Interview: Another Michael on Their New LP and Contemporary Musicianship

Posted: by The Editor

Photo by Julia Leiby

Another Michael have been making mesmerizing music over the last couple of years. Blending unique vocal harmonies with pop-influences to make a sound that feels warm and comforting while lyrically tackling the day-to-day thoughts of life. On their latest LP titled New Music and Big Pop, Michael Doherty, Alenni Davis and Nick Sebastiano recorded a contemporary LP that takes risks while harboring their sound that carves out their place in the indie singer-songwriter world. Sarah got to speak with Micheal on the LP and their thoughts regarding life and musicianship in the times of a pandemic.

Sarah: First off, I am so thoroughly impressed with this debut LP. It seems like you are pushing your sound and taking more risks than you did on LAND. What was your songwriting process like coming off of LAND and into New Music and Big Pop?

Michael: So, the goal was actually kind of to make a record that I can play sitting down by myself front to back. We wrote this LP around the same time as LAND. LAND was some older songs that were being reworked and we had these songs too. We were definitely inspired to not focus too much on an album to have the same exact vibe. The vibe could be all sorts of music that we all collectively like that can be portrayed through an acoustic guitar lens of music. 

I can see that a little bit deviating off of a bigger production sound that you had on LAND. From what I understand you recorded in a very small studio in upstate NY, did the environment change or influence your sound?

It did in a big way. It was kind of like we built our own little studio in this little A-frame house that Nick’s family has access to. It was the first time we all were here to work on music for a prolonged period of time. Otherwise we would say “let’s meet up on this weekend” or “next weekend” or such and such days to work on recording. It helped put us in the perspective of “we’re here to work on a record.” Definitely helped us to put us to work and work non-stop. That was a really good feeling to not have outside distractions like work or school or any day-to-day life things. 

That must’ve been really nice to have that time. You have a very unique vocal delivery and quality to your voice? How did you find your vocal sound over the years of this project as well as your life as a musician?

Lately it’s been so much more influenced by thinking about the lyrics I’m singing and trying to deliver the words. Growing up I was very much into choir, musical theater, and classical, so a lot of that has carried on to this project in the back of my head. I think that my current style is indebted to a lot of singer-songwriter music, folk and pop music.  

What challenges or anecdotes do you have while recording New Music and Big Pop?

Definitely the stop and go songwriting. I’m a pretty slow songwriter I would say. There are moments where I’ve thought “do we have enough songs for an album?” Which is why we started out with EPs because it’s smaller batches. Before we went to do the bigger recording session, we had maybe 3-4 songs that were good to be recorded and ready to go. That was probably 2-3 months before that session. Before that there were questions of what record we are trying to make. I would say that the challenge is overcoming the songwriting bug and connecting these songs. Kind of got in my head a bit as the songs were coming and going. 

You and the band seem to carry a lot of classic rock influences with a contemporary lens, what are some albums or bands that you were listening to during the process of making New Music and Big Pop?

Our biggest influence is this songwriter who makes these really great home recordings. Collectively were really into Big Thief and Frankie Cosmos. We’re all really into this 70’s band called The Roaches. 

I know you’ve lived with your bandmates for a very long time, how do you separate your time working together working as a band and your time together as friends?

It’s hard to say. I think we’ve had moments where we stopped and think, like “hey we haven’t hung out in a while.” or played a board game or something obviously this is pre-pandemic. When you’re living together and in a band or make music in general, the conversation can sprout out in the middle of a hang or in the middle of a rehearsal. I guess that we have a little bit of a hard time with that. We definitely have realizations where we just say “let’s all go on a big walk” or something like that. Sometimes we have hangs where music comes out. I think that’s just us as friends is that music just comes out. 

How important is being vulnerable or accessible to you as a musician?

I think it’s important. I would say I’m pretty willing to be accessible too. I also love the idea of being an artist that makes records that just exist and is there for the listeners. It’s hard now because when we had live shows I would say I bring that in person. Lately I’ve found it harder for myself to be vulnerable and accessible. This whole year of working on new songs, lyrics have been harder to come by for me. I think it could be situational, just in the times we’re in. I can see a lot of thoughts and feelings on that being formalized when COVID and quarantine are over. I do think it’s really important though. The music is tailored towards me feeling more confident in myself. 

What are some ways you’ve been establishing community during the pandemic?

I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflecting and had a lot of personal time throughout the pandemic. Amongst the pandemic it’s been hard to keep the community intact. Keeping family and close friends close has been hard as well. As far as the music community goes, it’s definitely nice to have these live-streams. I couldn’t imagine doing it before the pandemic. I think it’s made a lot of people realize with the internet there are ways to keep these communities afloat and connect with people. I think that’s been interesting to see throughout this whole thing. I like to think everyone has the opportunity to do them in a way that makes sense. That is such a vulnerable thing to get acquainted with the virtual experience online. I definitely got so comfortable playing live, it comes more naturally to me. 

Before the pandemic you toured pretty extensively with many great artists such as Beach Bunny and Sydney Gish. What are some things you’ve taken away from all of your experience touring?

I love seeing parts of the United States that I’ve never seen before. Growing up in the North-East way of life with some trips here and there, I didn’t really see places in the Midwest like Ohio. Places like Colorado are interesting to me because it’s just cool to see how the whole country connects like that. I really liked going to Austin, Texas for SXSW. That place felt far and really surreal to go to. Also, Nebraska and Iowa. Venues wise, there’s this place that is not there anymore because of a fire. It’s called the Basement East in Nashville, that place was very special it had a home-y vibe. In Chicago Thalia Hall was really cool, we played with Prince Daddy and Beach Bunny. I like the experience of playing these bigger rooms. It’s nice touring, singing a batch of songs every night to a room full of different people. That was the stuff that helped me out a lot of seeing the songs grow in the room. Them traveling alongside me. I think that helped feed into future experiences of our friendship in the band and recording together. 

Congrats on getting signed to Run For Cover, what has the transition been like moving from a smaller label to a label with a roster like RFCs?

Thank you! Definitely it’s not all that different. So far they’ve been great to work with. It’s exciting to plan things like doing Vinyl and they’re super nice to help us continue to stay excited. 

Besides music, what have been some things you’ve been gravitating towards in quarantine?

It’s funny because I’ve been getting really into cooking. I know it’s a common thing that people couldn’t find yeast for a while to bake bread. I really have been getting a lot more into cooking at home. That experience of being by myself more and not having tunnel vision of just music. I got a mushroom growing kit so I’ve been growing some of those. Just feeling a lot better about having a lot of alone time, by myself. Which in the context of moving around a lot is hard to focus on so it’s nice to be more focused on that. I find it to be interesting when things start to be more “normal” again and blending that too. Before I would hang out with friends or do something music related all the time so it’s nice to have this experience of being alone. 

Any good meals you’ve made?

Making pizza from scratch has been fun. A lot of stir-frys and working with different vegetables. Like what makes veggies taste good. Roasting veggies with chicken and blending those flavors together. I work at a farmers market in Philly so I’m happy to have a lot of local produce to work with. I really enjoy a local mushroom stand and working with different kinds of mushrooms. I’ve been trying to convince my family and friends to try different kinds of mushrooms besides cremini. 

If you could describe the album as a day what would that day be like?

Get in the car and don’t know where you’re going, and once you get home you realize you can feel so much comfort from the world around you. I love driving, my car actually just died. During the pandemic I’ve been driving around a lot. It was actually something I had in mind making this record is just putting it on and driving around. Just driving around with a cup of coffee, having a sandwich or a bagel. 

New Music and Big Pop is out on February 19th on Run For Cover. You can pre-order the album here.

Interview by Sarah Knoll

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