examples, managing to merge sexuality, anxiety, and perhaps a little vulnerability, as well. I know that you are writing about specific topics in some songs, such as the American occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Beyond that, i'm in the dark. Do you regard your vocals as a medium for a specific message, or just another effect in the total process, or something else again? Is there collective input on lyrics, or is this your preserve?
I am aware that the lyrics are by and large indecipherable, and I think it's unfortunate because I would like to engage people lyrically. But this is how I sing, and I do not want to try to force a different style. It is important to me to sing in a way that makes me feel engaged and expressive, and I hope that whatever is happening on my end can translate to the audience. I'm not really too interested in those NYC vocalists, though. I like Meredith Monk, Patti Waters, Neil Young, Javanese Gamelan, and Pygmy choirs.
How important is live performance to Mi Ami? Do you regard it as a more fitting environment for your music, where it can be apprehended and shared directly with a live audience, than the one-time-take environment of the studio? What elements do you like to bring to a live set beyond the music -- lights, stage setup, physical interaction, etc.?
We are a live band, and that's what it's all about. I like working in the studio, but operating as a live band is the whole point of our band. We don't choreograph our sets or decorate the stage. We just play.
Daniel Martin-McCormick. Photo courtesy of Mi Ami.
What sort of instrumentation does Mi Ami use live? Are there any pieces of gear that you are particularly fond of at the moment?
We are drums, bass, guitar, vocals, drum effects, and a little bit of keyboard. Damon uses a Simmons drum brain for some sub-bass sounds, which I love. I have a super-loud head that also has great tone -- the Ampeg V4 -- and I cannot play through it enough.
Quarterstick has released your most recent album. A few weeks ago, their parent label Touch & Go announced that they are shuttering operations after their current release schedule is completed. How do you feel about this news?
I don't have much to say about this. It is very sad and came as a shock.
I feel this is a silly question, but i still want to know: is there any particular reason your titled your album Watersports?
Not silly at all. There were three reasons. First of all, Jacob and I especially wanted a title that had a political aspect to it. In 2008, everyone heard a lot about waterboarding and the torture debates, as well as water conservation issues and the like. It seemed like the dialogue surrounding human rights and our place on the planets was getting more and more absurd and scary. At the same time, the people who were in charge seemed to be treating human welfare and the fate of the planet like some silly game. Watersports.
But we wouldn't have picked it if it wasn't already a term, loaded with meaning and associations. Watersports as a sexual practice is fascinating to me, belonging to a whole repertoire that takes pleasure out of violent humiliation. A lot of the lyrics had to do with relating to my body, and feeling some tension and anxiety surrounding my body and my place in a society bent on its own destruction.
And finally, we wanted the record to have a certain aquatic sound.
Tuesday will be your first show in Houston. I know you have some family here, but not that you have visited before. Is there anything you are expecting -- or fearing -- about a city big enough to contain Jandek, Enron, and Lewis Black's site of the apocalypse (i.e., two Starbucks across the street from each other) at the same time?
Jacob has family here and he visits regularly. Do you mean that Mi Ami has not played before? I have enjoyed playing Houston... I don't know, I'm sure it'll be cool. END