Mira Lu Kovacs – lead singer of Austrian band Schmieds Puls – on why she’s holding nothing back.
Vienna-based singer and songwriter Mira Lu Kovacs leads Schmieds Puls – the Austrian alternative pop band mixing guitar music with jazz and folk influences – alongside Christian Grobauer (drums) and Walter Singer (bass).
Having released their debut album Play Dead in 2013, followed by I Care a Little Less About Everything Now two years later, the trio returned this September with Manic Acid Love, an 11-track record exploring all facets of human emotion with rousing, unapologetic urgency.
Mira’s vocals might be delicately serene, but her lyrics don’t hold anything back – from darker introspective thoughts to lurching, accusatory demands. “Come a little closer”, she sings gently on “Don’t Love Me Like That” – “I might bite your head off…”
While they spent a few days in the UK, we caught up with Mira about the making of Manic Acid Love, the personal as political, and why she’s really fucking angry…
So how did you your band start making music together?
We’re all from a kind of jazzy background, so we met through a friend who had to put together a band for his piano recital – he asked me and my now drummer, and my now double bass player. I was just starting out at University singing jazz singing. I’d just started to write my own songs again, and I very quietly asked them if they wanted to jam one day. I’d never met such sensitive musicians who can follow you in such a thorough way, without being in the way. They were really strong at supporting me from the beginning.
Do you have similar influences and tastes in music?
Actually, no. Our double bass player studied classical double bass. The drummer likes Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin – he’s a bit older than me, so very classic rock stuff. And I’m more about Radiohead, Ani DiFranco, Feist, Whitney Houston. A lot of soul, a lot of RnB, that’s kind of my thing.
Would you say your music falls within a specific genre?
We’re aiming – or maybe we’re already there – to say it’s our genre.
So you’ve got all these different influences and you make your own sound?
Yes, I really think so. People can never tell me what they just heard, they’re always like ‘what was that’? It’s a bit folk-y sometimes. I don’t like the word, but I think I have to accept that it’s a part of it. And I did listen to a lot of Irish and Scottish traditional songs when I was a teenager. But it’s also grungy, I think. And the tradition of songwriting is kind of the core.
How do you approach that songwriting?
It’s a lot of autobiographical stuff. This is all I know – my perspective. But with this last album, I think I’ve started a new perspective. I’m really trying to not only be in my head, to just get out there for a second. I’m trying to be exploring emotional states more than really telling a story, because I’m not a classical storyteller, but I am an explorer. It’s more like a stream of consciousness.
There’s a huge range of emotions on your last album – how long did you spend working on that for?
It’s a collection of songs that I wrote over the past 2 years, I think. Some of the riffs are maybe 5 years old, but they never became songs until very recently.
Are there any main themes on the album?
Oh yeah, it’s definitely my angriest one. Really! It’s the loudest one, also. I always write very angry lyrics, because it’s a very strong emotion, so that’s what comes to paper. This one I really want to be understood, to be heard, no misunderstandings: I am really fucking angry! And you should listen, because I’m about to rip your head off so, you should know what’s happening to you.
Is that like anger directed at political or personal situations?
They’re the same thing for me. Political stuff became very personal. Maybe it’s about ageing; when you get older you understand that politics is deeply personal because if they go the wrong way, they attack your personal life. So it’s both, really. It’s my personal, very intimate thoughts about politics and my private politics, within my own bubble, if you will.
How do you approach the visual aspect of the band? The videos and the album art?
That’s varying all the time. Sometimes it’s an emotion, a dance move, a colour – for example, the lava on this cover was really obvious because I felt like I was going to explode, and I just felt like I don’t want to implode anymore. I needed to get it out there somehow, and what came to mind was a volcano. But also what happens in a volcanic area is these acid lakes, they’re really dangerous – people sometimes fall into them and dissolve entirely. Which is really horrible, but the image of it is really strong, of course. I feel like if you don’t explode, something inside of you dissolves because it can’t get out.
Does that feel quite cathartic to perform live?
Yes, definitely. Not throughout the entire concert – I mean sometimes that happens, but not for a while now. Because you have to protect yourself; if you explode like that night after night for years it can go the other way. For each concert it’s a different song that I can put something in, some moment that I have during the concert, where that song is the thing I feel the most that day.
So you’re just finishing up a tour? Where have you been?
Germany: Dresden, Munich, Berlin. And all of Austria so far. The rest is yet to come! Next year I hope some more of Germany, and there’s also a gig in Budapest.
Do you think Austria’s influenced you as an artist?
Not so much, actually. I’m really privileged to live in this country – I mean so far, let’s see what politics is doing – but Vienna is a city where you can live there and it’s so easy. You get a little bit too comfortable – the living’s easy, the food is good, it’s perfect to raise your children there, there’s a lot of funding for art, a lot of artists live there. But Austria has some issues with it’s past. I don’t mean that in a political way only, but there’s a lot of fear there, and I can feel that, that’s why I feel like people don’t want to leave their comfort zone. It’s very important for me, as an artist, to leave Vienna every once in a while, because otherwise I could just stay in bed all day and not do anything as it’s so comfortable. I don’t want that to happen, ever.
Looking forward, is there any new music you’re working on?
Yes – I’ve booked myself an apartment in Berlin for a week or two next month. I have so many ideas…
To write? Or record?
I’m going to write, and I have my portable studio with me so I’m prepared for both. Just writing and recording, meeting people and jamming.
Where do you want to be in 5 years?
I would like to do what I’m doing now, but more. Everywhere – not only Europe, but also I’m in love with Canada, I love the UK, I love New York, of course. Writing is this daily routine that I have, and wherever that’s possible, I want to be at all times.