Miki Berenyi on Her Upcoming North American Tour and New Music: “Nothing In My Career Has Ever Been Planned”

Featured photo by Ivan Berenyi

For fans of 1990s shoegaze and dream pop, Miki Berenyi needs no introduction. For the uninitiated, she was one half of the main creative force behind the band Lush, who released three full-length albums and multiple EPs while signed to the legendary 4AD record label throughout the early-to-mid-90s. Following the band’s breakup in 1998 and a short reunion in 2016, she helped form the band Piroshka in 2018. Her memoir Fingers Crossed: How Music Saved Me From Success was published in 2022, and she began receiving offers to do book readings paired with short sets of Lush and Piroshka material. All of that has culminated in her first North American tour leading the Miki Berenyi Trio, which is poised to start at The Fonda Theater in Los Angeles on May 29th. I caught up with her to ask about the upcoming tour, as well as past and future music.

Tyler King: I want to preface all of my questions by saying, I’m sorry if you’ve answered any of my questions in your memoir, but unfortunately it’s not available in North America yet so I haven’t had a chance to read it! Will it be available on your upcoming tour?

Miki Berenyi: Yeah, it’s going to out on the 8th of April, I want to say. So very soon! It’s been a nightmare organizing it to be released in North America, but the last I was told was that date!

TK: Some of the best news that I’ve seen all year is that you’re going on tour in a few months in North America. How are you feeling about it, and how did the tour come about?

MB: I will be very happy and excited once all of the admin and paperwork is taken care of and out of the way! At the moment I’m in a slight panic about it because the new world of the music business means there is no record company to front all of your costs. And though I constantly get told, “It will be fine, blah blah blah,” at the moment it’s scaring the shit out of me, I’m not going to lie. That being said, the big carrot that dangles there is that it will be lovely to play in America. I can not believe that I’m going on tour with Budgie and Lol Tolhurst, which is a bit of a teen dream come true for me.

If I’m totally honest about how the entire tour came about, it’s because of the Schellraiser festival in McGill, Nevada that got set up first. They came up with an offer which was enough money to get us over there, or so I naively thought! How little I knew! But it was enough to handle the huge costs of our visas, and so we thought, ‘Well if that’s all taken care of, it would make sense to play shows around that.’ So it really blossomed out of that.

When I was in Piroshka, I think that it would have been great to be able to play in North America with that band and those albums. But that just wouldn’t have been practical from a financial point of view. So after me, Moose (KJ McKillop), and Ollie (Cherrer) began playing these shows as the trio around my book tour, we thought, ‘Well, we could just make an album just the three of us.’ So we’re writing new songs as a trio, which has a real nimbleness to it. As much as I loved playing with Piroshka, it was a fucking nightmare trying to organize live stuff because it was a five piece. We would barely break even. But with just the three of us, it’s so much easier.

Love Drips and Gathers by Piroshka

TK: So is that to say that Piroshka is no more?

MB: It’s no more for the moment. I don’t like shutting the door on things, so if there was a chance that we could do another album, I would be open to that, although that would, again, mean having to deal with the complications of being in a bigger band.

TK: You mentioned earlier about not having a label to back you on this upcoming tour. How would you compare setting up this tour compared to the first time that Lush toured North America?

MB: Oh, god! You enter into the music business at a certain point and you think it’s always been that way and it always will be that way. I think that when we signed to 4AD that the label had signed a deal with Warner Music around that time and Ride had signed to Reprise at the same time, and we were sent out into North America together to do a tour. So in effect it had that kind of major label funding behind it. I was just like, “Great, we’re going to America!” I think the same thing happened on subsequent tours where the cost was split between Warner and 4AD, or however that worked. But I definitely took for granted the fact that there was a record label that sorts all of that crap out for you: the visas and the crews and the bus and the routing and the agent and the whole lot!

TK: Do you feel more pressure performing as part of the trio than as a member of Lush or Piroshka, since it’s your name in the foreground of it all?

MB: It’s my name, but I can honestly barely stand to refer to it as the “Miki Berenyi Trio.” I wish I could just reduce it down to MB3; I just find it deeply uncomfortable. But the boys decided it would be best to use my name because they said, “Look, we can use another name, but nobody’s going to know it’s you!” Which is kind of what happened with Piroshka. These days you have to put your name front and center because there isn’t as big of an avenue in terms of press and publicity like there was “back in the day.” The name would only be more blunt if we called it “Miki From Lush.”

I think we’re going to put out a new track imminently, because I don’t know if by calling it the Miki Berenyi Trio if people will think that we’re just going to be a Lush cover band. We haven’t recorded a full album yet, but we did start out by playing a bunch of Lush songs at our live shows, and then as we write our own new songs we put them into the set and push the old songs out. At the moment we’re about half and half between older songs and the new songs.

TK: How do you choose what Lush songs and what Piroshka songs will be in your setlist?

MB: This probably isn’t a big secret, but post-Lush reunion I fell out with Emma Anderson and Phil King. So it was a little bit tricky in terms of deciding what songs to play. I didn’t want to piss anyone off, and so I decided that the safest way to go about it would be to just play my own songs from when I was in Lush. Initially I had the song “Scarlet” in the set, which was my lyrics and Emma’s music. But that also brings up something I love about being in this new trio, is that all of us are writing songs, it isn’t just a solo project.

Light From A Dead Star by Miki Berenyi Trio

TK: I listened to the Miki Berenyi Trio re-recording of the Lush song “Light From A Dead Star,” which came out about a week ago. Was the impetus for that to show how the trio is interpreting the Lush material, or was it more of a promotional kind of release for the tour?

MB: We actually recorded new versions of four Lush songs! Mainly because when we were playing them live at shows, Simon Raymonde from Bella Union said, “You should record these, because these are really nice versions.” And they are a bit different because Moose is playing the guitar a little differently and the drums are programmed instead of live drums. So there is a little change in the mood of them. We didn’t have a plan with what to do with them, we just thought we would record them while we were working on our own music. I actually don’t know what we’re going to do with them yet! [laughs]

TK: So they’re not going to be on the MB3 album?

MB: No, that will be all new stuff.

TK: How do you feel playing the new MB3 material live versus playing older material like “Light From A Dead Star?”

MB: It almost feels easier, and I’m not really sure why. I don’t feel as nervous playing live as I used to feel, maybe because the pressure isn’t as much. Lush got to a point where there was always press attention to the point where we were always a bit terrified of the criticism of when we put out some of those records. But with MB3, part of it is that I’m fucking old and I’m not trying to kickstart a new career and end up playing stadium tours. So I can go out now and play a gig and not have to think that it means anything more than that gig in that moment.

TK: Will the MB3 album be released through Bella Union or through 4AD, or is that something that’s still being worked out?

MB: I definitely want it to come out on Bella Union! Nothing is confirmed, but the intention is that they’ll put it out.

Tyler King & Miki Berenyi, 2016

TK: It’s funny because when I was trying to set up this interview, the initial person I contacted sent me someone else’s contact info, and then that person sent me someone else’s contact info, and so on and so forth, until finally I was told, “You want to email Simon from Bella Union.” And I decided on a whim to look them up, and lo and behold it’s Simon Raymonde from Cocteau Twins! I had no idea he was so involved with you on that level. All I knew was that the two of you had recorded “And David Seaman Will Be Very Disappointed About That” years ago in The Lillies!

MB: The relationship has moved on a little bit since then, yes!

TK: With him now being such an integral part of your behind the scenes workings, paired with the fact that Robin Guthrie produced some of the early Lush material, is your connection to Cocteau Twins something that you think of positively or was your connection with Robin at that time something that might have taken attention away from the actual music that Lush was making?

MB: I think that we got quite a lot of crap at the time. There was a lot of, “He’s just taking this new band and he’s swamping them with his sound.” Spooky was not a particularly easy album to make. It was a great process up to a point before some difficulties set in. I also think it was a difficult time because it was right when the relationship between Cocteau Twins and 4AD was falling apart. Not that any of us in Lush were aware of that, we were just thinking, ‘Oh my god we’re recording an album with Robin Guthrie!’

But in terms of the accusations, I always felt that the press liked having a dig at us for a number of reasons. So I never really took that on board, I was very happy working with Robin. There was no doubt that we wanted to make that album with him and we were very happy about it, so I never had any regrets about that. He wasn’t just our producer, he took an actual interest in the band. He would come and see us live and when we would do a John Peel session he came along and helped oversee that. He was genuinely really, really into the band and that was important to us at the time. We didn’t have a huge amount of self-confidence, so someone like Robin Guthrie coming in was a big deal.

Then doing the “David Seaman” song with Simon, that was a bit of fun! When Piroshka started, the band recorded a bunch of demos and I went to Simon saying, “Can you help me out a little bit because I don’t know how any of this works. It’s been twenty years since I’ve been in the music industry. Can you have a listen and maybe give us some advice?” And he offered to put them out! But it is very funny, the intertwining of my own music with the music of the Cocteau Twins.

TK: Now you just have to do a duet with Liz Fraser!

MB: I am not going to make myself look that bad! [laughs]

Gala by Lush

TK: With the recent repressing by 4AD of the three Lush studio albums, do you know if there are any plans to repress the Gala and Topolino compilations?

MB: I would love that! I think that the thing with Gala was that it was always viewed as such a weird album, because it was put together as a compilation for the North American and Japanese market as part of the Warner Music deal. My thinking is that if Gala were to be reissued, I would love it to be put out as the original EPs and the mini album Scar. Not least of all because Ivo Watts-Russell, who used to own 4AD, always hated Gala. He’s a bit purist, but he always saw those EPs and Scar as being individual artifacts, which makes sense because there are even different producers on them! It’s not really a coherent album when they’re all put together. There was talk of putting them out like a box set, and I’m still hopeful that it will happen.

TK: When Lush reunited in 2016, I remember reading an interview with you at the time where you said you were tired of the Lovelife album. Do you still feel that way?

MB: At the time that Lovelife came out we got a lot of accusations of jumping on the britpop bandwagon. Of course the zeitgeist of the time was an influence, but I would argue that it had more of an influence on the selection of the songs that made it onto the album. We recorded a lot of fucking songs for Lovelife. I think it’s illustrative of the track selection that Emma had said that she could have written a song like “Single Girl” at any point in the band’s career, but it wouldn’t have been a single, it would have been a B-side. So when the reunion happened, Emma really didn’t want to play that song because to her it wasn’t a representative Lush song. I do like a lot of the songs on Lovelife, but when we did the reunion our fondness was more towards the earlier material.

When Split came out, it got shat on, if I’m being honest. And some of the songs that Lush is really known for like “Desire Lines” and the song “Lovelife” are on that album and they didn’t get the kind of attention that we felt they deserved at the time. So when we got back together, we thought that we should put the spotlight on those songs.

TK: I thought it was so cool that you and Debbie Googe from My Bloody Valentine just shared the stage together a couple of weeks ago. How did that come about?

MB: Take into consideration that everything that’s happened in my career has never been planned, right? So the thing with Debbie happened because I was booked to do a gig in Ireland, and it turned out that Debbie was doing it to. The organizers of the show asked me if we would like to do an interview together. I went and saw her band play and afterwards she said, “Well what if we did a couple of songs together?” So it wasn’t the end result of some great brainstorming session or something like that!

TK: You have two of the greatest drummers of the post-punk/goth/whatever-you-want-to-call-it genre opening for you on this tour: Lol Tolhurst and Budgie. Did your connection with them begin through their Curious Creatures podcast? And how do you feel about having them for support?

MB: Yeah, we met through the Curious Creatures podcast, and even with them asking me to do that I was just fangirling about the whole thing! And we had so much fun doing it, we chatted and chatted for hours. I think it ended up being a three-episode thing. Then once this tour started coming together, I got asked how I would feel about them coming on the road with us and I went, “Fucking hell! Them supporting us?” The irony didn’t escape me that I’m touring for the first time without a drummer and have two of the greatest drummers in the world opening!

TK: One of them isn’t going to stand in during your set?

MB: No! See, if I had planned it better then maybe we would have done something!

Buy tickets to see the Miki Berenyi Trio at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on June 1st here