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Jim Drake’s Entertainment Blog

Soft-spoken MIPSO stringband in HR Dec. 9

Described as “renegade traditionalists” the four piece Appalachian-influenced stringband MIPSO has been touring the country since 2010, and they are finally making the rounds in the Northwest.

A first-time stop in Hood River is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 9, at the River City Saloon.

“I’ve never even been out to visit Oregon . . . I’ve never been north of San Fransisco, on the West coast,” said fiddler player Libby Rodenbough last week.

Libby was calling from a friend’s house in Nashville, TN, and her bandmates were back in Chapel Hill, NC. It’s a hectic travel schedule for the band, as everyone was getting ready to fly out to LA the next day, to start the west coast tour. It didn’t sound like the band had a lot of rehearsal time planned.

“Right, we’ve got songs that we’ve been playing for the last few months, we had a record come out in October. We’ve been playing so many shows that we really don’t want to be playing on our days off the road. So we haven’t been rehearsing that often (laughs),” Libby said.

Before you start wondering if I’ve made a typo on the band name, here’s the official explanation of all things MIPSO: “The band name means nothing more than a collective noun, for the four of us when we play music together. It doesn’t have any outside meaning. It’s just a couple of random syllables thrown together. The boys actually named the band before I joined, and it was actually called MIPSO Trio, which at least sort of rhymes, but that was the only logic to it, though (laughs),” Libby said.

The musical genre could also be classified as mysterious, too, as one band member was surprised when their second album went to number eight on the Billboard Bluegrass charts without expecting it to. So what genre are we dealing with here?

“(Laughs) well, as much as we can, we try avoiding that question, but actually a lot of the elements of our music is drawn from contemporary pop music, and a lot of the love songs we do could easily be pop songs, with different instrumentation,” Libby said.

The band obviously has a lot of old-time influences, and it’s similar to bluegrass, but without super-fast high lonesome sound.

“Our last album was called “Dark Holler Pop,” and that actually is a good way to talk about the kind of sound we have, because it’s got the Appalachian, southern, dark holler influences, but the songwriting and singing style and a lot of the way we approach the music is kind of a pop sensibility,” Libby said.

MIPSO has been playing about 180 shows per year — seated theaters, house concerts, a kind of hodge podge of shows, with a desire to join the festival circuit next summer.

“It’s good that we play all these different shows because it forces us to change our sets around a little bit, and be very thoughtful of the type of audience we’re going to have,” Libby said.

Meeting her bandmates in college, Libby starting getting interested in music at a young age, and credits her sister as the main influence.

“What got me started playing music was my older sister, who was playing the violin. I was six years old, and I just wanted to do everything that she did. So I took up lessons. As far as joining the band, it’s really just as simple as a result of being friends with people in college that had a band, and they asked me to play with them,” Libby said.

“I didn’t really know how to improvise, and I didn’t really have a “fiddle” style, as opposed to just playing the violin, but I was starting to get interested in traditional fiddle styles independently at the same time they formed a band, so it seemed like a good excuse to learn some things and get to play on stage a little bit,” Libby said.

“We thought it would be a short term thing, just a fun kind of thing to do, which it was, but then the band started to get some traction with their music, and started playing further and further from home. When they graduated, a year before I did, they decided to try and do it for a living, and that was a successful experiment. And then I joined them, after I graduated in May of 2014, Libby said.

MIPSO is looking foward to generating some new songs with the goal of a new album next year.

“We’re proud of our recent record, “Old Time Reverie,” but some of those songs are already two years old,” Libby said.

Libby described MIPSO as a peer-influenced band, and reinforced that notion by mentioning exactly where she was calling from.

“Right at this minute I’m sitting in the office in the house of a musician that we all know and love, Kristin Andreassen. She’s got her own band now, but she used to be in an all-female old time band called Uncle Earl. I really thought those guys were badass, especially when I was starting to learn old time and learn fiddle tunes. A lot of the bands that we most admire is our peers, the people we see out on the road, and play shows with. Our friends in 10-String Symphony, are just incredible. In North Carolina we look up to Mandolin Orange, a great duo featuring songwriter Andrew Marlin, who is our producer for our last record. We’ve gotten to know him really well, and he’s been a great mentor for us."

MIPSO will be at the River City Saloon on Wednesday, Dec. 9.

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