So I’m on my Saturday morning coffee run at a local joint called Joe Van Gogh when I unexpectedly experience a great example of unconventional music marketing. While the barista readies my organic Ethiopian blend, I peruse the bags of coffee being displayed at the counter when I see it: a limited-time specialty brew care of a local indie Americana quartet called Mipso. After reading a bit more about the band and the HARMONY BLEND promotion they thought up, I had to pick their brains a bit.
Tell us a bit about your band. How did you form, how long have you been together, what kind of music do you play, etc.
We are a band born out of college friendships. Joseph, Wood, and myself (Jacob Sharp) met at UNC Chapel Hill and started gigging around town casually when we were sophomores. One show we played on a whim turned into shows across North Carolina every weekend and by the time we graduated it was by far the most enticing post-college life idea on the table. Libby had been involved from the beginning but didn’t become a full member until she graduated from school a year behind us. We’re a string band, but don’t see ourselves as particularly tied to a genre. Certainly our roots as North Carolinians has allowed a long and healthy insight into bluegrass and folk music, but we grew up on jam bands and mainstream radio. We just like songs that move people, don’t care as much about how they’re packaged.
How did you come up with idea for the custom coffee promotion at Joe Van Gogh?
We are so stoked on that collaboration. Touring as much as we do, around 150 shows across the country each year, takes its toll. Coffee keeps us sane. And great coffee shops tend to offer insight to parts of communities we dig. Joseph and I have kind of become coffee nerds and feel lucky to have one of our favorite roasters in the country, Joe Van Gogh, in our hometown. We approached them to see if they’d be down to do a special roast inspired by the new music and they were into it! All of the folks who work their are such artists, and music lovers. I hope they’re as happy with the partnership as we are!
Over the years we’ve gotten to know several people at Joe Van Gogh, and it was definitely a soft pitch initially. As we explored the idea together the band went to their roasting house in Hillsborough and did a cupping – tasting a ton of stuff and talking about what we liked and why. We wanted the Mipso roast to highlight the best of what Central America and East Africa have to offer. Our band is made of 4 people with really distinct musical personalities, that we hope in the right combination complement each other. It was our hope these beans would do the same in this roast.
We’ve done similar beer collaborations on our previous two albums with our favorite NC breweries – Fonta Flora, Steel String, Haw River to name a few!
Why did you decide to go a pretty unconventional marketing route vs. the more traditional stuff?
This feels normal to us! I mean, definitely it’s not as traditional as a paid ad on your favorite social media site, but that stuff can get boring. It’s important to get people aware of what we’re up to, of course, but sometimes we just feel like this can be like a traveling circus just shouting at people to come see us play. For us, it feels more interesting when narratives combine. We love and respect Joe Van Gogh, as many people in our community do, and it seems they have a similar vibe read on us. That kind of connection is meaningful and transcends the day to day news byline.
What kind of results are you hoping for? Any results to report so far?
I hope everyone has a really nice caffeine buzz. I can report upon having my first Mipso brew this morning that it works (I am typing very quickly) and tastes damn good.
What has been your biggest challenge as an artist/band, and what have you done to overcome it?
I’ll speak for myself and say that my biggest challenge as an artist is to continue to create space within our touring schedule to write and improve on my instruments – and to free myself from the comfortable creative rhythms I’ve established over the years.
Any advice for new musicians just starting out on ReverbNation?
I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is to communicate honestly in your music and focus on the things that inspire you. It’s an easy time to try and replicate a proven model, but I don’t think that offers meaning to many people. As long as you strive to inspire and always seek inspiration I think you’ll find some fulfillment. Oh, and if you tour make sure you do it with good people.
What’s up next for Mipso?
We will be touring hard on our new album for the next 6 months! All over the country and beyond. We’re kicking off a 3-week tour in New York City tonight at the Music Hall of Williamsburg that ends with a hometown release show at the North Carolina Museum of Art. I feel so grateful that we’re going to be able to share these tunes along the way, it’s an exciting time for us.