Mega Bog, the enigmatic musical project of Erin Birgy, have released their fourth album, Life, and Another, on Paradise of Bachelors. Written in New Mexico, Nevada, and on the road, Life, and Another traverses an otherworldly musical landscape, culminating in fourteen songs of tender and disruptive sonic mastery. Birgy’s songwriting expertise is evident in each track as she investigates a certain mercurial tension through lyrical and a jazz-like erraticism. Confident in its lack of convention, the album exists as its own living entity, shifting in form and feeling, sighing and swaying in and out of each individual track.
Life, and Another was created in collaboration with Aaron Otheim, Zach Burba of iji, Will Segerstrom, Matt Bachmann, Andrew Dorset of Lake, James Krivchenia of Big Thief, Meg Duffy of Hand Habits, Jade Tcimpidis, Alex Liebman, and co-engineers Geoff Treager and Phil Hartunian. When asked how Birgy sustains her personal sonic vision while allowing creativity and inspiration to be sourced from other artists, she says, “I know we all want to deliver music in a similar way – affecting, and timeless… I feel honored by my friends/bandmates for giving so much to understand where I’m coming from, and giving me a platform to explore.” All of this of course requires trust, which Birgy says she has struggled with in the past. But she’s been able to form a special language with her collaborators. “It’s hard not to feel or understand where everyone is at and what we want,” she says.
Birgy was deeply impacted by her environment while writing and recording Life, and Another. Dwelling at first in Embudo, New Mexico, the artist spent much of her time in surrounded by beautiful but unforgiving terrain along the Rio Grande, sparsely inhabited and assailed by extreme weather. Birgy found freedom in frequent hiking explorations, “…exploring the arroyos or river, or far away bars alone,” but sometimes felt unsafe and remained wary of her surroundings and the way they affected her. “What if I was stung by a tarantula hawk, fell into an unmanageable current, or followed home by someone?” she often asked herself.
The experience was painted by a sense of isolation while her partner Krivenchnia was away on tour. “I didn’t have many people checking up on me, sometimes for days,” she says. “So the times I stayed in the house, I could read, paint, jerk off, clean, or play guitar.” After leaving Embudo, Birgy embarked on a largely solo road trip, which allowed her to gain experiences but was also at times frightening. “I have to play or write because I’m going to be way too scared sleeping in the gas station parking lot by myself… Writing this music saved me from fully losing myself in times of overwhelming fear,” she says; music once again brought her back to herself, as it so often does. “It reminded me I had an identity, good things to offer, magic to survive.”
Birgy’s sometimes harrowing cross-country travels gave way to the worlds she creates as Mega Bog, and her latest album feels both real and tangible but also deeply mythological in nature. “We all have so much power when we think or speak. We are worldbuilding, and must take that seriously because our worlds are vast and shared with rocks and june beetles who are also editing the story as we go,” she says.
The songs seemed to almost tumble out; after recording these ideas quickly as voice memos, the bulk of the album’s creation process was rebuilding the songs while staying true to the original spark of inspiration. Birgy worked to present the full scope of the idea, reconstructing complex thoughts through layers of instruments and tones. “The hard part is being able to present that blip in a recording, because so much has changed from writing to recording,” she reflects.
The sonic world of this album is semi-supernatural, which can be evoked by the Star Trek-referencing wordless track “Darmok,” a song which conjures the imagined feelings of arriving on an unearthly planet, an unintelligible Garden of Eden, or a long and slow walk towards the last light. Psychedelic rhythms pop and drawl in and out of the songs in an idiosyncratic yet perfectly timed sway. It’s mystifying how Birgy balances disruption and hypnosis throughout the album. In the last song she sings, “Watch me roll an office chair onto the balcony,” a seemingly dull and absurd gesture. But the phrasing is soaked with mystery, tension, and some grotesquely complicated interpersonal dynamic. “So much of this album focuses on attachments, reevaluating perceptions and roles, expectations,” Birgy explains, remaining somewhat cryptic.
In the past, critics have claimed that Mega Bog’s music is ambiguous and at times impenetrable. It’s critical that we understand there’s a line between creating music that explores a person’s experience for them, versus writing to purely build relatability with an audience. When listening to Life, and Another, it’s hard to feel as though the album isn’t deeply intentional, and that every reference, no matter how bizarre, does have meaning, if only we can find it. “It can be difficult to make music that works for everyone out there, especially if you’re presenting work that’s true to yourself,” Birgy says. Instead, she’s participating in a clear excavation, burrowing into experiences and coming out with truths, however strange they may be. “It’s always been my intention to present something that could inspire something wild in others.”
If we can find that place in between confusion and understanding, Mega Bog’s music opens into a sphere constructed of deep vulnerability, where we can see the small details of a stranger’s life, and even allow the sounds themselves to transport us into her world. With each phrase, Mega Bog builds something distinct, a willful invitation to a new place to land. “I accept the responsibility of a storyteller, by being made to dig deep and understand the words and tales and possible outcomes that we choose to share with others,” Birgy says. Replete with stories, openness, depth and something very close to truth, Life, and Another is a world all its own. Birgy adds, “The story of this record is never ending – even I’m learning that.”
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