Iffin picks apart the layers of 'Loveless'

Iffin picks apart the layers of 'Loveless'

Woweeeee it's day 4 of I Enjoy Music (Stoned), aka a weed-themed week where I am publishing interviews with musicians about their THC-infused listening habits.

Yesterday I talked to Maneka's Devin McKnight about the special suitability of Future to high listening, why it's fun to be so stoned you are "unable to speak" at the rock show, and the face of a certain "seemingly cursed looking" jazz guitarist...

Torche - charge of the brown recluse Deftones- pretty much anything Miles Davis - Miles Smiles Wes Montgomery - SOS Charles Mingus - goodbye pork pie hat Duster - Stratosphere/together Swirlies Polvo MF Doom - Madvillainy Blue Smiley - OK Youbet
just a snippet of the Notes app list of recs Maneka shared with me

And today we have Mira Tsarina, who records under the name Iffin, and also has played multiple instruments in a variety of bands around Seattle, including drums in Rat Paws. Iffin's IG bio's genre descriptor is "baroque punk/lesbian chamber pop," and listening to her recent EP PICARO 1: AS THE CROW FIGHTS (released in July of last year) is like gently navigating a spaceship through a vast galaxy of multigenerational theatrical pop/rock signifiers. I hear a little Linda Perry, a little David Bowie, a little Tori Amos...a little Guided By Voices? The dynamic instrumentation—tumbling drums, nimble bass—is sophisticated, but rough around the edges, like a lady who orders a martini at a dive bar.

The layers of Iffin's music offer up choice delicacies for the ear with multiple listens, and after talking to Mira for the blog, I think part of that attention to detail can definitely be attributed to her stoner passion for My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. Over a phone call, we went in on that shoegaze classic, and I also learned about Mira's fascinating musical background, a family affair built upon the altar of active listening. Light up, don't forget to tip your budtender, and dig in...

4 track album

[Molly O'Brien] Are you in Seattle?

[Mira Tsarina] Yes.

How is Seattle?

Awful. Just this week, this fucking amazing DIY venue that was housed in this vegan bakery, that was also a mutual aid pantry—they would host shows at night to fund that, I just played a show there last week—we found out that the owner of the building is just saying, "Fuck it, we're gonna turn this into a seven story apartment building."

Oh, that's a huge bummer.

Where are you from?

I was in New York for 11 years and I just moved to L.A. I'm from Burlington, Vermont originally.

I lived in Burlington for a couple years.

Ah! Were you out there at The Radio Bean or you know, Muddy Waters or some such?

Muddy Waters not so much. I was in Light Club [Lamp Shop] a lot. I was doing the open mic there every week. Also, Manhattan Pizza.

That's great. You understand the Burlington lifestyle. So I know you have you have an EP, and you said you're recording an album?

Yeah, in the mixing stage of the LP. But the EP is only a couple months old. And not many people have heard it, and as it turns out, a lot of the songs on that EP are going to end up on the album anyway. So I'm still plugging this one in the hopes of sparking future debates about which version was better.

You gotta start the mythos early. How long have you been playing music? And, how long have you been playing music as as Iffin?

Two very different answers to that. I've been using the name Iffin
since I think...2020 was when I put the first EP out as Iffin. But I've been playing for let's see...23 years. I got into music pretty young. My first show was 22 years ago this year.

What was the first show?

I was in a band with my older brother and one of his friends. And my dad is a musician too. He was gigging before I was born, and he's still gigging now. He was playing at his friend's bar, and we would go, because what else are we going to do? One night, he was like, "No one's playing anything right now, do you guys want to get up there and do something?"

And this guy Rick Berlin, the guy from Orchestra Luna who is just, like, a local local hero, happened to be there. He invited us to play at this place The Lizard Lounge, in Cambridge. And I got paid better for that show than any show I played for about 10 years.

the exterior of the Lizard Lounge

Oh my god. That's awesome. I feel like 'older brother' is a seriously underrated way to get into music.

Our dad got us both into it. I was experiencing life as a boy at the time. [My dad] would play all the time, and the guys that he hung out with were the other guys that he had been playing music with since he was a kid, basically. So it's just what we were doing at the time, and we picked up instruments because they were there in the house. We're very lucky in that regard.

Ever since I've seen the documentary about the Bee Gees, I've thought that siblings in a band is a very powerful thing. Because you can never really "break up." You can end the band, but you can't break up...because you're related.

Actually, we managed to do that.

You did?

We didn't fall out, but we were in this band together for so long. And then a few years later on, he started his own band with another friend of his that was a very different kind of thing, so one day he was like "I'm demoting myself to just the drummer, you're taking over leading this band." And then we did that for a couple of years, and then when he went off to college he was like, this is it, you're on your own now.

This is what being a stoner musician means to me, by the way, is this very long-winded mythologizing.

I love it! It's great. And that transition is incredible, so let's get into the 'weed and music' of it all. I know when I reached out, you said you were "unjustly sober" at the moment. Are you off weed, taking a T-break?

Oh no, I'm sorry. I meant literally right at that moment.

[laughing hysterically]

I got no excuse for that. No, I'm pretty stoned right now. I didn't have any when I woke up and I made sure the one errand I've gotten to today was going over to the weed store.

It's a fun errand. In this case, you go to the weed store—what are you buying? What is in your haul?

I'm a creature of habit. And it's a weird thing for a guitarist to say but I don't like doing little fiddly things with my hands. So I always get pre-rolls. They're cheap and they're dependable. I take however much cash I have in my wallet and grab as many of those as I can afford, that will let me leave a tip for the for the weed barista or whatever.

And then I basically don't think about it. I sort of do the sativa during the day, indica at night thing, but I'm not super convinced it really matters all that much.

Do you like listening to music while stoned? And do you have any particular favorites that you reach for when you are stoned and listening to music?

The way that music sounded stoned is the only thing that was appealing to me about weed for a long time. I was super not interested in it. I resisted for a long time, until I finally found the environment where I felt safe trying it. And as soon as I realized how stoned I was, I freaked out. I ran straight to the computer and I put on Loveless and slumped over in front of the speaker.

I smoked weed pretty rarely for the first several years. Every time I had it, I was like, yes, it's time to listen to Loveless. I was already completely obsessed with that album for much of my adolescent life, but that was always the prize. I could tell whether I was having a good time on weed or not based on what Loveless sounded like through my headphones at that moment.

That is incredible. I love that so much. Did you ever listen to it not stoned? Or was it saved as a stoner treat?

I had already spent years with it as like a straight edge person. Back when getting stoned was more of an event, that's much always the one I would reach for. I feel like a lot of the kinds of sounds that I'm working with now come from what I noticed by being stoned, listening to that album really loud. When people asked me why I smoked weed—because there I was around a lot of people who would question my decision to do that, and I should have listened to them back then—the thing that I would always say that I liked about it was that it helps you separate the layers of things, helps you see between the layers of things to notice more stuff.

Finding my own way to hear all that stuff and wanting to recreate it was a big part of what drove me towards all of the other stuff that I was getting into and trying out. And it wasn't just My Bloody Valentine that I listened to, because that album only lasts for so long. But that was definitely the standard.

another deepish, by iffin
2 track album

That's so interesting. Because with Iffin, is it a full DIY project? Are you writing, playing, recording producing all yourself?

As a recorded entity, pretty much. Although I have this guy I have been working with for the last couple of years whose presence is going to be made known on the album. Everything that's come out so far, it's just been me doing all that.
But he plays saxophone in the live band, and he does arrangements, and he plays a bunch of instruments, and he knows a bunch of players. And I'm having him contribute to the songs now. So just as of now, the project is expanding beyond myself. I finally found someone I can trust with it.

So say when you're listening to Loveless, are you trying to pick out instrumentation, or technical things that they did with the production? Is that something that becomes more apparent when you are stoned on weed?

Being stoned on weed certainly makes me think so.


There's no way to know completely. Although, I'm a dork, I've done a ton of research on this album and the means by which it was produced. The emotional states of everybody involved, the chemical health of all of them, it's all well documented. So part of it is having that already, and figuring out how it might apply to any of the particular things that I'm hearing.

One of my favorite games to play when listening to Loveless is: you know that third song, "Touched," the one that the drummer made? It's all made out of samples from other songs on the album that have been manipulated, stretched out, or the pitch has been changed, or they're being played in reverse, or whatever. And every time I listened to that, I'd be able to pick out one more—this one part here is a sampled version of that part of that song that's been slowed down...just kind of sharpening my producer senses, looking for finer details.

I remember thinking, when I heard the way the guitars sound on Loveless: how is that guitar making all those sounds? How do you play a guitar in a way that sounds like that? And so, separating the guitar that's being played from the effects that are being applied to it, and the other stuff that's like, interacting with it...I couldn't tell you what specific purpose all of this study is for. But it's fun to listen to on weed for sure.

It certainly makes sense to me, even as...not a thought exercise, but an ear exercise...working out your ear-brain connection?

Yeah, active listening.

Active listening.

It's the approach that that my brother and I were trained with, that has gotten the two of us as far as we've come. Our dad is the musician, right? Initially, for the first couple of years, he would coach us through our rehearsals. We would get together and learn covers, and maybe there'd be a party or something to play at. But my dad'd be in there listening to us go over the song, and then giving his input on how to improve the performances.

Our instrument teachers were our dad's bandmates. My dad taught the guitar player guitar, and his bass player taught me bass, and his drummer taught my brother drums. Every week at our lessons, we would pick a song to learn, and we'd all get together and play it at rehearsal. And just go on and on and on and on like that. The training that I got to be a bass player was to understand the patterns and be able to pick stuff up quickly. It was all ear training.

It can be a bit of a nuisance now trying to listen to music in a less critical way. But my whole approach is to try to track the movement, and see how particular gestures create certain effects. And those might be movements between chords, it might be processing applied to a particular instrument. My thing was 'two guitars' for a while because I loved hearing guitars bounce off of each other, and I was all about listening to bands that figured out different ways to do that.

I'm always doing that. I'm always kind of on a project of some kind, trying to understand some particular thing so that I can find what there is for me in there.

Thank you Mira! And thanks for reading I Enjoy Music. If you like the blog, tell a friend.

Iffin has a double EP in the works—stay tuned and follow her for updates. Check out her link aggregation. And if you're in Seattle, Mira has an upcoming show on March 4th at Sunset Tavern, and a regular open mic at Darrell's Tavern. Flyers below: