My Place or Yours?

The men of Mise en Place as they appear in the pilot episode of CSI: Cirque du Soleil
Kris Drake

The members of local melodic-meandering post-punk foursome Mise en Place do not have day jobs in marketing, product identity development, or branding. Frontman Drew Patrick is, in fact, a Legal Aid lawyer. Guitarist Michael Forrester went to culinary school at one point, and this helps explain their slightly unfortunate name, which is a French phrase for having one's restaurant-kitchen work space arranged just so.

In explaining the odd name, Patrick has a lawyerly way of combining a guilty plea—"The first decisions we made as a band were the worst marketing decisions we could have made"—with an argument for the phrase's rationality: "It's an organizational principle we apply to our lives—a principle of preparation."

A spin of the band's debut album, Innit, reveals arrangements of ever-shifting rhythms and time signatures that change unexpectedly but smoothly—perhaps due to their emphasis on having all their garnishes and sauces laid out tidily before playing. Fidgety, upper-register guitar parts buzz around the tempo of the rhythm section. Drummer Shaun Westphal lays down beats that alternate between missing a few steps and skipping ahead quickly, as if to throw off the treble, a trembling swarm of notes that lands few stings but never gives up the chase. Cymbals are deployed with approximately the same level of restraint 12-year-old girls show when using exclamation marks. OMG! I love this high hat! So!! Much!!!!

"We tend to play in odd meters rather than standard 4/4 time, so figuring out the nuances of rhythm... we try to obscure what's a little off for the listener. The listener can tell something is different, but we try to obscure what it really is," says Patrick.

All the band members are sons of the rural Great Plains. "I grew up in rural South Dakota, where you can drive when you're, like, 10," laughs Patrick. "I'd get up in the morning, tell my mother I was going to the city. I'd go to Garage D'or, Oarfolkjokeopus, catch the Fugazi show." But Mise en Place as a band gelled when the members were all grownup professionals (bassist Corey Rath works for an IT company, although "no one really knows what exactly he does," says a mock-mystified Patrick), and at one point they decided to come out by identifying themselves as "a band from Edina," where two of the members live.

Edina, as we all know, stands for "Every Day I Need Albini." Steve Albini, legendary punk engineer, owner of Chicago's Electrical Audio, and Shellac frontman, lent his hand to the production of Innit.

"I personally really admire Albini's work and integrity," Patrick says of the man who engineered some of the most important platters in indie rock. "A lot of records he worked on—Surfer Rosa, Rid of Me, Palace's Arise Therefore, the Jesus Lizard records—they had an authenticity to them, and I wanted to have that authenticity for our record," he says.

Ideally, capturing a band's "authenticity" would mean nailing down that feeling of energy and aliveness from the best-case-scenario live performance, but for Mise en Place, that realness also extended to bugs.

"I had a sore throat, which kind of contributed to a sort of wavery nervousness of the vocals," Patrick says sportingly. "A lot of it was done on tape—it was very raw in that way. We did it all in analog."

The result is an album that is both immediate and uncertain—Patrick's lyrics are vague and abstract, with images of extraterrestrial visitation that hint at feelings of displacement and anxiety. Maybe it comes from being a professional post-punk in a weekend band in the suburbs. After all, as he points out, "I don't even know where we could play out here—the Galleria? The Southdale parking lot?" I believe the answer is "non."

MISE EN PLACE perform a CD-release party on SATURDAY, AUGUST 18 at Java Jack's; 612.825.2183.

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