MiWi La Lupa
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MiWi La Lupa

Brooklyn, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014

Brooklyn, New York, United States
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Folk Rock

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"Video Premiere: MiWi La Lupa, “Here I Am”"

Check out the video for “Here I Am,” a gorgeous daydream of a song from Buffalo, New York-born musician MiWi La Lupa. La Lupa is a former member of eclectic Brooklyn funk band Red Baraat, and has plaid trumpet alongside David Byrne, Bill Frisell, Femi Kuti, Charlie Hunter, and El-P. “Here I Am” hails from his debut album, the folk and country blending New Way Home, which was just released on Team Love Records.

Director Michael Allen laid out his creative vision for us. “When we were first discussing ideas for the video, the memory of watching Miwi playing cards and drinking with his family at his mom’s dining room table in Buffalo was stuck in my mind for some reason. I never wanted to do anything narrative, and just following the nostalgic tone of the song felt obvious for this one. I was trying to recreate reliable memories by shooting in actual significant places to Miwi. I wanted the video to be warm and cold, joyous and melancholy, all the constantly contradicting emotions I feel when I listen to the record.

“We shot in Buffalo at the bar, Mcgarrets (formerly Heenans) in Buffalo, where Miwi played hundreds of gigs back in the day, as well as the church he went to as a boy, and at his Mom’s house where he grew up with his whole family over. I’m pretty sure Miwi hadn’t slept at all the night before the morning of the shoot. I was worried how he would hold up, but he really held his shit together and we actually shot two videos over the course of about 18 hours spanning two days. We celebrated with Bocce pizza and Tito’s vodka.”

“Though it’s true, I hadn’t slept the night before flying to Buffalo, I felt comfortable in front of his camera and with his direction,” says La Lupa. “The weather was atrocious. First stop was my Mom’s church that I grew up in featuring the biggest Black Jesus on the wall. I never thought anything was strange about this as a kid, and I still don’t. I am now aware that it could turn heads. It was also neat to film in this room where my grandparents names are engraved in the windows. I never got to meet them, so it feels like a tribute to them. “The ghosts go walking right next to my side” never felt more true than shooting that there.

“The family shots were especially fun to make. My niece and I practiced the humming parts, and she can really carry a tune! The spades game is a family tradition, and my Aunt Gingee and I are pretty much unstoppable. I just love being in that house around the holidays as everyone is in good spirits and the house is filled with my family, my awesome nieces and nephew, food, spirits and music the whole night! Basically, this video is about as real as I get. ” - American Songwriter


"MiWi La Lupa: A Sideman Takes The Spotlight"

You may not know MiWi La Lupa’s name, but it’s likely you’ve heard his playing. If you’re familiar with the genre-colliding “Brooklyn Banghra” band Red Baraat, that’s him playing trombone and bass trumpet. Or maybe you’ve caught him as a sideman alongside artists like David Byrne, Femi Kuti, and even with hip hop producer El-P.

But now, MiWi La Lupa is stepping up to the front of the stage in a decidedly new way -- as a singer-songwriter and bandleader in his own right with his album New Way Home. Unlike the musically diverse bands he’s played in, La Lupa’s New Way Home (out Jan. 21) is an album of singular focus -- in the best way possible. Through eight concise songs, he mostly sticks to a mellow folk and country rock that highlights an adept ear for songcraft, evocative moods, and scene setting.

Hear MiWi La Lupa and his band play these new songs in the Soundcheck studio. - WNYC Soundcheck


"MiWi La Lupa - The Good Weighs More Than The Bad"

There are many times when a man or a woman needs to show their canine teeth, as MiWi La Lupa tells us on his album, "New Way Home." It's when the kindhearted and gentle souls are stirred into foaming at the mouth animals, when they've been pushed or kicked one time too many. Everyone has their breaking point and when it's reached, there's no way to predict what will happen next. Very few people want to be mean. They'd rather not kick dirt and just stay on the side of good, with their coffees, crossed legs and casual, passing observations. They'd rather not cause any trouble, but sometimes you're left with no choice and actions cannot be stifled. You've just had enough. La Lupa's frustrations come out on this album, but so does his honest touch and his attention to a tenderness that's never far from the surface, even in the darkest of moments. There are plenty of fights that don't ever need to happen, but those that do often happen out of passion, many out of love and fear.

A song like "Once Took A Day," gives us a man who ultimately concludes what we probably all have to get to at some point and that's that we're but specks. Our insignificance and the insignificance of everything we do or that's done to us is overwhelming. It's impossible to deny and still we can be moved and we can move. Somehow, and beautifully, we'll never be convinced of our insignificance. This song runs down a list of things -- people, possessions, voices, etc. -- and how frighteningly quickly they were forgotten about, attained or packed up. Yet, everything occupied time. Everything had its place and its point and there's something very settling there. Our fights and our restlessness are always meaningful. - Daytrotter


"MiWi La Lupa - Tin Roof Session"

MiWi La Lupa’s debut album is the result of life taking an unexpected turn. New Way Home is a short, immediate, and catchy album, but its real magic lies in its ability to invoke a wide range of sonic diversity while not losing sight of its singular vision. MiWi’s voice is frank, his phrasing crisp, his lyrics easy to grasp yet full of twists. The songs document a season in a life, offering empathy to the listener while asking for the same in return. - Tin Roof Sessions


"Howling at the Moon with MiWi La Lupa"

MiWi La Lupa is already an established musician with a bio to die for. The Buffalo, N.Y., native picked up the trombone at a young age and soon began dreaming of a career in music. That passion led him to Rochester, N.Y., and the Eastman School of Music, where he graduated instrumentaly to the bass trumpet. In 2005, he moved to NYC and his career shifted into high gear as he became the bass trumpet player for the band Red Barrat. A world tour with the band soon followed and that notoriety brought him the opportunity to perform with such artists as Les McCann, David Byrne and Bill Frisell, to name a few.

La Lupa is now stepping out on his own as a solo singer-songwriter on his upcoming Team Love Records album New Way Home, which dropped last week. The record is short but so sweet with songs that paint an emotional and diverse melodic canvass. He flexes his blues muscles with “Ashes to the Wind,” offers some major pop attitude with “Everybody’s Fuckin’ with Me” and tugs at the heart strings with “New Moon Night.” New Way Home features a variety of guest players, including Bill Frisell and label-founder Conor Oberst. La Lupa brings his unique talents to Omaha Friday, Jan. 31, performing at the legendary O’leaver’s Pub. Expect to hear a lot more from this skillful and versatile artist in the future. La Lupa discussed his future and dished about his amazing new album, his various influences and his unique activism in this exclusive interview:

What made you decide to step out on your own as a singer-songwriter?
It was Dall of 2011 shortly after my life changed dramatically that I met with my dear “swisster” Monica Frisell and told the songs I’d written. She said she wanted to help me make a record. The songs were different than the a lot of the songs I’d written for my bands Thought and Knights on Earth at that point. I guess it was time.

Your music is very folk and rock based. Has that always been the sound you aimed for or has it evolved along the way?
I’ve always been a fan of rock music, though I grew up in a Mowtown/hip-hop/R&B house. It’s all rock’n'roll! The folk inspiration for this group of songs came in part the day after my surgery when my friend Evan Howard put a copy of Willie Nelson’s “Red Headed Stranger” in my hands, followed by my friend Mike Ross putting a copy of Jakob Dylan’s “Women and Country” in my hands. I devoured these records. However I used to write in a similar style in the early days of my eclectic band Thought back in our early days in Buffalo, NY… then, more in our first years in Brooklyn. I guess Gillian Welch has a huge influence on my music still, too. And my father’s from Birmingham, Alabama… so, they play folk music down there, right?

You must feel very accomplished with all the artists you’ve worked with and the impression you’ve already made but to now stand alone. How does it feel and is it what you expected?
I’m humbled, to be honest. Some of my favorite artists had to make this choice at some point in their careers — to be a hired gun, or set a new path and make a name for yourself. Or, perhaps, they didn’t have to make that choice. Who knows? I feel fortunate to have worked with the artists I have worked with, and look forward to future opportunities. But it’s a big difference being a hired gun vs. the unique voice/sound people want on their records. A lot of my friends can play what I’ve played on some of the records I’ve played on. But, I know that a lot of my friends in this industry are constantly waiting to get the call for the need of their specific skill. Right place. Right time. And a bunch of grinding. Anyways, it feels like a great deal of responsibility that I’m happy to accept thanks to the encouragement both spoken or otherwise passed on in commitment to making music. I especially feel thankful to my band whose sacrifice and commitment to making this music, both on the record and in live situations, make me want to cry and give thanks.

They call you MiWi La Lupa”The Wolf” and you are an advocate for conserving wolves. Where did that passion come from?
Thank You, Jack London. Thank you, Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY. And Thank you, to the late Richard Salter. I read Jack’s books at an early age, fell in love with wolves and survivors. And I’ve met other wolves, young and old, like myself. How could anyone kill such an animal as awesome the wolf, other than for actual survival. They are mistreated, outlawed and stereotyped in the worst ways. I tend to side with humans, and animals like this.

You play the bass, trumpet and trombone. Do you play any other instruments and did you do any of the instrumentals on the album?
I play bass trumpet, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and some drums/percussion (but, don’t tell anyone) on the record. I’ve been known to play keyboard with some folks, too.

What instrument is your favorite to play and why?
Besides singing, I really love playing electric bass. Why? “Ya got the whole world in your hands.” And if you don’t have to sing, you get to zone out and lay the foundation to the whole song the entire night. There’s a lot of pressure with this role. Thank you Meshelle Ndgeocello and Tina Weymouth and Jesske Hume (to name, well… a few of my favorite gals) for showing me what’s up.

What is the most important thing to you that the audience takes away from this album?
I really just hope that the music touches your heart in some way. And, that it makes you appreciate the love you currently have in your life a little bit more.

Your lyrics really paint a picture and flow so beautifully. How long have you been writing music and how do you approach your writing?
I’ve been singing and writing songs since ’98 with my band Thought. How do I approach my writing? Sometimes, I wake up with a melody in my head, or a lyrical phrase starts floating around up there. Really, it just takes that one spark to get a song going. It’s almost as if it’s a fill in the blank question that you ask yourself. Sometimes, you have to fix the words along with a melody, or vice-a-versa. Other times, it’s an actual story you have to make into a song. Otherwise, it’s just poetry. Instrumentation comes from imagination and what’s available (your sweet, sweet, willing, talented friends).

When you write music is it always about your own personal experiences or other people’s as well?
Good question. Most times it’s my personal experience in my relationships with others. I generally tell “our story.” It’s rare that it’s another’s singular experience. Though we can probably all relate. However, I’m always searching for stories from someone other than myself that need to be told.

I absolutely love the song “Ashes to the Wind.” What inspired that song?
That’s a true story. I’m glad you like it. Thanks again to St. Dymphna’s and all the other bars that I called “home” during my transformation period.

As a songwriter I assume every song has a personal place to you, but is there any one song that means more to you?
New Moon Night is actually the only tale on the record. I have no idea where the idea came from and was shocked that the story unfolded before me, and that I had the chutzpah to tell it. A little distanced from the creation of the song now, I feel as though this style of writing (“Tales”) has opened some doors for me, and, perhaps, may lead me onto less vulnerable storytelling/songwriting paths. I feel bad for the woman in that tale, though I don’t know her.

What were your biggest goals and dreams for your solo album?
Simply to get the stories off of my chest, and make the best record I could with what I had around me (Thank God for my extremely talented, encouraging friends). It seems that the writing/recording process is a dream now. Like, “Wow, that happened?!” The best advice I’ve been given has come from some of my heroes. That is advice that I give to anyone on the brink of giving up anything they care about, or stuck on what to do next: “Keep Going.” I guess that is my goal, and is my dream.

—Interview by Nicole Chizek - The Reader - Omaha


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Buffalo, New York. Hockey, the cold, the canal, the train yard, Rick James and Ani DiFranco, cheap dilapidated Victorians, potholes brimming with ice and slush . . .
Buffalo is a place where people grow up, and a place people sadly—but understandably—end up leaving in pursuit of their dreams. And it’s Buffalo where MiWi La Lupa started his musical adventure, as so many public school kids in America do, by picking a dented, smelly old instrument off the shelf in band class and giving it a go. MiWi picked the trombone. It fit—sort of. He started a band, Thought. Then he packed his bags.

MiWi made his way east, first to Rochester and the Eastman School of Music, marrying his trombone to his bass trumpet, before, like many musicians, continuing on down the Hudson and arriving in NYC in the summer of 2005. Once in the city things began to take off for MiWi, and he soon found himself performing with music greats like Les McCann, David Byrne, Bill Frisell, Femi Kuti, Charlie Hunter, and El-P. MiWi would also become an original member of the band Red Baraat, with whom he would go on to tour the world.

Be it the diversity of MiWi’s palate, his growth as a musician and experiences on the road, or his roots coming from a blue-collar corner of the country often passed over and left for dead by the chronologists of the musical cannon, MiWi’s endeavors were aligning, naturally, with the art of songwriting. Expression—of loss, desire, grief, forgiveness—and a growing need to examine, document, and articulate his life began to take over, and soon the seeds of MiWi’s first solo album were firmly planted.

New Way Home, MiWi’s debut album on Team Love, is the result of life taking an unexpected turn. With the help of Monica Frisell, the songs began to take shape in early 2013. As things developed, friends such as Joanna Warren, Curtis Fowlkes, Rob Jost, Mara Kaye, Natalie John, Timothy Allen, Bill Frisell, and Conor Oberst, all enthused at the sound, eagerly jumped in to lend a hand. New Way Home is a short, immediate, and catchy album, but its real magic lies in its ability to invoke a wide range of sonic diversity while not losing sight of its singular vision. A track like “Ashes To The Wind” invokes legendary bluesman Howlin’ Wolf, while “Here I Am” positions itself neatly between singer-songwriters like Ron Sexsmith and Stuart Murdoch. The album’s songs range from playfully vengeful (“Everybody’s Fuckin’ With Me”) to sorrowfully serious (“New Moon”). MiWi’s voice is frank, his phrasing crisp, his lyrics easy to grasp yet full of twists. The songs document a season in a life, offering empathy to the listener while asking for the same in return.

New Way Home comes out on Team Love Records January 21, 2014.

"MiWi La Lupa was the early highlight. Born Michael Williams, the man strung together several singer-songwriter songs that were as touching as Oberst’s and every bit as torn open and raw. He was joined by Timothy Allen on guitar and Omahans Ben Brodin on bass and Roger Lewis on drums. I expect big things from the guy, so keep your ear out." Kevin Coffee - RockCandyOmaha.com

Band Members