Pop songs are fairly easy to write. They’re limited in their chord selection, follow a tried and true formula and tend to rely on vague, often cliched lyrics. It’s writing a good pop song that’s the hard part, one that will stick with you, have you humming its chorus 3 days after listening to it, and keep you coming back to enjoy the same blissful three and half minutes over and over again.
George Clanton, the sole force behind Mirror Kisses, has an innate knack for that type of pop craftsmanship. Take any of the eight tracks off of his most recent Heartbeats and it’s clear from the opening chords, dude’s got the chops to create earworm caliber synth pop. Do yourself a favor and get familiar now and, for Mishka readers in NYC, get up close and person with Mirror Kisses on the 19th at The Bowery Electric.
HeatStroke: Obligatory opening question, how long have you been playing music?
Mirror Kisses: I had a rock n roll band in high school that was like AC/DC, then I started making some borderline shoegaze in college and then I invented Mirror Kisses in 2008. At first fucking around with synths was a joke to me, but taking on a different persona allowed me to write much better songs without feeling self conscious about the lyrics or any other “cheesy” content. I wrote the follow up EP in 2009. It was originally supposed to be a full length but ended up being released as Dance Decree in 2011. In my mind there are kind of two timelines for Mirror Kisses, those first two releases, then the “post-hiatus” releases starting with Bad Dreams. I don’t think anyone really listens to those first two releases at this point anyway.
HS: Was live always a goal of yours for Mirror Kisses or something that kind of necessitated itself?
MK: Not exactly, my friend and roommate was the one that actually convinced me to play the music live. He played drums with me for a long time, then I ended up moving to Richmond without him. Now I perform solo. Honestly, I’d rather do it myself anyway, each added person is another schedule you have to align with. I like the ability to pickup my gear and play a show at the drop of a hat.
HS: So what’s your live show like?
MK: I have a couple of samplers and a drum pad and a vocal effects unit but its mostly based around the vocals. There are large chunks of each song where I’m out in the crowd, letting the sampler just go by itself. I like to get out in the crowd and push people around a little bit because Mirror Kisses is stupid if you’re just staring at me, bobbing your head.
HS: Your songwriting and production value is always so on point. Do you have anything in the way of formal musical/technical training?
MK: Thanks man! In terms of “formal training” I have none, I don’t even know where middle C is. I don’t play any instruments particularly well, but I do think I’m a good songwriter. The mixing of tracks tends to drive me crazy. I write the songs really fast, but mixing them seems to take FOREVER. I’m mixing as I write and it’s those “wow” moments I stumble on that inspire a lot of the melodies.
HS: You have this side project Esprit Fantasy that’s kind of taken on a life of its own. What was the genesis for that?
MK: Esprit was just an experiment. I liked “vaporwave” and wanted to see if I could do it. And more importantly if I could promote a new, virtually anonymous artist from scratch. I was writing a college paper on Barbara Mason’s Another Man and Tout Sweet’s pro-homo retort Another Man Is Twice As Nice. The song was featured in the documentary Paris Is Burning and there’s this scene where one of the characters is listening to a boom box playing a sped up version of the Barbara Mason song. I started thinking about how fucking poignant that was for that scene, then I took a break from the paper and made Daydream from the dub remix of Tout Sweet’s version. I loved it immediately and decided that was the perfect opportunity to start a new project.
HS: What would you say has been the biggest obstacle going from bedroom producer to releasing vinyl, touring and enjoying one of those blue checks on Twitter?
MK: That’s tough to say, I really love doing the grunt work. It’s my life now. I love making connections and tweeting and touring, all of that shit. The amount of money it costs to tour and put out a vinyl record is obviously a huge obstacle. Convincing people to pay you to come to their state and play can be treacherous, but that’s always been the game with booking.
HS: How many hours would you say you put into Mirror Kisses a week? From brainstorming, to songwriting, to the more grunt work type of stuff?
MK: I put in at least 5 hours a day for Mirror Kisses. I’ve been working really, really hard on my music and I only have one completely finished new song to show for it. It can take me forever to make new songs and, for the first time in my life, I’m shelving whole songs because they aren’t good enough.
HS: I know what you mean. The harder you work it seems the more hell bent you get on achieving “perfection.” Do you have any advice for more novice producers or songwriters?
MK: The only advice I have is that if you want something bad you have to work hard at it every day. There are people out there who can make better songs than me. There are people who put out way more songs than me that are equally as great. There are people I know who are constantly eclipsing me and my music career. But I still work at it every day to try to get where I want to be. And I’m not even close yet! But I think if you don’t do it every day, you’re wasting time. I took three years off from music and didn’t do anything productive. If I hadn’t wasted that time, I’d be three years better than I am right now. You can never get lost time back.