by ANDREA MYERS
“Excuse me while I go whore myself out for a moment,” says Mischa Suemnig, rising from our elevated booth at the front end of the Nomad World Pub. As he stands up and grabs a stack of concert flyers from the table, his giant 9-month-old Greater Swiss Mountain pup, Lothar, unearths himself from beneath our booth, where he has spent the last 45 minutes sitting on my foot, and follows his master around the room.
Mischa and Lothar, whose names sound more suited for characters in a children’s novel than for a local indie rocker and his dog, begin to circulate the room and work the crowds of people that have gathered for that evening’s Steve Poltz show. Every so often, I hear choruses of girls shrieking, “He’s soooo big!” and “What kind of dog is that?” and Suemnig politely repeats the breed over and over while he slips flyers into the distracted bar patrons’ hands, explaining that his band will play their CD release show at this very club on Friday.
any other bar and with any other guy, this might seem like well-executed shtick—you
know, like the one about the single guy who borrows his friend’s puppy
to pick up chicks in the park—but for Suemnig, a twentysomething newlywed
with a trusting smile, relaxed demeanor and boundless compassion toward animals,
ushering Lothar through his friendly neighborhood bar is nothing out of the
ordinary. Once the dog has charmed enough potential listeners and has gone outside
for a potty break, Suemnig and Lothar are able to return to the booth for the
rest of our interview.
A sizable and warm tongue wraps itself around my fingers as I ask Suemnig about
his history, and when I look down in my lap I see a giant pair of sparkling
puppy eyes looking back at me, his little brown eyebrows raised innocently.
For a moment I think that it might be a strategy intended to prevent me from
writing anything bad about the owner of this gorgeous dog. As I pet Lothar’s
huge soft ears, I try my best to focus.
The child of two social workers from Stillwater, Suemnig has a certain familiarity
and ease about him that makes it easy to see where his heartfelt music found
its roots. “My dad was a huge jazz fiend; he had a monster jazz record
collection. And my mom was really into classic folk and progressive people,
like Ani DiFranco. And she’s a feminist. I was brought up right,”
he says, laughing.
“I joined the band Clovis for a couple of years, as the drummer, and then
started Mighty Fairly as a side project,” Suemnig explains, leading his
dog’s giant black and white head under the table and coaxing him to lie
down. “I started playing with a few guys that were in [Clovis]—Jonathan
Earl and Andy McClure—and both of those guys are amazing musicians, and
we were lucky to have them as a resource and have them be interested …
We played a few shows together and got some pretty good responses from people,
so I booked a few more shows and changed bass players, changed drummers a few
times, like you do.”
Like most good Minneapolis bands, Mighty Fairly is an evolution of bands that
once were and bands that are yet to be; there are three musicians listed in
the liner notes as official members, followed by a much longer list of other
contributors who play in a handful of other local acts. “All the bands
that I know were never the band they started out as,” Suemnig notes, commenting
on the increasingly overlapped local music scene. “They were all some
other version first. I would have to definitely say that it’s good for
things to evolve …When you are in a band, it’s indicative of who
you are at that time. If it stops being who you should be, then you move on.
Or you dedicate less of your efforts to it.”
by John Hermanson (The Hopefuls, Storyhill, Alva Star), Mighty Fairly’s
debut album, Perfectly Good Airplanes, could serve as a tribute to the
prototypical Minneapolis pop sound. Full of hooks, bright harmonies and irresistible
synthesizer fills, Suemnig writes songs that lodge themselves in the listener’s
brain and beg to be played again and again. But he is careful to distinguish
the music he creates from what is considered commercially popular, noting that
there is a huge difference between accessible-sounding indie music and Top 40
“What makes a good pop song, I think, is really different than what makes
a popular song … A good pop song has definitely got to have an idea. A
really positive or a really negative idea, but it can’t just be some mundane
thought. It has to be something that grabs you and bothers you, or grabs you
and makes you identify with it.”
Some of Mighty Fairly’s best moments come through in cheerful, tongue-in-cheek
choruses. “Seeing You” grabs the listener’s attention with
the ironically bouncy line, “I won’t respect myself in the morning
if I let you sleep with me again,” while “Lackluster” packs
in sarcasm with jokes like, “We send thoughts and letters, too / Fan mail
makes me feel cool / And one more thing makes me happy / A stalker who follows
me.” Like many good songwriters, Suemnig alternates between silly and
meaningful, and finishes off the disc with a quiet, pensive ode to a childhood
sweetheart that leaves the listener hungry for more from this new band.
As we wrap up our interview and I pack up my things, I take one last look at
one of the more interesting interviewees I have had in a while. Lothar is standing
at his owner’s side, positioning himself gently under the hands of passersby,
and Suemnig is handing out the last of his flyers, smiling sweetly at a crowd
of charmed women and encouraging them to come down to the Nomad for a great
Mighty Fairly play the Nomad World Pub on Fri., Nov. 3 with Justin Bell
and the Lazy Suzan & Suede Baby. 9pm. $5. 21+. For more on info on Mighty
Fairly, check out their official website at mightyfairly.com.