by Kat Parsons

Mirror Ritual: Embracing The Fear

by Kat Parsons

Mirror Ritual: Embracing The Fear

Fear In All is the debut single under their newly adopted name from Wellington-based Mirror Ritual, FKA Transistor. Accompanied by a satirical music video, the band have launched themselves with captivating confidence. Thirty minutes before needing to leave to make an appearance at 95bFM and piled into a small hotel room, band members Riley Dick, Mia Kelly and Lochie Noble huddled around a phone to chat with Kat Parsons about their new single and the joys of being able to play live shows once more. Made with support from NZ On Air.

“It’s just been quite thrilling and liberating,” says Mirror Ritual front-man Lochie Noble. “Being able to leave Wellington and see how our songs land in other cities. Just being able to do multiple shows back to back is nice. Keeps you on your toes!”

Mirror Ritual is the new identity of the previously named Transistor, a project that had its beginnings back in 2016 when guitarist/singer Noble released his bedroom-recorded debut EP of the same name. He was joined by Riley Dick on drums two years later for the 2018 follow-up ‘Soft Burning Silver’. With the subsequent addition of Eli Polaczuk on bass, and most recently Mia Kelly (synths/guitar), they make up the new band’s four-piece line-up.

As Transistor the group performed at local festivals Field of Dreams and Welcome to Nowhere, as well as supporting international acts Black Mountain, Earthless and Heavenphetamine, and some of their Kiwi peers like Earth Tongue, Ha The Unclear, Na Noise, and The Nudge.

With floating vocals offset against punchy drums 2021 dream-fuzz single Contextualise topped the Student Radio Network charts, and they have been described as “unlocking portals to unknown realms with [their] brain-melting power of psych-riffs and third-eye expanding, trance-inducing soundscapes” by Under The Radar. In the wake of Covid and the introduction of Kelly to the mix, the group decided to re-vamp things, including the new Mirror Ritual branding.

“We hadn’t been doing anything publicly for like a year,” Noble says. “We did a tour at the start of last year as a three-piece under the Transistor name, and we put out a song called Contextualise. During that time we got Mia in the band and started practising with her, but everything was getting postponed. So we’re just like, ‘Well, maybe now’s a good time to change our name, refocus and refresh everything for ourselves; and then go back on tour, put out new songs, and see how we go.’ So it’s more of a natural thing.”

And with the name change, there’s a debut album ‘Aphantasma’ promised in the not-too-distant future.

“We’ve got a bunch of unreleased songs that we’ve been working on and then there are just old songs,” Noble explains. “It’s the same band essentially, so all the songs co-exist in this wonderful set and world. We’ve reworked some old songs to update them too.”

“I’d say a lot of new ones,” adds drummer Riley Dick. “A lot of new tracks or reworked ones. Fleshed out a lot more now we’ve got Mia on, which is great. So a lot more of a different sound; an expansive sound.”

Fear In All is a psychedelic masterpiece that melds together beautifully layered guitar, synths, and pastel vocals; complemented by an intricate rhythmic interplay of the drum and bass. The self-produced track is a flowing yet grungy journey of melancholy, engulfing listeners in soft nostalgia.

“The song was demoed well before Covid, so it’s kind of gone through this journey of many rewrites,” Noble reveals. “When I was writing songs back in 2018/2019, I was limiting myself to a certain palette of sounds. And you know… we’re a rock band. You’ve got guitars, bass, drums, and a lot of reverb, and all these things. You’re sitting on it and you’re thinking this could be so much more, let’s just put fake strings and harps, lush slide guitar, tambourine, and synthesisers all over it and see how it goes. Now that we’ve got Mia in the band we’re able to bring a lot of those sounds into the gig world, which is great!

“I write generally with a sort of feeling in mind that’s not overly personal, but something I’m interested in, a theme that I’d be willing to explore. They’re all quite cohesive, a lot of our songs… thematically. A lot of ever-growing anxieties that we all have, and they all seem to continue to worsen with each year. Fear of the future and fear of the unknown. This is probably our least personal song, I guess. It’s more about everyone and how we’re all kind of in the same boat and struggling, but not on an emotional level, more like a collective spiritual way.”

“There is indeed fear in all,” smiles Mia Kelly, as the others murmur in amused agreement.

With alluring instrumentation and the off-kilter rhythm, there is so much to sink your teeth into in this track. Asked what parts of the song Mirror Ritual themselves would recommend audiences listen out for, Noble starts by recommending the outro.

“A lot of those layers start to build and they kind of climax into a point where it’s almost a wall of sound sort of effect. If you added one more thing, it would probably be a complete mess and it gets to that point where it just cuts off at the end. So I reckon listen to the end!”

“The whole song,” Dick interjects, laughing.

Directed and edited by Hunter Blair, the NZ On Air-funded music video for Fear In All takes a quite different direction than one would expect. Capturing the essence of the foursome’s humour and charisma the ’80s retro nostalgia narrative revolves around a small town table tennis tournament, including a Mr. Miyagi-esque training montage.

“Hunter Blair is a good friend,” says Noble. “He directed the video and led the whole ship really, which was great for us because we’re usually quite involved with the aesthetic and the art direction of everything. All the concept and everything was his. We had a lot of trust in him because he’s a good friend. Just his willingness to see his vision out. We were there along for the ride and he did a great job. So much fun! I feel like a lot of our stuff wouldn’t be described as fun. He was able to tap into our friendship really, and goofiness.”

“We left Wellington to film all the desert stuff at 2am, and drove there to get sunrise shots,” explains Kelly to further illustrate the commitment.

“There were definitely times we had to knuckle down, but it still had a fun element,” adds Dick. “It’s great he played on that whole satirical table tennis, ‘80s, ‘way too focused for a small town shindig’ kind of vibe.”

“They had a great music video showcase night when we showed it at Vogelmorn [Precinct], where a lot of it was filmed,”  Noble laughs. “ Someone asked us, ‘Is the song about table tennis?’, and we were like, ‘No, not at all’. It’s funny to see how people interact with visuals and how that takes precedence over music sometimes.”

“Lyrics don’t have to elicit some sort of storyline, but the music completely complements the music video, and vice versa,” remarks Dick.

Relieved to be able to play live shows once more, the band is in the midst of a five-date tour around NZ with Eyegum Scenic Tours #2, double-featuring with Dunedin-band Porpoise. The consensus is one of excitement, being able to test their new material on real live audiences where anything could happen.

“Riley and I both have samplers that trigger sounds as we go for some of the parts that are hard to do live, because we can only tour with one synth,” Noble says smiling. “You can go off the beaten track as well, which is great. Nice to live in that technological world but also still live in the rock band mode where it could fall apart at any moment. You know, it’s quite liberating.”

Promising that their debut album is not too far off, Mirror Ritual looks to be in for a busy future. Despite the delays Covid caused for the band over the last few years, they express an element of gratitude for that time, a chance to reflect and learn how to take a step back and enjoy the process of making music again.

“I’m just really grateful for how supportive and positive the music community has been,” gushes Kelly. “Just in the last couple of years because all the gigs have been cancelled and moved around, it’s been real hectic with Covid which has been hard for lots of bands. But I feel like everyone’s really banded together and it’s just created this wonderful environment. It feels very supportive and positive. Yeah, I’m just really grateful to be able to play music.”

“I feel like everyone’s got this built-up creative energy from the last two years,” Noble chuckles. “Being able to tour it’s been really great. Getting out of Wellington… it’s been so long since I’ve left Wellington!

“Especially in the pop world, I guess… I think there’s that… ‘need’ to just keep putting out stuff, and not having a moment to reflect and think about yourself,” he contemplates. “Like health-wise and all these things. There’s so much that goes into it that it gets overlooked. I think people are more attentive to those needs now.”