The Mynabirds Premiere Cosmological Song 'Cocoon' & Talk Upcoming Record 'Be Here Now'
Laura Burhenn, the brainchild behind the indie pop project The Mynabirds, has been imbued with wanderlust all her life. Though the singer/songwriter has always been able to find herself at home traveling the world, in light of recent current events, she found a restlessness festering inside of her.
Following the 2016 election, Burhenn, who is a known activist, felt the need to speak out, so she did so in the best way she knows how -- through song. From processing headlines and filtering feelings then came The Mynabirds’ upcoming album Be Here Now, which will be released over the course of the summer on three EPs each featuring three songs, and out in full on August 25 via Saddle Creek.
Today (June 29) The Mynabirds share “Cocoon” from the upcoming album and out on the first EP release Friday (June 30). While Be Here Now largely focuses on the political, “Cocoon” finds itself a safe haven on the record -- a track that represents what Burhenn explains as some's desire for escapism following the election. As an individual track, “Cocoon” feels cosmological, as if its twinkling production and Burhenn’s voice could transport the listener to another planet far away from Earth.
In anticipation of the release of “Cocoon” and Be Here Now, The Mynabirds recently spoke to Billboard about the track, the making of the record, and her artistry. Read Billboard’s chat with Burhenn, listen to her new song “Cocoon” below, and preorder Be Here Now here.
You’ve long spoken out about politics and they are very much a focus of the new album, so even though it may be exhausting to keep speaking out, why is it important for you to do so?
“Cocoon” deals directly with that question. You might not hear it in the song, but I wrote that song as a response to a lot of different things, one of which [being] right after the election, there was sort of this dichotomy of responses in the world. Some people were outraged and they were talking about it all the time and talking about, "Well, what should we do? How do we resist? How do we fight back?" and some people just wanted to tune out. They wanted to go away from the news and just be alone with people they loved where they felt safe because it was overwhelming to them. I got into an argument with a friend of mine, who said that he wanted to check out. He said, "Look, I just need to focus on my life. I’ll read the headlines I need to read, but I don’t need to talk about it publicly. I can just have my own feelings about it and just be in my own life," and I said, "Well, isn’t that just your white male privilege speaking? Aren't you lucky to be able to check out?"
So, I guess that’s what I continue to speak out. ... For the most part, I felt like maybe I wasn't getting to the worst of it just being a white woman. But that is privilege in action when you can just tune out and not say anything, so that is why I continue to speak out. I think because I have to -- because we can make change. I still have to believe that we still as individuals can make a difference and we are powerful. If that’s the only way that I can remember that, by using my voice and hopefully reminding other people the same, I want to keep doing that.
Was it the recent current events that directly inspired a calling within you to write this new record? Or what was it that drove you to start writing again?
Yeah, it’s funny. I didn't think I had an album in the air and I was kind of worried. I went to Nashville in December to record a single song with my friend [and producer] Patrick Damphier. We had this beautiful warehouse studio space in Nashville and we recorded this song called “Wild Hearts,” which is on the new album and in the session he said, "I’ve got some sad news for you. I’m getting kicked out of the studio. I think they’re going to sell it. I think they’re going to tear it down and turn it into condos," and I thought, "God damn it! That feels like a metaphor of what’s happening in America right now right after the election." It felt like we were in this safe space we were going to be in forever, and then suddenly everything was changing and we were going to get kicked out. So, I asked him if I could come back before we had to leave and record an album in that space about that feeling.
It just happened to work out that I was there two weeks following the inauguration and the Women’s March, and all we did was listen to the news. I was really so deeply immersed in how everybody else felt. I knew how I felt, but I kind of wanted to be a conduit for what everybody else was feeling. ... I think it was the only way I was able to survive that period without having a mental breakdown -- to go and write about it. Because of how the album was written, we wrote nine songs in two weeks and we recorded them there. I couldn't be precious about lyrics. I just had to be really raw.
The record is called Be Here Now. Why is it important to you to be present?
I think [being present is] the best survival tool for any tumultuous period and just life in general because life is just pretty tumultuous -- try not to get caught up in what could I or we have done better? What will we do in the future? What does the future hold? When you get stuck in those places, it’s just a lot of anxiety. So, I think it’s really important particularly after the election because you can get in an internet black hole where everybody is caught up in the past and the future and nobody is being present with each other, but for me, that’s the only thing that works, which is being right here with whoever I’m with and trying to make where I am the best situation it can be. If everybody did that, collectively, I think we could get rid of a lot of anxiety and turn our world into a better place.
You’re a wanderer of sorts and that has worked for your throughout your career. With this new record, do you feel like you’re still wandering or have you found a stable place?
I will always be a wanderer. I will always have wanderlust and love traveling and meeting new people and seeing new places. As an artist, that’s where my art comes from -- learning about people and learning their stories and then translating them into songs. But once you travel enough, you do have to figure out how to be at home anywhere you are, and that’s probably sort of the zen, meditative nature of what I try to keep in mind as I move around. I have to said and I like to say, ‘Consistency is overrated,’ which is probably part of my wanderlust, but I do try to find a center everywhere I am.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about Be Here Now?
I’m really excited to be putting this record out in this way... I think everybody is trying to figure out what to do with the future of music -- how are people consuming music? What makes sense? What do people like? -- so I thought it made sense to put out three songs each month. It feels like instead of giving everybody a big meal, you’re giving them a tapas plate. I think people will really experience each song off of the album, which sometimes that doesn't happen, so I’m hoping some of the songs that might have gotten buried on a traditional album, maybe people will actually hear them.