For Marissa Valera and her brother, Millard, the act of listening can be a wellspring of inspiration for songwriting. Many of the lyrics they write for their local band, Midnite Mojo, are autobiographical, but they also get ideas from observations and other people’s stories. “[Sometimes we] listen to people when we go out, and hear their stories and think, ‘That guy’s story sounds like a pretty cool song—we could totally write that,’” Marissa says. The band began as a duo in 2007, with Marissa on guitar/vocals and Millard singing and playing upright bass.
But with the addition of drummer Bob Gibeault a few years back, Midnite Mojo has truly found its sound. They released their debut record as a group, Lyrical Elixir, in December 2013. Lyrical features a variety of upbeat numbers—from the sassy alt-country track “Roll Like a Stone” to the swamp pop song “Déjà Vu”—but there are a few quiet moments, too. Gibeault says the album closer, “Love Song,” is his favorite. “I was blown away by how beautiful and simple this song is,” he gushes. “It came from family parties and gatherings in [Marissa and Millard’s] youth. Their aunts and uncles always used to sing that kind of music—ballads and crooning love songs. They were trying to hit a certain aesthetic with that song and I think they nailed it.” Midnite Mojo will take the stage at The Poet and The Patriot on Valentine’s Day, and, according to Millard, the tracks on Lyrical are only one part of the band’s extensive arsenal. “We probably have enough material to do another two full albums,” he says. “So those seven songs are a really small representation of what we can do as a band.”
INFO: 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14. The Poet and The Patriot, 320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. No cover. 426-8620.