mikalcronin_woods_deneepetracek_hi_wide-5faa9b53b29e4aac62c442f924a117b7eda91137-s6-c30San Francisco-based garage prince Mikal Cronin took us on a dissonant narrative journey this May in his latest release MCII, an inventively poetic and piano driven sophomore album that caught the ears of the music press. As he comes to terms with an orchestra of change, from the recording process to the album’s reception I chat with Mikal about his summer tour, underlying themes on the new record and of most importance, his vinyl collection.

How’s the tour going? Who’s playing in your band with you at the moment?

It’s really good, Vera Club where we are tonight is awesome, one of my favourite places to play at – it’s actually my third time. Right now in the band Emily Rose Epstein is playing drums, she plays drums with Ty Segall as well, Chad Ubovich is playing guitar and he’s played bass with me for a while too. And my old friend Michael Anderson from high school is playing bass. It’s all old friends which is the only way to do it.

Have you had any unlucky experiences on tour so far?

It’s been pretty smooth. We’ve had a few weird cancellations. We had an outdoor show in Bordeaux that the first band played and then a giant storm came in and everyone was surprised by that but nothing too extreme.

How has the new record translated live on stage?

Well, we had a fifth member at first playing keyboards and violin and she played violin on the record. It wasn’t working out musically as well as we were hoping for so we went back to a four piece band and it’s definitely a lot louder and more aggressive than the recorded versions but I like that, I think it translates better in a live setting that way. I like it loud and aggressive and fun.

What kind of feedback have you received on MCII?

Yeah I’m pleasantly surprised, there’s been a lot of good reviews and good feedback from journalists and reviewers. And I’m personally happy with the record and how it turned out. It’s all good, unexpectedly good. I always have low expectations of people supporting what I do so it’s turned out awesome.

Were you at all surprised by the end result or was that what you set out to do?

My mind was going that way. I was a little worried about if I was going to be able to translate what I was thinking into a recorded piece of music but it turned out pretty much how I wanted it. It was more carefully orchestrated and the songs worked out but it was difficult. I was doing a lot of new things.

You’ve said before said if there was a theme on MCII, it would be mostly about “contradictions.” Can you elaborate on this for us?971531_591213120901530_840433838_n

Yeah I mean, in my personal life, I found I was at a stage with a lot of things changing and the contradiction was between my thoughts, actions and expectations and what actually happened… being really happy and really depressed and all these things just constantly being double sided. There’s like a hopeful feeling and a desperate hopelessness feeling, and really just so many contradictions in my head going on. It was about  how I felt musically and how I felt about everything and it just kind of permuted through. I think the album thematically is kind of sad but also hopeful at the same time. At least, that’s what I was trying to get across.

Do you think living in San Francisco has affected your music at all?

It’s hard to say. It’s a lot more chaotic environment like, a big city that I’m not used to but there’s also a whole lot going on musically and artistically and culturally. I’m not really sure how it’s  affected my music especially because I’ve been on the road when I was writing that album. I’m not exactly sure yet, but maybe I’ll figure that out later in retrospect.

Can you tell us a bit about how you met Ty Segall? You two have been friends for years.

We met in high school and started playing music there. He had a band and invited me to play saxophone in it, kind of like a dance/ punk band so it went from there. We were buddies before and really started connecting when we began playing music together and realised it worked out because we were both really interested in playing and then we became really good friends. He played a little guitar here and there [on MCII]. But he was more heavily involved on the last record just because he was less busy. I listed him as a producer my first album – I was doing something new and scary and he was my closest musical friend and we know and trust each other in that way. I felt like I needed his help. I just needed him to hold my hand through it {laughs}.

images-2So were you more comfortable on the second album?

I did feel more comfortable on the second record just because I had made one before, and  I had a jumping off point you know. I was trying to push myself to do new things write differently and make it better. I played most [of the instruments alone] with a few exceptions, my friend Charlie Moothart played the drums, Ty played guitar and my friend Dylan, she played all the strings

Before you released MCII, we got a taste of your new music on Adult Swim’s garage rock compilation Garage Swim. Was that song meant to be on the new record or was it recorded specifically for the compilation?

Yeah it was actually something I was working on before with the other songs but I couldn’t figure it out, I couldn’t finish it and I was really frustrated so I just left it. They asked me to record something for the compilation and I went through some old music and that was there, I was able to finish it. So it was kind of half and half.

Are there any bands we should keep our ears open for?

Oh yeah there’s a lot but I mean, we just did a US tour with Shannon and The Clams. I think a lot of people have heard them already but they’re amazing. I was glad to do a tour with them. Check them out if you haven’t.

Are you a big vinyl collector?

Yeah I have way too many records but it’s not necessarily that I’m looking for the first pressing of something. More like I have accidentally amassed a huge amount of records that I wanna listen to. So yes and no. I have a lot.

Out of all those records, there has to be a favourite?

My friend Bill Roe who put out my first record sent me a Del Shannon record that I could never find, The Further Adventures of Charles Westover.  It’s like a record from the sixties where he tried to go psychedelic. It’s one of my favourite records ever and one of the rarer ones in my collection that I love dearly.

Who would you consider to be some of your major influences in the garage rock scene?Mikal_Cronin_MRG475_hi

There’s bands like The Mummies and Supercharger and The Sonics. I’m trying to remember what I first started listening to… But also bands like The Stooges, of course they’re like pre-garage, singer aggressive. I remember my first taste of garage was the nineties bands like The Gories and The Oblivions and finding The Sonics and The Mummies, that’s what first got me into that sound when my friends turned me onto them when we first started to try and make our own garage punk music.

Man, I listened to some embarrassing stuff at age 14. You’re putting me to shame. Thank God for those stoner metal heads and punks who turned us onto good music. I don’t know where we’d be without them…

I’m with you there. I had no directions. Oh, I went down an embarrassing path for sure when I was 14/15.  I was listening to garbage. When someone gives you [that first amazing record] it’s like, what have I been doing all these years!?

So what’s next for you, Mikal?

We get back from tour in about a week and things kind of slow down because we’ve been on the road non stop. I’m really looking forward to writing some new music once we get home. I’ve been trying to think of a new direction for a new record and my main focus will just be writing.

MCII is available now through MergeRecords.com
For more information and upcoming tour dates, check out mikalcronin.bandcamp.com
And to read my review of MCII, click here

Brit Jean

One time time Gigs Editor over here at Silent Radio HQ. I've been music blogging and writing in Manchester for the past few years after graduating with a Literature degree back home in Canada. Never have I experienced a city quite like Manchester - so many great gigs and so little time! In 2014 I started an Independent Record label, Blak Hand Records with my best mate, and we aim to put out some of our favourite garage rock and psychedelic artists from both Liverpool and Manchester.