What started as a home recording project soon morphed into a formidable live band of incredible musicians from around the globe. Since the early 90’s, Adam Pierce had been recording odd music experiments with only an 8-track tape machine and two crappy mics - no compressor, outboard eq nor any quality gear beyond an array of instruments - simply because that’s what a musician does. Releasing an album was never the intention, until years later in the late 90’s. After touring in other successful bands like Swirlies, The Dylan Group and Philistines Jr., it was finally time to pull a few recordings from the massive archive and create what would be the first Mice Parade album, The True Meaning of Boodleybaye. Pierce released the album in true Fugazi-style: on his own label (Bubble Core), without fanfare, sending no promo copies to press or radio.
It was a time before the internet was part of daily life, yet the album spread rapidly by word of mouth, reaching #1 for multiple weeks on WNYU, New York’s primary source for new indie music, and the station that turned Pierce on to great indie bands in high school like The Pixies, Lilys, Swirlies (whom he had joined by then on drums), etc. It became a quick success nationally, seeing multiple represses in its first year, and it caught the attention of UK label FatCat Records, who would release future Mice Parade albums outside America, as well as P-Vine Records in Japan, where concerts were sold out and the band would go on to play the country’s biggest music festivals.
The way Adam sees it, Mice Parade has had three distinct eras thus far. The first two albums (…Boodleybaye, & Ramda) were one era, experimental collages of random sounds, melodies and beats; unconventional structures sometimes mimicking the beats of the newly emerging electronic musics like early Aphex Twin, μ-Ziq, etc, mixing in shoegaze guitars and wild dreamscapes. The next era would be based on pentatonic scales and the ‘koto’ harp, or ‘zheng’ as it’s called in China. These albums were Mokoondi and All Roads Lead To Salzburg, and the first touring live band was assembled to perform this music, which up to this point had been instrumental. Then Pierce started singing a little bit, and was joined on vocals by his dear friend Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir, who played in the Icelandic band múm. Leaving the huge and heavy zheng case at home and picking up his guitar, the touring band was reformed to see Pierce hopping back and forth between drums and guitar/vocals, while Kristín Anna took on more vocals and Doug Scharin played an additional drumkit. Pierce jokingly calls this the ‘pop’ era (though it involved vibraphone, classical guitar, keys, often two simultaneous drummers yet no actual bass player) and the band has kept some version of this format ever since, while expanding its style through the most developed and well-received albums of its career (Obridago Saudade, Bem-Vinda Vontade, Mice Parade, What It Means To Be Left-Handed, & Candela).
When Kristín Anna turned her focus to her own solo music and then had a baby, Japanese-American singer Caroline came to the rescue for more great years of touring and recording. Then when she had a baby, Icelandic singer Sigurlaug Gísladóttir saved the day, singing with the band on its “acoustic trio” tour in 2012, the last live performances to date. Other live band members have been many throughout the years: Brandon Knights (Lee Scratch Perry, Soul II Soul), Doug Scharin (Codeine, June of 44), Dylan Cristy (Dylan Group), Rob Laakso (Kurt Vile, Swirlies), Marc Wolf (Tower Recordings), Dan Lippel (ICE), Josh Larue (HiM), Gunnar Tynes (múm), Josh McKay (Deerhunter, Macha), Jay Israelson (Lansing-Dreiden), Jeremy Backofen (Felice Brothers), Rob King, Chris Luttrell, Doro Tachler, Chris Conti, and possibly others.
Throughout it all, Adam has mostly recorded with same ethos: allowing only one take for each track, forcing him to either leave in mistakes or address them with mutes or distractions, and embracing the Bob Ross concept of ‘happy accidents.’ This was a strict rule for the first several albums, and while he eventually became less strict about it, it’s still a goal that is achieved more often than not. Perfection is not the goal - indeed, there should be no such thing in music. In the studio he plays mostly everything himself, though he tries to include others on every album and seeks contribution from touring members whenever practical. Also most songs are not written before pressing the record button, but instead are built piece by piece in improvised fahion. For most albums Adam was also the recording engineer and mixer, although recently he’s had Jeremy Backofen helping out at his current studio in the Hudson Valley, Kirton Farm. His old friend and bandmate Peter Katis also mixed several songs on Bem-Vinda Vontade, before going on to win a Grammy award for his work with The National.
The touring band is what makes the songs come alive, however. Not enough fans have heard the live album, Live: England vs. France, since FatCat didn’t officially release it in Europe. Check it out on Bandcamp. Adam has often said that the studio recordings felt a bit more stiff, like rough sketches not fully fleshed out, since it's he playing most instruments, most songs weren’t written before recording them, much less played every night on tours so they could grow… And he was blessed to play with such superb musicians and friends, so it was a fulfilling achievement to properly capture the live band on record before their unplanned hiatus. The live version of “Double Dolphins On The Nickel” is particularly different from the studio version, with some insane improv from Dan Lippel on guitar.
lapapọ is the title of the next Mice Parade album, a Yoruba word meaning something like “together” or “totally.” The album has been recorded very gradually over the last 6 or 7 years, through house moves, breakups, death and birth, and encompasses musical concepts representing each era of the Mice Parade catalog, as well as embarking on new terrain. All the past singers in the live band have contributed, making it a reunion of sorts. Adam is beyond grateful for their presence on the album, as well as that of new guest singers Angel Deradoorian (Dirty Projectors) and Arone Dyer (Buke and Gase). Mastering took place just days before the Covid pandemic hit and lockdowns began, so plans for a release and worldwide tour starting in October had to be postponed. Hopefully we’ll put it all together again. Stay tuned for updates. A quite different next album is already in the works. All of Mice Parade are eternally grateful for your support over the years.