Alicia J. Rose is no stranger to the big music scenes between Northern California and British Columbia. From her home base in Portland, Oregon, she’s worked with many of the best bands in the region. And yet most of her friends are surprised to learn that she herself is a musician. That’s because for the last decade Rose has been working mostly behind-the-scenes — as a concert promoter, band photographer, and music video director.
But this Sunday, when she headlines the closing night of The Accordion Noir Festival in Vancouver BC, it’s safe to say that Alicia Rose will be fully out of musical retirement. She’s been dusting off a set of the experimental accordion songs that helped her get her start back in the 90’s — and she’s also re-releasing her back catalog into the digital realm via CD Baby.
What’s it like to end an indefinite hiatus? How do you promote music that is being released for the second time around? I asked Alicia about getting back into the gigging, recording, and promotional games after many years away.
An interview with Miss Murgatroid
For anyone like me that first knew you as a photographer, videographer, director, and talent buyer, who is Miss Murgatroid?
Miss Murgatroid is my accordion wielding alter-ego.
And why has she been away so long?
I took a break from the accordion after things got funky in 2004. I had made a new record with Petra Haden that got stymied (it eventually came out in 2008), and experienced a sequence of personal and professional events that put me off of being a musician for a while. Instead I focused on being a promoter and photographer/filmmaker.
What’s the story behind your musical reemergence? Why now?
The festival programmers at Accordion Noir have asked me for maybe the last 3 or 4 years to play the festival, but the timing wasn’t right. This year something shifted and Miss Murgatroid bubbled up. I think being a promoter (I was the founding booker at Portland’s Doug Fir Lounge and then Mississippi Studios in PDX) killed my boner for playing live music on stage. But after some serious detoxing from those years, I took up the drums with the personal goal of learning to play and sing at the same time. It took a while, but eventually my neural pathways gave in and adapted, and this new foray into rhythm ultimately brought me back to the accordion. And oddly I might be a better player now than ever before. Oh the irony! The drums were the one instrument that terrified me as accompaniment in the early years, but now I can’t get enough. I faced my fears, and smashed those motherf*ckers to bits. YES.
What’s your set going to be like at the festival?
Delving into my past catalog to build a set for the Accordion Noir fest has been a trip, but I’ve culled a nice set of about 9 or 10 songs from my solo records. The Fest specifically asked for me to choose from my solo catalog (not so much my work with Petra Haden) so I did and it’s been fun. I’m excited to make a whole bunch of juicy accordion noise in the pretty black box that is the Orpheum Annex.
Any plans for new recordings or touring beyond the festival?
I have started a new band with some friends in PDX called Moon Tiger. I switch between accordion, drums and voice. There is some serious rocking going on, and i’m loving it. We have been writing and already have a few killer songs in our back pocket. I’m hoping we start to play out in 2015. For Miss M – not sure, but after pulling her our of the closet she might not want to go back in. I might like playing now more than ever. Uh, oh.
What was the process like re-releasing your old catalog?
Fun. I should have reissued stuff through CD Baby sooner! Most of my catalog has been out of print for years. The internet age passed Miss Murg right by. So it’s been exciting to get the stuff back out there and into the streaming world.
Are you putting your music on streaming platforms like Spotify, Rdio, and Beats?
I’m all about discovery, so by flopping Miss M onto all the streaming sites, who knows who may stumble upon her wild sounds.
How does the promotion of re-released material differ from the way you’d promote a brand new album? What are your expectations: reaching a new audience, or more of a “I just want to make it digitally available for my existing fans” kinda thing?
I think being able to release digitally simply just makes it possible for the music to get back out there. No new production costs, but also no real touring or PR – besides this festival of course – which precipitated the reissues. I was kinda just looking for an excuse, and Miss M’s reemergence via Accordion Noir seemed like a good one. If/when I make a new album it’ll be a whole different beast. Rocking out with Moon Tiger has re-lit my fire for the whole thing. Plus it’s fun to play with my friends, and I’m starting to jones to do it in front of others. Moon Tiger 2015. You heard it here first.
Since Miss Murgatroid has been away so long (with a few brief re-appearances), how do you go about alerting folks that you’re back in action?
I have a decent social media base, so I work it. My work as a photographer/filmmaker has definitely kept me in the loop with my friends/fans so it’s natural to use the same platform to promote Miss M. The funny thing is that it’s been so long since she’s been in the world, that many of my closest friends have never met her. They are like, “wait, you play the accordion (through distortion!!) too? Huh?” My best friend Lake is coming with me to the fest and he’s over the moon to see this part of me re-emerge. Also, since pulling this set together and practicing this summer I have noticed an increase in my personal mojo. I think the accordion is good for my love life.
Take note, those of you with low libidos! Music may just be the remedy.
Are you returning to music after a long break? How are you thinking about getting back into the swing of things? Let us know in the comments below.
Follow Miss Murgatroid on Facebook.
Photo by Andy Batt.
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