Laura Burhenn, front woman of The Mynabirds, creates with a purpose. Tired of feeling frustrated and angry with the dribble on the radio and rag magazines, she wanted to make a difference. Generals is her protest album, on which Burhenn channels her feelings and freely voices her political opinions.
Generals is a fun and sensible album that doesn’t offend or annoy but invites people to think about what it means to be American. It might not be the ‘60s anymore when people rallied behind a cause, but Burhenn hopes protest songs can make a comeback.
Onstage she wears a fox headdress and performs with stomp boxes borrowed from fellow Omaha band Tilly and the Wall. The Mynabirds are explosive live and their passions are passed along to the audience.
Burhenn’s second political outlet is The New Revolutionaries, a self-portrait project for which women nominate other women they consider modern revolutionaries. Burhenn wants to make a difference in someone’s life and appears to be on the right track.
College Times: How was it finishing Generals?
Laura Burhenn:It’s so funny once you finish an album you have this sense of accomplishment that last for approximately 30 seconds because you realize it’s just the beginning again. It’s at once terrifying and also exciting when you’ve had these songs for a year and you start sharing them with other people. It’s kind of exciting to introduce them to new people; it breathes new life into them.
How did you know this was the kind of album you wanted to make?
Well, pieces of the songs have been around since after September 11. A lot of it came from a long period of political and social frustration and dissatisfaction. And I think listening to some of the songs in the top 40 is almost turning away from what’s really happening in our society and I wanted to speak to that.
It’s a fine line, however, to make something you want to feel is socially aware and hopefully important but I didn’t want it to come across as preachy. Going on tour and bitching about everything that’s wrong every night wouldn’t make for a very fun tour for me, and I don’t think it would make for a fun show for anyone to watch. Making the album was as much of a question of figuring out what’s wrong [and] what’s frustrating but at the same time figuring out how to channel that into really talking about what’s right. The album has ended up having really positive dance songs toward the end. For me, I tend to hang on to the negative pieces and wallow in it so I needed something different and hopeful, particularly being an election year.
I remember what it was like to be 20 and voting for the first time for the presidential election and I remember thinking all the candidates seemed pretty much the same. It’s really easy to get disillusioned and say, “Fuck it, my voice doesn’t matter. It doesn’t count.” But the fact of the matter is that it does. People need to not give up before they’ve even tried.
How has it been starting The New Revolutionists?
When I first started the project I was really excited. I thought this is exactly what we need in our culture right now – these images of strong women who aren’t necessarily making headlines. I’m really honored that women like Rosanne Cash and Kathy Valentine from the Go-Gos are a part of the project but at the same time I love the fact that it’s open for anyone to make a nomination. I’ve gotten some nominations recently from some kids who adore certain teachers of theirs or someone nominating their own mother, which I also did. The idea is to remind women of all levels and careers that what they do makes a difference. When I started the project I thought calling someone revolutionary was a big deal but I have my own definition and everyone else does to. Since the nominations aren’t for me to decide, it’s okay. We don’t have to define it on paper. I think there’s a cohesiveness of the women who dare to live boldly and be themselves and give back to their communities.
What do you hope people take from your projects?
I would love for people to take away that each person is truly powerful beyond your wildest imagination and if you’re dissatisfied with your own life or community or political community around you, you can change it. It takes effort and it takes commitment but it is absolutely possible for us to have the life we want and deserve.
The Mynabirds w/Deep Time, Crescent Ballroom, July 30, 8 p.m., $5