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Where: The Planetarium at the South Carolina State Museum
When: August 19 and 20
What About It: The Lovely Few show will feature a new song along with choreographed dome show taking the audience through the solar system.
Tickets: Purchase here
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The Lovely Few and the South Carolina State Museum have teamed up to bring a unique musical experience centered around the solar eclipse. The Lovely Few will perform live at the planetarium in the South Carolina State Museum in a two show; two-day long pre-eclipse event.
We caught up with Liz Klimek, the planetarium manager at the State Museum and Mike Mewborne of The Lovely Few, to talk about their partnership for the eclipse weekend.
About a year ago a simple tweet from The Lovely Few promoting their “A Night At The Planetarium” partnership with design team Fort Psych caught Klimek’s eye. She took interest and decided to attend the show in Columbia where she approached The Lovely Few about a future partnership with the State Museum. Searching to find a way to tie in local music and the planetarium; a suggestion from Paul Matheny the programs director to tie it into the solar eclipse events set everything in motion.
Your music is very much celestial based. How excited are you to have the opportunity to perform in the planetarium? Is it overwhelming?
Mike: It is overwhelming. This time of year my wife and I are teachers, school’s going to start the Tuesday after and I feel like my mind is on overload. We’re working on this new song that were going to debut, we have musicians coming from Atlanta and Charleston to play with us. There’s a lot to think about and I want to execute it well. This is the opportunity. This our big chance to show people what we had in mind when we put these songs together but also there’s something very relieving about the fact that this is what we wanted to do and so we’re doing it. We were given the opportunity to put this show out there. I am incredibly grateful for that opportunity. I don’t know how many people will be there at the shows but I am incredibly grateful. I get anxious when I don’t know how to communicate to other people how special is to me personally but also as a show experience. This is not something that happens and I would say in Columbia but I’ve been trying to think of cool concerts in planetariums and it doesn’t really happen that often. Excited. Anxious. Grateful. All of the above.
Has the eclipse inspired any new music out of you?
Mike: Yes, so we have a new song that we will debut then. I’m still putting the finishing touches on it. I’m excited about it. I kind of felt like space was something that I was done with but being in this room and working on this project has made me think well there’s a couple things left. I always enjoy when I do write about space. I like the challenge of trying to tie into something very approachable, maybe not so much approachable but sincere. So this song has tied in some of the same things that I have been going through as a parent with a toddler. This little person who is really frustrating me and realizing that maybe that is the fact that she acts just like me in so many ways. One day she was feeling frustrated and I told her to tell me what she’s feeling. I see that you’re upset what’s up and she said “you’re just always in the way”; which was a beautiful way to articulate. Yea it’s frustrating to feel like someone is always in your way an in that moment I was like there ya go. That’s the eclipse. As a parent I don’t want to overshadow her. Sometimes you just have to stop. I don’t know how much of that transfers through the music.
What made you decide that you wanted to make music about space? What clicked and said hey this is what I want to make my music about?
Mike: In 2010 we release an album, ‘ The Limited Abilities Of Man’ that we had been working on since 20017 and after that I got really bad writers block so as a personal challenge to myself to get through that I basically gave myself the assignment. We had an instrumental track on our 2007 album ‘Long Division” called ‘The Perseids , The Geminids The Heavens Have Come Down and Intend To Dwell On Us’. It’s a very long name for an instrumental track. So I took that song and said all right what does a meteor shower sound like, started with the Perseids and as I was doing research the list of topics just grew longer. You’ve got commits and astroids, meteors and comets. Space is full of potential. Everyone sees the stars and has some experience with looking up into the heavens and so it seemed like something that was both academic and I could some mental exercises with that or oh yea I’ve seen that constellation before. I really like Sci-Fi, Star Wars and Star Trek. So musically it was cool for me to push into some electronic music. To get into analog synthesizers and things like that to emulate the sounds you hear in something like that has been really fun. Space sounds like Star Trek, lets ring those instruments in but still talk about my life and growing up in South Carolina.
Liz: There are artist out there who compose space music and they perform them in planetariums and in things like that but this is unique in the sense that it’s not just create space sounds because some of it gets used as elevator music. This is different with the lyrics and the personal touch that you put in to it. It’s unique to me at least because I’ve heard other spacey, planetarium music. It’s definitely different. That’s really cool.
Mike: It’s funny cause there’s the Planetarium album that Sufjan has put out. I had this odd relationship with that record because for so long I feel like I was drawing inspiration from Sufjan and now I feel like, it sounds silly to say but I feel territorial about it. You can’t write a song called Jupiter because I wrote a song called Jupiter.
I hope it’s unique. As an artist you always worry, there’s so many good artist doing great things and so many great things happening. There are times where you’re having an extensional crisis of what am I doing. I had this internal struggle of is what I’m doing original.
What do you classify your music as? Is there a certain genre? What do you like to call it?
Liz: Yea! I had that same question.
Mike: I am just now hearing that there is planetarium music from Liz. Labels for the Lovely Few…Um Free Times once called it High concept Sci-fi and I really liked that. Genres are always weird in that they carry all of this weight. Yea, it’s hard. Singer songwriter with a computer in space infinity? Chamber sci-fi maybe?
We’ve been playing in bars more and more realizing there’s something you have to do to command the room to get peoples attention. I think especially seeing this when we play in Charleston. If we play a space like Redux the room will be packed and will be this really wonderful experience for everyone. If we play a place like Royal American, ya know we just don’t have the same impact. I think that says more about us than Royal for sure. When I go to Royal American I want to see ET Anderson or I want to see 2 Slices. I don’t want to see The Lovely Few. What do you do with that space and how do you react to it? This process has allowed us to rediscover ourselves, having Joe play drums; bringing him he was helpful in helping to bridge that gap in making us a bar band. Adding traditional rock elements to the band is nice to know that we can play a show with the right line up of people and it’s cool.
Have you guys planned out anything to project on the screen?
Liz: They’ll play live music and we’ve choreographed out visuals to go along with the music and there will be some live components. I will be up there making sure that the visualizations keep track with the music.
Mike: That question is one that I’m always surprised at but it’s been the most consistent question that I have gotten. Of course we are. That has taken up a lot of work in terms of planning when it comes to timing everything out and figuring out what exactly we want to do. Making sure that we can execute that and it’s what I am most excited about. I think that’s the thing that pushes it over the edge because we don’t tour. We are a Columbia band and people that have been coming to see us have heard us but this experience is what I was hoping you’d experience when you listened to the music. I don’t like playing in front of a crowd and feeling the pressure that they’re watching me. It makes me feel this awkward pressure that I have to dance or look interesting. I want them to listen to the music. So bringing interesting visual; that’s what we were going for with the show with Chris and Jordan with Fort Psych. I’m tired of people looking at me. I want people to look at interesting things. All of the best concerts I’ve been to have had a visual component so I wanted to work that end and I cant think of a better visual component than a fifty five foot planetarium immersive experience where you feel like you are in space. That’s what you should feel like and picture.
Are you guys going to try and collaborate again in the future?
Liz: Hopefully, if he’s not sick of us.
Mike: I would love to but this is the kind of exhausting nature of running events whether as an artist or a space curator is being like alright here are some ideas for what I would like to do. This is a very space oriented show and of course we’re going to go to some planets. There’s so much you could do in this room that it’ll be cool to do something more abstract especially if as a band we can mature we can play at New Brookland but this is the type of space we thrive in lets curate other performance to be like this.
Liz: I’m hoping since this is the first time we’ve collaborated with a local band quite like this, it’s a bit of an experience of course. Hopefully it’s a launching point for future collaborations. We want to make connections with the community and this is a very immersive space but it’s a very creative space. We are fully digital, which doesn’t mean just a star machine in the center of the room. It means we can do lots of other things. We can do abstract art. We don’t create our own visuals unless I can pull someone in. There is so much we can do with it. Visually you can take people to other places. One of the fundamental philosophies behind the planetarium is that theatre is supposed to fade away in the background and you’re supposed to find yourself in another world without having the headgear. It’s an educational space but we want it to be an inspiration place also.
Mike: Hopefully with this show people who like the planetarium but don’t know who The Lovely Few are would like the idea of a live band in a planetarium and come back to something else or people who like The Lovely Few will come back next time and see another show and bring some friends.
It’s not just about bands. Seeing visual artists where working in those mediums come to the fore front. It’s exciting the potential of the space and Columbia as a whole.