By Dan Barry
9:56 AM EDT, August 22, 2011
with Chrissy Gardner. $8, Friday, Aug. 26, 8-11 p.m., The Outer Space, 295 Treadwell St., Hamden, theouterspace.net
"I basically gave myself a year to write an album of originals. And I got a tattoo to remind myself," says Megan Chenot. That's how the New Haven vocalist blasted out the pop songs that would become Bruises on the Map, Mission 0's debut album. "Last year I went to Bonnaroo, and I remember being so frustrated because I wanted to be up there playing. I didn't wanna be in the audience. I've been touring with bands who are fantastic but mostly played covers."
In fact, readers might remember her from one of those bands, the Keith and Mazer Trio, who have been featured in this column before. (Chenot's maiden name is Keith.) And while Chenot has written some originals for the Trio, as a group they primarily play covers. So it was writing songs for herself that really threw open the floodgates.
Mission 0 plays catchy, vulnerable pop; Frou Frou is a good comparison, as is Sia's more upbeat material. Maybe a dash of Eurythmics in there too, but without the European severity. "It's accessible, and you can listen to it and dance to it, but there's much more of an edge to it than the glossy, pre-packaged pop that's omnipresent right now," explains Chenot.
In addition to vocals, Chenot writes most of the melodic components, using a combination of guitar, piano and dulcimer. "We mix electronic and acoustic elements in each song. That's why we have our motto of 'musicians with robots.' That's kind of how we play live," she says.
The other half of Mission 0 is Megan's brother David Keith, who plays drums and djembe. "We've been mistaken for twins a lot," Chenot says of her brother. "I put my voice through a pitch shifter one time, and brought it down two octaves, and I sounded exactly like him. Plus, it's so much fun to work with somebody who gets all your jokes." Chenot raves about her brother's abilities; she calls him "the best musician in the world," and means it. "He has this amazing ability to communicate with everybody. That's probably what makes him such a great drummer — he listens. He's not just back there doing his own thing keeping the beat."
For his part, Keith's drumming style varies widely from song to song. "Wrapped Around My Wrist" features a clattering, high-energy rock groove, while there's a straight-up club beat on tracks like "Unlove." And "Burn & Fade" features tribal djembe grooves that could be at home on a Peter Gabriel album. Like his sister, Keith also keeps busy with several projects. (His alternative/shoegaze group d.b.k. also released an album recently.)
I asked Chenot what the hardest part is about doing an original band right now. "Waiting," she replied. "I wanna get out there and tour. I wanna play every single night. When we get together and rehearse it's the most fun thing, and when we play live — it's finally knowing where you belong. Right now, for example, I'm waiting for our Outer Space show on Friday. I can't wait to get up there."
If you miss Mission 0 at their Outer Space gig, you can catch them on Saturday, Sept. 3, when they play the Desultory Theatre Club in Torrington. Visit them online for additional show details.