March 31, 2008
Prior to the theatrical, comical, and simply excellent show last night, March 31, at Logan Square Auditorium, I talked with Mikael Carlsson, the sole member of The Honeydrips, who played a magnificent set during his opening slot for Jens Lekman. We discussed musical interests, future projects, his song-construction, his experiences in America, the struggle of dense tours, and how he likes to create an awkward feel.
After Mikael’s thorough sound evaluation, we found an empty hallway to talk. I asked him if he had an iPod or an alternative method of listening to music. Long pause then, “Umm…at the moment, I have a very crappy mp3 player,” indicating that his dependence on a music device is a lot healthier than most. What fills his crappy mp3 player is, “a mixture really, not that much indie pop, a bit of reggae, and early ’90s rap, stuff like A Tribe Called Quest and Gangstarr.” This killed my would you ever consider covering these songs follow-up. Although fans should not expect something too far out of the realm of the Jesus and Mary Chain flavored pop, Mikael did warn listeners of a departure from the Here Comes The Future format, his excellent debut. The release date is still tentative, and due later than he hoped. “I wanted to release it this summer, but I haven’t started recording. I have some songs… It’ll be a lot more diverse and eclectic; [Here Comes the Future] was solid, traditional indie-pop, which is what I wanted, solid.”
Here’s how a Honeydrips song is born: “It always starts with a melody in my head, and then I play it on guitar…the songwriting always comes first.” In one of his strongest pop gems, “Fall From A Height,” Mikael samples Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, “The sampling just fit. I was watching TV and knew instantly what I wanted it to sound like. A lot of times when I’m in a relaxed state, ideas come to me.” His songwriting is personal and without aid; however, he sings songs and sends lyrics to friends in emails. Typically, Mikael will combine two songs and condense the best parts into one track.
Mikael was indecisive on whether or not he preferred performing live to working in the studio, “It depends, I vary the shows a lot…I’ve done shows where for 15 minutes I do continuous variations of the same song, and others with a fixed set list.” A Honeydrips set is a showcase of pre-recorded work and is performed like karaoke, only the singer sounds exactly like the actual version and isn’t drunk. Mikael confirmed, “It is awkward, but I like it awkward for the audience and me.”
This American tour marks Mikael Carlsson’s second visit to America. The Logan Square Chicago date marked the middle portion of the coast-to-coast tour that began in Los Angeles. Mikael gave a pretty detailed tour summary; the ups of a better-than-expected Hollywood experience, and the downs of a blizzard in Wyoming and traveling with nine people in a 12-person van with shitty, non-vegetarian gas station food. Although sound checks and traveling consume the bulk of tourist time, Mikael did admire Chicago’s over-ground trains and checked out Milwaukee Avenue. Somewhat by default, Mikael seems to prefer American audiences, “Swedish fans are a lot more drunk because shows start a lot later (headliners sometimes at 12:15), so you’re expected to entertain very drunk people, which works with the more upbeat set like ‘(Lack of) Love’ and ‘Fall From A Height,’ but I enjoy sober audiences.” Another high for Mikael was playing for a sit-down audience at Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee.
New York will bring an end to the three-week spring tour, which will be topped off with a few vacation days, but Mikael finds touring to be a creativity-killer, and seems itching to get some more great Honeydrips material on the shelves.