Last week, singer/musician Chelsea Morrisey wrote us to say that her band Dirty Mittens were no longer. That band was perennially one of Portland's most enjoyable acts, offering a fervent, energetic live show of breezy, danceable pop tunes. Their recorded material was not far behind; their 2011 record Heart of Town contained some indelible pop gems.
Despite the bad news of the band's breakup, Morrisey had silver-lining news to offer as well. Morrisey and some members of Dirty Mittens are carrying on under a different name—Artifice—offering a radically different sound. She answered our quick questions about the new group and the end of Dirty Mittens.
Artifice plays their first show on New Year's Eve at Dig a Pony (736 SE Grand) with Purple & Green, DJ Chazz Madrigal, and visuals by Mirifique. It's $10, and dressing nicely is encouraged, you slob.
MERCURY: So are Dirty Mittens changing their name? Or is this a new band altogether? Who is in Artifice?
CHELSEA MORRISEY: After much consideration and discussion, we have decided to close the door on Dirty Mittens. Artifice represents a newer and different approach to music that a few of us have been cultivating in the past year. After the dissolution of Dirty Mittens, Ryan Hanzlik, Noah Jay-Bonn, Patrick Griffin, Josh Hawley, and myself decided to continue working together to explore where this new approach goes.
I gather Artifice sounds very different from Dirty Mittens. How would you describe the new sound?
Yes, Artifice sounds quite different from Dirty Mittens. I think many Dirty Mittens fans will be surprised to see that these are a lot of the same people who once were known for purveying sunny indie pop. This music is certainly darker, definitely bleaker, and more reliant on soundscapes and textures than uptempo rave-ups. If Dirty Mittens was the Talking Heads meet Booker T and the MGs at Col. Summers park in summer 2002, Artifice is Portishead braving the '79 Berlin winter to meet ESG at a warehouse party DJ'ed by New Order. It is drum heavy, there are electronic and synthesized elements, but this will take nothing away from the energy and spectacle that we will bring with our live show. The show will be a different kind of animal.
What prompted the end of Dirty Mittens?
We loved Dirty Mittens. We will always hold those songs and that album dear. But we have all grown so much as people, more importantly as musicians and songwriters. We found that we just could not continue with our Dirty Mittens process, and our newer material felt like a different approach, a different band. We felt like it would be better to make the leap to dissolve Dirty Mittens, and the expectations that come with the history that Dirty Mittens created, in favor of a completely new project.
Dirty Mittens was started years ago by Noah and I with our original drummer Andy. Noah wrote the songs, I wrote the vocals, and everyone just filled in the details. When Dirty Mittens began we were writing songs on the guitar or piano with a four-track player. This type of songwriting has its own merit, but it very much limits the kind of sound you are able to achieve.
In the last year our writing process and equipment has become more computer based and with that we have opened up a flood gate of possibility for sounds, genre experimentation and overall freedom of expression for the individual songwriter. In Artifice, we have expanded our songwriting core to include bass player Patrick Griffin (also known as local electro-crooner LeRoy Jerome) and newest recruit synth/guitar player and all-around digital audio mastermind Josh Hawley. All contributing material that has really allowed the solid skills of our drummer, Ryan Hanzlik, to really come forward to produce some incredible results.
How long has Artifice existed? Do you already have much new material? Do you have anything recorded yet?
Artifice was born two months ago after our unofficial, unannounced last Dirty Mittens show. We have been working out new material and will have a full set for NYE.