SXSW 2014: Misun x Vinyl Mag

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LA-based Misun met with us at South by Southwest to talk about their music (self-described as “spaghetti soul-dance”), their South by Southwest experience, leprosy from armadillos and Jon’s caffeine addiction.  Check out our interview below, and then be sure to catch these guys on tour — they are truly, uniquely, awesome.

Vinyl Mag: So how have you guys been liking Austin besides the traffic issues? You’ve been here before, haven’t you?

Misun Wojcik [vocals/lyrics/keys]: I have not.

Jon Jester [drums]: Two of us have.

VM: Well welcome to the little blue dot in a big red state!

MW: It’s cool. We like it so far.

VM: It’s a unique place! I just moved here, so I’m getting my bearings on it all as well. Well, to start out, could you maybe tell me a little about yourselves and what roles you play within the group and what you bring to Misun?

William Devon [bass/keys]: I play bass, and that’s my role. I dance onstage [laughing], and style icon.

MW: “Diva” is a word we like to use.

Andrew Wallace [aka Nacey, guitar/production]: I play guitar, and I produce our tracks.

MW: I do vocals, lyrics, keys…

VM: And really cool hairstyles – I wish I could create that. Except the wind outside will destroy it in one second.

MW: Yeah! You should have seen it before! If you think this is nice…

JJ: I play the drums. And that’s what I do. I make sure we get from A to B. I’m addicted to caffeine, but not coffee.

MW: But not coffee.

VM: But you like the Crystal Light type of caffeine?

JJ: Yeah, the weird caffeine. I’m into these caffeine packs now that are essentially what you would have in a sugar-free Monster, but it comes in this little packet, and it’s really cheap.

MW: He makes it really yummy-looking, and it is, but it’s fat.

JJ: It’s poison, really. It is.

WD: Everyday, he picks us up with the same big cupful of his [laughing].

MW: Is this too much, Jon? [Laughing]

Will: All of our interviews are going to be like this [laughing]. Jon is the caffeine crack head.

MW: Jon has a problem.

VM: But he likes his caffeine artificially created, like chemically…

JJ: Exactly. The stronger, the better.

VM: Okay, so your music is super upbeat, but chill. I almost feel like it has a reggae vibe to it. When you’re creating music, creating a track, what is your focus? When you’re approaching it, what is your goal for how the music will turn out? Do you go in with an end goal in mind? Or do you just have it organically develop?

WD: I think it’s pretty organic every time. We don’t even really know what our sound is yet in some ways. We just know that…sometimes, it’s just based off of what we’ve been listening to, influenced by something a little bit, and we’ll just kind of roll with it in that direction.

VM: I read something about how you guys were influenced by Quentin Tarantino? So, how has Tarantino – also, what other art forms like music, film, writing – come into your work and influenced what you create?

MW: Some of the dance-heavy stuff is….what would you say the influence is?

AW: We’ve been DJs for a long time, so we’ve been into dance music for a long time. But it’s not… I feel like every single one of us pretty much like everything, so if we’re listening to rock music, we might start writing rock music.

JJ: Yeah, it’s cool not having…. like if you’re in a rock band, or if you’re in a hip hop band, you kind of stay within those lines. And I don’t think we have those lines. Those lines for us are…

MW: Ever-expanding. We would be bored if we couldn’t do different music all the time.

VM: If you could summarize your genre, what would you say? Sum up what you are in a couple of words.

MW: Well pop’s in there, for sure. Rock, for sure. Rock, pop, soul-dance.

VM: I like that! Soul-dance.

MW: Spaghetti soul-dance [laughing].

JJ: And that’s where the Tarantino can probably be heard. A lot of his guitar lines. Kind of twangy, western-y guitar vibe. Like Pulp Fiction and all of those. And what was the other? Did Kill Bill have a lot of that with the trill-y?

VM: So you secretly want to be in a Western? A Tarantino Western?

MW: Yeah, he is a cowboy, for sure.

VM: That’s awesome. Do you like any of the psychedelic Westerns? Like Dead Man with Johnny Depp? Austin’s a great place if you’re into Westerns, then!

MW: Exactly, what we want to get out of this city – but we won’t have the chance – we want to see Texas Texas. Like, ‘tumbleweed Texas.’ And I bet you there’s a lot of them, based on the wind outside.

VM: I’m pretty sure I saw a tumbleweed when I was driving over here, which kind of freaked me out.

JJ: Have you seen an armadillo yet?

VM: No, I haven’t.

JJ: It just looks like a little armored rat. On the side of the road.

MW: Are they dangerous?

VM: I think they carry leprosy…

All: What?!?

VM: Like if you touch it, you can catch leprosy!

MW: You’re joking.

JJ: Is there a cure for leprosy now?

VM: Yeah, antibiotics or something. I just would prefer not to catch leprosy!!

JJ: Yeah, and that’s how Misun ended up in in a leper colony.

MW: Someone needs to write a song about that [laughing]. Could you imagine if someone got leprosy out here? Like, ‘how was South By?’ ‘It was fun; we all caught leprosy.’

VM: What are your plans for after South By and moving forward throughout the year? Any projects you’re super pumped about working on?

MW: We’ve got a few shows lined up on the West Coast, and –

JJ: It’s really our first tour, too. We’re going to the Pacific Northwest. Middle of May, we’re going to… what is it – Everett, Washington? Something called Fisherman’s Village Music Festival there.

MW: We’re also playing in Oregon.

JJ: Yeah, a couple in Portland, a couple North West states. It’s all between the 12th and 17th of May, sometime in there. And then we’re playing the Echoplex March 22 – that’s an official after-South-by show. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the Echoplex, but it’s a great venue, I’m super pumped on that.

AW: We’re playing Hard Rock City again, going down to San Diego for that show.

MW: I think the hope is that we make more music this year and keep touring. Build awareness, and have fun. We love writing so much; we want to be able to do that as much as possible…we’re based out of LA, and we all moved from DC.

AW: We made that move about four months ago.

VM: How are you liking LA?

MW: Loooooooove.

JJ: On a day like today, it’s like, ‘wow, I miss LA, nice sunny weather.’

MW: Yeah, I miss LA. But seriously, the vegetables – the prices on fresh produce is just unbelievable. DC will rob you, you know, for a cucumber.

JJ: Although if you buy a 30-pack of beer, you’re paying $1.50 for the CRV tax in California, because they charge you about five cents a can.

MW: But, see, the wine is less, so I win.

VM: How did you guys get together to collaborate and become a group?

WD: We’ve kind of always done music, and we kind of all just started working together, and it just kind of naturally happened. I don’t think we originally had intentions of creating a band, and music just started coming and we thought, ‘let’s go for it.’ And then we met Jon.

MW: Yeah, it was definitely weird. There was a point where we were like, ‘are we a band?’ because before that, we were just kind of playing around.

JJ: Misun opened for a band that I was playing with at the time. It was in DC; I’d been in LA off and on for a while, living there, and when I saw them play, it was just the three of them without a drummer, and it was legit. I mean, I was really floored. I mean, I had heard of the band, but I had never seen them or really listened to them, and you know, saw her, and I grabbed Andrew after the show, and was just like, ‘look man, even if it’s not me, I think you guys really need a drummer, and I’ll throw my hat in the ring.’

VM: So you just went out there and were like, ‘I want to join’?

JJ: I mean, I’ve been doing this for awhile, and maybe a month or so later, Misun reached out to me and was like, ‘how’s this all feeling? In terms of friends, and do you want to do this?’ and I had already decided to move to LA, and we started playing together in March of last year, so it’s been about a year…

MW: And he’s incredible. We had like little tryouts for other drummers, and boy was it tough, but this was just like [clap] bam!

AW: And the band he was playing with was like electronic, so he has this whole system, and he triggers samples with his drum set, and for us, we do so much electronic stuff, he just educated us on how that works.

JJ: And I fought it. I was forced into that world, because I used to have long hair, and I wanted to just rock. I just wanted to hit things as hard as I could and then all of a sudden, then this other band was like giving me these electronics, and I was like, ‘this isn’t what I want to do.’

VM: It becomes scientific, almost.

JJ: It used to be you just show up, and you’ve got your sticks and your wood, and then all of a sudden I’ve got all these wires and things, and I fought it. Now I look back, and I’m like, ‘thank God those guys made me do that switch.’ Because when I met Misun, I was like, ‘I already know how to do this, here it is,’ and it just worked.

MW: Yeah, we didn’t even know something like that existed at all.

JJ: Sometimes, you know, you fight against what you think is not what you want to do, and then all of a sudden it turns out to be the perfect situation. I’ve been reflecting on that a lot over the past year. On how that all just…

VM: How that perfectly worked out!

JJ: Yeah. Like, maybe we’re onto something in this band.

MW: It’s like eating your vegetables. You don’t want to do it, but it’s good for you. But I do like my vegetables.

JJ: We’re very healthy!

VM: Yeah! You have your green juice – I was going to get y’all a drink, but Odwalla is probably a better strategy…

JJ: We’ll come back and meet you after our show and take you up on that.

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