interview: Mikal Cronin

[Mikal Cronin + Ty Segall at SXSW]

MIKAL CRONIN would never complain about being cast in Ty Segall‘s shadow. A musical partnership that stretches back to their days at Laguna Beach High, Mikal and Ty are living out the ambitions of every shred dog who has dreamt of touring with his best friends from SoCal to NYC and Gonerfest in between. All the while cuts of Mikal’s self-titled debut record, a “cleaned up” pop garage ballad, surge across the web as label Trouble in Mind prepares its release on September 20th. We talked with Mikal about adjusting to life in one’s mid-20s and the perfect pop song.

Saw the Black Lodge show at Hemlock a few weeks ago. Do you guys play house parties?

MC: I joined that band the day of that show. And they had only practiced a few times before I guess. Same with TOAD, who played after Black Lodge. We had just gotten back from tour the night before and that show was ridiculous and so fun. Black Lodge will play your house party.

Who are you taking on tour with you? How did you guys get together?

MC: I was living north of LA (in Val Verde, by that Magic Mountain theme park) for school, so it’s friends from down there. I borrowed two members from the awesome band Pangea (Danny on guitar and Eric on drums), then my former roommate Cory plays another guitar (who plays as the band WHITE, also awesome) and my buddy Chad plays bass, who plays in a lot of great bands too. They’re awesome and I’m really happy to play with them! The lineup might change since I moved to San Francisco but I don’t have anyone yet. We’ll see!

What are the major differences between the self-titled debut and your earlier work in Moonhearts/Reverse Shark Attack?

MC: I think it’s a lot poppier… and much cleaner. The songs are very different, not as “weird” as RSA or “punk” as Moonhearts. The subject matter is also a lot more personal on this record. A lot more acoustic guitar too, haha, and a lot more vocal harmonies. This stuff is what I hear in my head all the time but wouldn’t really fit stylistically with other bands I play in. But like both those other bands I tried to keep the songs simple and distill them down to the necessary elements as much as possible.

Your label has described the new record as “conceived and recorded as a sort of therapy to help cope with adjusting to life post-college.” What has been your hardest change?

MC: The time writing that record was really hard and strange. I had been in and out of schools at that point for about 7 years, and I didn’t know what was going to happen after that. It was not specifically “post-college” I’m adjusting to but that crazy time in your mid 20’s where nothing is stable. At that time the combination of frantically trying to fulfill graduation requirements, having a bad breakup with a girlfriend and the uncertainty of the near future was really insane. I drove up to San Francisco and recorded the record during my school’s spring break, getting back on Monday 2 hours before my first morning class. I felt like i was losing my mind, but at the same time really excited for the few plans I had. I went on a few back-to-back tours right after I graduated and haven’t been home since… I kind of accidentally wound up in San Francisco with a duffle bag and my bass, realizing mid-tour that I didn’t have time to go back home and get my stuff because of various August shows. I haven’t “adjusted”, but the past few months has completely changed my mindset and it’s all amazing. I’m extremely happy and I’m doing what I want to be doing (playing music) every day. Tired but happy.

Is it hard to stay creative when you’re grouped with hundreds of other “garage” acts (just in California) or is that more of a challenge to differentiate? Are genres more helpful or harmful to artists?

MC: It’s strange, our group of friends has been playing “surfy garage” music for a long time, way before this recent interest in it. So when it all the sudden got popular we were kind of confused but happy that people wanted to hear what we were doing. But honestly everything I do, and what my friends do, makes a conscious effort to not be pinned down by one genre. I never want to be “schtick-y” or whatever. We have the same influences as a lot of people but try to spin it in a different direction. Not sure if we’re successful in that but that’s the plan. I’m just really passionate about that era of music (60’s garage and pop bands) and want to use some of that voice to express my own ideas. I don’t know. In the end, genres only exist so people have a frame of reference to talk about music.

You’re leaving on tour soon and the new record drops September 20th. What are your goals next year?

MC: I don’t have anything specific planned. I am writing new songs and want to record a lot of stuff. I have some big ideas and we’ll see if they work out. Playing in a few other active bands right now (Moonhearts, Ty Segall and some more) that I hope to tour travel and record with. I don’t know… I just want to play a lot of music and write some good songs.
A few weeks ago we asked Tim Presley what he thought the perfect pop song was (“The Humpty Dance”, by the Digital Underground). I know it’s a tough follow-up, but what is your vision of the perfect pop song?
MC: Oh man. Kind of an impossible question, but I will say that I woke up this morning with “Whole Wide World” by Wreckless Eric stuck in my head. I dreamt about it, I saw him play it in a little venue to like 15 people and I was the only one singing along. That’s a pretty fucking perfect pop song.
Mikal Cronin has a slew of tour dates with Ty Segall in support of Mikal’s self-titled debut record, which you can pre-order here. Mikal has two Bay Area gigs before that, playing the concluding show of Total Trash Fest at Hemlock Tavern during the day with Moonhearts before jamming with his tour-mates from Pangea at night. Besides Pangea, King Lollipop and Si Si Si support the day show, with Mouthbreathers and Cosmonauts on at night (starts at 9 pm). Tickets for both shows are $7 and are available at the door on the day of the event (see link above for more info). Tour dates below:
09.15.11 Thu Tucson, Arizona Plush
09.16.11 Fri Lubbock, Texas Bash Riprocks
09.17.11 Sat Austin, Texas Mohawk (Outside Stage)
09.18.11 Sun Denton, Texas Rubbergloves
09.19.11 Mon New Orleans, Louisiana One Eyed Jack’s
09.20.11 Tue Birmingham, Alabama Bottletree
09.21.11 Wed Nashville, Tennessee Exit/In
09.22.11 Thu Memphis, Gonerfest
09.23.11 Fri Atlanta, Georgia Earl
09.24.11 Sat Durham, North Carolina Duke Coffeehouse
09.25.11 Sun Harrisonburg, Virginia Festival Ballroom A at JMU
09.26.11 Mon Washington, DC Comet Pizza
09.27.11 Tue Baltimore, Maryland Golden West Cafe
09.29.11 Thu New York City, New York Bowery Ballroom
09.30.11 Fri Cleveland, Ohio Beachland Tavern
10.01.11 Sat Chicago, Illinois Empty Bottle
10.03.11 Mon Northfield, Minnesota The Cave (Carleton College)
10.04.11 Tue Iowa City, Iowa Blue Moose
10.05.11 Wed Omaha, Nebraska Slowdown
10.06.11 Thu Denver, Colorado Hi-Dive

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s