Stefanie Blondal Johnson and Jodi Dunlop of Winnipeg, Canada based indie pop outfit Mise en Scene have  overseen slow, steady changes in their group since forming in 2012, but the gradual metamorphosis has been well worth the wait. Their second album, ‘Still Life On Fire’, is a set of excellent guitar based songs that takes rock, new wave, post-punk and 90’s indie/alt.rock influences and stamps the band’s personality all over them via Johnson’s powerful vocals and some inventive arrangements.    

Album highlights include the first UK single ‘Closer’, a burning holler that channels the Riot grlll aesthetic, the  strident ‘Guts/Glory’, the epic ‘I’m Ok’, the reflective title track and the hard hitting ‘Young Leo’. Recorded in Winnipeg and produced by Montréal-based Mike Nash (The Dears, Blue Rodeo, Ladies of the Canyon), the record captures a full portrayal of the band’s musical journey to date.

The video for ‘Closer’ is an unexpected bittersweet love story related via an adult film industry set. “It is really a unique love story told within the world of pornography,” explains Johnson. “We went with this treatment because we love what Lloyd and his team at The Herd do. We trust his vision and had many discussions to ensure the content was handled with taste, sincerity and respect. It was very important to us not to stigmatise sex work. The film is more of a commentary on the world that we live in and our longing to be closer to others; the need for compassion and companionship in a world that can feel so lonely and fragmented.”

Director Lloyd Choi adds : “For us, it was important to not glorify the adult industry or bluntly criticise it either…it’s not for us to judge. We simply wanted to capture the innocence and feeling of young love that is filled with ache and yearning. And, for me, it was more interesting putting that story against a backdrop you often don’t see, especially in music videos.”

     

Mise en Scene’s debut album, ‘Desire’s Despair’ (Pipe & Hat, 2012), was a rallying call that got the core female duo noticed. Produced by Howard Redekopp (Tegan & Sara), Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire) and Tony Berg (Beck), the promotion of it took them on a roller coaster ride with tours across Canada, the US (including SXSW) and Europe (including The Great Escape in Brighton and Primavera Sound in Barcelona) backing up positive critical notices.

Johnson began writing the songs on ’Still Life On Fire’ while taking part in a musicians residency in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. “I had to get over writer’s block because we had been touring so much,” she says. I just wasn’t able to write and we were experiencing so many different countries and major cities all over the world. Our music was taking us all over the place, so we were kind of overwhelmed with everything. That’s why I needed to do that residency, because I needed to go lock myself away in the mountains and empty out my head. It’s still evolving, but I think it’s really indicative of where we are and where we’re going.”

It was while playing at the annual Canadian Music Week festival in Toronto that the band were signed by Dyllan Towle of Light Organ Records. Based in Vancouver, Light Organ represents Canadian talent with a truly independent mindset, such as The Zolas and Mounties (a group featuring Hawksley Workman and members of Hot Hot Heat). ‘Still Life On Fire’ is licensed to indie powerhouse Membran for its UK release.

After going through a rotating cast of bassists while touring their debut, Cory Hykawy was eventually recruited on a permanent basis. The group have also begun performing with a second guitarist, adding a

fuller sound to their existing on-stage arsenal. “Jodi and I are the original members and have got us to where we are today, but we’re now writing music that wants more on it. We want to keep that garage-rock duo aspect of who we are, but we’re also growing and so is the music. It wants those parts; it wants thoseinstruments on there. The guys really understand what we’re about and what we’re doing,” adds Johnson.

You can listen to ‘Closer’ here!

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