Bandzoogle Member Spotlight: Jenn Mierau
Bandzoogle Member since: 2010
Genre: Electro-Acoustic / Pop
From: Montreal, Canada
Jenn’s favourite Bandzoogle Feature: “The content manager – which is a big surprise for me. Because I’ve done some work with websites, I normally despise having to work with content managers. They usually assume you’re stupid and try to help you in ways that only make things more difficult for someone who has some knowledge of coding. But Bandzoogle’s content manager is a great middle ground of giving me control over various aspects, including some code, while making things very easy to put together.”
It might be because of her years of classical piano solitude, or maybe because she likes to do things the hard way, but whatever the reason, Montreal’s jenn mierau chose to embark on the long and winding road of self-producing and recording.
Having learned much from working with other producers, jenn felt the need to follow her own vision and see where it led her. Now, emerging from her cocoon of self-production, the years of going it alone have paid off in a gorgeous way. With nods to Lykke Li and Imogen Heap, the result is an icy, versatile, electronic-influenced pop album “HUSH” that highlights jenn’s songwriting and production skills, as well as her sweetly sexy voice.
And jenn’s hard work has not gone unnoticed. Her song HUM was the AmazonMP3.com Free Song of the Day, and the Hollis P Monroe remix of the song was later released on the UK label, Defected Records.
Q: What artists/bands are some of your influences?
Imogen Heap, Arovane, Kid Beyond, Prefuse 73, 90’s hip hop in general, Philip Glass, Portishead, PJ Harvey, Judy Garland...
Q: How do you come up with the sounds and beats for your music?
As an example, I’ll explain my process for the song, Told You. The impetus for the song came from a warbled Dictaphone recording of me playing a different song on Wurlitzer – I happened to play it back at the wrong speed one day, liked the way it sounded and recorded it. Then, on a train trip from Montreal to Toronto, I was working on melody and lyrics for the song and recorded myself singing (very quietly) into the mic on my laptop. I never used the vocals from those recordings, but I did use the sounds from the train: the wheels, the whistle, the bottles clanging against each other in the trolley that goes by. I also recorded some other sounds from the Dictaphone: the sound of scanning through radio stations and the sound of the Dictaphone rewinding. I love using found sound samples that I record myself. They usually come from fairly random and serendipitous sources.
What I usually do when making beats is to go through my samples (which include some actual recordings of drums) as well as the Apple Loops in Logic. Sometimes there’s an Apple Loop that is close to what I want, so I’ll edit it to be timed better and adjust the pattern of it to exactly how I want it to be. I always overlay several different sounds for each element of a beat (kick drum, snare, high hat). I think the most I’ve layered was six different kicks to make one particular kick sound.
Q: How do you approach songwriting? Do you write lyrics first, or come up with beats/sounds and then add lyrics after?
I have no particular process. Sometimes a song comes from playing around on the Wurlitzer and coming up with a chord progression I like. Sometimes it comes while talking a walk and a melody comes to mind. Sometimes it comes from sitting down and writing lyrics. Sometimes it comes from a sound I’ve recorded or come across. I try to not analyze or intellectualize it too much… my best work happens when I just let ideas come and experiment with them.
Q: Your album cover is a 14,400 stitch rug-hooking self-portrait. How did you come up with the idea?
Two years ago, I decided that all my album artwork would be “analog,” to counter all my hours spent in front of a computer. So I’ve done knitting, string art, paper clip art and a kind of macaroni art. The idea for this cover came to me as an epiphany in an intimate moment while mastering the album with Ryan Morey at Ryebread Mastering. I had taken a bathroom break (TMI, I know, but I want to clarify that I was peeing!), and as I sat down, I saw, hanging on the wall across from me, an intricate rughooking of a landscape: fields, trees, clouds, a path, a barn. I was taken by the way light and shadow could be depicted using pieces of yarn as pixels... and I knew I had to rughook my album cover! Little did I know the gargantuan project I had committed myself to: several months of sitting on my couch surrounded by bits of yarn! I made the process longer because I decided to shoot a timelapse video of the rug being made, which meant stopping every 100 stitches or so to take a photo. I often felt crazy to have taken it on – especially when I was wearing wrist braces to deal with the tendinitis that was starting to flare up!!! – but in the end, I’m really glad I did it and I love how it looks!
Timelapse video for rug-hooking of HUSH album cover:
Q: What’s one of your favorite career highlights so far?
Most recently, it has been the first review that mentioned my production skills specifically. Even though I record and produce myself, I hesitate to call myself a producer. I’m fairly confident in my song-writing skills, but for producing, I feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing and am just figuring it out as I go along. So it was very gratifying to have people, aside from my parents and husband, specifically mention that they liked what I produced.
Q: What’s your biggest challenge as an artist?
DIAY...Doing it all yourself! Especially being a solo indie artist. I have no band members with whom I can share the work. There’s no one else to invite people to shows, nor to do booking. No one else to help keep all the social media profiles updated. No one else to research places to send the CD. No one else to meet other bands. No one else to keep the motivation going. And because I also record and produce myself, it adds a whole other level of DIAY work! I’m not complaining, but frankly, it can get a bit overwhelming at times.
Q: What’s next for you? Touring? More videos? Another rughooking project?
Shows, videos, collaborations and yes, more rughooking! I’m doing out of town shows in Ontario from mid to end of November (Ottawa, Kingston, St. Catherines, Hamilton) and am planning a more “formal” tour for the spring. Other videos are in production: one for Told You, Hush and Shine, and maybe one for Lovesong. There are also numerous collaborations in the works with various artists. I really love co-writing with other people, as well as giving others free rein to remix my songs. This year, I was involved in six releases with other artists and want to keep that going in 2012. And finally, I am, in fact, back to doing more rughooking, now that the wrists are healthy again. I’ve started making mini rugs that I frame and sell at shows.
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