You know that type of spacious magic David Bowie has in his music that you can’t quite put your finger on? Well, we think the only person who has managed to figure out what makes his style so unique is Erin Birgy, the frontperson of jazz-inspired rock group Mega Bog.
As a group, Mega Bog explores idiosyncratic pop and and the uplifting breeze of saxophone-driven instrumentation. But it’s Birgy who threads it all together with a unique sense of melody and a keen understanding of how space deepens intent. On Mega Bog’s most recent record, 2017’s sparkling Happy Together, Birgy brings a new type of cohesiveness to the band’s sound. Maybe that’s because it took three years to work out, or maybe it’s just because Birgy knows how to draw the best out of the group.
“I think all of my favorite records have this jazz production,” says Birgy. “They’re rock, but they’re extremely experimental and have a lot of amazing jazz players, like how Thin Lizzy records have a lot of saxophone buried in a strange way, Bowie’s Diamond Dogs, or Joni Mitchell’s amazing players. It’s nice to see what people can come up with. I have a lot of ideas in mind when we build songs, but when you have such amazing players with you, it’s fun to watch them do their thing.”
To help Mega Bog flex ideas before opening for Destroyer at the Sinclair, we interviewed Birgy for a round of Wheel of Tunes, a series where we ask bands questions inspired by their song titles. The answers range from inspiring heroes to overrated characters, and we are here for all of it.
DIGBOSTON: In your opinion, who is the most overrated Disney character from its “classic” era?
BIRGY: Wow, I guess I’m not sure. I keep thinking of all the people I love. I loved the Robin Hood movie, I loved Robin Hood, loved the snake. But I’ve always felt like Mickey Mouse is extremely overrated. He’s the worst character. He gets the star roles but never knows what to do with them. I love Goofy and I love Pluto; it always struck me as weird that they’re the butt of all the jokes.
2) “She’s History”
DIGBOSTON: Who is one female revolutionary that you think should be taught in history books?
BIRGY: Nina Simone. I feel like she could be in every kind of subject book, too. She can teach a lot about mental health. She can explain civil rights movements. She’s an incredible musician and has some of the most unique jazz arrangements. She pushed every limit there was, really.
DIGBOSTON: Do you have any sisters?
BIRGY: I have an ex-stepsister named Lillian.
4) “TV Mac”
DIGBOSTON: When you go over to a friend’s and they have an Apple TV, what’s the first thing you pull up on it?
BIRGY: Well, I watch a lot of Star Trek and I’m on the second season of Star Trek: Voyager, so that’s probably what I’d pull up. Or I would pull up some episode from Star Trek: The Next Generation that I would want everyone in the room to see. I’ve seen all the originals before, though. Last year was my year of Star Trek where I watched it all day, every day, in between every activity.
DIGBOSTON: Where were you living in 2014?
BIRGY: I was living in Seattle and Chicago and Montreal, moving back and forth between those. It was by choice to work with different people, all to get out of this extremely crappy element I was in. I was trying to see what I could find if I ran away.
DIGBOSTON: How old were you the first time you went to London?
BIRGY: It wasn’t until after writing this song, actually! I had a friend go there, send photographs back, and I hung the photos on a strip in my room. I wrote lyrics by looking at those pictures of London. But then I visited in February of 2017, so I was 27. It was really fun, where we projected our expectations on the city and received all of them in return.
7) “Modern Companionship”
DIGBOSTON: How would you define the ideal relationship?
BIRGY: It would be a loose definition, and I think that part of it would state that. I’d want there to be a lot of playfulness, experimentation, and plenty of rocks in the middle to stand on, while still being open-ended. Lots of good communication for all parties.
8) “Worst Way”
DIGBOSTON: Have you recently found out there’s an easier way to do something than how you’ve been doing it?
BIRGY: I talked to my friend today about being less bitter. I think I’ve found better ways to deal with my anger. Sometimes just straight-up denying it and setting aside a time to work on it later is helpful. It’s hard to describe, but the way to deal with it better is by not taking things personally all the time. Realizing you’re not the main subject of what’s going on around you. Then you’re more fit to take care of yourself and others.
DIGBOSTON: What’s the most embarrassing story you have from getting blackout drunk?
BIRGY: When I was 14, I was in Spokane, Washington, and hanging out with my first boyfriend ever. He was a lot older and had a house with all their friends. This was when I started doing a ton of drugs. I had no idea what I was taking, but I was also drinking a lot. I walked out into the duck pond at the park where the drum circle was. I stuck my head in there and started barfing on everyone around me while being covered in duck shit. The drum circle is kind of a big deal because it’s where everybody hung out and shared their goth gossip. It got cancelled after that. The cops had to shut it down. I didn’t feel bad, because it was also stupid, but it was pretty embarrassing to be the one who shut that down. The end of an era [laughs].
10) “Black Rose”
DIGBOSTON: What’s the worst gift you’ve ever been given on a date?
BIRGY: I’m not really sure, as I haven’t been given many gifts, but I was in a relationship for a while where the only time we could hang out was extremely late, like at 2 am. We would just drive endlessly, which was odd. “You like driving, right? I’m going to put you in this situation.” Gee, thanks. I was fucking tired and just wanted to be intimate. So having to drive around felt like a bad gift, or rather a series of bad gifts.
DIGBOSTON: Can you name three simple or mundane things that make you smile?
BIRGY: I was just smiling at Zach who was eating messily at this Czechoslovakian bakery, and he makes me smile. My friends make me smile. Trollies make me smile, the trolls with gems in their tummies and high bright hair, and trolls in mythologies, too!
DESTROYER, MEGA BOG. WED 1.24. THE SINCLAIR, 52 CHURCH ST., CAMBRIDGE. 8PM/18+/$20. SINCLAIRCAMBRIDGE.COM