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Mi And L'au - Interview

  by Jamie Rowland

published: 22 / 10 / 2006

Mi And L'au - Interview


Recently signed to Michael Gira's Young God label, Mi and L'au wrote the material for their debut album in insolation in the Finnish countryside. Jamie Rowland chats to them backstage at a gig at the London Spitz about touring, getting signed and Finland

Young God Records is a label which I’ve grown increasingly fond of over the past two years or so, having released consistently brilliant records from the likes of Devendra Banhart, Akron/Family and label-head Michael Gira’s own Angels of Light. Mi and L’au are another of the wonderful acts Gira has signed up in recent times. Having met in Paris and fallen in love, Mi and L’au (from Finland and France respectively) decided to move to a log cabin in the Finnish countryside to live in isolation and make music together. After getting Gira’s attention, they released their debut album in the autumn of 2005. Since then they have been playing shows throughout Europe and the United States, and it was at one such show, as part of the Spitz’s Festival of Folk, that I met up with them to talk about touring, getting signed and living the isolated life in Finland’s countryside. PB : Is this your first tour of the UK? L’au : No, it’s the second one. We were touring last year, in the same period; UK and Europe, with Josephine Foster, and we played like, I don’t know, 40 gigs in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. We did a few festivals, like Green Man, things like that. But it was the beginning, because the album wasn’t released, and we just hooked up with Josephine. She invited us to join her on the European tour. So that was the beginning. PB : Have you had a better reaction on this tour, since the release of your album? L : It was sweet, because it’s summer, and the weather is pretty cool out there, and so, yeah, we had nice audiences. And we have a good car now. Mi : Yeah, it’s different from the first one. A lot of people have requests when we play. It’s weird! PB : How did you two first meet? M : How we met? It was in Paris, at Halloween, just after the towers. L : Just after the World Trade Centre. And the arrival of the Euro. M : So it was a pretty intense moment. L : Especially for us, because we were surrounded by American people in Paris, so it was a very strange mood. We just ended up under the Eiffel Tower eating croissants, having coffee, and diet Cokes if I remember. So that was it, you know, like a usual meeting. PB : Was a shared musical interest part of the initial attraction? L : No. I mean, it wasn’t the first thing. The first thing was… we don’t know. You never know. It’s just a discussion at the beginning, and then you suddenly realise you’ve spent five years in the same bed. And you still don’t know why. It’s great. It’s been great for us. PB : How long was it after you met that you started writing music together? L : It was immediate. Because at the time I was in the studio, I was making a movie soundtrack, and I had my guitar, and I just asked Mira to sing. We had a song, and she sang it, and that was the beginning. So we made, like, 20 songs and then decided to go to Finland and try to do something together musically. Music is a part of the life we live, especially nowadays, since we got signed and released. In the private life, music is only a detail. M : We do many things L : Mira, she paints, she takes pictures and she sculpts, and we make movies together and drawings, so different things. Music’s just one thing that we like to do. PB : How did Michael Gira hear of you and come to sign you to Young God? L : We sent a copy of some songs to him. It was a few years ago, and he answered. He first wrote a letter to see if he could join us in Finland. M: He wanted to come to see us. L : He wanted to meet us and to organise a gig for us with him. We had a conversation with him there, and that was it. He’s that kind of man, you know. PB : It makes it sound quite easy to get signed up. L : Well, it is easy. If people think about it, it’s very easy. If people like someone, you just go and check them out. It’s not so difficult. PB : Where do you find inspiration for your music? M : From discussions, about everything. L : Yeah, it’s about everything, but the main points would be about nature, and books, and cinema. Then we have discussions, and sometimes there’s a sentence that we like and we just put it in the melody. But it’s pretty simple> I mean if you take a song like ‘Philosopher’. It’s just because we just read many biographies by philosophers, and we noticed that they have many walks everyday, like they walk in the morning, and then another later on, and we were like “what does it mean?”, you know? So then we just made fun of it. M : In a good way. L : So it can be like that, or it can be very emotional. Inside feelings, you know? We live in Finland, so we’re very isolated. We have the wind, the cold, the darkness… M : And a lot of time to ourselves. L : Inspiration came a lot from that. And of course from memories of the past, because when you live by yourself, isolated, you can deal with what happened to you before, because you can’t talk to anyone. I mean, you can talk to the trees, but that can become a bit tricky. So instead, we make songs. PB : What kind of music do you listen to yourselves? M : There’s a lot, in all music genres. We don’t specialise in one music genre. We like to discover, and listen to a lot of things. There’s an amazing thing in Finland where they have these libraries were you can rent 50 CDs per person, so we go and listen through a lot of them. L : So we listen to everything. But the favourites are maybe Acrobat, because it fits so well with Finland. M : Thelonious Monk. L : Thelonious Monk, the piano player. Nick Drake was very important for us, and Mark Hollis, the singer with Talk Talk. We wonder why no one talks about this guy. He’s a master. M : Lately we’ve been listening to a lot of Beethoven. L : Yeah, we discovered Beethoven lately. It’s a cliché… M : But it’s true. L : Syd Barrett was very important. We read a magazine article the other day that said "if you don’t want to end up old and living in Cambridge, don’t take drugs." That was the only thing they had to say about Syd Barrett, and I think that was a shame. M : We were so shocked that we read it out on stage at our gig afterwards. L : There’s a huge difference between the States and Europe. In the States, look how they celebrate genius, and look what we do. In general it’s very cynical. The guy is part of the musical history of our time, so a bit of respect would be nice. PB : Your songs seem quite intimate and personal, and having written them in isolation, was it strange to start performing them to groups of people? M : Well, one thing that was strange was when we left for the tour with Josephine Foster was we had been away from people for a long time, and suddenly we found ourselves…even people in a room was something to adapt to. But now we’ve been touring for so long… L : It’s almost the opposite. It was difficult. Just imagine being five years on your own seeing no one and suddenly coming back to all that. M : When you live like that, you get some senses stronger that you don’t have in the city, so in the city it goes fast and people talk, and you become a bit of an animal when you live on your own. L: I think it was the right decision to come back, because there’s not so many words in our lyrics, so maybe two years more and we’d have been instrumental. M : We do that to. L : We do, and we really enjoy that. People like Mogwai for example. You asked who we like. We love Mogwai. M : Yeah, that’s amazing. L : But the first album, just to answer your question, was also to try to create the mood we were in at the time, but we wrote about 300 songs, so we could make a rock album tomorrow, or instrumental, or classical, or even in 3 or 4 different languages. We wrote things in French, in Swedish, Finnish and English. M: We have a library now of our own. PB : What made you decide to move from Paris to Finland? L : Necessity. We had a bit of money on the side, and we just noticed that we could live for 5 years in Finland by a lake and just do what we wanted to do, or go back to the factory. PB : It sounds like an easy choice! L : We had to do something, so what the hell ? I mean after all, you don’t move to Finland because you live in the middle of nowhere. It’s just a moment in your life when you need to create something of your own, and you cannot be distracted, but for us the first thing was the money. It was necessity. PB : After this tour ends, what are your plans afterwards? L : A nice dinner. M : If the question was "What will you do after his gig ?", today there’s a moon eclipse, so we’re going to see the moon eclipse. PB : Thank you.

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Mi And L'au - Interview

Mi And L'au - Interview

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Mi And L'au (2005)
Serene and experimental folk rock on the Young God label from romantic couple Mi and L’Au, who met in Paris but now live in Finnish woodlands

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