a. we had to do something to feature them
b. we could not just do some boring old interview because this Sunday’s show at the Black cat is not going to be some boring old show.
So we called them in their respective touring vans, and eavesdropped as they interviewed each other. What you’re about to read is a unique chance to partake in fun, no-holds-barred, irreverent conversation between two fantastic musicians. Being a fly on the wall never felt quite so satisfying.
(image by baybridged)
Mirah: If you could be doing anything right now, what would you be doing?
Thao: Would I have to be in the van? Or could I be outside the van?
M: No no no. I mean, only if you wanted to be in the van…
T: Okay, no I don’t. But if I could be doing anything right now…I would be eating Triscuits.
M: Eating Triscuits?
T: For real. And maybe one piece of fried chicken from New Orleans that we didn’t get to have. I mean, that’s what I can say that I don’t care about other people reading.
T: Okay, I have one for you Mirah. How’s your cough? I can hear it.
M: My cough…I thought you said something else, I’m not going to repeat it. My cough is still here. I’m taking it with me from Louisiana through Mississippi into Florida. I try not to travel anywhere without it. I think we’re in Florida already.
T: You’re in Florida already? Will you just soundcheck for us?
M: I’m going to soundcheck air drums for Willis, and air bongos for you.
T: Thank you. And air guitar.
M: Oh wait, you play guitar too? I thought you were just playing bongos this week.
T: My primary instrument is bongos. Or I should say my primary instruments ARE bongos. Because each one is a bongo. Each one of the bongs go. I studied bongo for four years and then I studied the other one for another two. So combined I studied the bongos for six years. But then I picked up the guitar on the side because I wanted to learn how to play the theme song from Reading Rainbow.
M: Oh yeah?
T: Still haven’t picked it up. There’s just one note that escapes me.
M: I think this phone call might only be capturing our delirium from utter lack of sleep.
T: You know, the show didn’t end until 2:30 and we had to be up at 9:00, and we probably didn’t go to bed until 4:00. But I FEEL great. Also, I got a new pair of sunglasses. For $5.99. And they have a sticker that says “retro” on them.
M: Do they fold in half?
T: No! I know, they probably don’t even count if they don’t fold in half. We need to go back to New York for those.
M: Luckily we’re going there.
T: Truth. Mirah?
T: Do you prefer to be called “Meerah” or “MurAH”?
M: (laughs) Most of my friends call me “MurAH”.
T: So “Meerah” is your stage name and “MurAH” is your given name. I feel like this is the appropriate arena to declare that my name is actually pronounced “Though-ah”. And it’s spelled “T-H-O-A”. Which I only see sometimes on bills, but I’d like to see it more often. It’s weird that we announced it as the “Thao & Mirah Tour” when it should really be the “Though-ah and MurAH Tour”.
M: Well it’s just so that we didn’t confuse people who are so used to calling us Thao and Mirah. But if we wrote out our real names with the real accents so they know how to pronounce it, they might not know that it’s us.
T: Yeah, well most North American keyboards don’t even have the accent keys that we need to properly depict what our names are. I don’t know, why do we tour in North America?
M: We should only tour in places that have the right kinds of keyboards.
T: I don’t even know where that is, we’re going to have to do research. Anyways, do you know what we have to do today?
M: Is that your next question? You’re asking me to guess?
T: I’m actually just going to tell you what I think we should do. We should watch the Obama address.
M: I almost can’t stand the quality of this phone call right now. It’s like the kind of quality that when I’m talking to my mom I just have to get off the phone because we’re both interrupting each other. And it makes me feel crazy.
T: And is that why you didn’t want to call in?
M: Did I not want to call in?
T: I mean, I just had a feeling that you wouldn’t.
M: Oh no, the reason that I didn’t call in was because we were doing yoga at a rest area. (laughs)
T: (laughs) Your van would do that.
M: You know? And I was looking up at the beautiful sky that was starting to pour huge raindrops onto me. It was great. Better than a nap.
T: You guys are a lot more limber than our van is. I bet that if we had to make a human ladder for a fire or something you guys would win.
M: Maybe after we watch the Obama address tonight on Youtube we can have a contest between each van to see who makes the best human ladder.
T: Yeah. Mirah, if you could hold any public office, what would it be?
M: I think that I would be…I don’t know, I don’t think I’d run for public office, I think I’d rather play the role of a townsperson actually. Or I’d be a rabble rouser.
T: You’d be a record holder? Or a rabble rouser?
M: I already make records. I want to be a rabble rouser.
T: Ohhhh nice. You already do make records. Nice one. Which leads me to my next question, which is, how does it feel to go on tour with someone who actually is a really big creepy fan of yours?
M: Really big creepy fan?
M: (laughs) Well, I definitely have to make sure you don’t steal my set list every night.
T: (laughs) And locks of your hair.
M: Yeah, I didn’t think of that one. Okay, my next question for you is: As I was telling you last night about when I went on a peace walk in Russia when I was twelve, and you were like, “What? You did that? You never told me that!” So is there something that you did when you were younger that I would maybe have a similar response to and be like, “I can’t believe you never told me that you did that!”
T: Yeah, but I have to consider whether or not I’m okay with this being public or not. You know, I taped Days of Our Lives every day of school, and ran home directly, post haste, from school to my house, ejected it from the VCR, rewound the video, popped it back in, and watched Days of Our Lives every day for years.
M: How do you feel like that’s affected your life?
T: I actually am a very idealistic romantic, in a weird way that I am never in healthy relationships. But I have oddly traditional views. (laughs) And I think it comes from the relationship between Kerry and Austin on Days of Our Lives. That is the goddamn truth.
M: I never knew that about you, and I’m so glad to know that. I feel like I know you so much better now. Thank you.
T: I mean, thanks for wanting to come in, you know? Also, my family was obsessed with David Copperfield. The magician, not the book. And we loved watching all the TV specials, and there’s this one where he invites the viewer (I still do not understand how this happened) from home to come up to the television. And I would be the representative for my family to do it at the time, and it would be some sort of card trick or floating coin on the screen or whatever that you’d have to choose. I’d choose it, and he always knew which one I chose.
M: I wonder how he pulled that trick off…
T: He was in Las Vegas, I was in Falls Church, Virginia…I don’t understand.
M: I mean, I think he probably has a really special connection to you.
M: That probably only happened to you, you know?
T: Yeah. And we also really, really loved Yanni. As a family. Did you ever see Yanni live at Red Rocks? I did. Did you ever see Yanni live at the Metropolis? I did.
M: I always wanted to call him “Yoni”. Have we had a serious moment over the past twenty minutes?
T: (laughs) We can be serious too! We met with the Gulf operation network and we learned what was really happening with the disaster and that was really serious and devastating. The whole van got to go, which I’m really glad for.
M: For some reason when I went to the bathroom I missed when they gave us the book, I only got a tee-shirt. I wanted a copy of that book, I wish I was reading it now. I’ll borrow it.
T: There’s a couple copies here, we can rotate it around. It’s a really fantastic book.
M: Did you read it?
T: Yeah, I read it after the retreat.
M: Okay I have one last question for you. Let me think of how to put it…it’s actually a really huge question, maybe we should talk about it later. (laughs)
T: Are we even in a state where that question would be possible?
M: My question is, how much of your music do you feel is sound, and how much do you feel is physical presence on stage?
T: Like in a show?
M: Well, the appreciation of your music…how much would you say is sound, in air, and how much is your physical form?
T: Right. I think about it a lot. As someone who plays music for a living and would like to consider themself a musician, I think it’s always a question of how much of it is it the music you create and how much of it is other things. My optimistic self wants to say a lot of it has to do with the songs I write. I would prefer that maybe all of it had to do with the songs I write. But I think that the wise presentation of music is people feeling engaged. I don’t know, I’d like to think that people feel they can relate to me and that there’s a level of accessibility there, that we could be friends or we could sit and have a drink and I wouldn’t be an asshole. If that helps. I’m glad for that. I just want people to think I’m not an asshole.
M: (laughs) High standards!
T: I’m a stickler for really high expectations. So without getting too involved in the answer to that question, I have one for you. Can you tell me a little bit more about how being Asian-American, and in particular coming from a Vietnamese family, how that has impacted your songwriting?
M: (laughs) Well you know, I do get this question a lot. And, you know, people see me and they want to know all about me.
T: I mean, you’re physically obviously Asian.
M: (laughs) Yeah, you didn’t know that?
T: No, I mean I had a feeling, but you don’t talk about it that much.
M: It’s affected my songwriting…I pretty much only write about being Asian in America.
T: And it’s weird that you don’t talk about it, considering what a large role it plays in your music.
M: Well, I’m also a very private person. Thanks for prodding me.
T: I try to ask the most provocative questions that I can. It’s important for people to know.
M: I enjoy that.
T: Okay one last one. Can you think of an example of a question that you can’t believe that people ask? And I’ll think of one too.
M: I feel like you have better examples. I can think of one but it would probably be like when I thought I was going to one-up you guys with a sketchy motel story, but I could just not compete with what you said.
T: (laughs) Oh yeah, no one can compete with that.
M: So just give your example.
T: Oh I had one and I emailed it to you, remember? But essentially it was like, “It’s not often that Asian people are in cool bands. How does that feel?” There was also, if I recall, a UK review that was incredibly racist and it said, “You know, you might be surprised because you think she’s just wading in the underbrush with booby traps in the jungle, but really she’s writing songs.”
M: (laughs) I guess mine is like, probably all those kids who want to know what it’s like to be a Jewish lesbian singer-songwriter.
T: Like those kids at the show last night who threw drinks all over my moniter? Why were they bro’s? They wanted you to drink the whiskey that they bought you so much! They really wanted you to drink it and you wouldn’t do it. Which I respect.
M: Thank you. Yeah I had a couple sips. Maybe they slipped a roofie in there. I’m glad I didn’t drink it.
T: They didn’t seem like they were your type though. Okay, well I think I’m out. I’m done, I’m out.
Want more: Mirah and Thao are playing a one-off show @ Black Cat this Sunday. Tickets are still available. It is part of the BYT ALL CITY REC program. DON’T MISS IT.