Miele
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Miele

Somerville, MA | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Somerville, MA | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
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"MIELE – TRANSIENCE"

Philosophy is often something reserved for classrooms, books, and drunken nights at bars. Yet, Miele’s album Transience is an in-depth exploration of a philosophy that bleeds from every note, word, and beat.

An album over four years in the making, Transience is a time-lapse journey through a cavernous mansion of rooms amid centuries of change—in every corner a light is shone on a different facet of experience, through the timeline of existence.

Part historical record, part exercise in the demonstration of life-as-change, Transience is about the existential inevitability of impermanence. According to vocalist and piano player Melissa Lee Nilles, each song is a demonstration of this philosophy told through different experiences. Crafting them into songs is a way to both fight and embrace this inevitability.

“I think that a big part of my lyrical writing style has to do with captured experiences, things that exist and then they don’t,” Nilles said. “A moment of happiness, a moment of feeling connected with others, or a moment of feeling totally disconnected.”

Miele manages to capture this concept of fleeting moments and change throughout the album, in often novel ways.

One of the album’s tracks, “Slip Away,” expresses this point in its lyrical and musical themes. The first half of the song follows a standard verse-chorus structure, but then moves into a bridge that changes the direction of the song completely. A more linear structure—something that most all of the songs on Transience embody—has the listener start in one place, only to be left in a completely different place by the end.

This linear structure is something that key song composer and guitarist Joseph Spilsbury said was intentional throughout the album to serve the overall theme of transience.

“I think that there is, in certain songs, a black and white feel playing with intensity, loudness, and chord changes,” Spilsbury said. “Something shifts in the song and it changes the mood. Then boom, you’re in a different place emotionally.”

For “Slip Away,” Nilles said the track is about trying to grasp onto a thought that begins to slip like sand through the hands of consciousness. The song opens with these lyrics:

“Scattered horizons/New day,
Am I going to get out of bed,
Or let it slip away,
Slip away/Slip Away/Slip Away…”

“It’s about dreaming and the unconscious, and it’s about thoughts literally, like a dream, slipping out of your head,” Nilles said. “In the waking moments of your day, you’re trying to remember your dream. I think everyone knows the transient quality of that dream falling away.”

Spilsbury and Nilles both noted how Buddhist philosophy pulses through many of their songs. “Unfiltered” explores eastern thought through the lens of a cigarette, a metaphor for changing experiences:

“Ignite a light/sputtering spark,
Flicker flame/a steady burning glow,
Make you high/make you sigh,
Some combination of natural magic.

Full of dry potential.

Dancing on the sidewalk,
Washed away by the city sweepers,
Time and the rain.”

In Buddhist philosophy, impermanence is considered a fact of life while stuck in samsara, or the cycle of death and rebirth. “Unfiltered” explores this idea of death and the ending of things, with a nod to samsara. The recognition of potential in the song is perhaps an expression of desire or suffering, a major component of Buddhist thought.

“It’s talking about the process of making a cigarette, or something, and then burning it, and having ashes remain,” Nilles said. “It has potential and it just dies out, and there’s this moment of existing and burning out. I was latching on to how things can be really short lived with that song.”

Mental Health

Mental health, and the deep multitudes to be explored in mental health issues, play prominently throughout Transience. Nilles and Spilsbury both noted how the music has been impacted by their work in mental health as therapists.

“Being a therapist, I learned that a lot of people are very scattered,” Nilles said. “Some of my lyrics are scattered, and that’s O.K. It’s ok to jump around and poke with an idea instead of being really concrete. It’s exploring the unconscious material about things.”

Dealing with many clients who come from a variety of backgrounds, Spilsbury found inspiration among the maelstrom.

“I run groups at the hospital, so if I have four, six, or eight patients in the day, each person in the group can have a completely different mindset,” Spilsbury said.

In turn, the exploration of sometimes violent psychological episodes—something Nilles and Spilsbury experience first-hand—lends itself to songs that encompass vastly different musical and lyrical motifs.

The achievement here is that whirling chordal and melodic changes are crafted together into cohesive wholes, something Spilsbury says is in part due to his background in punk and metal.

“We aren’t a metal band, but there’s that slight influence,” Spilsbury said. “There’s always intentionality in our writing.”

A Rich Landscape of Textures

All of Transience is expertly mixed and mastered. Rich and complex tones throughout make the album a pleasure for the audiophile, and completely radio-ready for the masses. At once a listening experience for the ear-trained musician and casual consumer alike, Miele has built a truly novel body of work—it’s hard not to appreciate the many changing voices of Nilles as she acrobatically delivers searing vocals for the many changing voices of the songs on Transience.

The tones found on Transience are crystal-clear, whether unabashed in clean tones or layered with heavy distortion. This is fitting to Nilles’ vocal approach, characterized with an ability to find her own particular space in quickly-changing and surprising turns.

The dynamism of the album is also expertly served by the rhythm section. Cedric Lamour and Ray Cohen—who play drums and bass respectively—developed clever and novel ways of grounding the often scattered collection of compositional motifs rife in Transience.

The Album as Historical Record

According to Nilles and Spilsbury, Miele has gone through many lineup changes throughout the years. With each change, many of the songs on Transience were presented in a new light.

The songs on Transience, according to Spilsbury, have all undergone many transformations before their appearance on the album. Their current representation is a product of capturing them amid a timeline of flux.

“The songs have sounded different throughout the years, and this is our most finalized, best versions of those songs,” Spilsbury said.

For Nilles, Transience is an attempt to consolidate the best parts of the band’s history and take them to the highest level possible.

“We’re trying to put together a couple years worth of material,” Nilles said. “Some babies were lost, only to be played at shows.”

Wrapping It Up

Transience is in many ways a graduation. The album is a body of work years in the making, completed at a point when Miele found their perfect blend of philosophy, emotional introspection, and pure instrumental and compositional craft. While a markedly independent album—surely at home among the kaleidoscopic variety of indie music epicenter of Cambridge and Boston—the band has accomplished something of true value for the listener.

Equal parts historical record, philosophical exercise, and pure tonal pleasure, Transience is a release that should bring Miele to the fore in the regional music scene. The musically-minded will appreciate songs jam-packed with ear-catching variety, while the casual listener will be entranced by Nilles’ emotional and acrobatic vocals, at home in each room the band has built in their latest release.

To say Transience is a great album is an understatement—upon first listen, it’s easy to understand that this release could be a turning point not only for Miele, but a call to local music everywhere to get risky, develop a deeper understanding of the listener and, in the end, truly explore the complexities of being human. - Boston Hassle


"PREMIERE: “ANXIOUS GHOST” BY MIELE"

Honey, a sweet, soothing, medicinal substance, is a fitting name for a band formed by two therapists. Lead vocalist Melissa Lee Nilles met guitarist Joseph Spilsbury while they were in graduate school together, and shortly thereafter, Miele was born.

Nilles and Spilsbury chose the Italian word for honey because they both had memories associated with the sticky sweet liquid. Now, it’s become inextricable from their band’s identity, as fans will bring them honey sticks or bottles, and Nilles and Spilsbury will even drink honey on stage.

Nilles described “Anxious Ghost”, a single from their new album Transience, as “a patchwork quilt of experiences about anxiety.” Through the song, Nilles hoped to use metaphor to personify anxiety sneaking up on a person or lurking within. The song captures a sort of experience of anxiety, with intense clashes of feelings for the first four minutes. With strong vocals, a steady electric guitar riff, and loud interjections from the drum beat, the band members created an experience that mirrors the act of facing anxiety and falling into the unknown.

After about four minutes, however, there’s a shift. The music falls to silence and then picks up again with Nilles’ vocals. “Anxious ghost, run around,” she sings in a slower and lighter verse, until the song fades out. This is a quieter experience, the rise after the intensity of the fall in the first half. The delicate, intimate outro gives a second to process and let out the feelings that have been bottled up.

Miele self-describes their music as alternative rock out of necessity, but prefers not to be pigeonholed into a specific subsection of music. Instead, the different aesthetics of “Anxious Ghost” lend to Miele’s own brand of music therapy.

Through music, Miele hopes to inspire or propel a change in the thoughts and feelings of the listener. Music serves as a way to reach out and connect, and they hope to tap into the universal quality in music “that predates our ability to comprehend our feelings and behavior in therapy.”

The album title of Transience is a reference to the exit of a founding member of the band, and strikes a chord with the general transience of music, of mental health, and of life. While the band’s make-up may have changed from their early days, they hold on to their focus on the importance of self-care. “Anxious Ghost,” then, is music therapy for the mind and soul, sneaking up on the unsuspecting listener but ending on a note that stays sweet as honey.

Listen to the single below, which will be released on April 13th. - Sound Of Boston


"Miele Explores the Human Condition and Offers Sweet, Flowing, Therapeutic Sustenance"

Music, for me, has always been therapeutic, a way to cut through unpleasant, undefinable emotions to get at the underlying truth of a situation and be more in touch with myself. Boston’s Miele likely understands this on a deeper level than most, since the band is entirely made up of mental health and special education professionals. Their music focuses heavily on mental health themes, such as in “Anxious Ghost,” a single from their upcoming Kickstarter-funded debut full-length album, Transience (out June 22). The song was first premiered at Sound of Boston.

“Anxious Ghost” begins at a frenetic pace and varies between edgy nervous energy and slow yet tightly-wound moodiness. It is the perfect musical expression of an anxiety attack, and feels like both a raging battle and an exploration of the darker mysteries of human existence. The ghost is one’s anxiety that haunts the spirit and lingers inside.

Miele formed in 2014, when therapist, keyboardist and lead vocalist Melissa Lee Nilles met fellow therapist and guitarist Joseph Spilsbury in graduate school. Miele, Italian for honey, is an appropriate name for the band, both as an apt description for Nilles’ velvety, supple vocals — and because the band is known for drinking the yummy substance from the stage. Their fans even bring them treats.

Musically, the band is beholden to no singular style, but instead they honor wherever the personality of the song takes them. At times, it’s hard-driving rock with propulsive drums and electric guitar; at other times, the music is slow and dark, melodic and mysterious, with gently picked guitar and piano trickling like a meandering stream. Nilles’ vocals travel effortlessly through their many moods — frantic and biting, forceful and determined, melancholy and dreamy, exotic and magical. It is one wild ride through the ebbs and flows of human experience.

The complexity, depth and fast-changing moods of the songs on this ambitious first album makes perfect sense for people who work closely with human emotions. Besides which, any band that has a song titled “Klonopin Automatons” (a standout track in a sea of discoveries) instantly has my heart. They describe the inspiration behind their album thusly: "As a unifying artistic vision for the album, Transience aims to explore the passing of ephemeral experiences such as anxiety, dreams, love affairs, travel, connection, existence, and the creative process."

The band has played Boston-area venues such as the Middle East Downstairs, ONCE Lounge and The Plough and Stars, and they’ve received airplay on WMFO, WAAF, WEMF and elsewhere. They’ve also gotten some attention from WBUR, The Boston Globe and Cambridge Day, in their efforts to save Cambridge rehearsal space EMF from closure.

Miele celebrates the release of their debut album on June 22 at The Burren, along with other female-fronted bands Man Trouble and Boketto The Wolf. - Boston Survival Guide


"Miele releases single with an unsettling twist: Its ‘Anxious Ghost’ can see right through you"

The opening notes of “Anxious Ghost,” the single premiered Wednesday by alternative band Miele, could take you anywhere, a pleasant uncertainty that lasts for all of about three seconds.

That’s when a second, more urgent guitar kicks in, then drums and vocalist Melissa Lee Nilles, and within 13 seconds it’s pretty clear that you won’t necessarily like where you’re being taken, but everything’s going too fast to get out.

Miele brings you first around the corner, where Mistress Misery waits, then hustles you home to safety, which isn’t safe at all: It’s where Nilles’ lyrics reveal another kind of anxiety – the kind comfortable enough to butter your toast before swallowing your soul.

Relax. Miele is made up of mental health and special education pros, and by the far gentler end of the song everything feels pretty okay.

“The way I think about things as a musician, as an artist, as a writer, I like to personify things. And in work I do with clients, I also have people personify emotions or internal experiences,” said Nilles, who wrote every song but one on “Transience,” the quartet’s upcoming full-length, kickstarted album. One inspiration was Ruth Gendler’s “The Book of Qualities,” where the author imagines characteristics and emotions as though they were people. “In her book, anxiety is also kind of lurking and is something that sneaks into the house. It sneaks up on me too, sometimes when I’m alone.”

Bandmates Joseph Spilsbury, Cedric Lamour and Ray Cohen had questions about the lyrics, from the identity of Mistress Misery to the reasoning behind the buttered toast and grungy, organ-layered chorus, which actually slows down for the words: “Now I’m moving at light speed / Just to catch up with me.” Nilles also got good response from the impassioned way she calls out when anxieties might appear: turning points when it’s not clear what to do, like getting fired or graduating from college. “This is one song where everybody was thinking about lyrics and meaning, though the beginning is a little more straightforward in terms of ‘You haven’t got a plan / You haven’t got a fucking clue’ – that’s Joe’s favorite song lyric that I’ve ever written, actually, which is funny to me,” Nilles said.

Fast and slow at the same time, dark but hopeful, resonant but something of a riddle, the lyrics also contain a section springing from a surprising source:

“All you can do / is choose and follow
Follow through / All you can do”

“The verses were inspired almost completely by ‘The Lord of the Rings!’ Where Frodo Baggins and Gandalf are talking and Gandalf says something like, ‘All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that’s given us,’” Nilles said. “I’m a huge ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan.”

Given band’s background and lyrics, Nilles is used to the idea that fans are more likely to want to talk about emotional health than Middle Earth. “I’m pretty used to having heavy conversations, I have them every day,” she said. “So if someone came up to me and said, ‘I really like your stuff and have been dealing with anxiety for my whole life,’ I’d say, ‘Cool, we’ll talk about it’ … the part of me that works in that field feels like destigmatizing things.”

“There was a girl in the audience at our last show at Club Bohemia, below the Cantab Lounge – it was a pretty fun show, and she was screaming her head off after every song, to the point it got a little crazy. It’s nice when people give us applause and are really excited, but this was on another level,” Nilles said. “I talked with her afterward and she said, ‘Yeah, there was something in me that was just super moved by the words and those experiences. Those are things I relate to.’ She had performed earlier that night and definitely seemed to be struggling with some performance anxiety. I didn’t want to make any assumptions, but she did disclose stuff about that anxiety.”

What Miele performed that night “felt validating,” she said. “It was not something that made her feel bad, or sad. It was cathartic.”

Miele’s website is here: mielemusic.com - Cambridge Day


Discography

Transience- album- released June 22, 2018
Anxious Ghost- single- released April 13, 2018
Seed Crystal- EP- released August 18, 2016

Photos

Bio

Miele is a Boston-based rock band that pulls from a diverse drawing board of art rock, psychedelia, soul, grunge, alternative, metal, and funk influences. Formed in 2014, Miele captivates with soaring vocals from multi-faceted frontwoman Melissa Lee Nilles, arpeggiated keyboard melodies, solid and complex drum and bass rhythms, and startling switches between mystical melodies and heavy rock. Miele's members are inspired by their employment in mental health or special education; this interest drives the band to explore the intricacies of the human condition by responding through multi-layered rock compositions. The name "Miele", meaning "honey" in Italian, was chosen as a playful nod to singer Nilles' and guitarist Spilsbury's on-stage honey drinking antics, as well as a representation of the often mellifluous nature of Miele's music. 

Miele independently released their first EP Seed Crystal in August 2016 to local acclaim. Lauren Moquin of Allston Pudding wrote, "the lyrical content [of Seed Crystal] ponders the evolution and form of emotion, inspiring the psych/funk sound surrounding it all.” Following up their EP debut, Miele released their debut full length album Transience in June 2018. As a unifying artistic vision for the album, Transience aims to explore the passing of ephemeral experiences such as anxiety, dreams, love affairs, travel, connection, existence, and the creative process. Al Gentile of The Boston Hassle wrote in praise, "To say Transience is a great album is an understatement—upon first listen, it’s easy to understand that this release could be a turning point not only for Miele, but a call to local music everywhere to get risky, develop a deeper understanding of the listener and, in the end, truly explore the complexities of being human." Since their inception, Miele has been featured in several music publications including Sound of Boston, Allston Pudding, The Boston Hassle, and The Boston Survival Guide, and featured in TV Programs Don't Forget To Rock, Clinical Depression, and Duck Village Stage Sessions. In May 2018, Miele became the subject of major local attention in The Boston Globe, WBUR/NPR, and Cambridge Day due to their activism in the fight to save the EMF rehearsal space in Cambridge.

Band Members