The Mynabirds, Deep Time at Barboza 8/3Posted by Adam Barnett
A little over a year ago, I spoke to Laura Burhenn, frontwoman of The Mynabirds, for my university’s alternative weekly. I had been a huge fan of her band’s 2009 debut What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood, a soulful record inspired by Burhenn’s fascination with Motown and Neil Young (hence her catch-phrase for the record: “Neil Young doing Motown”). As this was my first face-to-face interview ever, I made a complete fool of myself, and as I recall, I think I even asked at the end of the interview if I could call her up for help on my homework. She responded in good humor, “Only if it’s English homework.” It seemed that Burhenn’s politeness matched her mild-mannered and soulful Cat Power-PJ Harvey-“Put it-on the jukebox, Darlin’” record and live performances.
The Mynabirds sophomore effort GENERALS is a pleasant shocker. I wouldn’t be surprised if, given the opportunity to ask Burhenn for help on homework at her upcoming Barboza show, she would say, “Do your own god d*mn homework. I gotta fix the world,” to which I would nod and smile with hoards of the utmost admiration and respect.
As a fan of most things Saddle Creek, I’ve been anticipating GENERALS for a while, now. The Mynabirds formed a little while after Burhenn’s previous Washington, D.C. project Georgie James disbanded. After moving to Omaha, Burhenn connected with multi-instrumentalist Richard Swift (Damien Jurado, The Shins) and various Saddle Creek personnel, leading to a contract with the label and a production credit for Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Cursive) on What We Lose. After working as a member of Bright Eyes’ touring band, Burhenn once again teamed up with Swift, and the two made music ‘til the cows came home, just like the good ol’ days. But GENERALS is on an entirely new plane of music making from its predecessor. This time around, The Mynabirds weren’t just focused on having fun and putting out a good record; according to their artist page on Saddle Creek, for the past decade Burhenn has been building up a mess of political and socio-economic frustrations, and she used GENERALS as the canon that shot them out into the public.
While the average, non-confrontational person might prefer the warm and soothing soul of The Mynabirds’ debut (and it is very, very good), Burhenn wanted a call-to-action. So she took an incredibly in-your-face, intense approach in the rockness that is GENERALS. She can now begin her ascent to feminist rocker iconism, not just because she is a fantastic songwriter, but because her music and voice are aggressive enough to reel people in and prove to them that she is, indeed, really pissed off at the state of everything.
Though, The Mynabirds are constructive in their criticisms, offering a stance of pacifism and advocating it throughout the record. And Burhenn constantly encourages hope and communal love on poppier songs like “Body of Work” and “Disarm.” She isn’t one of those skeptical, complains-about-everything rock stars. Burhenn and her band’s ever-shifting lineup legitimately want change, and the fact that they use great music as a means to accomplish this is an added bonus.
The Mynabirds play the early show at Barboza on Friday, August 3, with support from Hardly Art’s minimalist pop new-borns Deep Time.