For Thao and Mirah, it all began with a mutual love of cottage cheese and “Mambo No. 5.” Or at least that’s how one of them remembers it.
“We met on a cruise ship, we met in the dining area of the cruise, and we both grabbed for the cottage cheese spoon at the salad bar and both started humming the same tune as we were doing that,” said Mirah. The song? ’90s hit “Mambo No. 5” by Lou Bega. “So then we thought, ‘Well, it’s meant to be that we do a project together.’”
After hearing Mirah’s side of the story in a separate phone interview, Thao laughed: “The true boring version is that we have a mutual friend that works with both of us in our jobs,” she said.
On Tuesday, June 29, the two indie songstresses will play a collaborative show at High Noon Saloon backed by the band The Most of All.
Mirah is an indie singer-songwriter with a captivating lyrical wit paired with a unique sound ranging from playful to serene. Since her debut on the alternative music scene in the late ’90s, Mirah has released eight albums, two EPs and a DVD, her most recent work being the full-length album “(a)spera” released in March 2009.
“I started as a solo musician more, but then as soon as I realized that I didn’t want to just play music by myself forever, that left me open to the whole world, any possibility,” Mirah said.
Thao Nguyen is known as the front woman of Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, an alternative folk rock band from San Francisco whose second release, “Know Better Learn Faster” garnered much critical buzz. Both artists have fared well on alternative music site Pitchfork.com, a testament to their significance in the modern singer-songwriter genre.
After that mutual friend suggested the singers collaborate, in February of this year the two performed together at the Noise Pop Festival in San Francisco. They hit if off and decided to continue the magic with the Heat Tour.
When interviewed separately, both expressed delight in the success of the random collaboration.
“It’s been a lot of fun. …What did she say?,” asked Thao, laughing. “It’s been a really welcome challenge, I think.”
Mirah agreed, calling the shows “super fun.” This kind of project is nothing new for Mirah, who has paired with Brooklyn-based musician Ginger Brooks Takahashi and Seattle’s Black Cat Orchestra in the past.
“I’ve always approached my work with a really collaborative feel,” Mirah said.
After rehearsing about 45 songs, the women narrowed the list down to a select set of songs that represented each artist individually, as well as new tunes created together over the course of the tour.
“It’s a lot more of an involved listening experience because we are very different songwriters,” Thao said. “And I think the songs complement each other, but they are very distinct and we like to have a good time.”
When asked to pick one famous musical duo that best represents them, Mirah suggested the Indigo Girls, but in an “Eureka!” moment opted for folk stars Simon and Garfunkel. Both artists’ plans for after the tour revolve around recording, although future partnership may be in the works.
“After the tour, Thao and I are going to work on some new material. I also have a solo recording project that I’ve been working on, still working on writing that,” Mirah said.
The two look forward to their Madison performance and ask fans to prepare for some musical trivia with the ultimate prize – free beer.
“The priority is the energy of the show and the flow of it,” Thao said. “My most optimistic view, and I actually think the truth of it is, it feels like a group of people playing music, having a lot of fun together,” Thao said.