Written by Brodie Popple
Photograph by Mia Mala Mcdonald
This Thursday night, Black Bear Lodge is in for such a treat as Totally Mild play the Brisbane leg of their Australia tour following the release of their Sophomore album, Her. The quartet, led by the incredible Elizabeth Mitchell, has had an amazing couple of years touring around the country and overseas including a run of shows in the UK and US for SXSW. After the release of their debut album Down Time in 2016, Totally Mild cemented themselves as one of the stand out acts in this country, supporting the likes of Real Estate, DIIV and Kurt Vile. Now with the release of Her, Totally Mild exceed expectations with an album that is jangly and fun on the surface, yet vulnerable and melancholy the more one listens. Mitchell's renowned angelic vocal tones mixed with the incredible talent behind her in the form of; Zachary Schneider (guitar), Lehman Smith (bass) and Dylan Young (drums), makes for an album that is heartbreakingly good. I had a chat with Liz to recount the good times and the bad times leading up to this release, as well as the five songs that left the greatest impact for her. Check it out below:
Take Today has a very special video which was cut together by yourself and it features heaps of footage from your time on the road over the years. Did you find the process of reviewing your memories therapeutic and did you have any realisations whilst you were doing it?
Thank you for saying it’s special! I think it’s special too. Maybe just because it’s a sweet little trip down the memory road… It was definitely nice to go through all the footage, it was lots of random little videos on my phone and a bunch of things that Lehmann had also shot when we were away this year and last year. The most therapeutic thing about it was probably just realising that a lot of time has passed while we have been playing music together. It’s cool that so much has changed but our love for each other and the band prevails.
'Her' is a fantastic follow up to your debut 'Down Time' and a lot has happened between the release of these two albums. What was the biggest change in your life, and as a band between 2015 and now?
It is weird how much has changed and how much feels the same. When I was writing Her I was in a very different place to writing Down Time; married and living with my wife as opposed to being a single, early twenties party dirtbag. Having said that, albums are a snapshot and I couldn’t write the same songs now. I just moved back into a share house and my wife lives in Sydney. Moving forward but moving in circles, I think that’s just being alive? Can’t resist the lure of the dirtbag life. In the band, a lot has changed as well! We have a new drummer, his name is Dylan and he’s a champion. We also changed labels, we signed with Chapter Music before the release of Her. I think our outlook as a band is a bit different to when we put out the first album, we are less naïve about the “music industry” ie. We are aware that it exists at all. It’s sad to lose the blind wonder of doing something for the first time, I’d kind of prefer not to know about some of the goings on of the music industry. I’ve come full circle I think, I’ve learned a bit and now I like to pretend it doesn’t exist and just make music.
Speaking of your album 'Her' you've been quoted as saying: "we are told that we could be limitless, but we wrestle with unseen personal and structural walls." And that sensation is something that's really sobering for someone in their 20's like me. How do you get yourself out of your own head and on track to a happier perspective?
I truly don’t know… I think that quote is not so much about being in your head, but more about realising that the world is not necessarily the meritocracy it might seem to be to some people. That the privilege of your race, sexuality, gender, class, education has a lot to do with your starting place. But there’s also the personal element, the self-doubt that still comes even when you’re doing cool stuff. But that’s not totally personal either! It’s not a coincidence that many people who aren’t straight, white men experience imposter syndrome! I don’t know if a happy perspective is a very smart thing to have in this world? It’s pretty bad right now… like be grateful of what you have, try to be happy in your life but stay critical. But that’s why I think we all keep writing, making songs and work, everyone’s just dealing with their world and the world. That’s why I’m writing anyway, I write to deal with the void (lol).
You got back not too long ago after a string of shows in the UK, what was the highlight of your trip?
It was so fun to be away! We love to be with each other, that’s always the highlight of going on tour. Making jokes, spending time with other bands and each other, eating new foods. Obviously the shows were fun, we love to play music but probably my personal highlight was going to Hampton Court which is where Henry VIII lived with all of his wives. He had so many wives and he invented divorce? The height of glamour. The ghost of Catherine Howard, his fifth wife, runs down the corridor of the castle towards the secret meeting room, pleading for her life. She got beheaded. Almost all of the people that faint in the castle faint in that corridor :O
In the past you've played alongside some huge names such as Real Estate, Kurt Vile, Best Coast, DIIV, The Chills and very recently with Belle & Sebastian. Are these bands you've looked up too and do you have a favourite memory with any of them you could share?
Yes, so exciting to play with bands that you know and love! I think the coolest thing for me is that I went to Golden Plains the year (maybe 2011 or 2010?) that Best Coast and Belle and Sebastian played, and I remember watching them as a little baby and never even considering that we’d be playing alongside them one day… The most recent support with B and S was probably a highlight because Zach and I loved them so much as teens. Also in Melbourne the show was at the Palais and I’d only been there twice before and the first was to see Al Green and the second was to see Brian Wilson, so wow, to tread those hallowed boards?????!!! Honestly though, I probably get more starstruck by local bands that write cool songs, because they are just meant to be your peers, they are just people who you theoretically should be a normal person to but sometimes you love their songs so much it’s hard to do that.
To Cry About
Who it's by:
Mary Margaret O’Hara
When you first got into it:
My friend Pete Baxter who runs Hope St Radio (an internet radio station with lots of great people playing music) told me to listen to Mary Margaret O’Hara after I played a song by The Roches on my show. He thought I’d like her and he was right.
What it means to you:
I listened to it a lot when we were in America this year. Now it’s got a time stamp on it, I’ll always be drawn back to lying in a bed in Austin with 6 band boys around me, trying to create my own personal space.
Why its stuck with you:
It’s perfectly melancholy. I think it articulates the feeling of missing someone who has moved on very well.