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The Spatulas: "It's Interesting to See What Develops From Opening Myself up to So Many Different Musicians"

Between their sparkling debut LP "Beehive Mind" and December's EP "March Chant," the Spatulas have been expansively busy. How does bandleader Miranda Soileau-Pratt do it all? Turns out there's a couple more Spatulas in the kitchen than you'd think! I caught up with Soileau-Pratt amidst the band's East Coast tour to talk about the new album and her rapidly growing musical network.

Photo by Brian Furrey

We've been really loving your debut LP "Beehive Mind"! What was it like putting together a full length album after primarily working with singles and EPs?

Miranda Soileau-Pratt: I'm so glad people are getting into the record! We put out a live recording on tape and my solo home recordings are on Bandcamp, but this was special bringing my own songs to vinyl. "Beehive Mind" was recorded at Red Lantern Studios in Portland and we had it all out in just a few days! An extra five songs from that session actually make up the "March Chant" EP, along with my home recorded "March Chant In April." Post Present Medium was cool enough to put that out on tape, ahead of the release of the LP.

You've recorded with multiple different projects over the last decade, both solo and not, but how did this particular band come to become what it is today?

It wasn't until about 2018 that I really zoned in on my own songwriting, and now the creative channel is open. I feel like I've found my main expressive outlet in starting this band. It started off very free, bringing my poetry to weekly jam sessions with friends, (including Elijah and Holt Bodish from Mordecai) singing and playing keyboard, or sometimes rhythm guitar, drum machine, or recorder! In 2022, I moved up from Eugene to Portland, Oregon to check out the music scene. I introduced all of my recently-formed songs to a very talented band of friends, Lila Jarzombek, Jon Grothman and Kyle Raquipiso. After recording "Beehive Mind," I followed my love, and decided to tour across the country last summer to be with Elijah in Cambridge, Massachusetts for his postdoc at MIT. My backing band for that tour was Jon and the rest of Mordecai, Holt and Gavin. This year, I've been bringing new songs to New Englanders Luke Einsiedler and Greg Witz, still as the Mass Spatulas, and it's been very sweet having Elijah on bass again. Whenever I travel back to Oregon, I play with the Portland Spatulas and I'd love to record some songs we do there, as well as record the new stuff I play here with the Mass Spats, and put them all together on a collaborative album. It's interesting to see what develops from opening myself up to so many different musicians.

Photo by Ryan Clements

It sounds like a lot of work to keep the band "bicoastal" between Massachusetts and Oregon: how do you make things work with writing/recording/touring when different people are in different places? 

I love my ever-growing cast of Spatulas, and collaborating with many different artists in general. At least for the next few years we'll move a lot for Elijah's math research work, so it makes sense not to start over completely each time, but also leave myself open to new players wherever we land. For now, I've been doing all the songwriting, so it works to bring different songs to each group and play shows on both coasts. Lila and I have also started trading tracks virtually, and we'll start playing those whenever I visit Portland. Luckily, everyone has been super understanding about the logistics, and I'm also lucky to have such talented friends. 

You and Lila directed the video for the album's lead single "Maya" together. What can you tell us about the song and how you chose visuals to pair with it?

"Maya," like most on the album, is mostly about family and violence. I chose to make the video as a tribute to my mom who died in 2019 of Alzheimer's, and there are many photos of her, my brother and I in it. Lila very intuitively put together many of the other visuals, and they completely match the mood of my mom, M'ocean, her desire for nature and spirituality, and clips of her teaching yoga in the 1980s. "Maya" also has the only lyrics on the album not directly from my own head because I use a cut-up technique for part, drawing from an ancient Mayan text called the "Ritual of the Bacabs."

Speaking of your childhood, where did you grow up and how did you get into music? 

I grew up in Eugene, Oregon, and was lucky to get into music through all my great weirdo friends, listening to records, playing folk songs and covers on acoustic guitar, tripping out in green pastures... listening to everything from The 13th Floor Elevators, Electric Eels, to The Shangri-Las and Francoise Hardy. From 2009-2019 I played keyboard, theremin, and backup vocals a bit with frontman Luc Gunn in The Blimp. I learned to play piano and it was truly a fun, chaotic, Beefheartian stew, but pretty far from what I play now. I was totally charmed by the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. I remember it felt so cool getting to tour, opening for Luc's older brother Chris' band, The Hunches in 2009. It's even more fun now that I'm branching out and steering my own ship. Playing music has been a great way to find my people and communicate when I don't always have the right words. I've been using it to process grief as well. I recently collaborated on lyrics with Chris Gunn on the upcoming Lavender Flu album, "Tracing The Sand By The Pool" (In The Red). I also play a lot on "Lily Mullen Is Here" (MEDS/Mississippi Records), an album by mine and Chris' wonderful friend Lily, coming out next week!

Photo by Brian Furrey

I noticed you re-recorded some of the earliest Spatulas songs from 2020, "Frontemporal" and the title track, to close out the album. What made you want to return to these songs and how have they changed/evolved in their new forms?

Those early versions are me hitting play on Garageband and "accidentally" making a successful melody, improvising my poetry to whatever tune went well on top of a laid down guitar or tape loop. In the new versions I guess I've solidified my musical choices and in the case of "Beehive Mind," I'm also letting the full band sound in.

You've got an East Coast tour coming up this summer with Mordecai, is there anything in particular on the agenda that you're excited about?

I'm very excited to play with everyone and share our album, and have Mordecai come together and do their wild and free thing, and share their new record, "Seeds From The Furthest Vine" (Petty Bunco). There are going to be some really fun shows coming right up, including dates with Western Mass folk Glue Bag, with Mountain Movers in Cambridge and New Haven, and in Philly with Max Milgram's band Overt Hospitality. It will be a special treat to have my Portland Spats on the East Coast for these summer dates in support of the record we made. I'll also be playing more with the Mass Spats in the fall, and a mid-summer show with them in between. I also want to share my guitarist Lila Jarzombek's new project called Nowhere Flower Group with rearranged Spatulas members and Skyler Pia of Water Shrews. "Ruts The Place" is out on tape via Radical Documents.

"Beehive Mind" is out now on Post Present Medium.


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