I got a chance to sit down with Erin Birgy, the mastermind behind avant-garde pop band Mega Bog, before their show at the Sinclair with Destroyer. Here are some of her thoughts on music, Star Trek and pierogies:
Ruben: Is there a motif or concept that tends to drive your music?
Erin: Suffering (laughs). I think there’s a lot to be said. Actually one of my favorite writers passed away yesterday, Ursula Le Guin. In one of her books she talks about how the whole purpose of human, or what it is to be human, is to share and absorb other people’s suffering and make it less of a burden on one person. To like actually take that pain into yourself so you will feel bad but you will be helping somebody else feel less bad. I think that’s a lot of what it’s about and lot of where writing and songs come from.
Ruben: In that vein, when you are collaborating with people is it kind of a shared suffering?
Erin: I’m sorry I said it’s suffering. It is about a lot of suffering, but it’s not as dramatic or hyperbolized as that absolutely. But yeah it is [a shared suffering]. Especially being on tour, we are all just having a hard time and sort of balancing each other out by going at it with love instead of frustration. Practices and rehearsals are really hard, but they are full of joy and pleasurable enough to keep making music and have that be most of our lives.
Ruben: How long has this lineup of Mega Bog been doing it?
Erin: Everybody who is in this lineup has been in the band for many years now. Zach helped me start the band in 2009. That was in Olympia, WA. He’s come and gone because we have our own projects. I used to drum in his band in Seattle, Iji. He used to play bass in Will’s band, Pill Wonder, and I sing on Matt’s recordings under Big Eater. Many years but different entrances.
Ruben: Do you generally write the songs yourself and then bring them in to workshop them?
Erin: Yeah. I write most of the songs and do a lot of the arranging. I try to just bring the arrangements in sort of Michael Jackson style where I just hum the parts and whatever they interpret from the humming, I’ll be like “Ok that’s your added perspective and attitude”. I’m not going to write out music for them just because they’re amazing players so there’s no point in forcing it.
Ruben: How did you link up with Destroyer?
Erin: Dan came to see Mega Bog play when we were touring with Cate Le Bon in 2016, and it was a terrible show in my opinion. I had just had a tooth pulled that day and got in a fight with someone in the audience who was harassing us and broke down and was just crying on stage. After that he seemed to be a deep fan. Then they were doing this record release tour and asked us to go quite a while ago and they’ve all become pretty cute close friends.
Ruben: Do you have a dear piece of gear that has been with you for a long time?
Erin: I’ve been trying to let go of gear pretty regularly and just not get too attached to stuff because I know that there’s always something better, but I’ve been pretty attached to my guitar for a handful of years, at least like half a decade. I have a Fender Cyclone that a friend gave me when I was between guitars and moved and had to sell some stuff. It’s amazing, small and really heavy.
Ruben: What’s a current musical act you feel is special and different?
Erin: I’m thinking of a lot of my friends. I’m trying to think of how they’re necessarily different because I have nothing to compare the difference to. Everybody I play with I feel is making pretty wild music, Pill Wonder and Iji especially. It’s music unlike anything I’ve heard. My partner’s band is called Big Thief. They’re a Berklee band and they fit the special [criteria]. I don’t know how different they are because they definitely steal from so much different music but that is what makes them special. They just understand that music. It’s awesome to go to their shows and see everybody crying.
Ruben: Is there a bigger artist who would be a dream act to tour with?
Erin: It would be really amazing, and I know this isn’t particularly possible, but if Robert Wyatt ever wanted to tour their compositions it would be awesome if our band could be the ones playing them. It would be awesome to do a project with somebody like Laurie Anderson. I feel like that’s not even out of reach it’s just when will I ask.
Ruben: What do you think of virtual reality?
Erin: I am not sure what I think. In reality I think it’s… I don’t know. I’m reading this book right now called the Three Body Problem which is like the first chinese sci-fi writer that has been published in the states and it’s all about how aliens were contacted during the cultural revolution by this group of scientists and now we’re in present time and they’ve realized they can use virtual reality to sort of have everybody surrender to the takeover which is kind of cool and pretty weird. Almost too real. Really gullible human beings. Also I don’t know… maybe we should be taken over. That’s not really the answer to the question. I’m curious about it and I don’t know very much about it.
Ruben: Do you have a personal connection to bogs?
Erin: I guess I think about like primordial mud. My mom always called me a celtic princess when I was growing up, just getting into moors and bogs and briars and all of this stuff was sort of projected onto me as the magic place where I came from. I actually have no idea what lineage I am, but yeah, bog bodies and just things that preserve almost supernaturally but can totally be explained by science is just awesome. I’d love if you could have a choice to do that and be thrown into a bog where you could be turned into petrified wood or something. 65 million years from now I am going to be quartz.
Ruben: Do you have a favorite snack?
Erin: I eat a lot of pierogies. Like Ukrainian perogies with applesauce and onions.
Ruben: Are you a movie or TV series sort of person?
Erin: Both. I’m writing a new Star Trek series right now, like post federation, after the next phase of stardust creates rapid evolution. James and I are actually moving to Los Angeles and we’re just kind of going to make weird art and relax a little bit. It will also be kind of cool to be like “wow, I’m living next to Worf and I can actually write a Star Trek series if I want and weasel into that world if I decide to.” It doesn’t seem that hard. I make movies too, and do a lot of video stuff, so I’m prepping that in small steps for like a MASSIVE TV series.
Ruben: Do you have a favorite series of Star Trek?
Erin: Next Generation. It’s life changing. It’s post capitalist, peaceful diplomacy. Really beautiful. It’s really inspiring and empowering. I’m watching Voyager now just because I want to watch every Star Trek before I finish my series.
Ruben: What’s one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned while touring, recording and being in music?
Erin: Just to be easy on yourself, because people just slip into being competitive and into self hatred without thinking about it. I feel like I meet a lot of people who almost think that is what you are supposed to feel and what you’re supposed to do. I feel like you can take care of your ego and your shadow self while being patient with yourself.
Nothing should happen as fast as you want it to happen. You don’t want everything all at once because that’s just your pride taking control and if the rest of the world does accept those circumstances and hands it to you. You are just going to be exhausted or die, you know? I think it’s good to just be patient and know that you make music because that is who you are and you want it to be more timeless than instantly gratifying.
Interview, Articles, and Photo by Ruben Radlauer