This week, we feature one of the leading roots-pop bands working today: Mipso. An affable and endlessly-creative quartet formed in Chapel Hill, NC, they are made up of fiddle player Libby Rodenbough, mandolinist Jacob Sharp, guitarist Joseph Terrell, and bassist Wood Robinson.
Despite the anxious mood of their swing-state home base, it’s quite an exciting time for Mipso. Host Z. Lupetin was able to catch up with Libby and Jacob (via Zoom of course) to discuss their lushly orchestrated, self-titled record which just dropped last week; and if you walk down 8th Avenue in Nashville this week, you might catch a billboard with their sheepish grins large in the sky.
How did they get here? It’s hard to find a group where every member can effortlessly sing lead and write genre-bending songs that fit seamlessly on six acclaimed albums — and counting — in under ten years. Earlier standout records like the breakout Dark Holler Pop, produced by fellow North Carolinian Andrew Marlin of Mandolin Orange, and Edges Run, which features a veritable online hit in the broken-voiced, emotional “People Change,” show how Mipso appeals not only to folk fest-loving moms and dads, but also their edgier kids, who appreciate their subversive turns of phrase and playful gender-ambiguous, neon-tinted wardrobe.
As Z. found out during his conversation with Libby and Jacob, the band nearly broke up after a series of grueling 150-shows-a-year runs, a scary car wreck, and the pressure of putting out Edges Run for their rapidly growing fanbase. The forced slower pace of this last year and a half has been a gift in several ways — allowing the group to catch their breath and hole up to write more collaboratively than ever. The shimmering sonic backdrop that gifted producer and musician Sandro Perri was able to bring to the Mipso sessions at Echo Mountain studio in Asheville really makes the songs feel like they could exist in any era.
You wouldn’t be alone if you heard the connection between the honey-hooked newest record with the timeless, mellow-with-a-hint-of-menace hits of the 1970s (looking at you James Taylor and Carly Simon). Songs like “Never Knew You Were Gone” show off Terrell’s gift for gently asking the deepest questions, like where he might go when he transitions to the other side in a “silvery fire,” or the sardonically nostalgic “Let A Little Light In,” which wonders if the soft-focused images we have of the peaceful, boomtime 1990s (when Mipso was growing up) could use some real scrutiny. Rodenbough’s silky fiddle work stars throughout –and her courageous, vulnerable lead vocal on “Your Body” may be the most memorable moment on the new work.
Stick around to the end of the episode to hear mandolinist Jacob Sharp introduce his favorite contribution, “Just Want To Be Loved.”
Photo credit: D.L. Anderson