Live Interview - Mimi Naja

26 May 2016 - DelFest 9 - Cumberland, MD


TLS:  You just let me know when you’re ready, cause we’ve got time.

MN:  I’m ready to roll.

TLS:  Alright, well let’s kick it.  So straight out of the gate, love the new album — it’s obviously fresh and it’s certainly fresh for us, fresh on our minds…

MN:  Thank you.

TLS:  But we do have a little bone to pick with the band…there’s a particular song that we love that has been in our heads and hearts since Strings and Sol and Wondergrass and all over the place and that is “And There She Was”…

MN:  Oh yeah!

TLS:  So, true or false…you left it off Labor of Love because it’s going to be the title track of your upcoming funk album.

MN:  //laughter//  Man, I guess that’s not exclusively true or false…

TLS:  //laughter//

MN:  Which is…you know…I’m just keeping you on the edge of your seat.  

TLS:  Oooo, I like that.

MN:  No, the first half is false because, the tracking and mixing and everything for Labor of Love was done before that song was written.

TLS:  Oh…

MN:  So, you know, there’s a little lag time for artwork and press and stuff…

TLS:  Right.

MN:  So…it’s always been like that it seems, like, by the time an album’s finished and out to the public we’re sittin’ on, like, two or three great new songs.  And, people are like, where are they?  And, that’s why.  But, you know, hopefully that’s just why we keep more albums coming.

TLS:  Well, it’s good that you guys have that kind of flow that we can always know that when an album drops there’s already another one in the works.  That’s good knowledge.

MN:  Yeah.  And, you know, I wouldn’t ever rule out a funk album.  There’s no reason to rule things out.  

TLS:  Right?  That’s the way to live life, right?

MN:  //laughter//  Exactly.  

TLS:  Right on.  Well, you obviously put a great deal of hard work and really fine effort into the new album and knowing that a studio album can be a ‘labor of love’ itself, are there any tracks that stand out in your mind as having been particularly difficult to get down or triumphant ones of that ‘nailed it’ variety?  You know what I am saying…like a peak moment?

MN:  Yeah.  Yeah, let’s see here…  I think the triumphant ones are the ones that are, like, the most unique studio setup, like the one mic acoustic version where we have Jeremy Garrett on the fiddle of “Death Comes Knockin’”, that was a particularly triumphant thing.  It was all live with no overdubs, so, you know, I think we only did, maybe, four takes of it at most…I think it was, like, third take was a “count it”…

TLS:  “Got it”.

MN:  And that is a major triumph, you know?  When it comes to studio stuff and tracking, it’s like, you can sit there and pick that shit apart forever.  That is the struggle.  We struggle with that since we all are…you know, it’s produced by Fruition.  Tyler, the drummer…T-Thom, Tyler Thompson, he’s the main engineer-minded, mixing kind of nerd wizard…

TLS:  Sure.

MN:  …but, he tends to take the reigns in that way, but, at the end of the day, it’s all of our voices that say, “No, I want that turned up right here, “ or “You used some of that reverb and I want it ‘dry’”.  So that stuff gets super tedious.  I’m trying to think of one that was, like, that we just picked apart.  //ponders for a moment//  I think “I Don’t Mind” that had Anders (Greensky Bluegrass) on it…he came in and just laid down shit forever and, like, to my ears it was always like, “Fuck yeah!  That was it!”  And they’re like “No, no, no!”  I think they chopped his shit to bits ‘cause it was, like, he wanted it, he’s like, “I’m rockin’ out on…it’s the last track of the Fruition album, like, it has to be perfect,” you know?  

TLS:  Right?

MN:  So, I think that one got picked apart, you know?  Oddly enough, that’s one that we’ve been playing live for years and years, so, you’d think we’d just be, like, “Count it!”  That was a labor of love for sure…  //laughter//

TLS:  Well, I imagine that the temptation, especially when you’re working on new album project, to chase perfection to the point of nit-picking like you said, you can just go track by track by track and you could sit there for the rest of your life.  You know, but the album’s gotta get out sometime…

MN:  Right.  And that’s become the thing, where it’s, like, you hear something and you are like “I don’t know,” and the rest of the room goes, “It’s awesome!”  And then the question becomes, “Are you going to hear that and it’s gonna drive you nut for the rest of your life?  No?  Then let’s move on…”

TLS:  Right, move forward.  Sure.  

MN:  That’s what a studio record is all about:  time capsule, you know?  Count it!

TLS:  Yeah, yeah.  Get it.  Get it done.  Get it out.  

MN:  Totally.

TLS:  Yeah, sure.  Well, I’ll echo again:  love it.  It’s great to hear a lot of songs that we’ve loved for years now come out on an album…it’s pretty cool.

MN:  Totally.  Thank you.  

TLS:  Yeah, definitely, Mimi.  And I know getting some radio play and everything’s been a lot of fun to hear.

MN:  It’s been awesome.  This has been the best tour.  The shows are popping off…

TLS:  The pictures have been great…all the buzz has been awesome.  You played Gypsy Sally’s last night, right?

MN:  It was great!

TLS:  Small, little venue…

MN:  Yeah, great, great crowd.  We opened for Lukas Nelson and, that band was just great.  

TLS:  That’s cool, that’s really cool.

MN:  Yeah, solid.  

TLS:  It’s a good little venue, too.

MN:  It is, I dug it.  Yeah, like you said, the buzz…the buzz is hot right now.  Like, people are streaming on Mixlr and taking lots of pics and posting on our Facebook fan page (add URL):  ‘Fruity Freaks of the Universe’ - we invite all freaks, far and wide to come get in on it!

TLS:  Big fans of the Fruity Freaks, in fact, there are a lot of key Freaks that we are friends with.  Good folk!

MN:  It’s a good group…it’s fun.

TLS:  Like your Max Berdes and your Jade Korbas…the big ones.

MN:  Yep!  Yeah, I’m glad they're onboard.

TLS:  Well, they’re going to be tickled to be in this, aren’t they?

MN:  Yes!  Give ‘em a little name drop!

TLS:  //laughter//  You know, really quickly, too…just about the recording process.  One of the things we enjoy about you most as a band is your stage presence, that energy.  It’s electric, it’s really bold and powerful and you take a lot away with you from it…

MN:  Mmmmhmmm.

TLS:  Trying to take that, though, and put it in an album format in the studio, are there things that you do as a band?  Rituals?  Ways to psych yourselves up?  Strategies?  Anything special that kind of went into some of these recording sessions?

MN:  Yeah, I guess, musically or instrument-wise, everybody’s different.  I feel like I can bring the good energy, like, I can sit down on a couch and rip a guitar solo or something and that’s no problem, but with vocals you’ve got to really get up, you’ve got to get your blood flowing…  If we’re doing three parts, especially, we like to do them all live together to keep that kind of live stage energy.  So, it takes all kinds of things whether it’s, like, doing push-ups or the perfect balance of coffee and whiskey.

TLS:  //laughter//  We were wondering about the whiskey…

MN:  I mean, yeah…usually the beer and the liquor doesn’t come out until, you know, 8PM or something.  Sometimes you go in at a 11AM and, by 2PM you are, like, ready for a drink but you know you shouldn’t yet.

TLS:  Mmmmhmmm.  Right.

MN:  It gets tricky, you know?  It’s alchemy.  You know?

TLS:  Studio time is valuable, right?

MN:  Exactly.  A lot of it is…well, if you’re doing a solo, like, vocal take on a rockin’ tune, I sometimes will ask…I don’t want anybody in the room and I don’t want anybody watching me do it.  ‘Cause I might want to make weird faces and get that perfect grit and, like, I don’t want to be watched.

TLS:  No photographers.

MN:  Yeah.  So, you find your little things.  

TLS:  That’s awesome.  We figured there had to be something good because that was the question for us:  how are we getting that same sound that we can get from the stage and how did they put that in there?

MN:  Yeah, if you saw some of the behind the scenes, you’d be pretty weirded out I think.

TLS:  //big laughter//

MN:  Some weird noises between takes like //utters something hilarious and purposefully unintelligible//, you know, whatever it is…

TLS:  You’ve gotta shake it out.

MN:  Shake your shit out.  Settle down.  Yeah.  It’s not all polished and glamorous back there.  //laughter//

TLS:  Well, that’s good to know, too.

MN:  Yeah, right.  We’re real.  Real fuckin’ goofballs.  //laughter//

TLS:  Well, that kind of actually segues into my next question.

MN:  Perfect.

TLS:  We see you guys out there on social media quite a lot.  And you’re interacting directly with your fan base.  And, being goofballs and having fun.  And it’s really cool to see that kind of closeness there because it’s not that way with every band.  So, is that the kind of thing, for you guys, that comes with the territory for a band these days, or it something you guys, like, super dig?  Something you connect with?

MN:  Yeah.  It’s completely natural for us.  We super dig it because, you know, it’s not like I didn’t think I would play music.  I always knew I’d be playing, but I didn’t think it would become an entity and a business and, like, all of these things.  And that’s a fine line as we get bigger, of how to keep that natural community.  We naturally want to reach out and naturally want to finish a set and then go to the campsites and hang out with our buddies…but as we get bigger, it’s becoming complicated.  

TLS:  I bet.  

MN:  Certain festivals that will remain nameless and certain venues or whatever, they kind of frown upon you getting out there and, like, getting drunk and stuff…

TLS:  Fraternizing with everyone…

MN:  We’re kind of done with those days, to be honest.  But, it used to be our shit.  We’d be, like, “Holy shit!  We’re MainStage at the ‘whatever’ at 1:30PM!  And then, it’s like, what do you expect me to do later?”  //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//  

MN:  But, you know, as things change, we’re trying to find that balance of being professionals and being mature and staying connected as real people but also not just, like, airing out our everything publicly.  It’s tricky.  

TLS:  You still want there to be an element of fun.

MN:  This festival [DelFest] is fun. 

TLS:  Yeah, the Leftover Salmon guys were out there until sunup last year.

MN:  Yes, I’ll follow Vince Herman anywhere.  I don’t care where, I’d follow…

TLS:  Yep…that man.  //laughter//

MN:  Yeah, he’s the Captain.

TLS:  Were you at his wedding?  At Strings & Sol?

MN:  Yeah, yeah, what a moment.

TLS:  It must have been.  That’s awesome.  We saw some great pictures from that event.  It’s like watching royalty get married.

MN:  Yeah, seriously.

TLS:  Our royalty.

MN:  Seriously.

TLS:  Sweet, well, we’ve got a couple of quick questions left for you and then we’ll release ourselves back into the wild.

MN:  //laughter//  Awesome.  //laughter//

TLS:  So, we’ve had the pleasure of seeing you guys a lot at different festivals and understand that this is your first DelFest.

MN:  Yeah!

TLS:  We do know that you are close with other bands who have played this special little festival many times before.  So what, if any, expectations do you have as a band or yourself when you play a fest like this for the first time?  You’ve heard the buzz, you’ve heard the hoopla…which is all true, you know?

MN:  I guess my hopes are that there will be some classic, like, old-timey, traditional type folks that will be like, “What in tarnation is this?”

TLS:  Right.

MN:  And then, by a few songs in, they’ll be like, “This is amazing.”

TLS:  And dancing their faces off, too…

MN:  You know?  That’s what you always hope for…breaking typical genre barriers.  You hope that, you might have a hundred people already getting down but if there’s one guy in the back going like, “What?” //makes face//  If you’ve won him over by the end then that was a win.  And that’s what I hope for here.

TLS:  That’s awesome.  I think you’ll have some opportunity for that.

MN:  //laughter//

TLS:  Well, at Strings & Sol there were some folks who hadn’t seen you guys and we had the chance to talk you guys up telling people, “You haven’t seen anything yet.”  And, then, a few songs in those folks were like, “There’s something special here.”  Your energy’s contagious for sure.

MN:  Awesome.  Well, we won’t be at Strings this year, but I’m trying to weasel my way in there just as a personal solo patron, so, if anybody has a spot in their room, you just tell me.  I’d be stoked.  Got that little piggy bank ready to go, so…  //laughter//  Yeah, I want in.  I’m gonna weasel in there.

TLS:  It’s one of the parties.

MN:  …I fell in love.  Never seen anything like that.  I’ve been to a lot of good parties, nothing like that, man.

TLS:  You guys were killing it, too…that late night set was definitely a super highlight.

MN:  I was spent.  My voice was barely hanging on.  Knock the cigs off this year.  //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//  Right on.  Well, final question…and this is a nice and simple one.  So, if you could pick any song in your catalogue to play here with Del sitting in…

MN:  //small gasp//  Hmmm…

TLS:  …what song would you pick?

MN:  //thinking//  Man.  Let me scroll through my songs real quick…because that’s a great question.  That’s a really good question.  A really good question.  Let me just scroll through some tracks really quick.

TLS:  //laughter//

MN:  I’m trying to figure out, like…  //sings Del impression//

TLS:  Yeah, that’s some classic Del for you.

MN:   So far, I’m leaning towards “The Way That I Do” just because Jay [Cobb Anderson] kind of does a little yodel thing on that one…

TLS:  I can see that.

MN:  Jay, you know?  //singing// “This is truuuuuuuue…”  Wait, let me just make sure that I’m not missing the winner.

TLS:  That would be a cool one for Del to do with you.  //laughter//

MN:  Hmmm…that’s the winner so far.  Let me just scroll one more off of this record.  Oooo, man, he would do “Just One of Them Nights” really well.  Like a couple of keys higher?  You know?  //sings a few lines a la Del//

TLS:  Yeah.  Right?

MN:  I can hear it now.  Yeah, I would vote for that one.  

TLS:  I like it.  

MN:  Ding ding ding!!  //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

MN:  And we have a winner!  That’d be the winner if it happens…

TLS:  Well, you’re a winner in our book.

MN:  Hey, man, I’m winning just being here…that’s a great question!

TLS:  Well, thank you!  And thank you so much for sitting down with us today.  Really, really amazing.  

MN:  You bet.  

TLS:  We hope you enjoy your first DelFest, Mimi!

MN:  Thank you so much!

Mimi Naja and Parker Otwell Roe

Mimi Naja and Parker Otwell Roe