Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Sitting in a lounge on Main Street in Vancouver, it strikes Stefanie Blondal Johnson and Jodi Dunlop just how much they’ve travelled. Johnson and Dunlop are the founding members of Mise en Scene, a Winnipeg-based quartet that has created buzz with performances at venues such as South by Southwest in Austin, Texas and acclaimed songs from their forthcoming second album, “Still Life on Fire.”
“We obtained Silver Aeroplan status,” Johnson says, eyes wide, her voice sounding incredulous as she reveals that she and Dunlop flew on Air Canada or its affiliated partner airlines so often last year they each accumulated 25,000 miles in the airline’s loyalty program. “We toured and travelled for two solid years. When you look at our artist’s resume and then see where we’ve played, it’s like, ‘What the fuck! How did that happen?’”
Humbled by their experiences, Johnson and Dunlop understand their fortune to travel to Paris, Barcelona and other top destinations to play their own music. They were invited by the Canadian embassy in France to perform with other Canadian bands at an outdoor event near the Eiffel Tower in 2014. The opportunity to promote Canada’s music culture also provided Mise en Scene with its largest audience to date, approximately 15,000 people.
The band usually plays much smaller clubs, including Vancouver’s Fox Cabaret, which has a capacity of about 500 attendees. During a recent performance there, Mise en Scene blazed through a set featuring their alt-rock songs from “Still Life on Fire” and their debut album, “Desire’s Despair,” which featured producers who have worked with Arcade Fire, Beck, and Tegan & Sara.
Winnipeg Rockers Are Opening Eyes
Mise en Scene formed more than five years ago when Johnson and Dunlop, a classically trained jazz drummer, were studying painting and discovered both were also musicians. “One day, she picked up the sticks and I picked up the guitar and it just happened,” Johnson says of their collaboration.
Despite all the travel and glimpses of other ways of life, both Johnson and Dunlop remain happily and loyally rooted in Manitoba. For one thing, Manitoba Music, a not-for-profit association that supports the province’s musicians, has helped to get Mise en Scene noticed through promotions and marketing campaigns. For another, the community and the environment in and around Winnipeg helps to drive their creativity, Johnson says.
“In Manitoba during winter people are in hibernation mode. We might be staying mostly inside but it means we are getting shit done. And a lot of people don’t know just how creative our scene is. We feel very fortunate to live in a hyper-creative city,” Johnson says. “The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is working with indie musicians to bring this cool blend of different genres to audiences. That’s just one example of what’s going on.”
MORE ABOUT MISE EN SCENE
Upcoming Tour Dates: TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival and at Good Will Social Club, June 21