Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with The Michaels

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with The MichaelsAfter I graduated high school I toyed with the idea of going to college out of state. I had offers all over the country to play golf, but ended up at Marian College. Now Marian University, I still keep in touch with quite a few people from there. One of those guys that I still talk to is in a band. Well, two bands. One band, Great Scott, used to play all over the town of Indianapolis. Now, after putting Great Scott on hold for a while, he is in a new side project. They are a duo (don’t call them an acoustic duo though) playing a lot of covers, and some originals, all over the Midwest. They might as well just be called a party band. They are incredibly talented individuals, have a true passion for what they do on stage, and just have a ton of fun doing it. They are also some of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to The Michaels. And you will never guess where that name comes from!

Loving the logo. Who designed that?

(Jon) A friend of mine actually designed that. I went to IU and became good friends with Jeremy Selzer. He designed that for us. He is an amazing artist. He works for an art company here in town. Not sure I know what the company is… They make toys… not sure their name. We just described our rough idea, for our work, and he executed it. We then had a photographer take the photo that’s on the back of our album.

Wait a second… didn’t you used to be in another band?

(Brett) We still play. We played five or six shows with Great Scott last year. Jon is actually in that band two. That’s how we met. Then he started playing bass when our bass player moved. Then he ended the year playing drums. He wears a lot of hats.

(Jon) Jason was spending a lot of time with Glass Halo. I joined Great Scott a little over three years ago. Within five months we were playing around town as The Michaels.

Where did you come up with the name The Michaels?

(Brett) That’s for you to guess. How much time you got? The easy answer is our middle names are both Michael.

(Jon) But feel free to make up a story. (Laughs)

(Brett) When we first started, we were still playing shows with Great Scott. We started this for fun; fill in dates and what not. It was a side project and that didn’t last long before it became just the focus. Then it was all we were doing. We quit our jobs, and here we are playing at the Chatham Tap.

You guys have taken some pretty sweet photos. Who did all those shots?

The photographer was Jerolyn Wiggins. She is actually from Indianapolis.

It’s not hard to find you guys on stage these days. You are playing nearly every night of the week. Do you getting tired of playing the same songs day in and day out?

(Brett) If we were doing this every day of the week, maybe. But we do have breaks here and there. We play enough where we are at a good level, but we want to hopefully play less down the road. We want to grow our audience and fanbase some.

(Jon)  As of last fall, we are getting out of the city and out of state more and more. We are playing in Columbus, and Cleveland, and St Louis… we played in New York not long ago. It was time. We still love playing Indy, but it’s time to get out there and meet some new friends.

We are always adding new songs; writing new songs and adding new stuff to our catalog. We are adding songs, maybe not every week, but adding and writing songs so that every show is different. We never use a set list either. There is never a script. We get up there and “do our thing”.

(Brett) There is no script, no rehearsals. Little ideas! Funny thing is, we play so many shows, and those are our rehearsals. We have only known each other for three years, but we have spent more time with each other than anyone else. Maybe more time than our families and with our girlfriends. It’s starting to become second nature.

I was just having a conversation with Russ Baum about the Indianapolis and the Bloomington music scenes. Do you play a lot down there at IU?

(Jon) Not a lot. Last year we played in the summer on Lake Monroe. I think that was the only time we played down there. It was the only time we played down there last year anyway.

(Brett) We have played there a few times. I think we are too old for those college kids, you know. We need to start going to the retirement communities in Tucson.

Where are you guys originally from?

(Jon) I am from Evansville, born and raised.

(Brett) I am originally form Chicago, but I grew up in Plymouth, Indiana. I spend the most of my life in Plymouth, and then went to Marian College in 1998… never left.

How cool was it playing with the BoDeans?

(Brett) It was pretty sweet. We played The Vogue before as Great Scott, so we weren’t as overwhelmed as some people might be. But it was our first really big show, with a big stage and a lot of people, as The Michaels. The first show opening for a big band like that. It was our first and only show like that, so far. It was a short set. We only played for forty-five minutes.

It was good energy and good crowd. Lots of participation with the audience, then we got to hang out, and watch their set. We are both fans of their music. We actually cover one of their tunes. We didn’t play it that night.

What’s the biggest crowd you guys have ever played for?

(Brett) In one setting, it was the BoDeans show. We have played some farmer’s markets where people circulate. People don’t sit there and watch.

(Jon) We played a show with Great Scott once… there were a lot of people at that show too. But the BoDeans was our biggest crowd. We are a pretty small operation… you can’t hide behind anything. You have to pull your weight.

The smallest?

(Jon) There were three people that night!

(Brett) We played a place last May, and there were maybe six people there.

Do you guys ever practice, or do you just do that up on stage?

(Brett) We do, every once and while. We just rehearsed in the hallway! We do a lot on our own, but we get together before a show and run songs. We don’t rehearse as much as we used to, but that was when we were getting it off the ground. We had to get a lot of songs going. Now we have 150 covers, and we are starting to build our originals too. We usually just run a song once and play it live, and it’s in the rotation.

When we go into the studio, we rehearse quite a bit. We take that serious. We want to spend as little time as possible in there, especially when trying to work ideas out.

Tell me a little bit more about the China Club EP.

(Jon)  It was our first batch of songs. We started writing; one of them was older, most of them we started writing last May or June. We just worked them out for the next couple months. There was no formal writing process. Each song was created in it’s own way, whether it was me starting the idea or Brett starting the idea.

It was a learning process, and we are really happy with the result. There is a lot of variation from song to song. I am most proud of that. It’s not just the same sound throughout. We tried to give each song it’s own little adventure, as it were.

(Brett) We are already talking about a new batch of songs. This is strictly acoustic. The next batch we are adding drums, and a little more musicality, so to speak. That’s something we are looking forward to. We will still do some acoustic songs, but add some full band songs as well. Wrap it all up into a nice little package. We have been writing a few here and there, even over the last few months.

It’s fun to try some of these new originals.

You guys are using Facebook and Twitter. Do you prefer one to the other?

(Brett) You have more freedom with Facebook.

(Jon) They serve different purposes, so I am not sure I prefer one to the other. We have to have both. Some of our friends they only look at Twitter. Some vice versa. Facebook is more comprehensive.

Do you guys have jobs outside of music?

(Brett) Yes, we are full-time beer samplers. We are lucky. We have worked out way up, and it’s only been three years (ish) but we are no longer dependants on anyone else. We book all our shows; we promote all our own shows. We setup interviews and stuff like that. We do our own taxes. All that stuff. We drive our own tour buss… or car. We are lucky in that sense. We both have business savvy mentalities. We are not just performers. That’s so important in this day and age.

You are friends with Chad Mills. How often do you guys perform together?

(Brett) Not often, and not often enough. We used to play with him a lot as Great Scott. We played with him in November at Britton Tavern as Great Scott. We played at the same venue the same night, so we got to see some of his set. We stay in touch. We need to setup a super lineup. We need to rent a venue, get four or five good acts, and throw a huge party.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?

(Jon) I was playing the keyboard. This was at George’s Neighborhood Grill It totally just collapsed while I was playing it. I guess I am just too ferocious to play keys. I have no finesse. That was an omen I need to think about this.

(Brett) The keyboard added a nice little element. You are too attacking. In regards to my mot embarrassing moment… I have so many… I don’t want o talk about it. Not as many with The Michaels, but with Great Scott. A lot of fun.

You were just on City360TV. How did you get hooked up with those guys?

(Brett) How did we get hooked up with that? Oh yeah, my buddy Rick, who used to play for the Indianapolis Colts, did an interview on there. He did a “where are they now” interview on there. He went and did that, enjoyed it, and found out they do music. He gave me the contact info and we set it up.

How has the Internet changed the way people absorb music?

(Jon) I think its changed it completely. Everything is so accessible now. The good thing about it, in my opinion, is that it’s so easy to get music out. Anyone can sit there and record something on their living room. Put it up on YouTube or iTunes, and make their own music. Get it out; they don’t need to go through the red tape of record labels. I dig that part of it.

As far as the quality, I don’t think it’s helping or hurting. It makes good music accessible, but it also allows for crappy mainstream stuff to be spread as well. As far as the actual content and the quality of the music, the Internet isn’t helping or hurting. Every time you get online, the first thing you see if the most mainstream Katy Perry, or whatever it is. They are taking over everywhere you look. I don’t think it’s really…. It’s up to the people to seek out the good stuff. It makes it tougher it makes it harder to sift through.

(Brett) To follow that, there are just so many choices out there. You don’t even need a label to get the music out there. It would be nice to have a filter, but not through a label, just in general. Some music probably shouldn’t be heard. There are so many bands… millions of bands. All you need is a laptop and a microphone.

How do you decide what cover songs you play?

(Brett) We try to keep our covers as often as possible to be not cheesy. We do play a lot of covers, but we play covers that are enjoyable to use. We enjoy playing them. Also songs that you don’t hear all the other bands in town play. Brown Eyed Girl, all that. Sometimes we take suggestions and learn those once in a while. For us it’s about the music. It’s not about being some character of us. We want to be taken seriously, and we like to have a good time. We mess around with dumb song here and there, but we usually stick to songs that mean something to us.

Some of the bands that we liked in the 90s were mainstream, bit they aren’t anymore.

(Jon)  We undercut people’s expectations. Not just for the sake of it, but stuff that we like.

Do you ever forget the words to your own songs? (Your own songs including covers, of course.)

(Brett) Oh yeah! (Laughs) I am having a real hard time with this Howard Jones tune lately. Seems like the last three weeks it’s kicked my butt. We just recently heard the original version, and it’s throwing me off every time we sing it. I screwed it up in New York.

I cheat every once and a while, have the lyrics by my feet or something. I still mess it up when I have the lyrics in front of me, if you can believe that.

(Jon) We play so many songs, and the fact that we never use a set list… our shows will be 75% different. We are not playing the same songs night after night. Some songs we will go weeks and never play. We just have all these songs and we just launch into them randomly.

Have you ever been at a concert of a band that you cover?

(Brett) The BoDeans! We do a lot of Pearl Jam. We just don’t get a lot of time to go see concerts. They are bands we have never seen or have not seen in five… ten years. It would be cool for someone to cover us. Not sure anyone could pull it off.

(Jon) I saw STP in high school… in 1996.

You cover Jimmy Eat World. JEW might be one of my favorite bands of all time. Sorry, I just had to tell you!

(Brett) We have not played that song in years. Maybe we will play it tonight.

Just curious… what are your thoughts on a guy like Justin Bieber?

(Brett) In a way, it’s cool to see the whole history of what he did… I don’t know how he met Usher… that part of the story I really respect. Yeah, he’s only a kid… but to have that, to see into the future. He probably never imagined he would be on the Grammy’s five years after he started.

As far as his music, I’m not a fan. As far as his road to success, it’s cool. He worked for it. It wasn’t like he was on American idol, and not like those people didn’t work for it. Maybe we’ll meet Usher someday.

(Jon) I just hope he knows what he is. He’s being used to sell hair products and nail polish… I hope he realizes that. If he likes that and he knows what he wants, then that’s cool.

Where do you see yourselves in five years?

(Jon)  I will still be a professional musician. To the extent that my goal is to be a musician, a career musician, and to have control my own affairs… I don’t see anything changing really. Other than the places that we are playing, and the scale of it might change. I foresee myself doing the same thing right now, just possibly on a different scale.

(Brett) I would concur.

What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?

(Jon)  Sex machine. That’s all that matters. (Laughs)

(Brett) Bieber 2.0. I concur! (Laughs)

I always let the artist get the last word. Go.

(Jon) I would say, semantically speaking, we are not an acoustic duo. I’ll let people future that one out.

(Brett) Come to a show. See what you think… hear what you think. Buy a CD if you like what you hear. Support local music, because we won’t be local forever.