Merganzer: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyor of: Classically-infused whimsy.
File next to: Soundtrack to your greatest daydreams.
Playing: Day Two of WL16, Saturday February 13 (afternoon show) at Markham House: City Building Lab. Get tickets! 

Drawing on collaborations with the likes of Basia Bulat, Timber Timbre, Broken Social Scene and Feist, Merganzer is the pop electronic brainchild of uber-talented violin virtuoso Mika Posen. Christopher D’Arcy Wright ventures down the rabbit hole for a visit into Ms. Posen’s dreamlike world.

What was the inspiration behind your first album Mirror Maze?

I wrote most of the songs for Mirror Maze while I was going through a huge life transition. Everything long-term that I had been building suddenly evaporated: I left Toronto, all my friends, and all the people I’d been working with for many years and moved overseas in 2013. It was equal parts exciting and lonely; writing songs was my way of dealing with those lonely times.

I recently read that you wrote most of your album while living in Berlin. How did living there influence your final output?

Berlin’s history fascinated me. The city has been through so many radically different phases over the past century — the Golden Twenties, World War II, the East-West Division — and each phase seemed to leave ghosts lingering in the air, on the streets, in the facades of buildings, in things that are left unspoken. These ghosts were on my mind, and they certainly permeate my music.

Does your live band contain the same musicians as your recorded music?

I played most of the instruments on the album myself, but I had a few different drummers fill out the percussion tracks. One of these drummers, Pascal Delaquis from Ottawa, has been playing live with me these past few months, along with a bass player and a singer. But Merganzer has different live incarnations at different shows — at Wavelength, we will be a duo: myself and Katie Hurdon on keys and backup vocals.

Describe the process of crafting a song. What happens first: the music or the lyrics?

I usually write music with lyrical ideas or concepts in mind, but I usually set the words after the music has been developed.

What do you do for fun when you’re not playing?

I’ve been living in Ottawa for the past year — fun around here means cross-country skiing on silent winter trails, skating on the canal, bike riding on beautiful paths by the river, and picnics at local lakes.

If given the chance to work with anyone, who would you choose?

Nils Frahm, a wonderful German pianist and master of beautiful sounds.

Do you have any aspirations to compose a movie score?

Absolutely. That would be a dream. I spent some time on Toronto Island this fall working on some new instrumental and ambient material with though of score work in my mind…

Have you ever had your heart broken and, if so, how would you say this has contributed to the way you play / write music?

Yes. I’m not sure if it changed the way that I make music, but it certainly changed the way that I listen to, understand, and feel other people’s music, art, and poetry. So much of what artists produce is inspired by extreme emotions, so in some ways I’m grateful that I’ve gone through something serious because it has really deepened my experience of all art.

Your music is evocative of a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. Is it fair to say that your music contains a childlike quality? Is this intentional?

It’s certainly not intentional, but I’m happy if that’s what others get from it. I grew up on songs from Disney fairytales, so I’m sure that they’ve worked their way into my musical subconscious somehow.

What would you like to achieve with your music?

I’d like to create atmospheres, moods, ambiences, and scenes, both in recordings and in live performances. That’s really the main goal.

Don’t miss Merganzer when she plays Markham House: City Building Lab the afternoon of Saturday February 13 for Wavelength 16. Get your tickets or festival passes here.

— Interview by Christopher D’Arcy Wright