Interview by Nick Daly
Nick: How did you hook up with the guys from Hey Mercedes? Did they come to you, or did you audition for the band...?
Mike: I've known all the guys pretty well since the Braid days. I actually met Damon a couple years before he joined Braid. He set up a show in Milwaukee for a band I was in - that was in 1995 - and we've been friends ever since. When Mark left the band, Bob contacted me and asked if I would be interested in trying out. So I guess technically I auditioned - but it was by invitation.
- I assumed that you joining Hey Mercedes meant the end of Sheilbound, but on the Sheilbound website it almost sounds as if we haven't heard the last of Sheilbound. Is Sheilbound over for good or just temporarily?
Well, that's been something that goes back and forth daily. However, we came to the decision just a few days ago to have a final show and bring it to a close. So Sheilbound is over, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the four of us won't play together as a band again. If and when we do however, it will be under a new name with new songs. A new band. I don't see it happening for a long time, but the members of Sheilbound and I have been best friends for most of our lives, so rocking together again is almost guaranteed.
- What made you want to quit Sheilbound to join Hey Mercedes?
Sheilbound was kind of at a standstill. We were not really doing much of anything. Some of the members had very prohibitive jobs, so touring, recording, and even finding time to write was becoming almost impossible. I've pretty much built my life around music - I've been working at the same horrible job for the last 8 years just because it was a job that allowed me to take time off whenever I needed it to tour, record, whatever. So I found myself always working - and never playing. It was really starting to get depressing, and basically just pissing me off that I wasn't playing music. Then, out of nowhere, I got the call from Bob, and he asked me if I wanted to try out and possibly join the band. It really didn't take long to decide. I thought "hmmm, I can continue breaking my back and hurting my self at work for another x amount of years, and maybe go on a few more tours and play to nobody again for 4 weeks straight (a typical Sheilbound tour), and MAYBE release another record sometime - OR, I can rock FULL TIME with a great band with great guys." Before I made any decision I talked it over with the other members of Sheilbound, and they basically told me I would be stupid not to do it. So here I am.
- What is it like joining a band like Hey Mercedes, who already have a well-received full-length out and are signed to a "bigger" label?
I guess it hasn't hit me - I still haven't played any shows with the band, and I think that's when it will really start to sink in. From what I can tell, Vagrant is a very supportive label and really looks out for their bands, which to me is very important. I think I'm going to enjoy the advantages that Vagrant can offer.
- Bob, Todd, and Damon have been writing together for years now and seem to have a very specific way of writing songs with each other. How was it joining into that- was it hard at all?
I think it's been a pretty easy transition. They seem to have basically the same type of organization that I'm used to as far as the writing process. It's a total democracy, which I like, and we seem to speak the same "secret song language" - what I mean is, the way we describe parts to each other, and how they should go together, how we give funny names to each part to identify them, and seem to agree with the arrangements, it's all similar to my previous band. I've never found myself thinking "what the hell are they talking about?"
- In addition to playing guitars in Sheilbound, you were also the lead vocalist. Will you be doing any singing in Hey Mercedes? Do you think you will collaborate on lyrics?
I will mostly be doing back ups and harmonies for now, and I'm pretty happy with that. There's no telling what will happen with the new songs, but it will most likely be more of the same.
- What do you think you bring to Hey Mercedes? Such as their sound, attitude, etc?
I think I have a very defined and precise sound, and it will show on the new songs. I'm a pretty straight forward player, so in some ways it will be simpler, maybe a little less dissident, and a little more rock and roll - in sound and attitude.
- How is the writing process going so far? How are the new songs coming along, and what would you say they are sounding like?
The writing is going well, but I think it's still a little too early to say what it sounds like. We're still in the very early stages as we've had some other priorities to address before we can totally focus on writing. All I can really say for sure is that it's going to rock.
- How do you usually write on guitar? Are there any things, such as chord changes, certain structures, etc. that you find yourself going back to? Do you write pieces of things and take them to practice, or do you ever write complete songs on guitar?
There are definitely certain things that I find myself going back to, and if it works, then that's cool. I think when it doesn't work however, is when I write my best stuff, because is forces me to come up with totally different ideas then my usual bag of tricks. In a perfect world, I like to come to practice with all the parts, but not necessarily a complete song. I really like the input of other band members before I try and finish anything.
- When you write on guitar, do you have a feeling, like an emotional reference point, or do you just screw around until you come up with something cool? I mean, do you sit down to write a song with a certain feeling or subject in mind?
I usually have to have a feeling before I can write anything I'm happy with, but it's not a subject I have in mind or anything, it's just kind of a "I wannna rock like THIS" type of thing. Rock music gets me really excited, and for me it's always been the music that drives me, like the rhythms, chords, tempo, and changes, and not so much the subject or lyrical content. I honestly don't know the words to most of my favorite songs, but I guarantee I could air drum or air guitar to them perfectly.
- What inspires you to be in a band and give your life, or at least a large portion of it to making music? Is there a moment or situation in the past that you can pinpoint where you just thought "this is what I want to do!"?
I'm not sure how it happened, but music is my life without any doubt. Much of my family are musicians - I guess it runs in the blood. I could never be happy just listening to records and letting all this music happen around me without being a part of it somehow. I love every part of music. Listening, playing, recording, everything. I have no choice in the matter, music owns me.
- Sheilbound was an amazing band, making some truly original and exciting music. I was sorry to hear the band was splitting, but very excited that you were joining Hey Mercedes. What goals do you have being in this band? What are the other 3 guys from Sheilbound doing now?
I hope to help this band go as far as we possibly can, while still having fun and doing everything on our own terms, accomplish everything that is within our reach, and never regret any part of it. There's no way to tell what's in the future for us, but I know that we'll make good decisions, and be able to look back 10 years from now and simply say "hell yea" - or something to that effect. Most of all I just want to write some "rippin'" songs. hehe
- What are Hey Mercedes' plans for the rest of 2002? Maybe recording?
Mostly touring and writing. We'll probably record in early 2003.
Special thanks to Mike for doing the interview.
You can visit Mike's old band, Sheilbound, or you can go to his new band's official website.