School’s out!

Mise en Scene take a year off to record with two Howards

  • Mise en Scene’s Dunlop and Johnson skip class. – Mise En Scene

Even though Mise en Scene will be rocking Orientation Week at the University of Winnipeg, the local duo, made up of Stefanie Johnson and Jodie Dunlop, are taking a year off from educational pursuits in favour of touring, recording and being accepted into a prestigious artist residency in Banff.

“It will be the first time since Grade 1 that I haven’t been in school - it’s a bit weird,” says vocalist/guitarist Johnson, 25.

Johnson has an English degree from McGill under her belt while Dunlop, 21, is in the middle of a ceramics and photography degree at the University of Manitoba. The decision not to go back was tough but freeing for the pair.

Until recently, the band was fleshed out by Marco Fiore and Kena Olson, who both decided to pursue jazz studies at Brandon University.

“Their priority is school right now and ours isn’t,” Johnson says. “I don’t think that during my first degree I would have stopped, but timing is everything in this type of thing.”

“You just realize how much more you love music when you start putting school aside and doing it,” adds Dunlop, who plays the drums. “We’re doing this, we have no other priorities - this is happening.”

Thinning down to a two-piece, which was initially how the group began, has been a benefit for the band.

“I think we’re performing better now,” Johnson says. “The last two years has always been Jodi and I. We’re the ones who write the music and arrange everything together.”

As a newly solidified duo, Mise en Scene has been accepted into the Indie Band Residency in Banff, Alta. Past residents include Ohbijou and Woodpigeon.

It’s pretty much just like a binge drinking festival. I can’t drink vodka cranberries anymore because of that.

Stefanie Johnson of Mise en Scene on her first week at university.

Along with two other international bands, Johnson and Dunlop will get the chance to write, record and rehearse with producers such as Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire) and Tony Berg (Jakob Dylan).

But before they begin that two-week program, they’re heading to Vancouver to record with producer Howard Redekopp (Tegan & Sara, Mother Mother).

“We’ve been cataloguing songs since we released our EP (Late Night Triple Feature) last November,” Johnson says. “All we’ve been doing is writing songs and playing and touring.”

“We don’t even play our old stuff, we’ve changed so much,” Dunlop adds. “We weren’t even really a band when we started recording. (Producer) Ron Obvious offered to record us for free. It was something that we didn’t really have a chance to think about.”

In the theme of Orientation Week, the girls share the experience of their first weeks of school.

“I didn’t know where anything was,” Dunlop says. “I was carrying tons of fine arts supplies, trying to be over-prepared. Taking the bus was really hard, I didn’t know that they didn’t wait for you to sit down - I’d get on and they’d go! The door would just close on me!”

Laughing, Johnson shares what she remembers of her first week at McGill.

“It’s pretty much just like a binge drinking festival. There are all these sports like Quidditch and you’re in these outfits and they parade you to all these bars in Montreal from two in the afternoon to two in the morning. I can’t drink vodka cranberries anymore because of that.”

Thankfully musicians never drink on tour, so they’re leaving that hard partying to the students. You can catch Mise en Scene Thursday, Sept. 8 on the Spence Street Promenade.

Published in Volume 66, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 2, 2011)

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