Let’s be honest: the world is a mess lately. But on their sophomore record, Tiny Mirrors, San Francisco-based indie pop duo The New Up find plenty of ways to channel the negativity into something positive. Since fatefully meeting at a music festival, Noah Reid and ES Pitcher have self-released three EPs and one full-length, but Tiny Mirrors is their first record to reflect both the unstable political climate and sweeping personal changes, including the birth of their daughter. Any time an artist sets out to create new work, they are expected to come out on the other side completely changed, but Tiny Mirrors takes that to extremes.
A little bit grungy and dark at times, the album is a perfect reflection of both turmoil and hope. No matter where you live, there’s a palpable tension in the air lately, but there have also been acts of resistance; when The New Up ask “Do you think we should let it all go, forget about the things that we can’t change?” on “Almost Human,” it’s followed by the warning, “We’ll forget about the things that we could.” Lead single “Future is Now” is all about finding a way forward, backed by an inexorable beat. Music can be a powerful tool to help articulate our feelings and emotions when we find ourselves unable to do so, and that’s exactly what this album does.
What was some of the inspiration behind Tiny Mirrors?
In some ways we were just writing about our experiences and what we were seeing around us on a day to day basis in our own lives. But quite honestly, I think there was a part of us that was looking around ourselves and reading the writing on the wall about where the human race is headed, and we felt compelled to speak about it through our music. A funny thing happened as we got deep into the writing and producing process, though: we realized we also wanted to give people a reality check that they are the ones who are in control of their own lives, and that in order to keep their worst fears from happening they have to remember to exercise that control and not continue to be apathetic in the face of imminent threats. This was all before the election recently, of course, so after this whole alternate universe became a reality, we realized that our music was unfortunately all the more timely. But it was the desire to create a soundtrack for the range of emotions that we experience from being alive in this day and age that inspired us to make this album and give listeners something they could use every day to remind them that they are not alone in feeling alone.
What does this album mean to you, both collectively as a band and on personal levels?
As a band it means incredible growth in every way. Musically, stylistically, lyrically, sonically, conceptually, and from a production and songwriting standpoint, every aspect of the band and the music has grown immensely. To us, it feels like the growth that happens between a 12 year old and a 17 year old, where you start to look at the person differently and then one day you see them and you think to yourself, “Wow, you’re kind of like an adult now.” The music really means something deeper to the band, and we really feel like we have a message and that we’re connecting with listeners in a way that just wouldn’t have been possible for us in the past.
Personally, this album represents a metamorphosis. While recording it there were births, deaths, political turmoil, unfathomable suffering and pain, unspeakable beauty, and a shit ton of self-reflection and self-improvement and shedding of things that weren’t helping us achieve our goals. If there weren’t some underlying solid foundations, one could almost say that we’re entirely different people from when we started to record the album. Whether it was the writing and recording of the album or whether that was just something that came out of the process, it has been a downright transformative time in our personal lives.
I saw that you had some personal ups and downs in the year while you were creating Tiny Mirrors. How does it feel to reflect back on that time now that your album is set to release soon?
It’s pretty crazy. Looking back, it’s almost unbelievable how high the highs were and how low the lows were. It’s not like we’re manic depressives or anything, but life just has a way of taking you on a rollercoaster ride sometimes and all you can do is try to hold on as tight as you can and not get thrown off out into the wilderness. Ironically, it seems like since those times, things have been thrown even more into turmoil. Thinking back to how we felt then and how things are now is a real gut check. There’s an almost palpable sense of uncertainty that’s so thick you could almost reach out and touch it. As people who are pretty steadfast in our sense of morality and solid in our ability to not be brainwashed, it’s crazy to think about how crazy we thought things were then, but then to look at things now and see how the truth has been twisted into an unrecognizable pile of garbage. It just reminds us that we can never be complacent; we can never think that things are in a good place and that we can sit back and let the world go silently in the direction of unity. That reality never existed, the only difference is that now we all know that we must always stay vigilant. I think that’s what reflecting on the process now most reminds us of.
What genre would you say your music best fits in to, if it fits into one at all?
Usually we like to let writers and other music industry professionals call out what we sound like, because we’ve always felt that our music was hard to fit into one genre, and genres have become so narrow and specialized that we thought that we would never fit into one. Luckily, there’s been a little bit of pushback on the increase in sub-genres in the last few years, and we can now kind of fit ourselves into a few if we mix them together. So considering we’ve got a little garage rock in us, a little indie, a little shoegazer, a little electronic and dance, and a little alternative, we just like to wrap that all up in a little bow that we call electro garage rock.
Are there any songs on the album that you feel a particularly strong connection with? If so, which ones?
That’s a tough one. That’s like asking someone, “You’ve got 12 babies–are any of them your favorite?” We might have one that we connect with a little more strongly, but we’d be hesitant to say it as we don’t want to risk making the other ones jealous.
What have been your favorite stop(s) on your North American tour?
It’s still going, and we’ve got a lot more dates to hit, but there are a few places that we always enjoy playing. Portland is always super fun, and you can’t beat our hometown, San Francisco. One of the shows that really surprised us was when we played in Reno recently. We’ve heard rumblings that there is an artist revival going on there (’cause it’s one of the only places that’s still affordable for artists), which is why we decided to play there, but to be there and actually witness it was really cool. The arts district is undergoing a major revival, and some of our friends have moved there and are part of this exciting renaissance.
What are you hoping people take away from your album?
Kind of funny you ask that. On the inside cover of the hard copy of the album (yes, we actually still have our music available in a non-digital form), there is an excerpt titled, “Some things we hope you feel while you listen…,” and the first thing on that list is, “The wind through your hair as you drive through the hot desert.” It goes on to note things like, “winning doesn’t create real happiness,” “the power to change the world and yourself is in you,” “fear and hate, hope and love are two side of the same coin,” “blame is a diversion from the truth,” and “the inevitable is definitely NOT inevitable.” It could be confused for fortune cookie wisdom, but if you think about those things as you listen, you’ll really get the meaning. The music is really meant to be a soundtrack to the moments in your life you wish you could bottle up—the ones where you feel free for a moment or two—so that whenever you listen, you feel empowered and are reminded of the fact that you can do anything you really put yourself into. The fact that that sentiment and so many other important ideas have become cliched (or even ridiculed) is exactly what we’re fighting back against, and what we want to help listeners reconnect with by being unafraid to appreciate those feelings again. There’s a definite political element to it, and we’re hoping to inspire people to get out and do something about all of this insanity—especially vote! The politicians who are in there right now are not going to listen to anyone; they’re going to do whatever they want, no matter how much people protest. So the only thing that is really going to have an effect on the direction of where we’re going is to VOTE!
What plans do you have in mind for the future?
What’s up next depends a lot on what happens now. We’re pushing hard to make the biggest splash possible with this new album in the U.S., but we’re also making a huge push to make it a big success in the U.K. and EU. We’ll be doing a lot more touring in the spring and summer, with some East Coast dates planned for May and June. After that, as long as everything goes as planned, we will be doing a U.K./EU tour. We’ve already got the team in place to make it happen, so it’s much more likely than not that it will happen, but of course we don’t even know if we’ll still be alive in June, so we can only be so sure that anything’s gonna happen, right? After that, we’ll hunker back down in the studio in the fall to start recording the next album, and we’ll probably stop touring for a bit so we can focus on that. If everything explodes with this album, that whole timeline may get pushed up sooner by a bit, which we would welcome.