Without Role Models: A Q&A with Mitski

Photo by Katie Chow
Photo by Katie Chow

Since the release of her third album Bury Me At Make Out Creek last fall, Brooklyn-based singer and songwriter Mitski Miyawaki has quickly become one of indie rock’s most compelling voices. Lead single “Townie” felt immediately iconic for memorable lines like “I want a love that falls as fast as a body from a balcony,” and the record soon became a 2014 favorite for its gripping, cathartic delivery, pairing heartbreaking vocals with raw-edged riffs. On tracks like “Francis Forever” and “Drunk Walk Home,” Mitski tackles the fear and desire that are inherently part of growing up head-on, and she encourages her audience to do the same. Bury Me At Make Out Creek was originally released on Double Double Whammy (Porches., Quarterbacks, LVL UP), but was reissued earlier this month on Don Giovanni (Screaming Females, Priests). We caught up with Mitski last month at SXSW to talk about her conservatory background, touring, and making music without role models.

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You just signed to Don Giovanni, and I saw you’ve already been in the studio with new material.

The next album has already been recorded, but I’m on tour all year for Bury Me At Make Out Creek, so I don’t really have a moment to put out the next record. It’s probably going to come out next year, this year’s just going to be about touring.

That’ll be your fourth album, since you had two before Bury Me.

I had two albums, and I was in conservatory studying composition [at SUNY Purchase], so it was my junior and senior projects that I just made albums. Then, I put them on Bandcamp. So Bury Me At Make Out Creek is my third record, but it’s the first one that I made physical copies for and actually marketed in any semblance.

I remember you saying that someone described you as “Purchasecore,” like LVL UP and Porches.

Purchase has a really vibrant music culture, it has and it probably always will have a great music culture. I guess that Purchasecore label kind of fits, though we all make such different music that it doesn’t make sense to put us under all one [umbrella].

Do you feel like having that community around you was a good support system as you were starting out?

I think it really was. I learned a lot from watching other people my age making music, to see how they go to shows and see how they record music. A lot of music requires other people, a lot of it you can’t do alone, so it was good to have that community support system.

Do you see yourself returning to that community, or does everyone kind of just move to Brooklyn afterward?

Well, for example, Maxo just played at this show, and I went to school with him. It’s just one of those things where it’s less of going back and more of everyone kind of goes up together and you see them in different parts of the world or in America. Not on purpose, but like, “You’re here, I’m here, we’re both doing music still.” It’s really cool.

I know everyone from when we were still figuring out our sounds and learning about music stuff, and now everyone has their own path. It’s really good to see how everyone has moved through the world in different ways.

When did you start making your own music?

I’d say 18 or 19, which is pretty late for professional musicians or songwriters. I guess because there was no one like me–Asian-American, basically–making the music I wanted to listen to, it didn’t seem like a career option to me. It was pretty late that I realized, “Okay, I don’t see anyone like me around me, but it’s what I want to do, so I’m going to try something”… It took me a while to realize that it is a possibility, I’m just not represented.


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