April 2022

She’s Called Mitzi

MitziMitziMitziMitziMitziMitziMitziText: Digby Woods Images: Mitzi

I’m standing on the dance floor of the Civic Underground in Sydney. It’s just coming up to midnight and I’ve been waiting an hour-and-a-half for disco-funksters Mitzi to come on. Just as the clock strikes 12, they begin to emerge, one by one. Some drunk suit on the side is already feeling the grooves and is desperately trying to get their attention (it was his birthday, apparently). Complete with trombone, trumpet, keyboard, drums, bass and requisite tambourine, they launch into the tropically lush ‘India’, the first track from their debut EP, All I Heard. From that point on, no one is left sitting and no one’s feet are not moving.

This was my introduction to Mitzi, the Queensland foursome who have been touted as doing for disco what Cut Copy did for New Wave. A bold statement to say the least, but from what I saw that Saturday night, it’s right on the money. As a result, I got in touch with Jad Lee, one quarter of Mitzi, and chatted to him about humble beginnings, early influences and the awesomeness of LCD Soundsystem.

Digby Woods: So how did you guys meet?

Jad Lee: Well, Dom (Bird) and I were in another band called BMX, which was a bit different, it was more dance/electronic oriented, a bit more poppy. So we were doing that for a few years and Dom and I have always been passionate about different styles of music and other forms of dance music, like old disco and house stuff, so we just wanted to create some music that was different to what we were doing in BMX. Then we won a remix competition for Bang Gang and got approached to play some live gigs, but we didn’t have a band as of yet, so after a while we just decided we might as well start one since we’re getting asked to play gigs. Cale (Suesskow) at the time was playing in an indie grunge band called The Gallery Kiss, so we asked him if he wanted to come drum for us, and we knew Charlie (Murdoch) because I had helped him release some of his solo stuff, Charlie Why, and also through the band Comic Sans, in which he was playing bass. So we just got together and had a jam, and then our first gig was Parklife 2010.

DW: Are you all from Brisbane, or…

JL: Dom and I grew up on the Sunshine Coast, Charlie grew up in Brisbane and Cale actually grew up in Richmond Hill near Lismore, just west of Byron.

DW: How did this influence your music?

JL: For me personally, I don’t think the local scene has really influenced the music I was into when I was younger, but when I got to that age when you can go out clubbing and stuff, I was lucky enough to have some close friends who were running some club nights in Brisbane called Lick It, and that was probably one of the best parties going on for the last few years in Brisbane. They were always getting good acts and I was just helping them organise DJs and stuff like that.

DW: Was this around the same time you started your solo project, Jad and The Lady Boy?

JL: Yeah, they needed an opening DJ and I just fell into that spot, started DJing and making some music and then met up with Dom, who is an amazing musician and producer. He was a high school music teacher before he quit and moved to Brisbane to go hard with Mitzi.

But yeah, I think the scene in Brisbane is a bit behind what Sydney and Melbourne has been doing. I guess growing up I was influenced more by what was happening overseas than locally.

DW: What bands at the moment are you drawing inspiration from?

JL: The obvious one would be LCD Soundsystem. I’ve been a big fan of all of their records, and James Murphy, for me, seems to be a producer who always delivers, from his early stuff to his new stuff, it’s always evolving and always fresh. Everything’s so subtle and done so well. As a band, we always reference LCD Soundsystem, like, we want drums to sound like this, and stuff like that. So LCD are a big one for us. We’ve also taking a liking to a band in America called Body Language. I know Charlie really likes Toro Y Moi.

DW: I can definitely see the similarity in sound between you and Toro.

JL: Yeah. So I guess those two are really fresh artists, and then obviously people like !!! (Chk Chk Chk) are amazing, they have such a great groove and they perform really well. So I guess bands like that, and Cut Copy to a certain extent, they’re always one the money, just brilliant producers. So I guess those are some of the main current artists that we look to and draw inspiration from.

But in saying that, each of us has different backgrounds, like Cale has always played in indie rock grunge bands, and we listen to all sorts of music, we listen to everything, like Smith Westerns, Death Cab For Cutie, hip hop, a bit of everything. I think you can’t be narrow-minded when you’re listening to music because there’s always inspiration to be drawn from any style.

DW: Does this influence your song-writing process?

JL: Yeah. The best way to get ideas is to just listen to some stuff, and it’s probably better listening to stuff from different genres, like we were listening to some stuff together like Floating Point and Joy Orbison and just losing our minds.

DW: How do you take an idea for a song and then flesh it out into something tangible? What’s your process for this?

JL: From the beginning, Dom and I were on the coast and the other boys were in Brisbane, and since we weren’t together so much at that point, Dom would write a melody and send it around to the guys, and if they were vibing it, we’d get together and put it down. I guess it just spawns from a melody that’s created and then work outwards.

But for a lot of the first stuff, Dom would hit a verse chorus and then we’d come in and create structure, as you would do it live. Now we’re all in Brisbane and we’re trying to look for a studio space so we can have a place where we can write music and jam and get creative together.

DW: How did the EP come about?

JL: We basically had that one demo, All I Heard, and Future Classic wanted to hear more, they really liked it, and at that point we didn’t really have anything, so we just thought, okay, better put our heads down and get working. Before All I Heard and that first gig at Parklife, we were basically playing gigs off the Bang Gang remix competition that we won, and at this point in time none of us were even singing, we were an instrumental band, but then Dom started singing and surprised himself, surprised us all actually, and then Cale started singing as well, and he has a fantastic voice, so it’s quite funny how it came about, but it’s good.

DW: So your situation in the beginning was much like Yolanda Be Cool, in that they similarly only have that one remix song, ‘No Speak Americano’, which has paradoxically enabled them to tour quite substantially.

JL: Yeah, I guess so. It was weird how it came about, winning a remix comp and then getting offered gigs, and we didn’t want to turn them down simply because we didn’t have a live show, but DJing doesn’t really compare to playing a live show, so we thought, ‘How about we start a band and play live?’

DW: Speaking of remixes, do you have any plans for your own EP to be remixed?

JL: Yeah, I was talking to Future Classic recently, we’ll probably do each track from the EP separately, with a few remixes of each. We’ve already got a few remixes back that are really good from Cassian and LTJ, and a couple of relatively unknown guys who’ve turned out some amazing remixes, so I think the remix package is going to be really strong. They’re probably a bit more DJ friendly than the originals, so we’re excited to get them out there and into the clubs and get a new fanbase through there.

DW: When are they expected to drop?

JL: Should be early April. Probably ‘India’ first, then maybe a couple weeks later release the ‘All I Heard’ and then the ‘Morning Light’ remixes.

DW: So what’s in store for the future?

JL: Well, we kind of want to do another EP before we start on an album, maybe even a single, but hopefully we can start on that soon because we’ve got some of the demos now, and as long as people like them, or Future Classic likes them, we’ll try and get some studio time to record them and hopefully get the same reaction that we had from the All I Heard EP. If so, it might warrant an album but until then we’ll just work it out.

DW: Time will tell.

JL: Exactly.

Mitzi’s debut EP, All I Heard, is out now through Future Classic. Check out their songs at Soundcloud.

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