“I love my keytar. It’s my comfort blanket when performing live, but it’s not on the album at all!”
So began my conversation with MIEARS about her debut record, Who Will Save You?. This glorious six-song collection crackles with romantic tension while moody synth-pop pulses atop a sparse rhythm section. It’s a silky smooth affair that keeps things interesting through a variety of tempos, syncopated beats, quirky effects, and lush production. And it’s truly a D.I.Y. solo effort.
“While I learned a lot about the songwriting process working with BLSHS [the band in which Miears played keytar and sings],” said MIEARS, “I wanted to do everything myself with my solo work. And it was a grueling process.”
“Every song started on my grandma’s old keyboard. I would work out the chord progressions and melody lines to figure out moods and create scratch tracks. From there, I would play them in my car and record ideas for lyrics through a voice memo app on my phone.”
Released earlier in 2017 on Loose Narrative, Who Will Save You? abounds with familiar musical influences – The Eurhythmics, Portishead, Bjork, Imogen Heap, The xx, Purity Ring – but MIEARS wears them lightly and easily. Standout cuts like “Directional,” “He Never Loved Me,” and “Reaching” glimmer and shimmer with an intensity found in ‘80s synth-pop ballads, as Logic Pro X pads like Alchemy, Sculpture, and ES2 provide a rich warmth to her excellent grasp of melodic movement.
But the standout aspect of the entire album is the strong mezzo-soprano that Miears wields like a scalpel.
She has a fantastic range and a stellar falsetto, but she’s not one to reach for a big note just to show off. Instead, it’s employed surgically and strategically, from punctuating a chorus at the end of a track to weaving in mysterious vocalizations that have been pitch-bent and technologically altered to deliver a welcome gloomy edge.
“Vocal production was a huge part of this record,” stated MIEARS. “I intentionally thought of my voice as an instrument. My favorite part of the whole process was getting dirty in Logic Pro X to mess with the various vocal samples I’d recorded through my Neumann TLM102 mic. I wanted to emulate other sounds from my voice and then manipulate them as needed to fill in the edges of a song.”
I also dig that Who Will Save You? isn’t your normal batch of mopey, goth-inspired synth tunes.
Sure, there’s plenty of melancholy, but it’s never borne of insular navel-gazing. MIEARS prefers extroversion in her queries about lost love and romantic frustration, and the skittering breakbeats provide an atmosphere ripe for active searching, probing, and questioning. It’s an insanely well-crafted record.
“The bulk of the project was crafted on my MicroKORG and Nord Electro2, though I used an Akai MPK Mini to play the software synth and the drum parts I programmed with Ultrabeat. I’ll admit to using lots of in-the-box plugins, but they were very easy tools of me to use while teaching myself how to write and produce my record.”
Even though the six songs of the Who Will Save You? EP clock it at barely 23 minutes, MIEARS uses her time quite wisely.
The economy of ideas on display imbues the record with a palpable urgency, which means there are no wasted tracks, no filler, and everything has a purpose. It’s simply a really good album that’s rooted in the synth-pop tradition – and she’s already taking the lessons she learned making this one to plan her next release for 2018.
“I’m excited to bring these songs to life on stage. I perform with my beloved Roland Lucinda AX 09 keytar and an Akai MPK Mini to trigger tracks and effects from Abelton Live. I use the keytar to layer in extra keys and chords atop those tracks to provide mystical and magical sounds. But just like with the album, the focus will always be on my vocals as my main live instrument.”
Based out of Houston, MIEARS will spend the next few months conquering the great state of Texas with her brilliant brand of pop music, but she plans to hit New York City and other Northern markets in the second half of 2017.