Known elsewhere as half of sensual “paradise party” duo Café Lanai (revisit our New Noise feature on band partner Forever), as Mind Bath, musician Michael Brock channels a more sombre, yearning sound. Delicate vocals, with shades of spoken word poetry, fade into and resurge from synth-driven groove; visceral emotion echoes from sonic lacunae. Youth, nostalgia and introspection are rendered in fervent lyrics and a haunting soundscape across the five-track EP.
“Bad Timing”, the first single from “I Was Young”, takes on heartbreak by harking back to Ms Lauryn Hill’s masterpiece “Ex-Factor”, whilst lead track “Over New York” – complete with plaintive harp outro – layers breathy vocals in its expression of the fleeting perfection of love. New York City – as one might surmise from the title – was central to the principal track’s composition; Mind Bath reminisces, “I was so in love when I lived in the city. We’d watch the little birds in murmuration – pulsating clouds of them over Brooklyn. Me and J and the birds, all floating above the chaotic energy below.”
“‘Over New York” premiered this week at Gorilla vs. Bear, whilst the entire EP will be released on 17th June. Look out for an accompanying video to “Over New York” in June, too – we’re more than willing to bet it’ll match the track’s solemn, resonant beauty. So what’s next for our new favourite merchant of melancholy? Find out below!
How did you first come to pursue music?
I was a tiny little kid when I realised music is the most beautiful thing in the world – this wildly free form of expression. Imagine each of us had space to heal or liberate all the strange things we feel? I’m saying everyone should write songs. I played coy with my voice for a long time, working as an actor and feeling tortured every time someone said, “You should be a musician!” I didn’t think I was special enough to hold the title – but we grow. I started to feel I had something to say. Learning to make beats and experiment with songwriting electronically blew my mind open – the ability to imitate any sound you hear in your head! So, five years ago I quit acting, moved to Germany and made the first demos – my “bedroom dubs”. Writing and performing has been my drive and pleasure ever since. *Omg a Backstreet Boys song just started playing in this cafe and everyone is smiling and singing – pop melodies freeing at least 20 minds right now.*
What do you consider the crucial differences between your solo work and your work with Café Lanai?
Meeting Forever and starting Cafe Lanai – damn, what a gift. The projects are day and night. Mind Bath is my heart, pure in pain and wonder. I am sensitive and vulnerable, and the songs only feel good if I’m being real in that way. Cafe Lanai is the party, where groove and friendship are number one. June and I both felt a long lost balance when this untroubled, sexy project came to be.
How did you land upon the moniker “Mind Bath”?
Credit is due here! I needed a name and my ideas were pretty bad in retrospect. My friend Hanna Acton is a wonderful writer. We keep in touch by email and one day she messaged me with the subject line “Mind Bath”. I loved the words and spun them into a song the next day (now titled “More Peace” on the record). Over time the imagery of those words meant more to me than just one song. It’s a pretty poetic state of being to champion. My initials are also MB. It was sealed.
What does youth – and the prospect of leaving it behind – mean to you?
“I Was Young” is definitely a 5 track homage to youth, in all its rawness. The lyrics are from a notebook I filled up years ago. I recorded it quite recklessly and without direction, fitting for the theme. Youth is packed with lust and discovery. a young body desperate for love and peace of mind. Apparently I’m 27 now, and feeling some kind of spiritual shift. I don’t know that I’m leaving much behind – like I still look 20 when I shave! Haha I’m Mariah Carey saying, “I’m still young, because I discount numbers”. I guess now I’m just trying to mindfully handle the expectations of age and stay free and romantic with my life. That said, I am ready to hear the EP as nostalgia and see what’s next with all this sweet wisdom.
Explain your relationship with New York and its impact on your sound.
I lived in Brooklyn for a year. Survived any chaos thanks to a very real love. He is New York City to me. That place and the ghosts of that relationship are today’s muse while I find my way in Montreal. I was a drop in the ocean, and it made me work hard.
The EP is searingly personal – was it difficult to write, or was there a sense of release?
I find it natural to write honestly about how deep I feel things. Anxiety comes into play when it’s time to share the finished product and immortalize those experiences. I live few moments in the middle ground right now. The good days are everything and rich with pride. On the bad days I feel pretty low, even pathetic. I’m working on this vicious cycle. The time spent developing this project was pretty long. Some of the songs were finished a year or two ago, so there will definitely be a great sense of release.
Which comes first: lyrics or production? Do you always have one in mind whilst composing the other?
No pattern or formula quite yet. I’m always making little things without much in mind and eventually they circle around to inspire or complete each other. Lyrics from ‘James’ are taken word for word from my old notebook while the vocals you hear on “Over New York” were entirely improvised in a jam with OURI and CRi. This record is at times unconventional for a pop singer. All the elements play an equal part in the wash. Right now, singing is giving me life and I’m letting that drive any new material.
Tell us about the Lauryn Hill reference in “Bad Timing” – is she a central influence on your work?
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is the first album I ever owned. It’s heaven and I respect it so much. Some time before Project Pablo made the beat for this single (he is a great friend and co-produced most of the EP with me), I would perform this very simply, with piano and a heavy kick on loop. “Bad Timing” is a break up song and one night it felt right to ride out the loop and riff on the most iconic break up hook of all time. I was nervous to include it in the recording, and I hope it reflects a bit of the influence she had on my generation.
Who are your other major influences?
There are so many. Of course Prince’s passing tore open his message. I’ve been living for Janet Jackson and the Velvet Rope yet again. James Blake, Jai Paul, and Erykah Badu are a common thread. I recently spent some time with Kindness and his undying respect and knowledge of music was so special to witness. Right now, I’m influenced by love – lived or lost – by femininity, sexuality, dance music, my nephew’s brain, the mountains I grew up in, the music community here in Montreal.
What’s next for Mind Bath? Live dates? A full album?
“I Was Young” is online June 17th and on vinyl this summer. I have what looks like an LP ready to record and a collaborative EP with OURI shaping up, sooo Montreal winter was great for productivity. A couple local dates – June 17 @ Centre Phi, MTL / June 22 @ Drake Underground, TO. I dream of a tour. Many dreams.