Josh Mirsky sits at a table behind an egg sandwich at the Daily Grind. It’s a coffeehouse tucked inside a basement in Albany. If you were walking down Lark Street, you could miss it. But, it’s one of the stops he allows himself to take. It serves as a break from the job.
“It’s what I’m always doing,” Mirsky said. “I love coffee.”
What that job is may change depending on the hour of the day. It’s been a few years since Mirk’s frontman has slogged through the daily 9-to-5 routine. He left the mortgage lending field soon after the financial collapse of 2008. It wasn’t his fault. Today, he’s elbows deep in cleaning the Airbnb he and his wife share. Between the hospitality business, the music and his recording studio, Mirsky hopes the two can generate enough income that will allow her to quit her day job someday.
From the coffeehouse, he can walk to Foster House Studios, where he can produce music while sitting on top of the Capital City. It’s an elaborate music studio established in the attic of the nearly 130-year-old Washington Avenue Armory. Behind curiously shaped doors that once housed the Tenth Battalion of the New York National Guard is now home to his recording business. Here, he attends to scores of local and regional artists looking to get one step above on their own music careers. Mirsky is no stranger to the booth. Besides writing and performing his own music, his band has also been credited with producing music for Jay-Z, Petey Pablo, Eamon, Ciara, Young Jeezy and Rob Cas among others; several have been certified platinum and gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Mirk has been a part of the local scene since it first formed in 2009. It has several albums under its belt, including its sixth and most recent “Run,” released three years ago. Mirsky said each release has its own vibe, which makes it difficult for anyone to try to pigeon hole the band into a specific genre. The band’s sound incorporates elements of pop music from different eras. There’s the harmonizing doowop of the 50s, the horn arrangements common in soul music from the 60s followed by the predominant guitar and drums of the 70s. There are, however, always elements of hip hop, R&B and soul. Mirsky just calls it “Dance Clap.”
“Because, when people come to our high energy, sweaty, alcohol-fueled live shows, first they dance and then they clap,” he said.
Mirsky is just a few weeks removed from playing Albany’s Alive at Five. The band opened for Matisyahu. (Did I fail to mention Mirk dabbles in a little bit of dub reggae, too.) It was the largest crowd to gather at Jennings Landing in a few years, with fans pushed deep back onto the lawn behind the amphitheatre. Perhaps most impressive was the size of the crowd that gathered so soon after the 5 o’clock whistle. Most of the open dance space in front of the stage was full of fans, dancing, singing, and ultimately clapping along to the opening act.
“It was cool,” said Mirsky. “I saw a lot of people singing along, so it looked like they were genuinely enjoying themselves.”
Though Mirsky often has a smile across his face, he appears to understate his music. Not so much in self-promotion, in which he has well demonstrated his tools and strategy, complete with a sharp website and keen social media presence. The website also allows visitors to download some of the band’s songs free of charge. No. It’s more of a controlled passion to keeps Mirsky grounded and focused on the here and now.
Mirk is approaching its 10-year mark. Six years ago, the band embarked on a national tour in support of “Grind.” The tour went through New York City, Atlanta and New Orleans. It ultimately stopped in Austin for the SXSW Music Festival, giving the band exposure along with some of the biggest up-and-coming bands in the country. That’s been followed by a heavy schedule that sees the band through more than 50 shows across the country each year.
This Saturday, July 28, Mirk plans to drop its debut single from its latest album at The Hollow Bar + Kitchen. It’s the Fourth Annual Midsummer Ice Cream Social. Front Business and The Age are set to open.
“This album is quite a departure [from the past] as all of our albums are,” said Mirsky. He said the new album “Scene” is inspired by the music he hears in the studio from his clients. Originally set aside as a side project, he said the band was struggling in the studio when someone asked to hear what he was working on. As he admits, he’s always working on something, and his bandmates know it. His new music delves more into the pop range, said Mirsky. In a music scene that’s leaning towards hip hop, musicians are coming in looking for a unique backbeat. Instead of looking for hours to record a full album in the booth, they are looking for a quick few minutes to lay behind a rhyme. Before he allowed his bandmates to hear what he was working on, he warned them that he wasn’t open to changing anything. After hearing it, they all agreed to learn to play it and adopt it for the new album.
“We’re trying to do some interesting things with this album,” he said. A few weeks ago, he reached out to the internet and asked followers what they would think if the band added a multi-media package within the CD, maybe a movie. “Would anybody care,” he asked, providing a hint into a sophisticated package release that is to promise a different experience exclusive to each. There will be a CD and vinyl release. There will also be a series of art prints made available to coincide with the music. All of the pieces are of a larger puzzle — including a four-part movie through Cromoscope Pictures in Troy — that becomes clear once they are all put together. His sister Michelle was commissioned to write a poem on the back of the album, incorporating each of the names of the album tracks within it.
It’s a fun and ambitious release one doesn’t often see here in Albany. From a man who once told us he sees the band at the Grammys in five years, we know he was only half joking.
“I’m planting seeds,” said Mirsky. He said he has a six-month plan for the new album, tentatively scheduled to be released later next month. “I’m just going to go in without any expectations… and, I’m going to try my hardest to get it in front of as many ears as possible.”
This article was originally published by The Spot 518 and is property of Spotlight Newspapers in Albany, N.Y., and appears as a special to NYSmusic. TheSpot518 and NYSmusic work in partnership to provide readers with in-depth coverage on the local music scene in the Capital District and New York state, respectively. For more, visit TheSpot518.com.