Interview with Mean Creek's Mikey Holland
by Charles Murphy
I've heard that interviews are all about atmosphere, so it is with some regret (or perhaps great consideration and forethought, depending on your outlook) that I sat down with Mikey Holland, drummer of Mean Creek, at perhaps the loudest location possible: Charlie's Kitchen in the midst of an under-construction Harvard Square. But, hey, we all have busy lives to lead and a good pint before work never hurt anyone, right? Amidst the cheery conversation about their latest tour and forthcoming single, one of the waiters actually semi yelled “Interview!” at us and quipped on how badass Mikey's band is. Kooky!
Deli NE: So what's Mean Creek up to these days?
Mikey Holland: Well, right now, we've just demoed a new song and we're shooting a video to coincide with the song. Everything should be released about a week and a half or two weeks before the fourth of July.
The name of the new song is Living in the Land of Hopes and Dreams. It's supposed to kind of coincide with the fourth of July, but not in the way of like, Star Spangled Banner, you know? Just more of a 'trying to make something of yourself in the world'. It'll all make sense.
Deli NE: Perhaps apropos of [your choice to] enter into the entertainment industry in the first place?
Mikey: Yeah, exactly.
Deli NE: How was your tour with Buffalo Tom?
Mikey: Tour was a lot of fun!
Deli NE: How many dates was that?
Mikey: It was four dates. They don't tour much. They only go out for a week at time, so they did four around here and then they had offered for us to go to Seattle, California...
[Note: we were here interrupted by one of the fine severs at Charlie's enquiring as to our drink selection. The Deli NE does not necessarily endorse the products ordered (nor of consuming them). However, if you are curious, I got a BBC Steel Rail and Mr. Holland selected a Budweiser. Can we hit them up for endorsement money, do you think? Ah, well, on the interview!]
Mikey: She hit you up for your ID, but not me. Do I look that old? What a drag!
Deli NE: Maybe I just look really young. [Note: we are both of legal drinking age]
Mikey: But yeah, the Buffalo Tom shows were great! There was a lot to learn. Like, you know when you go out with a band who's been together for twenty five years, you know... Personally, what I learned, was to be a band that long you have to have so many different elements going for you, other than the songs.
When I watch Buffalo Tom live, the connection that Bill, the singer of the band, makes with the crowd is like no other I've ever seen. It sounds cliché, but he's like, reaching out to everyone. And I don't know if he even knows that. I think he just does it, you know? That's his thing. I feel like when you're a band for so long you start to realize all these different things and watching them play live, watching someone who's been doing it for so long, he's already figured out all of those things that, say, us, as a band, are still trying to figure out. But yeah, I learned a lot and I love their band, so it was great!
Deli NE: What was the best show, do you think, of the stretch?
Mikey: Well, I personally like to play. I feel like when I have these really great shows, these really big shows, I'm stoked, but there's something about a smaller crowd in a smaller room that excites me more. I almost feel like I work harder in that setting, you know? So, with that said, I'm sure if you asked anyone else in the band they'd say New York, which was an amazing show. And Philadelphia. Really big rooms, you know, big crowds. Personally, I had the most fun playing the M Room. It's a small room…very slender. It was my favorite show and I was really into it. A lot of passion.
Deli NE: So you guys declined to go on a west coast leg with Buffalo Tom? Was that for any particular reason?
Mikey: Yeah. It wasn't so much a decline as… they were flying from show to show on the west coast and there was a lot of money involved and you know, we're struggling musicians! They were on their own budget themselves, so as much as I would have loved to have done it, it wasn't right for us and it wasn't right for them either. I'm just grateful that I even get to see them in 2011, let alone play with them, let alone go on tour with them. So you know, one day, two days, four days... it's all good for me!
Deli NE: So this new recording, where are you guys doing it?
Mikey: So we've been recording with John Angello, who's worked with a million bands [Dinosaur Jr, Buffalo Tom, amongst many others], and did our last two recordings. But our friend Chris [McLaughlin], who recorded our first record. Or, I should say, our second record (our first with the current line up). He's going to do the new song and I think we're going to do an EP with him later. He's friends with us, he loves our band, and he also is an amazing engineer. Great ears. He's producing it, too.
We'd been working on this song for about a month. Just one song! Four practices a week, five hour practices for a month, on one song. And it's been getting a little much, but not in a bad way! We never came to a head on anything. It's just been trying to find the right way to do it and there's just not enough hours in the day to do anything anymore, you know? So we went there to demo with him and he got what we were doing and he gave us one little suggestion that just turned the song around. It was exactly what we'd been working for the whole time, but we just couldn't put our finger on it. The first time he ever heard the song he was like, “you ever think about doing this?” It was almost sort of a bummer, you know? It was like, 'Fuck, man! I'd worked on this song for like forty hours!' Why didn't I think of that?
Deli NE: So you and Erik [Wormwood, bass] had been in Tulsa and then left to join Mean Creek, is that correct?
Mikey: Well, we didn't leave to join Mean Creek, but we left Tulsa. Then we were freelancers for like, two months. Then we joined. Actually, I joined Mean Creek and I said, 'In order for this band to be the best band ever, we need Erik Wormwood'. So they had to change some cast members.
Deli NE: How long ago was that?
Mikey: That was... I think that was three years ago. Wow! Time's been flying by!
Deli NE: How long had Mean Creek been about beforehand?
Mikey: I think it has been a four or five year project. A weird thing is that, not Tulsa, but another band I had been in was recording a seven inch... at the same time they [Chris Keene, guitar and vocals and Aurore Ounjian, guitar and vocals] were recording their full length. It was really just Chris and Aurore and a cast of musicians, so I actually played on their first record. Because we were going into the studio and they were going into the studio and it was sort of intermingled. So you know, I've kind of always been in the band, in some ways!
Deli NE: Let's talk about SXSW for a minute. Your band's experience there and maybe your expectations going into it vs. feelings coming out of it. And maybe thoughts on if you guys are going do it again next year.
Mikey: Sure. I feel like we'll probably always do SXSW, even if we don't want to.
Deli NE: Was this your first SXSW?
Mikey: No, this was my third. With Mean Creek, this was my second. With that said, I feel like if you're in a band and you're trying to be alive in this industry, you have to do a lot of things that maybe you don't even want to do, but that's just the way of the world. And I like playing there, so that's not the worst thing in the world, but I hate that drive! As far as expectations... there is little-to-none. What is there, like fifteen thousand bands going down to Austin for three days hoping to just get heard? I think the only expectation is to just go down and just fucking play our hearts out and if someone hears it, cool! If someone doesn't, well, it's pretty obvious why they didn't.
Deli NE: The rest of the interview turned into a zany road trip to try and return the some jewels or whatever to London before the queen noticed and was highly entertaining, only I forgot to bring my tape recorder and the whole thing was covered up by MI6 and the CIA combined, you guys, so…OK, we just drank some more and traded road stories. Are you happy?
Anyway, Mean Creek, Hands and Knees, Fedavees, and Banditas are at Great Scott this Saturday, May 28th, and it would be oh-so-neat if you stopped in and bought Mikey a Budweiser. Or, I guess if you want to be helpful, they might appreciate it more if you purchased some merch.