Interview | Totally Mild

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Melbourne’s Totally Mild began as the solo project of Elizabeth Mitchell, and soon expanded to a four-piece, releasing their debut record Down Time to glowing international reviews. 2015 saw the band tour Europe with label mates and friends Terrible Truths, support the likes of Best Coast, Real Estate and DIIV and take stage at festivals like Meredith and Paradise.  With their sophomore album in the works, Totally Mild will return to Bigsound in September with brand new material in tow. We had a chat to Elizabeth Mitchell (vocals, guitar) about returning to the studio, touring abroad and their upcoming Bigsound appearance.  

You guys are playing Bigsound again this year – how did you find the whole experience last year?
It was really fun, and really overwhelming and a bit scary at times. I didn’t really know what Bigsound was before we went which was pretty silly, I should have googled it or something. It’s really full on. It’s great but relentless but I’m really excited to go back.

Is there anyone you’re especially keen to see live?
Habits are my absolute favourite party people so I can’t wait to see them live. Which is a bit lazy really because they’re from Melbourne but they’re amazing.

You guys have a sophomore album in the works for release later this year – can you tell me much about it yet?
Yeah, I don’t know how near it is but definitely in the next year which is really, really exciting.

What stage are you at with it, are you still recording? 
We just finished recording in the last three weeks, which is kind of weird – we’ve been doing overdubs at the same time as mixing so it’s been quite organic – just ideas coming as the record has progressed. Which is nice, not to have a list of to-do’s to just wait until an idea comes. It’s pretty much mixed so we just have to master it and do all of the admin stuff that comes along with making a record.

Because the first album had such a warm reception – was it a little bit daunting starting that whole process again?
Yeah, kind of. I kind of realised though that when we were making Down Time, I just have trouble with self-doubt and I think a lot of creative people do. When we were making Down Time, I was like, “I don’t know, is this good?” I think that I had forgotten that I had those feelings because people were so enthused by it. When I was having these thoughts again with the new record, it’s just normal so I don’t know that it has changed my feelings about it. But it’s definitely it’s weird to think about people listening to it while you’re making it. When we were making Down Time I never really thought about that, I was just very much in the moment of making it.

You guys put out a mini EP Alive In Denmark back in February with included a couple of new tracks – have you had much of a chance to play more of the new material?
Yeah, a little. We’ve been doing about two thirds of the new record live lately, which has been really fun. I think by the time we’ll get to Bigsound, we’ll definitely be doing at least 3/4 new set. Playing them live has helped the songs formulate into the arrangements that we wanted so it’s good that we got a chance to do that.

You guys toured with Terrible Truths in Europe last year – what was it like touring with friends and touring so extensively?
It’ was great, it was so good. Terrible Truths is another band that I’m obviously really excited to see at Bigsound. They’re so good and it’s so exciting to tour with a band that you’re excited to watch play every night, that’s so cool. It’s kind of like travelling but with a work type thing at the end of each day and not getting to see much. It’s always fun to do weird and new things with your friends so we’re really lucky to get to do that.

Were there any destinations that you’d really like to play again?
We played in this club called Dabadaba in San Sebastian which is a beautiful, mystical place on the border of Spain and France. I’m really excited to go back there, it’s probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been but we only got to be there for twelve hours.

You guys supported DIIV when they were here in feb – how did you find the show?
It was great, it’s terrible but I didn’t really know them before we played with them but it’s always really fun and weird to support international bands. It’s nice to see that side of things. It was a really fun show. 

Your vocals are so distinctly beautiful, was singing your first introduction to music?
Oh thank you. No, I did piano lessons from when I was about five and did classical piano until I was about sixteen. I did singing lessons for a while as well but when I was ten, this boy told me that my nostrils flared when I sang so I just didn’t sing for like five years.

Oh no, what a little shit.
I still think about it sometimes, it’s so stupid. Then, I played the trumpet and was a big band dork in high school. I came back to singing when I was seventeen. My dad taught me how to sing harmonies and stuff because my dad is a musician and he taught me how to sing harmonies to Billy Joel songs and Eagles songs.

What other stuff did you growing up?
A lot of what my dad listened to. A lot of Credence, he loved The Beatles, Peter Gabriel… Kind of dorky dad rock. I, as a kid, was obsessed with Stevie Wonder. So, not stuff that I would say has an audible influence on our music now. I kind of still listen to all that stuff. I’m a really lazy music consumer.

Have you found anything lately you’ve really liked?
The drummer from Totally Mild just put out a record with her group called Zone Out – their record is really good. I just listen to my band members. Whatever is close to me. Zac who plays guitar with us just put out his debut record which is Great Outdoors. I listen to that stuff.

Played Paradise & Meredith in Summer, have you got any other festival dates lined up? What’s your touring schedule looking like for the rest of the year?
We’re doing Bigsound, then we’re going on tour for a little bit in the states. I think we’re doing a festival in Brisbane in November but the name of it escapes me… I feel terrible that I can’t remember. We’ll definitely be up in Brisbane a few times before the end of the year, as well as Sydney. We also just went to Perth last week which was awesome, we’d never played there before.

Catch Totally Mild at Bigsound 2016 (Brisbane September 7-9), tickets here