The Myrrors: An exploration of space and sound

  Photo by Prabjit Virdee

Photo by Prabjit Virdee

Backstage I sit with the Myrrors. Grant Beyschau, Nik Rayne Miguel Urbina and Prabjit Virdee have just taken the time to check out the venue for this evening’s sold out show, which is just one of many, getting a feel for how the performance might be. The Arizona band are touring Europe and tonight are in Bristol, hosted by the Bristol Psych Fest, for what promises to be a unique experience. I have been listening to their experimental acid-y psych for some time but this is my first time seeing the guys live. We open some beers and get talking.

There’s a quality about The Myrrors that is unrivalled in the psychedelic scene and beyond. They transcend the realm of making music for a listener by creating it a multi sensorial experience. It’s hard to listen to the band walking down the street, it’s immersive nature demands clarity of mind to appreciate the sonic soundscape that Grant and Nik create. The environment in which The Myrrors find themselves playing certainly affects their performance. Before the show the band spent a considerate amount of time discussing a set list that would be best suited for the audience and venue - a seated cinema called The Cube in Bristol. “I think the space always has an effect on how we play,” Grant tells me. “There’s a lot of improvisation - we can stretch some things out for a long amount of time and some things are a bit heavier, or even just drone-ier.” Grant takes a moment to have a look at the venue and get a feel for the room. It helps him to get in the mindset for the performance. “We will adjust things accordingly.  All the songs change every night, the structure of the songs are so loose.” It’s evident that there are times where it’s harder to perform in this mindset, Prabjit reflects on the less successful nights, but there’s an agreement that even the more unsuccessful nights still remain a high quality of musicianship between all the performers. 

Another factor which affects The Myrrors is their changing line up. The recorded music is created by Nik and Grant, and on this tour there are four of them - their smallest line up of members yet. “On this tour specifically, how we have arranged the songs, has had to be adapted to suit just four voices. We need to think about what eight pairs of hands can do,” Nik says. I question how much they take into consideration how they might be able to target an audience’s other senses, e.g. visual, in a live show.  “I don’t think we are visually very entertaining, no one really faces the audience,” Miguel says. This does not detract from what is, in my opinion, a highly pleasurable show, and you become as equally immersed listening to the music, as the band are playing it.  Judging by the reactions of the audience I am not alone in feeling this.  Nik comments, “I think the music tends to lean towards more of a trance atmosphere, when we are getting into it we tend to get into the zone and are concentrating, and I guess that just means there’s not as much focus on outwards expressions.” Grant continues, commenting on Miguel’s stage presence, he sways in time with his violin playing, “the energy is not expended conscientiously, but I think visually, based on the pictures and videos I’ve seen, it does look interesting.” 

Tonight’s show is making the most out of the cinema environment and the screen will be used behind the band to show visuals, something they are excited about and enjoy doing, but have never been able to fully explore. “We’ve never really made a lot of effort as far as bringing that stuff with us, it’s more depending on the venue space,” Nik tells me. “I kind of have this dream to do a whole multi-media, theatre troupe type thing, where you have all of these different types of performing artists, whether it’s theatre, projections, artists, musicians, whatever really. We come from a very artistically creative city too, you know, it’s a cheap place for artists and college students to live and there’s so much creativity everywhere that it can be inspirational.”

The Myrror’s home, Tucson, Arizona, is a vast, desert landscape, surrounded by mountain ranges. The desert is home to some groundbreaking artists and music scenes - from the heavy stoner rock of Kyuss from the Californian desert to Tinariwen, a group of Grammy Award-winning Tuareg musicians from the Sahara, northern Mali. The geographical impact of artists makes a noticeable impact on their music but for The Myrrors, and Nik in particular, he’s not sure if he’s aware of this influence. “I feel like we get pinned into a desert sound that we don’t fit in to,” he tells me. “As a creative it’s certainly hard to disregard your home and the environment you create most in. Inevitably we end up drawing influences from the desert. I don’t know if I’ve ever tried to create an image that’s particularly desert-y, but that’s where we live so the visual aesthetics probably do come from what’s around us.” It’s certainly true that it may not be at the forefront of Nik’s mind, but as an outsider there’s something that draws me in through other impacts - their art work, for  example. The colour schemes and imagery are something to take note of, Entranced Earth and Archives Vol. 1: Lunar Halo in particular. Perhaps this is just something we see as an outsider which is based on the listener’s geographical location, mine being far different to theirs.

Nik’s inspiration comes from writers, he admits. For a band that delve into long instrumentals this is an interesting source of influence. Nik studied writing and English Literature when he was in university, “I read a lot, different authors, particularly Julio Cortázar. Even though these writers aren’t directly influencing what we are doing, I suppose with the lyrics it probably is, a lot of Latin-American fiction does,” Nik expains. Miguel asks Nik if he would consider those writers to be psychedelic. “In a sense, yeah.” Miguel agrees and Prabjit includes the literary genre of magic realism. “I think there’s parallels to draw between that style of literature and the music we play,” Nik continues. “I feel that the music we play is grounded in a realism, kind of raw sound, I suppose. There’s not a lot of effects or synthesiser stuff, it’s all very stripped down. But we try and build it into something that’s surreal and that transcends the ordinary instruments that we use.” It’s interesting to hear Miguel, Prabjit and Nik discuss literature that one may not automatically put together with The Myrror’s sound, and Nik rounds it off by admitting that it probably is a subconscious influence or just a parallel path. “But you know,” Nik continues, “that could just be the Budweiser talking!”

There is structure behind The Myrror’s music. A lot of it may be long and spaced out jams, and live there is experimentation and improvisation. In the studio, it’s somewhat different.  Nik and Grant are the only two that write and record the music. “It’s all based on repetition,” Nik admits. “The basic building block in all of our material is repetition. We start from there.” Repetition is an important factor in The Myrror’s writing.  Listening to Organ Mantra from 2017’s Hasta La Victoria makes this clear. Perhaps it’s this repetition that makes the band delve deep into trance and what makes their work so captivating and interesting. “It’s a little idea, and we just see what happens. There’s a vague notion and we just try it. A lot of the times it doesn’t work,” Grant explains, laughing. Nik agrees, and adds, “even though the records aren’t recorded live because it’s mostly just Grant and I doing it, there’s still so much improvisation in the sense that we just try something and build off that. Honestly, after some first takes and as the track expands it turns into something that we never expected it to in the beginning.” Experimentation is key and vital for any band when creating, but for The Myrrors it is everything. There never seems to be any exact ideas or strutted music. “We just see what happens,” Nik says with a laugh. 

In live shows its different, Nik and Grant tour with varying troupe of other musicians. This means the mindsets are always changing, and a live show is different every time you see the band. “All the members of the band always come from different backgrounds,” Nik tells. “Grant and I have always built Myrrors line ups from friends, so everyone comes in with their own taste in music, sometimes divergently different to what we are playing.” There’s a positive side of that, fresh ideas and new influence is presented to Nik and Grant, but I question how they can make it so that everyone is on the same page and how they can experiment together. “Playing together a lot, listening to records together, talking about the ideas and themes that we want to work in and the spirit of the music we are going for,” is Nik’s answer. “It kind of finds its way, and it’s always different.” This is such a unique aspect around The Myrrors. With constant change comes constant new ideas, and Nik admits that though technically the band is just the two of them, they wouldn’t have been able to come up with what they play without the influence from others. Prabjit comments, as the newest member of the band joining just five months prior, “after first playing I went home and did homework.  It was like two days of Fairport Convention, continuous… Nothing else.” Nik laughs at his comments, but Prabjit didn’t seem to be joking. “I guess it was just listening and watching the performances, I was trying to learn all the artists that Nik and Grant listen to and just immersing myself. I do feel like the outsider.” 

Away from The Myrrors Prabjit finds himself listening to more shoe-gaze and dream-pop, and mostly music with an emphasis on a leader, for example a lead guitar or a lead vocal. “It’s been great,” he continues. “There’s a lot of patience, which is part of a good relationship. I could do it for years, and I would probably want to start my own thing.” Nik seems to take Prabjit’s words as a compliment, and admits that the nice thing about being in the band is having friends or finding people in a similar headspace with similar ideas. “A six week tour is a lot of time to spend with someone,” Nik admits. “Tensions can flare up, but we’ve been lucky that we all get along really well…” Grant agrees and points out that no one has yelled.  Yet. “I think that comes through in the music also,” Nik continues. Miguel adds in contradiction, “imagine if we all hated each other though - that’d be a totally different genre!”

Currently, The Myrrors are working and releasing through Brooklyn label Beyond Beyond is Beyond, home to outstanding bands such as Kikagaku Moyo and Heaters. BBIB are quickly becoming a notable and respected label for psychadelia and alternative music, and it’s clear to hear through their artists that they have creative vision and style. “We had just finished our second studio album and I liked so much of what they were doing as a label.  Mike and Dom, the guys who own it are kind and open minded people,” Nik tells me. “I just sent the music their way and they got really excited about it.” From personal experience I think knowing who you’re working with, on a personal basis, is a very important. Releasing through a label where you know the people running it feels more natural and honest – something difficult to obtain with majors. I ask Nik if he feels the same. “Yeah, I agree. We didn’t get the chance to spend a lot of time with them until right before this tour since they are in New York,” he tells me. “I think it’s important to know them and trust them as people, not necessarily having an in-person relationship, but as long as they’re excited about what you’re doing and want to give you some support, I think that’s really important.” Nik admits that’s not easy for them to find the right people to work with. “I think it’s important that there’s communication and the right vibe, which is hard for us to find,” he laughs. 

The Myrrors are certainly a unique and ever evolving band. Nik and Grant, in particular, know the importance of development and experimentation within music, especially in the psychedelic genre. After our chat, I find myself listening to the music with a greater clarity of what the band are trying to achieve, noticing or learning something different every play. The complexity of the layering and repetition captivates the listener.

The live performance that evening was nothing short of spectacular. The listeners were engrossed in every note and beat the band play. The Myrrors succeeded in adapting their ethereal sounds to the unusual space, providing the audience with a sense of uniqueness in the performance. There are not many artists out there like The Myrrors and they are proving to be one of the most interesting psychedelic bands currently creating.

Words by Nathan McLaren-Stewart.

Nathan McLaren-StewartComment