–by Quincy Tejani, Music Connoisseur–
Originally, psychedelic music was categorized as such because of its progressive instrumentation and interesting song structures. Bands like Jefferson Airplane and Country Joe & The Fish helped expand on what was acceptable in songwriting and pushed the boundaries of what it meant to make a pop song. In recent years, any old tune is considered pyschedelic so long as a little reverb has been added to the vocals or if there is a “trippy” guitar solo. In my interview with Michael Daly, frontman of Chicago-based band Michelles, he spoke with me about why he no longer really wants his music to be connected with the term “psychedelic” and also what inspires him to keep pushing himself forward sonically and creatively.
Quincy Tejani: What is it about the aesthetic of psychedelic indie music that inspires you to make the kind of music that you do?
Michael Daly: I’ve been trying lately to get away from using psychedelic as a descriptor, as it’s become a bit overused recently, but I haven’t come up with a suitable alternative so we’ll stick with it for now. I think that at its heart, psychedelic music has been and should continue to be forward looking music, which is what I’m always striving for. I’m not trying to remake Piper at the Gates of Dawn, but rather trying to do what they were doing in 1967, which is to use new structures and sounds, and take advantage of studio technology to its full sonic potential. Using this sort of definition, I’d say bands like Animal Collective or Fever the Ghost are much more ‘psychedelic’ than any blatantly retro band wearing paisley and striped pants. Although I have been known to wear a pair of striped pants on occasion.
QT: The progressions in your songs are not typical of “normal” indie rock music. How do your songs usually take form when they start coming about? In other words, do you have a specific writing process that you follow?
MD: My blessing and sometimes curse is that I spent four years in conservatory, so I’ve put a lot more time into analyzing Debussy than the Ramones. Because of that education I often make a conscious decision to write on guitar, which I have no formal training in, to avoid anything too progressive, for lack of a better word. But despite all that, ultimately I want to write music that bends your ear a little bit, and unique chord structures can help with that immensely.
QT: Your newly released track “All is Forgiven” shows you branching out from the sounds on your first LP Michelles. How do you feel that you’ve grown as musicians since that release?
MD: Well, since no labels or cigar chomping a&r men were hounding me to repeat the chart topping success of the first record, I saw no reason not to move in any direction that sounded good to me. As for growth, I’d like to hope there’s been some evolution. Ryan’s been touring with another band off and on this year, so when he came in to to record some drums, he was tighter than ever. I’ve also never thought that I have a very good voice, so I’m always trying to find new ways to make it work
QT: I assume that the release of the new single indicates that there may be a new full length in the making? Was it a smooth recording process or were there any major hitches in getting the LP together?
MD: Yes a full length is coming in January if all goes well. I’ve never heard of any recording process that was smooth, but the way Michelles works can be especially time consuming. Because I play everything myself minus drums, it’s a revolving process of writing, recording scratch tracks, tracking drums when I can hunt down Ryan, and then rerecording everything and probably rewriting half the lyrics. And throughout all of this I’m mixing constantly. Then at some point I book some real studio time with another pair of discerning ears to finalize mixes, which is the only way I can really declare anything finished. I just spent two days with Benjamin Balcom at his studio Minbal in Chicago, going back through everything and getting the tracks out of the box and into some real electronics. If left to my own devices I’d probably keep rerecording and remixing until the end of time.
QT: What are some goals that you have set yourselves as a band? What do you hope to accomplish in the next couple of years with the Michelles project?
MD: I want all of the normal things, private planes and gilded toilets and expensive scotch, but at this point I’d be happy just to have people listen to the record and have an opinion, good or bad. I’d like to make videos, I’d like to produce for other people, I’d like a sponsorship from Rickenbacker so I can get a twelve-string that stays in tune.
QT: What gets you more excited, the anticipation of a single release or the anticipation of a big show?
MD: Releasing a single as an independent band can be rather anticlimactic these days, it’s mostly just doing a lot of computer work and anxiously waiting to see if anyone picks you out of the pile. Shows are always the most exciting part. Nothing beats making a lot of noise in front of a group of people that chose you as their entertainment for the evening.
Find the band by clicking the links below:
Official Website: www.michellesband.wordpress.com
Quincy Tejani is the co-founder of The Violet Wave and is also editor of music. When he’s not listening to or writing about music you can probably find him walking through the forests of Ontario or questioning the inner workings of the universe. He also never turns down a cold Pabst… never.
Facebook: The Violet Wave