Postal Service

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Abby Reutzel | Daily Texan Staff

Singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn began her music career by singing and playing keyboard for various bands in Washington, D.C. She started her own record label, Laboratory Records, at age 21 and is now the frontrunner of indie rock group The Mynabirds. The band released its first album, What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood, in 2010 and its sophomore album, GENERALS, in 2012. Burhenn has also toured with Bright Eyes and The Postal Service. 

After The Postal Service’s tour in 2013, Burhenn got in the car with her dog and hit the road again. She spent 2014 traveling across the country, twice, and touring solo in South Africa and Europe. She wrote music during her travels, and the result is a new Mynabirds album set to come out later this year. The Daily Texan spoke with Burhenn about her upcoming projects and South by Southwest performances.

The Daily Texan: The album GENERALS focuses a lot on the idea of revolution. What inspired you to create the album? 

Laura Burhenn: I was living in D.C. from ‘97 to 2008, and I was there on election night in 2008, and it just felt like a crazy time to live through in the life of America. I really just started feeling a lot of passion about wanting to make a positive change in the world around me. I started out making kind of a protest record, and I think you hear that in a song like “Generals.” 

DT: Do you have any new projects in the works?

LB: I’ve got a new record coming out this fall. I can’t wait for it. It’s a very different record from the last one. I was really inspired by what PJ Harvey once said in an interview — she said she makes every record with a different voice. I think that’s what I do with this record for sure. It’s a lot of love songs. I’m working on some sort of project to go along with the record as well. It’s going to be something like a small, stripped-down sort of experiential tour, where it’s getting away from just playing in clubs and instead going around to people’s living rooms and having those real human interactions.

DT: What would you say was the most memorable part about your experience traveling and writing by yourself this past year?

LB: I was really guided by this quote from William Faulkner. He said something like — and I feel like I’m going to ruin this — but he said something like, “You cannot swim towards new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” To me, I knew it was time to move into whatever the next phase of life was. It’s almost like you have to completely lose your faith in order to find it again.

DT: What do you want to motivate people to do through your music?

LB: The simple answer would be — and it might sound so cheesy — but I feel like when I wrote GENERALS, and I got to the end, I said the final answer is love. I was like, “Shit, I can’t say that. That’s so dumb.” But it’s true. I think if I could inspire anyone to do anything, it’s just to love more.

DT: What’s your writing process like?

LB: The last record I wrote a lot in the shower and while walking around and taking my dog hiking. I would say this record was kind of the same. I would get in the car and actually turn the stereo off, and it was like listening to whatever songs the road was metaphorically playing for me. I do a lot of writing away from the keyboard and any sort of influence like that.

DT: How many times have you been to SXSW?

LB: This will be my eighth year. I took two years off. It’ll be nice to come back after a couple years off. I’m going to be playing solo. It feels nice to come to SXSW because there are so many bands. I’m going to come and say, “Even though it’s crazy outside, right here, right now, it’s just going to be us.”

Editor’s note: Some answers were edited for length and clarity.

John Christian, a former University of Texas employee, opens his P.O. box of almost 40 years at the campus post office. The boxes will still be available for use after the post office closes but the location of the P.O boxes may change.

Photo Credit: Jenna Von Hofe | Daily Texan Staff

The campus post office will hold a meeting with UT officials next week to discuss the future of the campus location, which is set to have its contract with the University expire in February.

The U.S. Postal Service office’s contract with UT expired in September, but the two parties negotiated a short-term lease extended to the end of February, at which time the Postal Service must vacate the space unless a further agreement can be reached. According to Postal Service spokesman Sam Bolen, the University has expressed desires to use the space for other mail-related services.

Bolen said a meeting next week between the University and Postal Service officials could cause changes in the branch’s current plans. He said more information might be available after the meeting.

If the branch relocates in February, any outstanding P.O. boxes will be moved, Bolen said. 

“The P.O. boxes would still be good because we would move them to another location,” Bolen said. “If [owners] didn’t like the move, then they could always be eligible for a prorated refund.”

UT representatives have met with postal officials since the establishment of the short-term lease, according to University Operations spokeswoman Cindy Posey. Multiple university representatives contacted by The Daily Texan stated they were not aware of a specific meeting next week. 

Posey said meetings between the Postal Service and UT are nothing out of the ordinary.

“There’s still dialogue and meetings taking place between the [Postal Service] and UT regarding how they’re going to handle everything, but nothing is going to happen until February,” Posey said. “These meetings are a regular thing. There’s [sic] lots to talk about.” 

University officials did not respond to the Daily Texan’s requests to be put into contact with administrators representing UT at these meetings.

Debbie Polanco, a clerk at the branch, said she was not told of the branch’s relocation and her job would likely transfer to the new location.

“This is the first time that I’ve heard of the post office’s contract expiring,” Polanco said. “The closure would not affect my job, I’ll just be transferred to the new location.”

John Christian, a former UT employee, said he has had a P.O. box at the branch for more than 40 years, but was not told that the location will move in February.

“I’m irritated with the way the University has handled this,” Christian said. “The University should be concerned about it and be able to handle the situation much better than they currently are.”

Christian said he was concerned about what would happen to the large number of people serviced by the post office. 

“I know from my time at UT in administrative work that a lot of departments have their postal boxes there,” Christian said. “There are also a great deal of international students who rely on it because of its central location. They don’t want to have to go to the middle of Austin to handle something that’s been handled for 40 or 50 years on campus.”

 —Additional reporting by Anthony Green