Mi and L'au | Interview

Knoxville News Sentinel | Wayne Bledsoe

Songwriting couple meld their musical and romantic relationships

January 20, 2006 

"We met at a Halloween party," says Mi, calling from Jamaica, where she and L'au are visiting for his sister's wedding. "L'au came up and spoke to me, and the discussion has gone on for four years."

Mi, a native of Finland, was working as a model in Paris. L'au, a French native, was also based in the city.

The two quickly developed a musical and romantic relationship. For their professional partnership, the duo shortened their given names, Mira Romantschuk and Laurent Leclere, to Mi and L'au.

L'au was already a guitarist and composer, and the two began writing lyrics together almost immediately. "Lot of times, we'll have a discussion about a film we saw or just life," says Mi. "Later words (lyrics) will come out of what we talked about.

"We lived in Paris, not buying a home, moving every six months, and I wanted to show L'au where I came from. It also gave us a chance to really know each other."

While getting to know each other better, the two wrote approximately 300 songs.

"You live 24 hours a day with someone, you cannot play the same thing every night," explains L'au. "If you go to a bar to meet a lady, you can tell the same story every night. No one will know. If you live with someone, you can't do that."

L'au pauses for a moment while Mi takes umbrage to the allusion.

"She's killing me," says L'au amid what sounds like his being pummeled. While in Finland, L'au, who plays several instruments, began teaching Mi how to play guitar. Mi has become captivated by all aspects of the instrument. Currently she is fascinated by how differently the guitar sounds depending on climate.

The music on the duo's debut album could definitely be described as atmospheric. Their songs are achingly simple, sparse and quiet. Melodies are picked slowly on guitar. Vocals are almost whispered. The majority of the disc was recorded at the couple's cabin in Finland, and overdubs were added at a studio in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Both Mi and L'au say they draw inspiration from folksinger Nick Drake, blues great Mississippi John Hurt, Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence and classical music.

"We are mixing folk with classical music," says Mi. "Classical is our background." L'au cites American jazz greats Thelonious Monk and Chet Baker as well.

Although the rustic cabin where the couple stayed in Finland was a haven for creativity, the country didn't offer much in the way of venues to play in, so Mi and L'au returned to France to perform their new material. The duo's North American tour began last week.

The two say they get along well. L'au says the two do not separate their musical and romantic lives.

Mi, however, does see a difference. "In music, we never fight," says Mi. "As a couple, sure, we fight. That is normal. Everybody does that."

Perhaps it's because, musically, both feel as if they are students.

"Learning together is really nice," says Mi. She says that both she and L'au look forward to learning more about the blues and its guitar styles while visiting the United States.

"I can imagine L'au as an old man sitting on a porch playing blues."