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Mystery Waitress Share Second Single 'In A Shell' + Video

PHOTO CREDIT: Lewis Ferris

Mystery Waitress have returned with 'In A Shell' — the atmospheric second single from the band's upcoming album, Bright Black Night. The track begins slowly, with sparse, eerie vocals against a waltzing drum and slide guitar, before building upon itself into a spiralling and powerful refrain.

Set to be the closing track on Bright Black Night, the song serves as a sonic and thematic pay-off to ideas touched on throughout the album. Namely, disconnection from others and the haunting loneliness this brings.

With this new single comes a video directed and shot by Taylor Nixon, which gives dramatised visuals to the surreal landscape created in the song. With the music, the video crescendos to a boiling point, nightmarish scenes depicting ghostly figures and a crashed car.

‘Bright Black Night’ — Mystery Waitress' sophomore album — is a natural progression and descent into dirtier riffs, new instrumentation and a more refined sound. The album moves through a whole range of moods and imagery, from heavy to sway-worthy, but never strays from being supple, tasteful and divine. Expect soaring, gritty guitars and ethereal vocals atop of steadfast grooves.

As it stands in 2024, Mystery Waitress consists of songwriter and guitarist Tessa Dillon, Olivia Campion on drums, Xanthe Rook on bass guitar, and James Morgan on synths and guitar. Together, they craft a dynamic sound that transitions seamlessly from melancholic to fervent, and from gentle to abrasive alternative rock. Within their upcoming album, Bright Black Night, a distinctive and captivating middle ground is discovered, blending the gentle, exquisite songcraft of Tessa with the amplified vitality of the band.

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Tessa Dillon started writing music as an outlet when her attempt at studying art at university discouraged her from the visual arts. Quickly, music took over her mind and songwriting became a constant obsession. She started performing at open mic nights in Wellington hoping to both squash her stage fright and meet like minded people. (particularly at The Fringe Bar where she met Joel Wood, manager at the time, who shared her passion for music and recorded her first solo album, '11:11' a reverb-drenched, folky collection of guitar and voice).

In 2017 Tessa was looking to form a band to play the more indie inspired songs she had been writing. Songs inspired by artists such as Japanese Breakfast, Big Thief, Alvvays and Frankie Cosmos. Olivia Campion was playing drums at ex-establishment Caroline for band Dam Dans on the night she and Dillon met. They talked about Dillon becoming the vocalist for a band Campion was starting up with some others, but the band never materialised into anything, and Campion instead joined Dillon as a two-piece to become Mystery Waitress. The pair only played one show as a duo, at Paekakariki Hall alongside Womb, Namesake, and Appleseed Ear.

Not long after, James Morgan started working at the same place as Tessa, the coffee roastery Coffee Supreme. Fresh from Sydney and eager to dive into the Wellington music scene, James brought a playful touch to Mystery Waitress's sound with his catchy riffs and experimental pedal work. His synth contributions added moody depth to the band's 2020 debut album, ‘Nest’, a DIY labour of love recorded by James himself. Though now for new album 'Bright Black Night' the synth has been laid aside for ease in playing live, and Morgan’s guitar lends the new songs a drive and crunch that darkens the mood for this album considerably in contrast to the lighter ‘Nest'.

Mystery Waitress added bassist Xanthe Rook to their group before starting work on Bright Black Night. Previously having been bass-less, Guitarist James Morgan had recorded bass for their first album Nest but they had performed live shows without one. Fans of the band had been suggesting they get a bass player for ages, bass players had been offering themselves up, but it always felt unnecessary to songwriter Tessa Dillon. The trio felt nice, it retained the slightly twee and comfortable indie feelings laid out in her earlier songs. But the people had spoken, and once the idea was out there, Mystery Waitress was destined to become a four-piece band. Xanthe Rook fell out of the sky like a fiery angel and completed the band. Having never played in bands before, Dillon didn’t quite know the power of a bass guitar, how it affects listeners who aren’t looking for it almost with a secret instruction “this is how you move to this music”. How it couples with the drums to create a more complete sound. When the new songs started to be performed with Rook on the bass, the change was huge, the music suddenly sounded finished, and audiences were propelled into movement.

Mystery Waitress is a brooding, mesmerising force, a collaboration of each of the four elements: air, earth, fire and water.

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