Mise en Scene debut album Desire’s Despair promises to deliver

Culture Music

Mise en Scene is riled up and ready to preview their debut album on a cross-country tour that’s making its way to Victoria for a show at Club 9One9 on Oct. 4. Desire’s Despair is the first full-length effort by the indie-rock duo that hails from smalltown Gimli, Manitoba.

“It’s about when you find yourself in a position where you’re emotionally drained and nothing worked out as you’d hoped,” says vocalist/guitarist Stefanie Blondal Johnson about the theme of the album, due to drop Nov. 13. “It’s kind of like when you have big hopes for something and it just falls flat.”

The collaboration between Johnson and drummer Jodi Dunlop began two years ago, first with painting and then through music. Desire’s Despair is something of a departure from 2010’s EP Late Night Triple Feature, with the band having since carved out a firm identity.

“We took a lot of people’s advice and opinions [on the EP] because we were still kind of developing our own,” says Johnson. “We are very happy with the EP, but since then we’ve definitely developed our own style and know how we want to sound.”

It’s clear the lyrics draw on personal experiences, whether it’s in the liquor-driven throes of “Sweet William” or the surf-pop tune “Sherry.” Johnson notes cinematic influences for the song “Paris, Texas” that helped shape the album.

“We drew out a personal experience that matched a film that’s called Paris, Texas. It’s a really great cult, underground film from the early ’80s; I think Wim Wenders directed it. I remember watching that movie and it totally spoke to me,” says Johnson. “The song is about me metaphorically finding myself in Paris, Texas, the movie. It’s about realizing you are in a horrible relationship where you find yourself doing things you didn’t realize you were capable of — lies, deceit, betrayal — and starting to understand how love makes us into kids, how it makes us run away, how it makes us come back.”

Recently, Mise en Scene has billed such big-ticket events as Toronto’s North by Northeast (NXNE) music festival and Canadian Music Week. The band also scored a spot with the highly coveted Indie Band Residency at the Banff Centre in 2011. This autumn will bring the duo on their first tour out West, though they’ve worked in Vancouver with producer Howard Redekopp, who has also worked with the likes of Mother Mother and Tegan and Sara.

Dunlop’s stripped-down drums offset Johnson’s dreamy voice and unapologetic lyrics. They promise a live show that shakes up the more refined studio sound previewed on the band’s website.

“Our performance is going to be a lot more raw, a lot more garage-sounding and not so polished,” says Johnson. “Super, super energetic — I think we bring more energy to songs that we may not have brought to the recording.”

A heavy tour schedule approaches with plans to play two festival slots in the U.K. by early 2013. Before hopping the pond, Mise en Scene will be sure to cover their bases in Canada with a full lineup of shows. The duo heads to Winnipeg for the album release in early December, but Victoria is lucky enough to catch the band in the front-end rush of their tour.

Mise en Scene with The Noble Thiefs, The Valuables, The Truth Sound System and The Chanterelles.
Oct. 4 @ 8 p.m.
Club 9One9 (919 Douglas St.)
$10 (students)