Mike Kinsella is Owen. Thus, Owen is Mike Kinsella? Not so fast… I spoke with Mike about Owen, some of his processes as an artist, and what might be up with that other band he plays/played in.
Adam: Hi, Mike. First off, I must say, I’m bowled over by The King Of Whys. Congrats on it, its a real achievement. So, I gotta ask about the sequencing. I was stunned that “Lost” is the album closer. How did you choose this as the last cut? How involved were you (have you been) in sequencing records throughout your career?
Mike: Oh, really? Why? I feel like that one was the clear “closer” once the vocals were laid down. I have the final say in sequencing but it was a collaborative process with Sean (who produced it) and Zach (who engineered it.) They both got to know the songs as intimately as I did and I totally trusted their judgement, and I feel like that being the closer was one that we all agreed on.
Much has been made about The King Of Whys being recorded away from Chicago, and rather up north with S. Carey. How was this experience different for you? Was it more challenging? Or just new/different challenges?
Mike: It was more challenging in the sense that I didn’t know exactly what I was getting in to, or how invested the other dudes would be in it. But once I realized they were completely invested I was able to relax and felt comfortable throwing ideas out there. Lyrically, being isolated from my family / home produced some stuff that I don’t think would’ve come up had I been able to go home at the end of each day.
Can you explain any tie-in between the lovely cover art and the songs/record itself? The illustrations are beautiful on the lyric sheet, almost reminds me of a quality children’s book.
Mike: It’s an homage to a French opera called “Le roi d’Ys” about a drowned city.
Do you have a favorite song on the record? Which one and why?
Mike: I think “Desperate Act” and “Lost” came together really nice. I more have favorite lines or violin swells as opposed to entire songs, as there’s always something within a song I’d like to change.
Track 2, “The Desperate” has some pedal steel, strings, piano and some biting words. Can you tell listeners more about who its written to, or what its about? These are killer relate-able lines. Bravo.
“I concede this childish need for attention…”
“I’m calling in sick forever and I’m calling bullshit on everyone”
“This is a test and I’m failing”
Mike: Ha. That one, like most of them, is a collection of lines / themes directed at different people. Some of it is towards myself, and some towards people I know, and some projected on people I don’t know. I guess it’s about playing and / or “performing,” and how that fits into being a normal person who doesn’t ever have to do that.
Sticking to the lyric sheet. There is a lot of I in your words. How much is autobiographical? Was this record more revealing or rewarding than others?
Mike: A lot of it is autobiographical, but definitely not all of it. And often not even related parts of the same song. One verse can be about me and the next complete fiction inspired by the first one. The goal is to end up with something cohesive and coherent after mixing all these lines together.
So Mike, what’s up? When can Chicago and Illinois area fans expect a tour date?
Mike: I’m putting a show Chicago together for the Fall, probably in October.
Ednote- Owen is playing @Chicago Athletic Association Hotel on Saturday October 8th. Tickets on sale 8/12/16 here
Leaving no stone unturned, I must ask, “Settled Down” sounds most like a full-band. Almost like this band American Football. Have we heard the last of American Football? How do you feel about the legacy of that project and the reunion shows?
Mike: Ha. It’s been a lot more fun than any of us could have imagined so we’re definitely not “breaking up” again any time soon…
Ednote- American Football is playing The Vic Theatre on 10/29/16 So I guess, stay tuned…