Lukewarm Questions is a recurring feature wherein independent artists are invited to construct their own interviews by selecting the questions that they would like to answer.
I’ve always loved the word drift. It has an onomatopoetic quality, the short vowel sound giving way to the effortless final consonants. When I listen to the music of a mess., the Twin Cities-based duo comprised of Sara Liebl and Hannah Boundy, I feel the quality of drift encapsulated in a manner that feels both tender and solemn. To a casual listener, the softness of the soundscapes they construct might belie the acuity of their writing. However, a mess. begs attention by receding, by beckoning rather than yanking you in. I hope that you feel as embraced by their music as I have.
If a mess. could score a film by any director, who would it be and why?
Sara: Collaborating on some haunting tunes with dreamy vocals with Danny Elfman for a Tim Burton film (think Edward Scissorhands) would be a dream.
Hannah: Scoring an iconic coming of age story by the late John Hughes.
What is a historical event that you’d be down to write a concept album about?
Sara: I think I’d really enjoy delving into the Salem Witch Trials.
Hannah: Being that I have a weird obsession with anything witchy, I’d have to agree with Sara. I think it’d be freaking fantastic to write an album about the Salem Witch Trials. P.S.: Misty Day from AHS is my muse.
Tell me a song that reminds you of seventh grade.
Sara: “Shake It” by Metro Station and “Crank That” by Soulja Boy both came out when I was in seventh grade. They were everywhere. Pretty sure “Shake It” was one of my ringtones for a long time. Any time I hear “Crank That” I’m instantly transported to school dances and thinking I was cool because I knew the dance.
Hannah: Hmm… seventh grade. What a weird and extremely awkward time in my life that was. I think I was mainly listening to the Twilight soundtracks during that time so I’d have to pick “Bella’s Lullaby.” I mean, those albums undeniably slapped.
Which movie have you watched the most times?
Sara: The Lion King. Definitely my #1 comfort movie. And one of the best opening sequences in cinema history.
Hannah: The Parent Trap. Never gets old. Talk about a movie you can crack open a pint of Ben & Jerrys with and just melt into nostalgic paradise.
Name a band with a wildly different style from yours that you would love to play a gig with.
Sara: Locally, I would love to play with The Von Tramps. Ska punk and synthpop/indie would definitely make for a contrasting bill. On a larger scale, pre-reunion Fall Out Boy.
Hannah: MGMT. I feel like that would be a wildly fun experience.
What is a quality you consider overrated?
Sara: I’m calling myself out here, but stubbornness.
Hannah: Laziness. There is no such thing. Shame label.
What is a quality you consider underrated?
Sara: Being comfortable in stillness and silence.
Hannah: Self-awareness… I feel like I’m finally at a point in my life where I’m much more self-aware and forgiving toward myself. I tend to stop myself when I am falling into bad habits that consumed my teenage years and I’m really proud of that.
Name some organizations within your community to which Headlight Spirits readers should redistribute funds if able.
Sara: Zacah is a charity dedicated to combating our current housing crisis. They provide financial relief and housing placements in hotels for vulnerable folks without permanent housing. You can find more information on their mission and donate here. There are also a number of mutual aid groups for both Minneapolis and St. Paul on Facebook you can join to provide funds directly to those in need of immediate assistance. Type in Mutual Aid Minneapolis (or St. Paul) and you’ll find a number of groups to join.
Tell me a conspiracy theory that you believe in.
Sara: Princess Diana was definitely murdered by the Royal Family.
Hannah: It’s the Berenstein Bears, NOT the Berenstain Bears!
What is your favorite lyric on Golden Age of Television? What was the process or story behind writing it?
Sara: “Planet Earth and scrambled eggs, tracing your favorite words on my bruised legs.” “Scrambled Eggs” is a reflection on a number of relationships I’ve experienced, both romantic and platonic. I was very inspired by “Supercut” by Lorde and the concept that there are small fragments of a relationship that stick with you long after it’s over and, and that those are what you tend to replay in your head when you revisit that relationship. Sometimes they’re happy, sometimes they’re somber. That lyric specifically calls back to a night years ago that was very special to me and one I will continue to hold close to my heart. It reminds me of the simplicity of my happiness in that moment, sharing time with someone I cared about without any glamour or pressure.
Hannah: I’d have to say my favorite lyric is, “We pardon all the little things we do and confuse the bad with the good and love,” from “Fade Away,” which is actually one of the first songs I ever wrote and it was after I had my first heartbreak. It kind of shocked my psyche and made me realize that when you love someone, you tend to overlook a lot of things that could be toxic. I felt as if I had been hypnotized until it snapped and then every little thing I had let slide came back with such an immense force; it was very new to me. That time in my life was extremely hard and changed me as an artist. I was finally writing my own songs. I don’t regret it for a second.
You have to collaborate on a song with one member of the cast of the 2019 major motion picture Cats. Who is it and what is the track called?
Sara: Jennifer Hudson, hands down. I have no idea what the track would be called, probably something really sad. She would definitely be in charge and I’d be silently losing my mind over it while trying to play it cool.
Hannah: Judi Dench. No question. I feel like she and I could whip out a great medieval British folk album. Track would be called, “Make Haste.”
Headlight Spirits is named after a lyric from “Carry Me Out.” What is your favorite Mitski song and why?
Sara: Mitski is one of those artists where I can listen to any song and think, “I wish I wrote that lyric.” My favorite is probably “Geyser.” Some of my synth parts are inspired by the organ (I am dying to work some organ into a tune) and synths in the beginning of the song. I also appreciate that it doesn’t necessarily follow the traditional format of having multiple verses, multiple choruses, and a bridge. And the lyrics, of course.
Hannah: “Last Words of Shooting Star.” A song I’ve listened to alone in my bedroom and laying on the floor a lot.