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Sometimes, there is value in taking time to sit with a finished product and pick apart each piece. After the pandemic pushed the planned release date by several months, Another Michael had nearly a full year to spend with their debut album, New Music And Big Pop, between submitting the final master and releasing the first track. “I’m actually more connected to the record now than I would have been, maybe, had we released it sooner,” Michael Doherty tells me over the phone as the rest of his bandmates — bassist Nick Sebastiano and guitarist/keyboardist Alenni Davis — listen intently.
As I’m sure is the case with many writers, the last twelve months have made it increasingly difficult for new music to break through the constant noise and find space to nestle in my brain and make itself at home. “New Music,” the opening track of New Music And Big Pop, took a mere 31 seconds to capture my full attention when a streaming link popped into my inbox about a year ago. It’s at this point in the song that Doherty’s voice first hits a falsetto note that is impossible to ignore, setting the stage for a spectacular debut effort that sounds familiar in its composition, but completely original in its execution.
The track itself an exercise in self-examination, with Doherty’s lyrics detailing, from a bird’s eye view, a beautiful process that many of us undergo daily: musical discovery (something you are hopefully experiencing right now). It’s a simple story, centered around getting a link to new song via text from a trusted friend. But it’s a narrative that often goes untold in songwriting — how often do you hear music about listening to music? As it turns out, the activity of really listening to music and diving into new sounds is an integral part of the glue that holds Another Michael together.
“It wouldn’t be possible to bond over music and bond playing music together if it wasn’t for listening to music,” Sebastiano notes. “I think it’s like a big part of our friendship and what our music ultimately ends up being.”
“If it weren’t for our friendship and hanging out and listening to music, I wouldn’t listen to what has become my favorite music of all-time,” adds Davis.
Without pressure or any label expectations to live up to, the process of writing their debut album was freewheeling and improvisational, with the trio feeling the freedom to explore the furthest reaches of their musical imagination. With two EPs under their belt, the band’s approach to writing their debut full-length album became a much more collaborative affair. The process begins with an idea from Doherty, before it’s presented to Sebastiano and Davis, and the trio jams to develop the idea.
This writing process gives each member an opportunity to access their shared lexicon of different influences from their vastly divergent musical upbringings: Sebastiano came of age in a household filled with disco music, while Davis obsesses over video game music, and Doherty continues to find inspiration in whatever genre is popular at the moment, from boy bands to modern pop. “I think the difference in where we’re all coming from, then coming together and appreciating what each person likes is a defining part of our sound,” Davis summarizes. “We’ll kind of explore a bunch of different options and play off of each other’s strengths in that way, and sometimes it’ll be workshopped in a studio setting, or a home-recorded setting, and we’re trying to figure out how it’s gonna be inside the box in that way,” adds Sebastiano.
Despite the loose and cooperative writing sessions, once a song was completed, the band made a point to capture their inspiration on tape, quickly making the move to rehearse and record the track. During the writing and recording process, the trio was processing the album in real time, without much time to let the music gestate and evolve in their heads. “I look back upon it as one work that’s like a big pizza,” Sebastiano explains. “One song was like the cheese, another song was like the bread. And then we only saw it as that for a while.”
With the equipment and technical prowess to engineer their own recording sessions at their own house or a house they rented in Ferndale, New York, the band was truly able to give themselves the space to take full advantage of the studio technology and built out the world of each song. “We had the opportunity to work as late as we wanted or as long as we wanted,” notes Sebastiano. “Not having a time crunch for studio time definitely helped to bring in those more experimental arrangements.”
In their finished form, tracks like “I Know You’re Wrong” and “What Gives?” recall specific moments in Doherty’s life from the perspective of an objective narrator, taking care not to contextualize the stories with a specific emotion, and allowing the listener to come to their own conclusions about the instance. Nowhere on the album will you find lyrics meant to be inked onto your skin. Rather, the lush textures and layers of the music will encourage you to put on a pair of noise-canceling headphones to immerse yourself in the product of a group of friends that takes music more seriously, than they take themselves.
Without the burden of an emotional weight and its palpable feeling of inspiration, New Music And Big Pop delivers ten tracks that are imbued with a sense of liberation and raw talent that feels rare in 2021, a breath of fresh air that creates a unique lane and a promising future for a new band like Another Michael. Luckily, one of the silver linings of being unable to tour is an abundance of time to continue writing. “Extremely excited to say that we’ve been working on a lot of music here,” Sebastiano reports, with a discernible enthusiasm in his voice for what’s next.
New Music And Big Pop is out February 19 via Run For Cover Records. Pre-order it here.