Mikey Wehling Talks Lo-Fi and Going To School with Midlake
Mikey Wehling's newest EP, Galaxy Reverb, came out earlier this week and can be downloaded for free on bandcamp. It's a studiously homemade affair, recorded on a four-track in Wehling's basement using equipment he scrounged up at places like garage sales. The results are at once heartfelt and alien: The prevailing tone here is retro blips and bleeps, but the melodic folk of his past shines through. We chatted with Wehling about why he records analog and what the record means to him.
A to Z: You recorded this whole thing analog?
Mikey Wehling: Yep. On a Tascam 4 track tape deck in my basement
Is that how you've always done things?
It's obviously much easier to do all of this digital -- why do you stick with analog?
Well, I think the fewer options you have, the more creative you must be.
Jack White spoke about that.
I see. Freedom in restriction.
I've made big records with tons of tracks and I wanted to see what I could do with the minimum amount of options, using stuff you can buy at a garage sale.
It always makes me smile when my buddies who work at big studios ask me how I got such good sounds.
Did you actually buy the equipment used at a garage sale?
Yeah, some. The four track and some of the Casiotone keyboards used
Both my new EP and Reverbs of My Mind were done the same way: Tape in the basement, just me, simple and organic. In fact, a lot of the tracks contain "improvised composition." Meaning I didn't have any plans before pressing record, I improvised a melody or chord progression and dug it, so I kept it.
It's surprisingly coherent for that sort of recording method
Thanks! I have a degree in music. Shh!
Ah yes: the ol' official training.
I went to University of North Texas in Denton at the same time as the Midlake fellers.
Did you know them?
Yep. They used to come to my gigs. Me and McKenzie (the drummer) used to gig out around town.
Have you kept in touch at all?
Yep. Hung out with them when they were last in STL. Great band. I saw them when they were a jazz/funk band. No joke. They were all jazz dorks like me. Tim Smith was in the One O'clock Lab Band on sax.
Sweet cats, really. Will Johnson (Centro-Matic, Monsters of Folk) was always around, too. The early Centro-Matic tracks were a very lo-fi affair also.
Denton and Portland have greatly influenced me
But make no excuse: Galaxy Reverb is a STL album. I tried to make an album that reflected the grit and beauty of the city, if it existed in a parallel world that was both in the future as viewed by the 1980s
Amazingly, I can hear that. "Ferns and Maples" and the title track stand somewhat apart, soundwise, for the obvious reasons.
Yes. Well, I grew up in a musical family. My father and uncle were folk musicians: Acoustic guitars and hammer dulcimers. But they still fit in the same world. My view is I like lots of different kinds of music. So do most folks these days.
So if your iPod can go from Nick Drake to Bone Thugs, why not "Ferns and Maples" to "Robots Like U"? And those tracks are weird also. Put them on some headphones. It gets strange
It's all me both soft and hard. It really opens it up. I had planned a lot of the recoding for those few folks who listen on headphones these days
I always just make music I like and I'm humbled if anyone else digs it. I'll probably be making these records for the rest of my days in my basement. But if people like it sweet. Like any artist, I'd love for my work to reach the most ears possible
Anything else you'd like to tell me about this record?
The cassettes will be pressed and available for sale by the end of the month.