Riding on a wave of white light
Like many, singer, songwriter and keyboard player Rebecca Mimiaga has been struggling with the difficulties presented by the current state of America. After years of writing personal songs, she decided to address her concerns by creating LOUIZA, a persona to balance her intimate approach with a political perspective. “I didn’t consciously decide to become political,” Mimiaga said, “but many of the things that move me to sing these days are political, humanitarian issues.”
Those topics are the subject matter of On Off and White Light, her first two offerings as LOUIZA.
“On Off wrestles with the role technology plays in our lives,” Mimiaga said. “Social media and dating apps allow us to dictate which parts of ourselves we show to the world and which parts we don’t. The longer we depend on these technologies, the more they change our relationship to ourselves, each other and our perception of the world. It gets to the point where it’s no longer clear who, or what, holds the ‘on, off switch.’”
“Anomie” opens with Mimiaga’s synth laying down sustained notes supporting a low key, melismatic vocal, sung against a rolling backbeat that morphs into a funk-accented pulse. Mimiaga said the song examines the risks genetic modification presents. “If parents can design every aspect of their babies, without any ethical limits or regulation, where will that leave us?” she asked. Metallic guitar effects and a chorus of multi-tracked vocals give “Color Me Out” an expansive feel, as Mimiaga sings about the way women and girls are judged on their appearance.
The songs on White Light were inspired by Mimiaga’s wedding, the birth of her brother’s first child and her father’s cancer diagnosis. “My emotions made me feel like white light running through a prism, experiencing every possible combination of color and feeling,” she noted.
“The One You Lost” is a mid-tempo R&B tune, with a brisk rhythm track. Drums, bass and electric guitar magnify the intensity of the lyrics. Mimiaga’s wordless harmonic accents amp up the song’s bleak atmosphere. “This is my reaction to the overturning of Roe,” Mimiaga said. “It’s an example of how biblical views still oppress women in our political culture.”
Mimiaga was born in Mill Valley and grew up listening to the blues albums her father played. “I always knew I was going to grow up to be a songwriter and performer,” she said. “I tried to imagine more stable paths, but I couldn’t run from myself. My dad turned me on to Howlin’ Wolf, then I got into John Lee Hooker and Big Mama Thorton. The blues and blues-based music moved me more than anything. The sound goes straight to my bones.
“I started piano lessons when I was eight and voice lessons at 11,” Mimiaga continued. “I was doing community musical theater, and I wanted to get better to get better roles. In high school, we put together rock, folk and blues bands, as a class. I was already writing songs. I performed a few originals in high school, but I was really just writing for me at that point.”
After graduation, Mimiaga studied classical voice at Skidmore College. “I slowly realized I wanted to learn more about contemporary music and commit to being a musician,” she said. “I was writing songs, although I hadn’t performed them for anyone. I auditioned for the New School For Jazz and Contemporary Music [in New York City].”
While she was working on her BFA in vocal performance, she started playing dates, both solo and with bands. As she developed her style, her songwriting became more adventurous. “The songs featured through-composed arrangements for piano and voice. I played with a small string chamber ensemble, or a jazz trio. The music was often sad and very personal. Writing songs started out as a diary for me, a way to process how emotional and fragile I felt,” she said.
“After some time, I got tired of playing sad songs. I wanted to explore writing in a bold, playful way,” Mimiaga continued. “I wanted an artistic name to reflect that, so I started playing as LOUIZA. I came up with the name by combining Rebecca and Louise, my first and middle names.”
“It’s important to have consistent content these days,” Miniaga said. “You stand the chance of getting more plays for each song, which is important for algorithm-based mediums like Spotify. Live, I like to stretch out with the band. The goal isn’t to render the album on stage; it’s to connect with people, so they can experience the music more fully.”
LOUIZA will play a singles release party on June 22 at Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., San Francisco. rickshawstop.com. ‘Burn Out’ will be released on May 5 at all usual digital outlets. It can be pre-saved here: distrokid.com/hyperfollow/louiza/burn-out-2.