7 Questions with… Mipso Frontwoman Libby Rodenbough

Mipso frontwoman shares talk about the indie folk band’s new album, musical influences, and other Triangle performers to check out.
By Addie Ladner | Calli Westra

Twelve years ago, indie folk band Mipso got its start at UNC Chapel Hill. The group, made up of then-students Wood Robinson, Jacob Sharp, Joseph Terrell and Libby Rodenbough, began to play music together for fun and as a source of supplemental income. “We just kept going after college and it evolved into a full-time gig. It’s hard to imagine doing anything else, honestly,” says Rodenough. 

Today, Rodenbough and Terrell are the only ones who still live in the Triangle area North Carolina with Sharp living in Los Angeles and Robinson in Salt Lake City. But the band is still prolific with the release of its latest album, Book of Fools, this month. We caught up with Rodenbough to talk about Mipso’s the album, her musical influences and other Triangle performers to check out.

Tell me about the album Book of Fools. How did it come to be?

We are in this phase of being musicians now where after it’s been a year or two since making a record, we get an itch to write another one. We’re all songwriters. Songs build up in your head and in your notebook. They eventually want to have a life externally. There’s something that’s a natural pull. This is our sixth album and it’s just part of that cycle but it’s a special one. We wanted to work with a friend of ours, Shane Leonard, a drummer, producer and recording engineer, so we approached him and asked if he wanted to make a record and do it on tape. We recorded it in Oakland, California.

When you say tape, do you mean a cassette tape?

It’s like that in that it’s a physical tape but it’s a different thing. Most people have done recording digitally since the 1990s, but a lot of people have sentimental attachment to or an audio preference for tape. The primary reason we wanted to record to tape is that it makes you want to be part of the recording process differently. When it’s tape, it’s a physical thing you’re more conscious of — not wanting to waste it and wanting to make it count. It’s a finite physical medium. It lends gravity to the moment of recording and makes the recording process feel like a live show. It’s only going to happen once, a moment in time.

How would you describe the songs on this album?

I always have trouble describing the songs. We’ve never gotten together and set out to write songs for a certain type of record. There’s not much that unites them except they come out of our real lives and the stages we’re in.

What stage is that currently?

We’re in our early 30s, in the quarter-life crisis stage thinking things like: are we going to continue on this path? Do we want kids? Should we be homeowners? Typical thoughts and stream of consciousness.

Who are some of your favorite North Carolina musicians? 

So many. One is Sluice who have blown me away with really interesting instrumentation, a great sense of melody, a lot of songs that are really beautiful paintings of a scene some are inspired from a North Carolina childhood. There’s a great song about getting struck by lightning in the Eno. I was there I have a sense of that being about my experience

Another band with the same personality is called Fust. They’re friends who are Triangle-based and a magic string band. They’re an old-time experimental duo. I really love old-time and traditional music. Some of my favorite traditional music is a little weird and unsettling. I can listen to a lot of old recordings of solo fiddle players doing instrumental tunes. 

Favorite bands/musicians in general outside of NC? Some that you would or wouldn’t right now?

I love this songwriter named Joanna Sternberg. She writes these songs that are so direct and simple, it’s almost elementary for a child to enjoy them. They come from a real place emotionally and they hit me in the gut. I can’t explain it, it’s like a magic spell. In the same vein, not typically vocally, I really like this band Dirty Three, an Australian instrumental band. A contemporary band that’s kind in the folk world I like is called Lankum from Ireland. They are in a similar world. They do a lot of traditional Irish tunes and songs. The way they arrange their songs is super creative and interesting.

If you’re in town and going to be a spectator at a venue, not the performing act, where do you go?

My all-time favorite is the Night Light in Chapel Hill, but sadly its future is unknown and it’s temporarily closed. If the Triangle loses that venue it’s going to be such a bummer. The Night Light is the first place I started seeing music in college. I love Neptunes and Kings. Neptunes feels like a kindred spirit. I love that they will book something even if it doesn’t have a proven track record of selling tickets. I also love playing and seeing shows at Perfect Lovers in Durham, an art gallery and community events spot.

Catch Mipso at Lincoln Theatre this weekend, Sunday September 24 with local musician Kate Rhudy. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8. Rodenbough says this show will be a unique one. Purchase a VIP ticket and enjoy an acoustic pre-show which will include song requests and a Q&A before the doors open at 7. “We’re trying this new, more intimate concert experience in places where we have more fans, especially more longtime fans. We’re conscious that now that we have six albums, it’s possible we won’t play an album or song from someone’s favorite. We’re so excited.”

This article was originally published on September 18, 2023 on waltermagazine.com