Tiny Fireflies fuse two talents

By Trevor Ballanger

Two Chicago-based musicians fused their talents in 2009 to form an indie pop duo with delicate, emotional lyrics and formulaic melodies.

Lead singer Kristine Capua of Tiny Microphone and guitarist/drummer Lisle Mitnik of Fireflies united for their collaborative effort, Tiny Fireflies. The two are now roommates but were only pen pals when Mitnik lived in California before moving to Chicago.

Together they produced another EP in 2010 called “ePop 005,” and two other projects with various artists such as The Hurries and Shipyard. “Change,” their most recent EP, was released in August 2011. They will perform Nov. 25 for the Rock for Kids Benefit at Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave.

The Chronicle sat down with Tiny Fireflies to discuss how they began collaborating, the struggles of writing lyrics and their favorite songs.

The Chronicle: Why did it take so long for you two to start making music together?

Kristine Capua: I’m really reluctant to work with other people. I did a lot of solo work, [and] I guess what ended up happening was [when] I was in a band, like a ’60s throwback band, we needed a drummer, and Lisle plays drums.

Lisle Mitnik: We eased into it because both of us are very particular—you might even say control freaks. But it was easier for me to start playing drums. It wasn’t like I was going to come in and start doing anything other than playing drums, so that helped ease us into it.

How do you fuse your two different styles?

LM: I think the delicate quality comes from Kristine, [from] her voice. That’s just sort of how it happens. She just opens her mouth. It makes it easy. I think you can really make music that plays to the strength of somebody’s voice, so that’s what we’ve tried to do: to wrap it up in a pretty package.

KC: I wouldn’t say the songs are revolved around my voice. I like to write what’s comfortable to me. Lisle has a very classical type upbringing, so a lot of the songs that he’ll put together are very structured. Sometimes I start with an idea, and it doesn’t end up how I thought it would. There’s this [imbalance] sometimes because I don’t know how to write music notes or how to articulate how things should sound. Lisle’s very rounded musically, so he can help realize everything.

Kristine, would you consider yourself the more emotional of the duo?

KC: I actually had this conversation with Lisle the other day. A lot of the songs I write are really about observations of people I’ve known or things that have happened to me and just imagining what would be going on in their heads. I don’t write from a personal point of view. I really have to think about how the words are going to fit into the song. We’ve been really fortunate to play in London and Spain. I think whenever I go on a trip like that, [I] see the world in a different light. That is when I feel most inspired. A lot of the songs we wrote after “Change” are really based on adventures in London.

What was the inspiration behind your song “Snow”?

KC: I love that song. We were on deadline. Lisle collaborated with me, and we ended up with this song. It was like 10 p.m. the day before it was due, and we didn’t have a third song. I want to say Lisle was playing Wii games or something and I was sitting at a keyboard, and that song just came out start to finish. It might have been a day in November when it snowed but it wasn’t supposed to. I think that was why that song exists.

Have you ever had a person you wrote a song about ask if the song is about them?

KC: Never. I’m not like a really good storyteller and you probably would never know. A lot of these are very generic feelings, like feelings of love, loss and joy. It’s not specific to anyone. On a sonic level, if you listen to it, it doesn’t really feel specific, but while I’m writing about it, it feels specific to me.

For information on the band and upcoming shows, visit TinyFireflies.com.