Photos / Louis Seigal
The political climate of today has moved many artists to action, crafting resistance and sustainability through their art. Luckily for us, Brooklyn-based Michelle Birsky of the band Birch has been one of those inspired by today’s ever-changing events. In doing so, Birsky and bandmate Mat Towles have turned their glorious dreamy synth-pop into calls for action.
On Birch’s Sophmore EP, Not Human, the band explores societal issues and the concerns of our generation in a rounded atmospheric cloud of swirly tempos that provide a space for feeling, reflecting and dancing. Birsky’s pleas and fears hit all the right chords of the deepest corners of the heart. Today we premiere “Pick Sides” off Birch’s upcoming EP and talk to Michelle Birsky in length about the tracks important message to society under its blanket of beautiful melody.
When did you start writing your EP Not Human?
I started writing Not Human in 2016. It came on the heels of writing “Human”, a song based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, about the ways in which, on a basic level, we are all one. I decided to flip the switch and look at these human tendencies through the opposing lens: why do we forget that we are all one? That is the question that Not Human explores.
Are you surprised by how your music resonates with the political landscape today?
When I began writing these songs, we were in the midst of the election. I was witnessing the world around me and writing about divisiveness. Since then, Trump has won and the division of our country is even more clear. I guess I’m surprised that the topic of this EP has been magnified by the state of our country. I expected the opposite.
“Pick Sides” has a very opposing and yet uniting elements to it. Is it hard to write songs with such juxtapositions lyrically and sonically?
“Pick Sides” is a song about our societal need to create binaries (republican/democrat, male/female, gay/straight, etc) and how those binaries keep us from truly understanding each other. To illustrate these dichotomies, I wanted to pair light-hearted melody lines with heavy lyrics. The song is about juxtapositions and writing with these juxtapositions is actually my comfort zone. I use them to ask questions.
What is one tip as an artist that you use to play/ create with different people and viewpoints, that you think humans could instill in themselves to get along with their neighbors?
It’s literally what we learn in kindergarten, but put yourself in someone else’s shoes. I think we could all afford to work on our empathy.
From your eyes what has been the hardest side to pick regarding your identity?
To speak my mind or not to speak my mind. As girls, we are taught to be polite and reserved. To listen first and let the boys speak over us. My biggest battle has been unlearning this.
What are some character traits that you think are holding back our current civilization?
I think fear is at the heart of every problem we face as a society. Fear of the other, fear of the unknown, fear of losing. It’s the foundation for every type of prejudice and I believe that it’s keeping us stuck.
What are your biggest fears about the world and life?
My biggest fear is that we will never experience true equality.
When can we expect your debut album?
Early 2018. Am in the writing stages now, but I can tell you now that the album is going to be about the evolution of the female.
How do you get in the mood to write music?
Throughout the day I collect ideas from books, podcasts, articles, and life observations. When it’s time to sit down and write I usually clear my head by meditating, dimming the lights and lighting candles… sounds way more erotic than it is… believe me.
What is the biggest inspiration around you right now?
Women who are making their voices heard.
Did it ever feel unnatural for you to take on a more activism role in your art?
I think a lot of artists are taking on activist roles because art imitates life, and there is a lot of work to be done in the world right now. It feels like our responsibility to make art about it and not ignore it.
What recent political sabotage has has you disheartened the most?
The Muslim (“travel”) ban was extremely disheartening. The lack empathy. It’s just not what our country stands for.
What is some advice you could give to other artists who want to pivot within their platform and use their voice?
There’s so much happening in this political landscape, it’s impossible to cover everything, so pick what your most passionate about and use your voice and platform to educate and connect with others.
What is one change that you are hoping for in the future in the political and civic realm?
I’m hoping that over the next four years we will ban together to resist policies that could harm marginalized groups. And then I hope that in four years we will elect a female president. Females will change the world, just you wait.
CONNECT WITH BIRCH:
Official Website: http://www.birchmusicnyc.com/