Mike Kirsh and Mike Wise, of the rock band the Midway State, said that their new album, Paris or India, was a chance for the band to work together without any outside influences.
“There were a lot more external pressures on the first one,” Kirsh said.
“The four of us were way more involved [on the new album], instead of leaving it up to our management,” Wise added.
Kirsh and Wise, who make up the Jewish half of the Midway State, have been friends since they were students at Thornhill Secondary School. Lead singer and songwriter Nathan Ferraro and drummer Daenen Branberger, both from Collingwood, Ont., originally formed the band with two other musicians who were fired. Wise and Kirsh joined in 2006, and they said that they each of them brings a different skill sets to the band.
Bassist Kirsh controls the finances of the band, and guitarist Wise is in charge of promotion. Kirsh said that taking control of more aspects of the band made this album a better experience for them than their first one, Holes, which was released in 2008.
“We’re doing exactly what we want to do as a group now, instead of doing what other people want us to do,” Wise said.
Kirsh added, “After the first record we made sure we were in charge of every aspect of our career.”
They both had advice for aspiring musicians. Wise said it’s important to have a backup career plan but not focus too much on it. Wise added that if you’re too focused on a backup plan, you lose focus from your real dream.
“You also need to be punctual,” Wise said. “That’s what my zaide always told me.”
Kirsh added, “You need to focus on getting really good at your craft before you present your stuff.”
Wise said that being Jewish doesn’t really affect their music, but being in the band does make them miss a lot of Jewish holidays. Kirsh said there’s a common pressure in many Canadian Jewish households to be something more stable than a musician but that their families had been very supportive.
“Music is a big part of the Jewish community I grew up in,” Wise said.
He added that he knows a lot of Jewish musicians, especially from Thornhill. When Wise went on Birthright about five years ago, there were so many musicians in his group, including Dan Kanter, who is Justin Bieber’s guitarist, that the trip’s leaders booked a venue that they could perform in.
Wise and Kirsh said the band gets along well, and there haven’t been any major fights. Kirsh attributes this to their relaxed attitude toward problems.
“Sure there’s tensions, since we’re four artistic beings, but there’s also a lot of group instinct going on,” Kirsh said.
Wise added, “We see it as like being in a relationship.”
Even when they were playing small shows with their band in high school, Wise and Kirsh, who are now both 26, said they always knew they would be successful. Their songs have since been in television shows such as The O.C., and they have opened for Third Eye Blind, Death Cab for Cutie and K-OS. They were nominated for two Juno Awards and won a Much Music Video Award for Best New Artist in 2011. They did a duet with Lady Gaga, which was never commercially released but they said that it was fun to work with her.
During high school, Kirsh said they would make about $40 for a show, but they still knew that music would be how they would make their living.
“We always wanted to do this, and we always envisioned making it,” Kirsh said.
When asked what they would be doing if they weren’t in a band, they both had difficulty answering since they agreed that music was all they ever wanted. They said that they would try to answer for each other.
“Kirsh would be doing something cool, like running a scuba-diving school,” Wise said.
“And he’d probably go to law school and become a very confused lawyer,” Kirsh said, about Wise.
Their goals for the future are to keep playing and improving as musicians. They also want to continue to tour, and said they would love to play in Israel. They said they would like to have their songs in more shows and in movies. But, for now, they said they hope the band keeps doing as well as it currently is.
“If I could keep playing and have food on the table, it’s hard to imagine ever doing something else,” Kirsh said.
“If we stay on the trajectory we’re on, we should be able to do that,” Wise added.
Paris or India, released on July 19, has a different sound than their previous album, Wise said. The title track, Paris or India, written by Ferraro, is about choosing between two exotic and very different locations. He said the song is about a time in everyone’s life when you have to make real adult decisions about the direction your life will take.
The album offers 10 tracks, and all of them show unique musical styles. Heart of Glass is a slow, romantic ballad, while Atlantic is a more upbeat melody and is a lot catchier. Other songs include All Anew, a more rhythmic track that’s almost hyperactive it its pace. Change For You has a mournful-sounding chorus, but the verses have a bit more of a positive feel and are the type of lyrics that can get stuck in anyone’s head for days.
Wise said that what the band learned from the first album made the second even better. “It’s more eclectic than the first one and a little more linear,” he said. “On this record every song is way more singular and unique.
Kirsh added, “We made a point to make a more upbeat album this time.”
The Midway State will be touring around Canada in the fall. For more information, go to themidwaystate.blogspot.com or follow them on Facebook or Twitter at www.facebook.com/themidwaystate or @themidwaystate.