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Yes We Mystic's strange songwriting process is all a matter of chemistry

Yes We Mystic have just released an EP and have a full-length album in the works.

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Yes We Mystic have just released an EP and have a full-length album in the works.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/5/2015 (1748 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Art-pop genre-mixers Yes We Mystic are pretty busy these days.

The five-piece Winnipeg group — made up of Adam Fuhr, Keegan Steele, Solana Johannson, Jodi Plenert and Jordon Ottenson — have just released an EP, have a full-length album in the works, are currently on tour in Western Canada and are plotting a fall tour after the album is complete.

"Things are feeling really, really strong right now," says Fuhr, main vocalist and guitar player for the band.

The EP, Vestige, released on May 5, features two new Yes We Mystic tracks, as well as a handful of remixes done by "pals from across the country," including the Wilderness of Manitoba, Holy Hum, Doug Hoyer, Mark Mills and Andrew Judah.

The remixes are also something the band hopes to pursue for the full-length.

"It's just an easy, fun way to collaborate with friends and to help introduce them to our audience," says Fuhr. "It also allows us to hear our music in a new way, which is quite inspiring and helps get the creative juices flowing."

And flow they will, as Yes We Mystic are preparing to hop into the studio to record their first full-length this June; half at Breakglass Studios in Montreal and half at Winnipeg's Private Ear. At the helm of production in both locales is Jace Lasek (Besnard Lakes, Wolf Parade, Patrick Watson), someone the band hasn't worked with before, but from whom they eagerly anticipate input.

"We're getting more adventurous all the time and always trying new things. Maybe Jace will push us to explore the strangeness of the tunes. Maybe he'll rein things back a bit. We don't know yet. That's the mystery of heading into the studio with a new producer," says Fuhr.

That adventurous nature is evident in the development of their music, as it grabs bits and bobs from numerous genres to create a dense, complex sound that is still able to evoke the same kind of emotion as the more acoustic folk songs on their first EP, Floods and Fires, released in 2013.

"Usually the songs start with either a full set of lyrics from Keegan or all the music (chords, vocal melody and some instrumentation) from me, and then we let the others fill in the gaps," notes Fuhr. "It's a strange, time-consuming process but it works for us.

"To make a band like this work, you have to get very used to throwing ideas away. Ninety-five per cent of what we come up with, we chuck in the bin."

Chemistry is also important to make a band like this work, Fuhr says — and he knows what he's talking about, as the group has been crammed into his parents' minivan since May 4, playing shows around Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia before heading home to finish off the tour at the Park Theatre on May 16.

It took a bit of time, though, for that group chemistry to be created. Fuhr, Steele and Johannson formed Yes We Mystic in 2011, with Plenert joining after a friend recommended her to the band.

"We hemmed and hawed for about six months before we asked her to join," Fuhr admits. "Adding a new person to the mix is a terrifying ordeal."

Fortunately, Plenert fit into the mix perfectly — but there was one piece missing.

Ottenson, who had been a session drummer on Yes We Mystic's first EP and had played in the now-defunct Les Jupes with Fuhr, approached Fuhr and offered to be the man behind the band's kit permanently. Ottenson's high level of commitment and his ability to mesh with the rest of the musicians was obvious right away, says Fuhr.

"The chemistry in Yes We Mystic is great and we have a lot of fun. I've been in bands before where the chemistry is not good and that can really make things miserable," he says.

The only miserable thing about their current situation is that tiny tour van.

But the group is willing to put up with a lot for the sake of their art, and for the luxury of being able to do it with people they enjoy working with, who are all focused on a common goal.

"The energy that comes from wanting something collectively really takes things to the next level," says Fuhr. "It becomes easier to sacrifice things when you know the person next to you is doing the same."

 

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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