Old Man Of The Woods is the initially confusingly named ambient pop project of Richmond, Virginia musician Miranda Elliot, christened not after a person but a type of Mushroom. Miranda released her debut EP, Dissolve back in 2020, and is set to return next month with her first album, Votives. The record taking its title from the candles lit in churches to commemorate those we’ve lost and to keep their memory burning.
This week Miranda has shared the latest track from Votives, in the shape of a new single, Let Me Miss You, a track she describes as, “a post-breakup plea to gain enough distance from someone that you’re able to leave them in the past”. The track enters on a wave of surprisingly unnerving ukulele chords as Miranda longs for a simpler time where disconnection was the norm, “I wish that it was 1970, “I’d call your answering machine, pretend you’re whispering to me, instead I see your face on every screen”. While the jagged reverberating chords remain throughout, they’re joined by an ever-progressing percussive track, first a gentle shaker soundtracks a visceral image of attempting to isolate the pain, before a stomping processed beat arrives for the gargantuan chorus refrain, “let me miss you, let me forget you, if I can’t kiss you, can I regret you?”. The track is a beautiful contrast to the tones of the previously released title track, Votives, a synth-driven number existing in the middle ground of John Grant and Half Waif, that imagines re-igniting a past relationship like a candle, and the freedom in realising you’d still snuff it out every time. Two tracks in and Votives is already shaping up to be one of the year’s most intriguing new releases, an album that muses on relationships as if they’re clouds, parting and reuniting, one second the record feels engulfed in a deep nebulous fog of doubt, the next it is a sunbeam breaking through, shining a light on what is it to be human, in love, out of love and very much willing to learn how to cope with both.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Old Man of the Woods?
OMW: Old Man of the Woods is an experiment in alchemizing shit into sustenance, named after a dark, scruffy mushroom that survives by the same creed. It’s an exercise in constructing new worlds from the rubble, built of swirling synths, buzzing bass, and ethereal harmonies that envelop you like a hug. I write, record, and produce alone in my home studio. The process is very internal, born of a need to find a way to converse with myself, or at least listen to myself. The sound verges on collage, resulting from a lifetime of listening intently to everything else – chirping birds, screaming cicadas, rushing rapids, rustling leaves, distant trains, Britney’s “Toxic”. In Jon Doyle’s words, my 2020 debut EP Dissolve “blurs the line between the personal and the natural world, conjuring a vivid and sometimes eerie soundscape as damp and rich as the woodland floor”. My upcoming 2021 debut LP Votives delves deeper, entering the subconscious realm. It combines songs written over the past three years into a sonic labyrinth of love and loss guided by a dream I had after writing the title track, that our minds are little churches filled with votives burning for everyone we’ve loved.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
OMW: The first live Old Man of the Woods show was this June at a friend’s farm in Stuarts Draft, VA. They hosted a summer solstice festival with cute bands and delicious food from their farmer neighbors. It was so magic, almost felt like another era. I invited a friend to sing harmonies and we rented a little cottage nearby to catch up and practice for a couple days before. The evenings were full of fireflies and mornings were full of cows. If we woke up early enough, we’d catch them grazing outside the kitchen window. The festival itself fell on the most quintessential southern summer night. The air was sticky and thick and we performed on a trailer bed as the sun set and full moon rose. Ducks wandered by, chickens squaked in the distance, a choir of bugs sang along, it was incredibly wholesome and sweet (aside from some classic first show technical difficulties). I’d never sung the songs from Dissolve with anyone or to anyone before. The feeling I remember most vividly was this realization that they’d become independent of me.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I’ve found music to be much more empowering than other art forms – electronic music, specifically. To my dismay, I’m not remotely tactile. My mom is an incredible painter and can do just about anything with her hands. I’ve always hoped I’d grow into that, like it’s some sort of birthright, but I’m shaky as hell and honestly intimidated by the limitations and constraints of physicality. Computers feel limitless, like I could figure out how to make any sound if I really wanted to, and that challenge and potential is intoxicating. Everything I know about music production I’ve learned from online tutorials and playing around in Logic, and it certainly isn’t without its frustrations, but it holds my attention much more than trying to learn guitar or piano ever did. My songs typically start with phrases and grow into lyrics with simple melodies and I build a world around that. I was never able to accomplish that final, crucial step before with physical instruments. My voice and the production process have really become my instrument.
I will say that releasing music requires familiarity with many art forms though, at least if you’re an independent artist. I’m a web developer and designer and love photography, so thus far I’ve created most of the content around my music (album art, merch, visualizers, etc). World-building starts with the sound, but it definitely doesn’t end there. I’m slowly realizing I don’t need to go it all alone though and am enjoying inviting others into the process. I released my first collaboration this summer – the music video for Dissolve – and those videographers (Roman Betanzos, Gabriel Güeiros) created something I could have never imagined. I’m very open to and hoping for more of that.
FTR: What can people expect from an Old Man of the Woods live show?
OMW: Figuring that out is one of my main goals for the next few months. I’ve done a couple virtual performances and one real life one and they were all fun and funky – just my laptop, MIDI controller, and me bopping around. But I want to create a more immersive experience for the audience that allows for more spontaneity and freedom on my part. Too much of my focus is spent trying to match the recorded version of the song, I want to be able to let go and feel it all with everyone. I think the solution may lie in getting out from behind the laptop – I use it to record and produce, so performing with it feels like an extension of the same process. I recently bought a MPC One to try out, but it’s just been staring at me from the corner of my room. Also want to experiment with projections…lots of ideas floating around! Stay tuned.
FTR: What’s next for Old Man of the Woods?
OMW: My debut LP Votives comes out on October 15 with Totally Real Records. We’re releasing some bangers as singles leading up to it, and very pretty vinyl and sparkly gold cassettes are available now for pre-order. So I’m currently in the midst of my first real album cycle, hoping to make more cute merch, collab on crazy videos, figure out a fun live set, all the things. I’m also always writing new music too though – it’s the only way I know how to process emotions anymore – and am quietly excited about what I’m hearing. They’re more minimal and eerie but still very full, we’ll see where they go. Have posted a couple little sketches on TikTok. For now, Votives is imminent, I am so proud of it, and I hope you give it a listen. I had been making music so privately until self-releasing Dissolve last year, and that somehow led to Bryan Bruchman (from TRR) connecting with me, and a whole world of support and encouragement opening up. It’s been wild, I’m very grateful. Have poured so much of myself into this album and can’t wait to share it.
They Listen To…
Sylvan Esso – Slack Jaw
Agar Agar – Prettiest Virgin
Porches – Underwater
Big Thief – Little Things
Perfume Genius – Learning