Recently, we covered Birch’s fantastic new track ‘Halfway’ on the site. But who is behind the beautiful vocals and melody? Birch vocalist, founder and songwriter Michelle Birsky talks to us about where it began – and what the future holds.
There’s something about some people that sets the way you perceive them. It could be anything, from a mannerism to a phrasing, that alters your impression. With Michelle Birsky, vocalist and founder of Birch, the well-spoken intelligence and grace that she emails with give the impression not just of somebody who is obviously intelligent, but also somebody who is very artistic.
It’s rare that first impressions are actually correct though. But, upon speaking of recent track ‘Halfway’ and it’s video, it becomes very obvious that she is all she comes across as. Her music is intelligent art; deepened by complexity that is accentuated and nuanced in it’s accompanying video concept.
“[‘Halfway’] developed into a song about the two sides of the human brain and the dark, sometimes wonderful, places our mind can go when left to it’s own devices… We ended up building a bridge that completely diverges from the rest of the song, allowing a type of transformation to take place – which to me symbolizes a crossing over, or giving in, to the darker side of your brain.
“I wanted the video to reflect the main theme of the song: that there are two sides to our personalities that are constantly at odds and how you feel on the inside isn’t always what you portray to the outside world. Basically, the video is about stepping out of your ego, or what you display to the outside world, and fully succumbing to your inner being, which may be darker, but is so much more fulfilling.”
With depth of concept like that, it’s hardly surprising that ‘Halfway’ has such a gently beautiful sound that feels like the perfect culmination of an idea and ambition. What is surprising, though, is how fast Birch has gone from formation to this sound. The band only formed in late 2014, and in many ways ‘Halfway’ is synonymous with that moment of conception.
“I started Birch back in the Fall of 2014 when I took a solo two-week trip to Vermont. I had spent the past year in New York working for various musicians and trying to figure out what music world I belonged in.
“This trip to Vermont was the start of Birch, and was where I wrote our first single ‘Halfway’. When I returned I found musicians to play in the band and teamed up with producer Ariel Loh (of the band Stone Cold Fox) to record our EP. Over the following months as both the live and studio sound of Birch developed, these musicians came and went until I found the perfect fit in Mat Towles (Birch’s bass player) and Emma Munger (Birch’s guitarist).”
As a band, Birch pride themselves more on being a live band than a studio band. But they do harbour a healthy respect for the importance of studios. “Practicing and perfecting our live sound is what we spend most of our time doing“, explained Birsky. “However, working with Ariel in the studio really opened my eyes to the ways in which recording can help shape a band’s sound.”
This studio sound shaping has culminated in an EP, also titled ‘Halfway’. It’s set to be released at the end of August and is home to what appears to be one of Michelle’s proudest artistic moments.
“I think my proudest moment would be the bridge and last chorus of Fighting Words, the first track on the EP. The recording of the EP took place over the span of three months and I had multiple musicians play on the tracks. Fighting Words was the last song we recorded, so Mat and Emma played on the track. It was such a collaborative experience between myself, Mat, Emma, and Ariel and it was really one of those moments when it set in that THIS is my band.
“The bridge releases into two final choruses to which, in the recording process, we added new synth lines and vocal harmonies over. To me, the combination of these two sections, the swell and release, is Birch’s sound.”
The full interview can be read here.