Fine Mist
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Fine Mist

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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By Josiah Hughes

Back in September, Vancouver, BC's Fine Mist dropped their fantastic debut album, Public Domain. The duo of Jay Arner and Megan McDonald (both veterans of Vancouver indie bands like International Falls and the Poison Dart) won us over with their disco-ready synths and bedroom pop songwriting sensibility. Now that the album is out, they're making plans for some follow-up projects.

First on the docket is an alternate version of Public Domain known as The Singing From Public Domain. The album will be available on Fine Mist's BandCamp page as a pay-what-you-want download as of today (November 26).

Speaking with Exclaim!, Arner explains that the new version has taken on its own identity. "It's a pretty good listen on its own, thanks to Megan," he says. "And when there are gaps in the singing, I tried to fade in other tracks you might not have heard in the mix. Mostly bass drum."

The Singing From Public Domain stems from the duo's desire to keep things interesting with their source material. "We're not a rap band or R&B band or whatever, but I really love that style of releasing different versions of everything -- the original, the remixes, chopped and screwed, and you can always find the vocals somewhere. It's cooler than trying to make your songs untouchable," Arner explains.

That sentiment has grown into an even bigger project as Fine Mist have been collecting remixes from friends for an upcoming remix mixtape. "So far we have No Gold, No Kids, Mount Eerie, JDH, Gus from Architecture in Helsinki, Babe Rainbow, Run Chico Run and GR8-2000, and we're waiting on a few more stragglers," Arner says, adding that Mount Eerie's Phil Elverum contributed a remix that "sounds like Twin Peaks with vocoder."

While the mixtape is far from complete, Arner has Lil Wayne-sized aspirations. "The plan is to gather them all up and get someone to mix them all together with crossfades and shouting overtop, like DJ Drama," he explains. "We'd like a proper release -- what does that even mean now? -- but it'll flow like a mixtape. Canadian techno remix mixtape: new style?"

In addition to The Singing from Public Domain and the upcoming mixtape, Fine Mist have also teamed up with No Kids' Nick Krgovich for a song on the upcoming Mint Records/CiTR compilation, as well as beginning work on their next album. First off, the duo will be performing Public Domain from start to finish with a full band at Vancouver's Biltmore Cabaret on Saturday (November 27). - Exclaim


#3 - Fine Mist
Before their album Public Domain was even officially named, their fans were fervently swapping around demos of the songs that would become this album. You could see that this band hit a nerve when they’d play to an audience who knew the words so well that lead singer Megan McDonald would just hand her mic to someone in the audience and sip her chardonnay while whoever was holding the mic allowed as many people as possible to sing along. - Discorder


Listening to Vancouver's Fine Mist, you get the impression that singer Megan McDonald has had her share of boy problems. Nearly every song the band has ever written is rife with lovelorn angst, with common concerns including betrayal and disappointment.

Eleven of these heartbroken rants appear on the band's debut album, Public Domain, which plays out like a manifesto for the romantically disillusioned. On the opener "Palm Trees," the singer complains of "Sitting in car as sunsets go by / With my head in my hands / Losing you again." On "Because It's the Ocean," she asks, "Why can't we meet in the middle?" before concluding, "Fuck that, you're leaving for Europe." At times, her outlook is downright morbid, from "Murder Murder" to the opening image of "When No One's Home," which describes a "noose on the hardwood floor."

It's heavy stuff, but this only tells half the story. McDonald's lovesick lyrics are set against the synth pop accompaniment of producer Jay Arner. The buzzy keyboards and dancefloor-ready beats of "Stop or Start" and "I Can't Stand It" are so joyously upbeat that Public Domain might also be the party album of 2010, provided you're the kind of person who doesn't pay attention to the words.

The debut LP comes after two years of intensive gigging, during which the band has shared the stage with the likes of Japandroids and Sloan. And now that McDonald and Arner have finally taken the time out of their live schedule to issue an album, they're already preparing their next release -- a remix record called Nite Sweats that brings together local heroes like Babe Rainbow, No Kids and No Gold along with members of Sloan and Architecture in Helsinki. Not bad for an unsigned band whose first album doesn't drop until Sept. 14.
LISTEN TO THIS:

Fine Mist -- "Stop or Start"

There's no word on when the remix album will come out, but fans can be assured that the band's catchy electro pop sound is bound to attract more high-profile collaborators soon.

Fine Mist opens for Born Ruffians at the Pit Pub (UBC), on Saturday Sept. 11 [Tyee] - The Tyee


Sitting across from Megan McDonald and Jay Arner in their East Vancouver living room isn’t all too different from watching them perform. The brass unicorns, dream catchers and bear drawing that comprise their stage backdrop decorates the room, and the two roommates sip daiquiris while comfortably sharing stories with their audience—me. The only thing missing was the sound of their energetic, but somewhat love-sick, synth-pop.


Fine Mist is not the first time McDonald and Arner have joined together in a musical endeavour. It’s not the second either; in the last six years the two have played or recorded in more bands then they can list offhand, but most Vancouverites will know them from their time in International Falls, the Poison Dart or Candles. Except in Fine Mist, they’re on their own.
Forming a two piece was a conscious decision, but also a matter of convenience. During my visit to their house, Arner excitedly showed me their upstairs practice space—a big room with skylight views of the city and a balcony. This accessibility allows them to have 20 minute practices whenever they’re both home, allowing this to be what McDonald described as their “most collaborative enterprise.”


Even as collaborators they have specific roles in the band. McDonald writes some lyrics and melodies and Arner some chords, then they work together to perfect the songs. On stage together, it is clear that this process is organic and enjoyable for the two. They’ll often glance at each other and smile as they dance.


Many confuse these glances and their consistent partnership for a love affair. McDonald laughed when I asked for her opinion on the speculations surrounding their relationship. Though she agrees that the assumption makes sense based on appearances, she noted that the lyrics are more “anti-dating”—most of the songs are “about despair and being in love with someone insane.” Arner smiled while thinking about being the victim of McDonald’s harsh words, and the two noted that the Fleetwood Mac comparisons have been present since their time in International Falls. Though not apropos Arner, McDonald noted that “every single word is true in all of the songs” and described them as “wistful but accurate.”


Setting up their living room on the dance floor made it much easier to play such personal songs. The comfort zone set up extends into the audience, as McDonald occasionally talks over the music, coaxing sways from even the most unlikely showgoers. The best part is seeing them play over and over again. You begin to anticipate McDonald’s teal dress, the duo’s matching moccasins and you’re ready to sing along to the refrains of “Out of Sync” and “Because It’s the Ocean.”


Rather than getting tired of performing, playing their songs repeatedly makes these nights more enjoyable for the band. “They seem classic because you’ve written them,” said McDonald about the songs, explaining why she now often feels like she’s singing karaoke on stage instead of performing. That’s what makes Fine Mist fun for McDonald and Arner—a karaoke dance party in their living room is their favourite way to spend a Friday night.


One of the band’s goals is to encourage dancing in Vancouver. While this may be a daunting task, they’ve gotten off to a good start. Having played countless art gallery openings, the Biltmore’s first Swap Meet and numerous other shows over the past few months, they’ve been winning fans easily. They’re looking forward to organizing their own show, a dance night at the Peanut Gallery on Mar. 14. If you can’t make it out, you can always have a dance party in your own living room with their Myspace page [www.myspace.com/thebandfinemist]—you’ll just have to imagine the brass unicorns. - Discorder magazine


If you’re a fan of live music, you really have to take your hat off to Jason “my!gay!husband!” Sulyma. Just over a year after launching Glory Days on a snowy Saturday at the Biltmore, the weekly’s popularity has risen to the point where he could probably forgo the cost of paying a band to play (nearly) every week and still easily fill the place. In fact, while most similarly-formatted nights rely on the band to draw some of their crowd, Glory Days’ popularity, in and of itself, gives bands an opportunity to play in front of a guaranteed packed house made up of people that wouldn’t otherwise be attending their shows. While this is a great chance to perform in front of some new faces, the general indifference of most of the audience means that Glory Days’ bands are sometimes treated like an interruption of the evening’s DJ portions, rather than the night’s focal point.

With that in mind, hats go off to Fine Mist for converting their fair share of new fans during their mid-party set. The electro-pop duo worked through a set of shimmering dance tunes from their as-yet-unreleased full-length, Public Domain, building slowly but surely before getting the bulk of the crowded dance floor moving by the time they launched into the sublime “Stop or Start.” As good as the duo of Megan McDonald and Jay Arner was, it’s also worth noting the assistance they received from some of the Fine Mist faithfuls in attendance. If you can measure a band by the fervour of its most devoted followers, Fine Mist’s ready to blow up like Kiss. Their hardcore fans brought an army’s worth of enthusiasm with them. It’s always easier to enjoy something when everyone around you is, and between the mass sing-a-longs, group hugs and sheer joy being expressed up front, it was damn near impossible not to get caught up in the band’s set. - Discorder magazine


By Dan Fumano

"Happy release date!” exclaimed one of Jay Arner’s friends, embracing him in a big, congratulatory hug near the wooden bar at the Railway Club.

It’s Tuesday, Sept. 14, the official record release date for Public Domain, the first album from Fine Mist, the synth-pop duo of Arner and Megan McDonald. It’s an exciting time for them, their friends and their fans. Over beers at the Railway that night, McDonald and Arner enthusiastically share about a number of topics: the genesis of the record, their past and future together, their creative process, ponies and Gossip Girl.

McDonald and Arner have been friends, roommates and bandmates for years, playing together in a series of bands (such as Poison Dart and International Falls) around Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest. Fine Mist, however, is the first project where both of the accomplished songwriters have collaborated closely, which began a fruitful creative partnership.

“When we started writing songs together, we wrote a lot of stuff really quickly,” explained McDonald, whose day job sees her running a therapeutic horseback-riding centre for people (particularly children) with mental and physical disabilities (Arner volunteers there sometimes, too).

Arner continued, “I would write all the International Falls songs. She would write all the Poison Dart songs and we never collaborated so it was a lot slower. But when we started to collaborate, we were really cranking it out.”

The way they answer questions and tell stories by trading off sentences is perhaps indicative of this simpatico wavelength they share. McDonald picked up that thread again, explaining how Arner “Starts out with a beat and some chords… then I’ll record, and make a melody and lyrics over top. Sometimes I’ll sing something that doesn’t fit with it and Jay will change the music to suit it. Sometimes he’ll get me to change what I’m doing, and we go back and forth like that. Basically there’s a whole bunch of tracks on our computer, and when I feel like working on it, I’ll go and listen to them and make a song.”

Both members want to go against what Arner called “the perception of the electronic duo: girl singer and guy producer. I think it does Megan a big disservice to call her a ‘girl singer’—she plays guitar and drums and other instruments, and she’s a great songwriter … I think we make the music in a more ‘songwritingly’ way as opposed to from an electronic music perspective.”

For most of Fine Mist’s existence, the project has been largely “electronic”—songs composed and recorded on a computer and live performance where McDonald’s expressive, brassy singing was accompanied only by Arner’s backing vocals, some synths and an iPod playing the backing tracks.

Recently, however, Fine Mist has left the iPod at home and played a handful of shows with a full band, including some choice opening slots for touring acts such as Hercules & Love Affair and Born Ruffians, as well as local favourites You Say Party! “The full band is great,” said McDonald. “They’re people we spend a lot of time with anyway, and they’re really amazing musicians.”

The current performing lineup is Joseph Hirabayashi (keys) and Elliot Langford (bass), both of the SSRIs, with Patrick Geraghty from Role Mach on keys and Arner on drums.

The live instrumentation definitely adds a new element and depth to Fine Mist’s live performance, but it was with tons of “iPod shows” around town as a duo that earned them their especially dedicated local fan base. Based solely on the strength of the singing and their songs, and their ineffable, undeniable stage presence and charisma, Fine Mist has garnered their own legion of supporters, known collectively and affectionately as “Fan Mist.” “They call themselves Fan Mist! How adorable is that?” exclaimed an obviously pleased McDonald.
Now, Fine Mist’s debut album—their very first physical release for that matter—will see an independent release thanks in part to some help from one of their devoted fans: local music writer/blogger/fan Quinn Omori, who commented that “they seem to have the kind of fans who are really passionate about their music, which is really cool for such a small band—and I’m definitely one of those.”

Omori, who has contributed to Discorder and Exclaim! in addition to running his own music blog (From Blown Speakers), is candid when explaining how his involvement came about: “I was drunk.”

“I knew they had this great album and no way to put it out,” Omori said. So, one drunken night last winter, he “just grabbed Megan and said: ‘I want to help you guys put out this record!’”

McDonald held him to it, and Omori helped provide some of the financial backing needed for the pressing of 500 (and change) vinyl copies of Public Domain. Omori enthused, “It’s a great record. So if great music sells, we’re gonna get the money back anyways.”

Though some of these songs are totally new, a few will be familiar to local music fans, who have - Discorder magazine


By Ian Gormely

Jay Arner has flopped around the Vancouver, BC music scene for a few years, most notably playing in International Falls. But he's hit pay dirt with Fine Mist, an electro pop duo he formed with Megan McDonald. Unlike many would-be, Postal Service-style bedroom electronic projects, Fine Mist eschew the rounded pop edges and Garage Band compression to give us gritty, R&B-influenced rock tunes that sound like two people standing in a room playing music together. McDonald handles most of the record's vocals, changing like a chameleon, from Pat Benatar bombast ("I Can't Stand It") to sultry diva ("Palm Trees"). The music is a perfect mix of cheap drum machine beats and synth lines borrowing liberally from the past ? the main riff on "O Wake" sounds suspiciously like Tom Petty's "You Got Lucky." Members of Basketball and Japandroids' David Prowse drop by to add some cacophonous live drumming on final track "Murder Murder," capping off a fantastic debut. Let's hope Fine Mist are more than a one-off collaboration, as Public Domain is definitely one of the most enjoyable records to come out of the West Coast this year. - Exclaim


By Alex Hudson, July 29, 2010

We first caught wind of Vancouver, BC pop maestros Jay Arner and Megan McDonald when they played together in indie rock ensemble International Falls. Fast-forward a few years and the pair now make up dance-worthy outfit Fine Mist, who are at long last getting set to release their debut album on September 14.

The record is called Public Domain - a name that might be considered an act of self-sabotage for an up-and-coming band who just pressed 500 vinyl copies of the record. Rather than encouraging theft, the duo explain that the title is actually a double meaning.

"Lyrically, the album is very much in the public domain," says singer McDonald, referring to her forthright and emotional style of songwriting.

Speaking to Exclaim! while taking a pre-show breather just outside of Vancouver's Honey Lounge, synth wizard Arner chimes in, "Megan was kind of worried about the title, thinking that it would actually put the songs in the public domain. And we were thinking, 'Should we call a lawyer?' I think it will be fine. We've got SOCAN."

Fine Mist needn't be too worried about claiming ownership of their songs, as they have already collected their first royalty cheque. "An unreleased song was played on [UBC radio station] CiTR and SOCAN was tracking and so I think we made $4 from it," laughs Arner.

Copyright issues aside, there's no denying that Public Domain is the perfect title for the album, which takes an angsty, romantic approach to synth-dazzled electro pop. Songs like "Stop or Start" and "Because It's the Ocean" mix Arner's dance floor-ready beats and buzzy synth lines with McDonald's quavering, dramatic vocals and heartbroken lyrics. In fact, Fine Mist have offered up a free download of "Stop or Start" here.

"Everything's so transparent," McDonald says of the album's 11 songs. "There's no time to tell people things in such a way that they won't be able to figure it out. What's the point in that?"

The words are mostly autobiographical, something that's an occasional source of social embarrassment for the singer. "These aren't about strangers, they're about people I spend my time with," she admits. "So it gets a little awkward, but, y'know, I made my bed. I'm literally going to lie in it."

In addition to being musical collaborators, Arner and McDonald are roommates, and they recorded Public Domain in their apartment. "I bribe Megan with wine," jokes Arner. "She's a procrastinator so I'm like, 'I got you this wine! I'm going out! Let's see what happens...'"

And what takes place when he leaves McDonald alone in an apartment with alcohol and recording gear? "I hold the glass of wine and dance around by myself while recording," she says. "Those are the final versions."

In keeping with this DIY style, the band have opted to issue Public Domain without a label, with some additional funding provided by From Blown Speakers blogger (and occasional Exclaim! contributor) Quinn Omori. See the tracklist below and the album cover above. You can also stream some album tracks (plus a few remixes) over at MySpace. - Exclaim


By Adrian Mack, October 14, 2010

Fine Mist
Public Domain (Independent)

This fascinating debut from Vancouver duo Fine Mist would have been received as a high-concept parody 10 years ago. In fact, back at the dawn of time (the early ’90s), a local synth duo called Red Sector One was making precisely this kind of music to the utter bemusement of anyone who couldn’t forget Yaz fast enough.

But future Douglas Couplands take note: Fine Mist’s reality-challenging mix of resolutely old-school synth sounds, irresistibly simple dance beats, and vocalist Megan McDonald’s super-earnest and double-bleak tales of heartbreak provide an almost impossibly current (and engaging) snapshot of the Vancouver cultural fringe. Somehow, keyboardist Jay Arner dredges up some of the most ludicrous Billboard ’80s electronic sounds this side of a Michael Sembello record—please check the squelchy-fartsy middle eight in “O Wake” for reference—without ever pushing the irony meter into the red.

Meanwhile, McDonald bleeds in grand style across the 11 tracks on Public Domain, as if it’s her last will and testament. “I’m sick, I’ve railed against your ownership!” she gasps with a hint of tearful vibrato in “I Can’t Stand It”, and in “When No One’s Home” she pushes out the words “I’m done with us now, if we weren’t done before” with ice-cold deliberation. Because she means it, baby. And so does Arner. Even if Fine Mist might sound like high-class fromage to anybody who remembers Soft Cell the first time around, it’s better than that. On tracks as instant as “Stop or Start”—perhaps the greatest hit Dalbello never had—Public Domain is genuinely delicious. - The Georgia Straight


Sometimes I think all I need is a micro-Korg, a microphone, and some liquid courage, and I too could be a rock star. Throw in a makeshift stage made from my IKEA owl bed sheets and those extra Christmas lights in the basement and I’m all set.

Fine Mist

Apparently, Vancouver indie act Fine Mist had the exact same idea. As the duo hit the stage with their glasses of Chardonnay in tow, unsuspecting audience members may have felt like they had intruded on an intimate cocktail party where the hosts had decided to regale their friends with a few of their favorite tunes.

Fine Mist’s sound, which consists of composer Jay Arner’s pre-recorded synth-pop tracks and Megan McDonald’s vocals, challenges most people’s ideas of the conventions of live performance. Without the fuss of a drumkit and guitars, the pair seemed comfortable and content making conversation with the audience and occasionally inviting their friends onstage to join them in a song. It doesn’t hurt when your friends are the members of Sloan, the headliner, either.

I’ve tried to avoid likening their theatrics to a karaoke performance, but the comparison cannot be avoided, especially as McDonald passed on her microphone to the audience to join her repeatedly scream “murder” in their track of the same title. At this point, their set felt like the tail end of a drunken holiday office party.

Few bands could get away with Fine Mist’s laissez-faire and minimalist approach, but McDonald and Arner capture the energy of catchy ’80s electronic pop, in all its kitschy glory, enough to keep listeners baffled and entertained. And McDonald’s voice, belting out the lyrics, “Why can’t we meet in the middle?” during the bridge of the set’s opening track, “Because it’s the Ocean”, is still stuck in my head. - Guttersnipenews.com


Discography

"I Wanna DJ for Christmas feat. Cam Dales" on the Eggnog Experience compilation, 2009.

"Public Domain" LP/digital, 2010. Charted at #46 on Canadian campus radio. The single "Stop or Start" charted at #16 on CBC Radio 3 national top 30.

Photos

Bio

Jay Arner and Megan McDonald have played in more Vancouver, BC bands together than some musicians play in during their entire careers, but Fine Mist is still a departure for the longtime collaborators.

Eschewing the guitar and drum based pop they cut their teeth on, their current project is a pop act in the truest sense of the word. And, on September 14th, with the release of their debut LP, the rest of the world gets to find out what their hometown is already hip to.

Public Domain features eleven blasts of lovelorn pop that mix contemporary style with classic form: 80s synths cozy up with drums and bass lifted from modern R 'n' B, while McDonald's powerful croon dances with Arner's harmonies.

Tracks like "Heart Attack" and lead-off single "Stop or Start" are primed and ready for the dance floor, but the band boasts more than one trick. "Because it's the Ocean" and "When No One's Home" call for a mournful sway, "I Can't Stand It" goes from driving to frantic (in the best way possible) and live favourites like "Murder Murder" and "Under the Covers" beg to be shouted along to.

On September 14th, Fine Mist self-releases Public Domain, featuring contributions from David Prowse of Japandroids, and members of SSRIs and Basketball. Prowse, the SSRIs, Edo Van Breemen of Brasstronaut, and other friends have been joining the band live, energizing already raucous performances.