Meet . . . Michael
It seems like a distant memory now, five years ago when three musicians packed up and moved to Atlanta with the vague idea of making music together. Five years that have included numerous ups and downs, like the up of the early radio-friendly hit “Wide Awake,” a return to Athens, GA and relative seclusion, more recording, more gigs, and more seclusion. Until lately. Now the signature line on e-mails from this band screams:
MICHAEL @ #58 ON CMJ TOP 200!!!!
MICHAEL @ #74 ON CMJ CORE 75!!!!
WNNX – CD PICK OF THE WEEK!!!!!!
That was the response to Michael’s first full-length CD, You Must Be This Tall . Released a few months ago, CMJ’s New Music Report included a glowing review of the album, and the national response makes it clear that people are finally “wide awake” to the consistent hard work that has made this band a talented, forceful contender in the music scene.
Five years in the making, You Must Be This Tall documents the band’s musical history, combining songs from throughout the course of the band’s development. When asked how the release has affected the band, drummer Bob Sleppy responded by talking about the material and what the recordings mean to the band: “Personally, I think that the release of the record was a huge relief for all of us. We have been playing and performing many of these songs for almost five years now. When you actually get the chance to record them, you feel as if they’ve been cataloged and you can move on to newer material. We are very happy with the songs that we have written over the past several years, and once you stop playing those songs live, they tend to disappear. So when they are recorded it allows you the opportunity to move on and feel comfortable that your older material won’t be lost forever.”
And document it does. While all the older songs have been re-recorded for the album, Bob is amused at how the perceptions of the band have changed over the years. Writers and deejays, in typical bandwagon fashion, have followed one another to describe the band at different points in time. “In 1994 and 1995, we got more than a few Nirvana comparisons, and in ’96 and ’97, we were Pixies and Jane’s Addiction, and now, we are EMO in ’98 and ’99. Just within the past few months, we have started getting Rush comparisons. Who knows? Maybe in the next few years we’ll get a few Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson comparisons, or even TLC — you know, there are only three of us too,” says Bob. But he qualifies that with one very clear statement: “No matter what the new thing at the time may be, Michael is a rock band.”
Music scenesters have also had peculiar takes on the band. Michael’s following has for many years consisted of those most interested in alternative music — college radio deejays, music editors, and other musicians. You Must Be This Tall has opened Michael to a new audience, by giving them the opportunity to listen to the music in a studio setting, instead of simply playing it. The album has also gained the band more credibility, and it opened doors that had been closed to Michael, a band that is an oddity these days, a band that seems to have consistently sacrificed its business side to focus on artistic merit. And while the success of You Must Be This Tall is a welcome confirmation of the spirit and merit of Michael’s efforts, they still maintain a humble perspective on their development.
This may be because Michael is just one of eight or nine bands resident in the resurgent Athens, Georgia music scene to garner national attention over the last year or so. Bob lists just a few examples “Macha, Jucifer, Olivia Tremor Control, or Elf Power… they are truly the cream of the crop, and fantastic bands.” And though he admires the sheer force of talent that has made the resurgence possible, he admits that the pool of talented bands can make it difficult to distinguish themselves in their local environment. But then, Michael is already beginning to take its rightful place among those same bands. Bob wisely observes that “[Friendly] competition breeds better work.” And that it will, as Michael is already looking forward to the follow up to You Must Be This Tall .
Michael have a new website that is well worth checking out: www.goodblonde.com. Contact Bob Sleppy at GOODblonde Records, PO Box 3046, Athens, GA 30612. You Must Be This Tall is available on Goodblonde/Ghostmeat Records. Also, check out www.mp3.com for downloads of songs from the album — Michael’s song “Manifest Destiny” has charted as high as #5 in its “genre” on this site. The site has over 30,000 songs and 200,000 hits a day.