Midwest Telegram’s new single (for V-Day) is all heart

Midwest Telegram

Midwest Telegram. // Courtesy Clara Ketchell

It’s Valentine’s Day, meaning it’s time for a whole slew of musicians to release a cavalcade of songs dealing with the topic of love and romance. Local act Midwest Telegram have subverted that concept by dropping a new single, “I Wish I Could Do Something,” in collaboration with the Heart Rhythm Society, a non-profit organization whose mission is “to improve the care of patients by promoting research, education, and optimal health care policies and standards.”

It’s an admirable and intriguing collab, and as “I Wish I Could Do Something” also represents a new sonic tack for Midwest Telegram, we reached out to the band’s guitarist, Miles Luce, to hear more about the new single and the band’s current creations.

The Pitch: What’s the story behind this song?

Miles Luce: We were commissioned to write a song on behalf of the Heart Rhythm Society for awareness of cardiac arrest.

We’ve also done work with non-profits in the past, like last summer, when we played a fundraiser show for the Palestinian American Medical Association. Our singer, Rishi Malay, wrote the lyrics, and we recorded the song virtually by sending each other audio stems and mixing them while talking over video call.

Willow [Maclovor, percussion/vocals/guitar] and Rishi played an enormous role in tweaking aspects of the song in mixing, Christian [Alldredge, guitar/vocals] played an excellent lead part like always, and Meghana [Lakkireddy, bass/vocals] organized the whole collaboration.

Are you all usually into the idea of Valentine’s Day, or is this a way to subvert it?

Honestly, I’m not too keen to be either for or against Valentine’s Day. However, releasing music as a (wannabe) emo band, it seems fitting to release an anthem about helplessness and loss on a day that’s supposed to be about love.

In a sense, I do think the song is also about love or care because it reflects the impact of losing someone after a heart attack. I also think a beautiful thing about the way me and Rishi write songs is to emphasize their vagueness, which allows the audience to project the kind of meaning they want onto the song. That seems like a kind of love to me or at least a fleeting relationship of sorts between artist and listener.

Is this a one-off track, or is there more new music on the way?

We didn’t intend to write this song as a part of our new album, but there is definitely new music coming. It fits in with the vibe of some of our newer, slower songs. We also have songs that are fast and punchy. We have approximately 8 tracks that we’re looking to record this spring. The album departs from the EP in those two different ways simultaneously. It also features longer songs with more introspective lyrics, more explicit melody, and creative song structures. There’s also a lot more explicit vulnerability as well, with some songs having an almost confessional and confrontational nature, drawn from our own experiences and relationships with other people. Like in the single, we’re using more instruments like synths to help the feel and transitions of the song. There will also be at least one song with noise and ambiance a-la Wilco’s “Reservations” from their album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

Hopefully, we’ll release our album at the beginning of the summer if we continue doing our method of recording virtually. That would also give Midwest Telegram a new lease on life for the future considering we all go to different colleges hundreds of miles away from each other. This winter, I would always try to hound everyone into the “studio” because I thought we only had so much time left together to be a band, play shows, record music, and hang out. Now, with the new way we record, Midwest Telegram can be a thing without all of us being in the same room. I think this reflects the “death of touring” and the rise of the internet and internet marketing as essential to bands’ success. All in all, we’re extremely excited that the band has survived long enough for us to write a full-length album. I think that’s a huge milestone and achievement for local college-age musicians.

The sound on this is a lot more downtempo than your EP. Did you do that intentionally, or did it just happen?

I think in order to convey the themes behind the song, we had to slow things down. We are also exploring guitar techniques that we haven’t used extensively in our previous recordings like fingerpicking and tapping. We’re all huge American Football fans and wanted our music to sound a “little more Midwest Emo” considering “Midwest” was in the name of the band. Ridiculous, I know.

I think this is our attempt at putting ourselves a little more in proximity with our influences like American Football, as well as Phoebe Bridgers. On this single, I tried to channel the strumming pattern of “Me and My Dog,” as well as Bridgers’ orchestral buildups to the ends of her songs. I like that we can make a downtempo song that still sounds like “Midwest Telegram” because I think it shows how versatile and open we are as musicians.

Midwest Telegram plays the Replay Lounge [946 Massachusetts St, Lawrence, KS 66044] this Friday, Feb. 18, for a matinee show with Captain Howdy & His Sunset Serenaders and Khan. Details on that show here.

Categories: Music