We recently caught up with surf-garage rocker Mikal Cronin. While on his way to South By Southwest, he’s gracing us with his presence to play some of ear-worm worthy pop tunes at The Prairie Fire Theatre. Like a lot of Californians, Cronin’s music has been influenced by the sunny weather. He’s been able to craft songs that wouldn’t be out of place on “Pet Sounds” or the next Best Coast album. Lucky for us, they’re all on a Mikal Cronin album since he’ll be playing them here.
Cronin, Bleached, Dry Heeves, and Naked Pictures will be playing The Prairie Fire Theatre today (March 7). Tickets at the door are $7.
New Slang: First off, the whole “pysch-surf-garage-rock” sound has really taken off in recent years. There’s a lot of bands going with those elements. What’s your thoughts on where that sound is going?
Mikal Cronin: Yeah, it’s interesting that it’s becoming more popular these days. Definitely more people listening to and people at those shows it seems. It’s kind of a style that we’ve been doing for years, like the garage-rock, ’60s stuff. In the beginning, no one really cared. It didn’t feel like we were excluded, but definitely another sound was more popular at the time.
NS: I think one of the real cool parts of that sound/scene, is that it feels like almost everyone is striving to make that “perfect classic pop song.” When you’re writing, does it feel that you’re trying to do the same?
MC: Recently, I definitely feel that way. I’m really trying to make something effective in that way. Like a pop song. I don’t know if that’s the norm these days. I don’t know if everyone’s trying to do that. And I dont think everyone should be trying to do that. Personally though, that’s kind of what I’m interested in. But then there’s also–a band I really like is Thee Oh Sees. They can be really great pop songs, but they can be eight minutes long and be very psychedelic. They just seem to be getting a good mixture of the two. I definitely appreciate the two.
NS: John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees plays flute on the album. How does one ask for somebody to play a flute solo?
MC: [Laughs] At the time, I didn’t know him too well. I hadn’t moved up to San Francisco, but I had met him a few times and he’s friends with my friend Ty Segall. While I was recording the album, me and Ty went out and got a taco with John Dwyer for lunch. I had this idea for a flute solo and I knew he played flute, so I asked him if he had some time that afternoon for like an hour. And he said yeah and laid it down in about 20 minutes. So yeah [laughs].
NS: On the album, there’s a few “jazzy” moments that pop out of no where. Like that flute and you have a saxophone solo on another song. Where did that stem from?
MC: Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve been playing playing saxophone for years and years. I’ve been interested in using other instruments on the album other than just guitar, drums, the standard setup. So I asked what was available for me? So basically a saxophone and a flute. So I had this trumpet line in my head and played it with a saxophone since that’s all I had [laughs]. I’m really interested in working with orchestral things, woodwinds, strings hopefully. Hopefully, I’ll be getting working with more things like that in the future.
NS: Now, I’m sure you get a ton of questions about your friendship with Ty Segall. Do you think, in a way, you guys drive each other in a “friendly rivalry” kind of way? Like you hear something new from him and it makes you want to go and write something just as good or better and vice versa?
MC: Yeah, totally. I can see from my end, where I hear something as he’s writing it, as he’s recording it. Yeah, I wouldn’t go as far to say a rivalry. But, I’m definitely inspired by him and other friends and what they’re doing. I guess there’s a healthy competition, but I don’t think anyone will ever be bitter about it. Definitely when I hear a good song by a friend like Ty, I’ll go home and try and write something good as well [laughs]. I mean, I don’t want to try and be better than anyone else. But, there’s definitely that heavy influence. I’ve got a lot of very talented friends and they really make me want to write better music.
NS: You’ve uploaded a lot of different and interesting things on your SoundCloud. About a month ago, you uploaded “Seista? Fiesta!” Where did that come from? What inspired you to do a Spanish guitar-tinged instrumental? See song below.
MC: Oh yeah [laughs]. I don’t know, that was years and years ago. I have an external hard-drive with just all this music I’ve recorded over the years and I was basically poking through it looking for little snippets I could develop for something more. [Laughs] I can’t exactly remember what my mind set was at that point. But, I’m pretty sure I was listening to a lot of surf music and watching old films with Morricone or something. I have a lot of strange music that I’ve recorded over the years. Just different weird little instrumentals.
NS: Your songs can be real ear-worms. Seeing as this is Lubbock, Buddy Holly obviously had a lot of great pop standards. Has he been an influence on your music creativity?
MC: Yeah. I mean, I wouldn’t call myself a Buddy Holly expert, but I’ve loved everything I’ve ever heard from him. I really love that style he was working with. He has some really catchy songs. That early rock’n’roll type thing. Buddy Holly’s great.