MIEN Fights Violence With New Wave

Though separated by oceans, these musicians joined together to give voice to the woes of the world.

Comprised of Alex Maas from The Black Angels, Tom Furse from The Horrors, Rishi Dhir from Elephant Stone, John-Mark Laphma from The Earlies and now Thor Harris from Swans, MIEN is the ultimate post-punk/new wave supergroup. Their debut album (I’m Tired of) Western Shouting combines experimental music with lyrics expressing frustration about politics, humanity and communication.

With the members spread across the globe, it’s difficult to plan practice. Still, creating music has been stress free.

“We all have different projects that we’re developing, but this band seems to have given us a shared sense of satisfaction that’s been really welcome,” Lapham tells BTRtoday. “The birth of each track on the album was radically different—we spent years checking in with these tracks, just adding to them when the time felt right.”

Read the full interview with MIEN below.

BTRtoday (BTR): You all come from other amazing music projects and different parts of the world—how did you guys meet and decide to combine powers to make MIEN?

John-Mark Lapham (JL): It’s all pretty random, honestly, and spans back some 13 or so years. I met Rishi through my old band, The Earlies, after his old band, The High Dials, shared a tour with us. We enlisted him to play sitar for our song “Breaking Point,” and that was the start of a beautiful friendship.

It wasn’t until nearly a decade later when he was touring with The Black Angels that those wheels started moving. I caught one of their shows in Buffalo, NY and met Alex Maas for the first time there. I think that was the night where we decided to try and start sending each other music and exploring what could happen. Tom Furse was the last piece of the puzzle, and when he entered the fray, it really felt like something was happening, we had a complete picture.

BTR: Why did you call it MIEN?

JL: We spent a lot of time debating on what would be a good name for this project. It was unanimous that we wanted something short and punchy. We settled on the name MIEN after Alex suggested it. It means “a person’s manner, bearing, or appearance.” It felt right with the music and some of the themes we were working with in the songs.

BTR: You guys have been playing music for a while now and each have evolved so much. What does this project mean to you?

JL: MIEN has been something of a release for each of us. We all have different projects that we’re developing, but this band seems to have given us a shared sense of satisfaction that’s been really welcome. We never had a goal to make a specific kind of entity, it’s all been quite spontaneous. We spent years checking in with these tracks, just adding to them when the time felt right. As such, it was all very organic, which for me is a first. I’ve been a little OCD with past projects so MIEN has been great for me because I’ve been able to do my part and pass it on to the others without any worry for its fate.

BTR: (I’m Tired of) Western Shouting feels so epic to me—such a convergence of different musical talents. What was the creative process in creating this baby like?

JL: The birth of each track on the album was radically different. The song “Western Shouting” started with Alex, Rishi and another musician, Peter Holmström. They started a demo that ended up sitting on a hard drive somewhere for quite some time. When we started compiling ideas for our album, Alex sent me all of the separate tracks and said I could just run with it. It was basically a folder of a lot of bits and pieces. I decided to not listen to any of the mixes they’d done and just take the individual parts with no context, just to see how far away I could take it from their initial idea. It was a fun exercise and an ideal way for me to work, really.

BTR: What does the term “Western Shouting” mean? Anything specific inspire some of the lyrics or melodies?

Alex Maas (AM): The song on one hand means exactly what it says, “I’m tired of the western shouting”—literally tired of the violence, the apathy, the selfishness between people, politicians and everything in between. One of the cancers of the western culture beyond our own diets and overprescribed lifestyles, is our terrible communication on a personal level as well as a global/political front. On the other hand the song is an awaking or a call to arms in a communicable sense in some ways. It has many meanings to me, like all art.

BTR: I’m always so impressed when musicians are in multiple music projects. I’m such a bad multi-tasker myself. How do you guys juggle being in different bands?

AM: It was such an easy-going process. We’d check in now and then without a lot of pressure. It was another outlet that had zero to do with our other projects, so it was fresh and exciting. It was a joy to pass around songs and get inspired by what the other members would come up with.

Rehearsing has been quite a struggle because we all live in different parts of the world. We have sourced some amazingly talented musicians in Austin to make the band a band. Robb Kidd, Thor Harris and Jordan Gieger, all of whom are just such great people and insanely talented. I find myself just trying to hold on to their musicianship at times.