Guitar Party's 7-year-old lead singer Mijah Ylvisaker talks about fronting a noise rock band
The band Guitar Party is a supergroup of sorts that includes some longtime local music veterans: Jeremy Ylvisaker, Haley Bonar, Jake Hansen, Andrew Broder, J.T. Bates, and Michael Lewis. Even the late Micheal "Eyedea" Larsen was a member before he passed away last October. But new to the fold and now fronting Guitar Party is 7-year-old lead singer and daughter of Ylvisaker, Mijah.
Inspired by Ylvisaker and Hansen's love of '50s rock instrumentals, the band eventually enlisted Mijah as lead vocalist after she and her father began constructing a series of tape loop samples of her voice every morning on their way to her school bus. What started as an experiment has now evolved into a full-fledged band, with Mijah taking on a more traditional lead vocalist role in the group.
"Everything is her idea now. She wrote all the songs we do now except for the occasional cover of 'Blowin in the Wind.' She tells Bates what to play and everything," says Ylvisaker, who's as proud as any father would be playing music with his own daughter.
"As a parent it is weird having your relationship on display," he says. "Our first show - Mijah's first and Mikey's last - was the rawest thing ever. There was all this wicked (awesome) feedback and Mijah would tear up whenever that happened and I was sure she was going to run away and never want to play music again. But she hung in and still likes it."
Guitar Party at the Cedar Cultural Center 10/9/10, Michael Larsen's last performance and Mijah's first.
With a few gigs under her belt now, Mijah has grown more comfortable on stage. As unnatural as it may be for someone her age to be playing in noise bands, it's likely Mijah has spent more time listening to her father's record collection than absorbing the Hannah Montanas and Justin Beibers her peers are typically subjected to.
Known for playing in rock bands Detroit and Alpha Consumer and with everyone from Mark Mallman to Andrew Bird, Jeremy has been a part of the Twin Cities experimental scene for some time. No surprise, then, that what constitutes children's music in his family may sound a bit different than what's spun in the average minivan.
But continuing in the tradition of experimental musical families that goes back to the Shaggs, E.S.G. and even the Beach Boys, Guitar Party embraces the results of some highly glorious and cacophonous moments not just for the band members but those that get to witness their progression. "It's so tense and raw and unrehearseable that it's incapable of lying," Ylvisaker says.
Though a bit soft spoken, I had a chance for an exclusive interview with Mijah herself before another big Guitar Party gig this weekend at the Cedar Cultural Center. Like any 7-year-old she's pretty busy, but managed to clue us in on her impressions on playing in the band and where she gets her inspirations.
This is your first band, right? How did you get this band together to play your songs?
Mijah Ylvisaker: I didn't get it together by myself.
Do you come up with words to your songs or are you just making them up as you go?
Mijah Ylvisaker: Sometimes I make them up as I go and sometimes I think of them before I think of the tune.
Do you watch American Idol? If so who is your favorite singer on there?
Mijah Ylvisaker: No.
Who are some of your favorite singers and musicians?
Mijah Ylvisaker: Daddy, my music teacher (Mrs. Regan), my friend Olivia, my friend Kiersten, Gustafer Yellowgold, Cat Stevens, the Ting Tings.
What do all of your friends think of Guitar Party?
Mijah Ylvisaker: They all like it.
What are some of things you require back stage when you are playing a gig?
Mijah Ylvisaker: Apple juice and orange juice and banana juice.
Mikey Larsen was a part of Guitar Party before he passed away. What do you miss about Mikey?
Mijah Ylvisaker: I miss playing with him at his house.
Do you think you will keep the band for a long time or do you sometimes get sick of those dudes and think you should go solo?
Mijah Ylvisaker: I want to keep the band.
Guitar Party perform with Dosh and Haley Bonar at the Cedar Cultural Center, Saturday May 14 at 11am. $10, $5 for ages 2-12, ages 2 and under get in for FREE.
Guitar Party performs "Blowin' in the Wind"