Laura Misch is an innovative, dynamic and imaginative talent. Based in London, Laura greatly emphasises activism for environmental causes in her music, using her Saxophone abilities to curate intricate riffs, patterns and sounds that signify environmental elements like the wind. I was lucky enough to have a phone call with Laura ahead of her performance in Stockholm, where we dived into her latest project Sample the Sky and tackled topics such as her relationship with nature, musical influences and her production processes.
Opening her album, we have ‘Hide to Seek’, a track about becoming one with the planet and the environment. Laura characterises this track as more of a dance track compared to her other songs on this album.
Luckily, the hook in the chorus from the modular allowed Laura’s riff to emerge, as she stated, “the kind of hook that was there in the chorus came from the modular, and the saxophone riff emerged from that”. Of course, anyone can make a song with a Saxophone, but Laura used another very special technique to enhance her sound and emphasise environmental links by “layering field recordings”. To do this, she used “Geophone cameras which are microphones you can put inside trees to measure vibrations. Including natural sounds makes for a fascinating and unique yet somewhat familiar listen”.
The second track on this album is ‘Light Years’, a jazzier take on bass-heavy songs. Saxophone is again used heavily in the chorus, in a way that Laura described as “ind inspired” in her Spotify description. Reading this, I was curious as to what she meant, and how she was able to convey that effect. Her response was “When you think about the sound that occurs naturally… there’s a whole range of sound that’s provoked and sustained by the wind that’s called aeolian sounds… I started to think more and more that I was just another wind source”. We both chuckled at that comparison. She continued, “my style of playing is quite breathy, so you hear a level of white noise as well as the saxophone tone”. The breath and the wind are not dissimilar, and her intentionally imperfect and breathy playing makes for an effective leitmotif, highlighting the wind and her connection to nature yet again.
The next track is ‘Portals’, a harrowing yet mesmerising track about her late grandfather becoming part of nature. In the music video, her hair is tied into braids with flowers and grass, and she is wearing a majestic cloak made from moss and plants. The idea behind the video, as Laura put it, was “returning to the earth, and being interconnected with the earth because the song is actually about my grandad’s death which happened a couple years ago”. This idea of returning to nature personally gave me a lot of hope as a child when I had my naïve emotional outburst about the concepts of death, and Laura using this hope as a testament to her grandad can relate to a lot of people who have lost loved ones, whereby they can go into nature and know that they are there now.
We went on to speak about one of my favourite tracks on the album ‘Listen to the Sky’. Laura promotes the idea that “in the album being inspired by nature you have to recognise the climate crisis and where we’re at with our disconnection and relationship to nature, so it’s kind of saying we are heading towards a potentially unstable climate… so I guess it all unfolds in ‘Listen to the Sky’ as an ode to listening to nature and listening to weather patterns”. This track is extremely timely, with 2023 being the hottest year on record, and as Samantha Burgess reported, is “currently 1.4 degrees above pre-industrial average”. Therefore, Laura’s message is one that needs to be acknowledged as without change, our one planet and home will cease to exist as we know it. I went on to comment that the brutal honesty and urgency of the message is “probably why it’s my favourite song”.
Her penultimate track ‘Wild Swim’ has an obvious connotation on the surface, which Laura pointed out. When asked what she meant, she exclaimed “When you’re like going for a walk or by the sea and you’re like ‘Hey, should we go in?’, I guess it’s like this primal urge”. As a student based in Brighton, this relates to me heavily. However, diving in can connote new experiences, scary scenarios or life milestones that we have all gone through: “I guess it also has a double meaning because it’s the idea of diving into the fear that the cold water is scary or uncomfortable, and the lyrics in that song talk about a mental struggle… and I’ve always thought of water as good metaphor for mental health… learning to just be a wave in the ocean”. As young adults, a lot of us are trying to find our way through life and the adjustment from challenging authority to adhering to it. Life is about riding those waves and moving with nature, a strong metaphor in this track.
Her final song ‘Birdseye’ is a fitting end to this project. I asked Laura if she could look at the world with a birds eye view, what would she see, and how would she want to change it? She paused, and once she found herself, she stated “you would just feel the vastness of it pulsing. I think when you fly you get a glimpse of that, and you realise the web of the world. I think that, especially at night, when you see all the lights interconnected and you think about all of the movement and all of the lives that are being lived there”. I found this answer very fitting for Laura. All of us are connected by our humanity and our home of Earth, and nature represents Earth more so than anything else. Regarding changing the planet, Laura wants to “increase all of our capacity for empathy because it’s so horrific what’s going on right now with wars and division”. She quoted not wanting to sound like a “iss World contestant” but she really does “hope for world peace one day”. I think world peace is a term thrown around but isn’t strived to be achieved as much as it should. We should preserve each other and preserve the natural world to make it a better place to live.
I loved this album. Its consistency, production, thematic approaches and vocals, all courtesy of Laura Misch, make it a top project from 2023’s extensive discography.