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Photo By: Mia Asano Herlinger

By Maya Ramirez

From cozy Studio C here at the KZSC station, I sat down for a short phone call interview with the touring electric violin and bagpipe duo—Mia X Ally, who are set to perform at the Catalyst on March sixth.  When we spoke, the girls had just finished their Colorado shows  and were on route to the desert, for Flagstaff Arizona, which wasn’t even the halfway point of their tour. They still had to circle back through California and up into the Midwest. 

Mia is originally from Colorado, and Ally, upstate New York.  “Ally and I have very similar upbringings” Mia explained,  “we both play very niche instruments rooted in tradition.” Up until thirteen, Mia clarified that most of her experience with Violin was very classical. “When I was thirteen” she said,  “I discovered electric violins exist and never looked back.” She studied at the Berkeley school of music and did a lot of gig work on the side, but didn’t start playing independently until after college. Ally had a similar story about the relationship she has with her instrument. She began playing piano when she was six, but picked up woodwinds in various school ensembles. When her Scottish-American stepdad adopted her when she was 12, she became steeped in Scottish culture and started playing the bagpipes when she was 14. After success at the World Pipe Band Championships in Scotland and further success at United States competitions, she stopped competing after college and focused on her own music. 

In 2021, Mia and Ally met through a video on TikTok where many other musicians were collaborating on an ever-growing cover of “The Wellerman”, a classic sea-shanty. 

“Yeah, it happened on TikTok” Mia said, “and I woke up the next morning with a hundred thousand followers. That video now has like 10 million views. That video is what started it all.” 

Since then, Mia and Ally have had a very close working relationship. Ally laughed, “We joke a lot that we like, share a brain cell.”

The album  they are currently touring for, “The Viral Hits”, is a compilation  of rock, Celtic punk, and metal covers including, but not limited to “Shipping up to Boston”, “The Devil Came Down to Georgia,” “Free Bird” and “Through the Fire and Flames”. Mia and Ally bring an exciting, folksy, hard-core, and semi-EDM flair to these covers,  writing a lot of their own solos into the songs so that as Ally puts it, “It feels like us. You can very clearly hear musical styles from us, as individuals.” It is astonishing too, that the majority of their music has been recorded virtually, layering each of the band members’ pieces from separate parts of the world. 

Trough the improvisational elements of their performances, where, as Ally said, “really like, lean on that connection we have musically”, their essence as artists shine through. They are the kind of musicians who care about their instruments as much as their music, and that is a beautiful thing  because it bridges the gap between the sonic, the material, and the visual. 

When I asked them what their musical influences are, Ally had a pretty quick response– “I think, for me, lately, I’ve been into a lot of metal guitarists. I’ve listened to a lot of John Petrucci and I’ve been really trying to take his style and infuse it in with what I’m doing, with the bagpipes, and try to take the bagpipes sound that I spend  a lot of time really trying to master and perfect, and really twist it around and turn it into something a little bit  different. We’re getting experimental with sounds on this tour, with my pipes.” 

Mia and Ally are masters at genre mashing. They have completely reworked the idea of “musical traditionality” and established a solid example of what it means to give a song, a sound, and an instrument new life. Mia said it casually and honestly—“We’re ambitious, it hasn’t even been a year yet for this band.”