Mikal Cronin is a busy guy. When he’s not writing, recording, or touring under his own name, he’s usually playing bass in his friend Ty Segall’s band. Based out of San Francisco, the garage rocker is taking a short break to write his third album as he preps for some shows with the Ty Segall Band. Cronin will be playing this year’s Austin Psych Fest under his own name, which is one of just a handful of festival dates he is playing this year. He answered a few questions about playing in Austin and the differences between playing in his two bands.
The Daily Texan: Is this your first time playing Psych Fest?
Mikal Cronin: Yeah. I’m really excited. I’ve heard nothing but good things.
DT: Do you see any psych rock influences in your music?
MC: I definitely wouldn’t call it psych rock. I can see a little influence in there. It’s such a vague term to me. a lot of guitar or rock based music is at least a little bit influenced by psychedelic rock. I wouldn’t call my music psych but it’s definitely worked its way into some of the guitar solos or sounds.
DT: Do you have any favorite psychedelic bands?
MC: I definitely like Thirteenth Floor Elevators. They’ve been huge for me for a long time. It’s probably one of the most directly psychedelic bands that I’ve listened to for a long time. Also a lot of the early stuff like when the Beatles got all psychedelic and weird. I was really digging the Beatles when I was young. A lot of stuff like Sleep, which is super psychedelic to me.
DT: Are you taking a break from touring behind your material right now?
MC: Yeah. I’m going to be recording a new record so I’ve dialed back on the tour dates. I’m also doing a lot of touring in Ty Segall’s band, and that touring is picking up again. I just wanted to make sure I had a little bit of free time to write and record the next record I’m going to do.
DT: Have you started writing it already?
MC: Yeah. I’m in the early stages of figuring it out. I was doing a lot of singles and one off things but I’m just now getting down to the serious collection of ideas. I’m excited to start working on it.
DT: When you’re touring, what are some of the differences between being the frontman for your band and just playing in Ty Segall’s band?
MC: For right now, after touring so much behind my own record under my own name, it’s very much a welcome relief to just play some bass and be the second man. It’s very different and I stress myself out a lot more with my band. When it’s my name on the bill I have this pressure to do the best I can, and I want to do the best I can when I’m in Ty’s band as well. It’s just a different experience. We’re doing different things in both groups. It’s really nice to take a step back though. It’s a definite relief and I appreciate being able to ping pong between both of them and cool my jets a little bit playing in Ty’s band, having some fun without as much pressure.
DT: What’s your opinion of SXSW? Do you think it’s fun or is it overblown and getting annoying after a while?
MC: I’ve had both experiences with it. The first couple times I did it we tried to play a shit ton of shows, like 9 shows in 2 days or 12 shows in 3 days. That kind of wears me out and is a little too overwhelming. The last couple times we’ve done it, like I was there this past year with Ty Segall’s band and we did no official shows, just some house parties. We did one show a day and that was super fun. If you tour a lot, a lot of your friends from around the country and people you know are all in one place at the same time. It’s really fun catching up with people and seeing a bunch of your friend’s bands that you don’t get to see a lot. I still like it, but it’s definitely a shit show. I try to avoid Red River as much as possible. I think I just discovered that you have to keep it kind of mellow and don’t try to play too many shows and stay away from the crowds. It can be really fun.
The official lineup for ACL is set to be released next Tuesday morning, so it’s time for the time-honored tradition of using exact science and probability to predict the lineup before it comes out. Using complicated formulas and hours of in-depth research, below with 99% accuracy is a breakdown of who to expect at the festival.
Outkast – The legendary rap group 20th anniversary reunion tour is stopping at major festivals around the world, and so far they have no Texas date listed. Since they’re not playing FPSF in Houston and are likely too big to play Fun Fun Fun Fest, the chances are that ACL will be the one chance Texans get to see them.
Jack White – He just headlined two years ago, but ACL has had no qualms of using repeat headliners lately. He has a new album on the way this summer and his summer tour hits Houston and Lubbock but skips Austin, which indicates that he’ll probably be back in October.
Beck – New album? Check. Popular ‘90s artist who is still relevant both critically & commercially? Check. Scheduled ACL taping with no other Austin date coming up? Check. Prior experience headlining ACL? Check. Beck will almost certainly play this year.
Arcade Fire – It’s been three years since they headlined, and since then they’ve only gotten bigger. They did just play Austin last week, but they also played The Backyard in May in 2011 before they headlined. Austin loves Arcade Fire, and the feeling seems to be mutual. Not as much a lock as the others but still very likely.
Lorde – She sold out Austin Music Hall in March, is playing Lollapalooza (also run by C3), and is a pop star who topped the alternative rock charts. She may not be a headliner, but she’ll be there.
Skrillex – He played ACL three years ago, and headlines both Coachella & Lollapalooza this year. While Calvin Harris or Zedd could possibly take this spot, chances are Skrillex will be ACL’s token electronic headliner this year.
The Replacements – I would have pegged them for Fun Fun Fun Fest, but there are a few rumors online indicating that they will make ACL their Texas stop instead. As a legendary ‘80s indie rock band, its not a bad fit for the festival.
Foster The People – Still not sure who likes this band, but enough people for SXSW to book them at Butler Park this year. Along with Coachella & Lollapalooza, ACL will most likely be a stop for them.
Childish Gambino – See Above, but deduct points for ACL not being very rap friendly.
The Avett Brothers – Here’s another ACL favorite that hasn’t played in two years, is playing Lollapalooza/Bonnaroo, and taps into the festival’s folk rock scene nicely. They’re also touring and playing dates in Texas/New Orleans but not Austin this spring as well.
Disclosure – The brothers from England played a sold-out show at Stubb’s in January and have a large crossover appeal. This would be a good way for ACL to appeal to the electronic fans/youth while also drawing in fans who typically avoid EDM.
Broken Bells – Between The Shins & Broken Bells, James Mercer has played ACL twice already since 2010. The Broken Bells album came out earlier this year, and while they played SXSW, it would make sense for them to come back where more people can have a chance at seeing them. There's also the Lollapalooza connection.
Classic Rock Headliner – Full disclosure (pun intended), I have no idea who this will be. Every year ACL has a headliner or two whose glory days were the ‘70s or ‘80s, and this year is hard to predict. Elton John is playing Bonnaroo, but last year Paul McCartney played there and not ACL. Fleetwood Mac has touring conflicts, and Tom Petty may not be bold enough. Bruce Springsteen is a possibility for this slot as well, since he has a new album out and is touring Houston/New Orleans this fall but not Austin. If he played, it would be a big get. In a perfect world, Prince would have this slot, but sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world. If ACL gets Outkast & Arcade Fire, they will likely be the big draws of the festival, making the classic rock headliner not quite as large as in years past where it was Stevie Wonder or Neil Young.
Best Guess – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Other probable acts: CHVRCHES, Chromeo, The 1975, Sleigh Bells, The Head & The Heart, Warpaint, Darkside, James Blake, Capital Cities, Little Dragon, The Naked & Famous, Cage The Elephant, Gary Clark Jr., Sam Smith, First Aid Kit, White Denim
Longshots that would be cool: St. Vincent, Damon Albarn, Chance The Rapper, Janelle Monae, Lauryn Hill, Pharrell, Nas, Lana Del Rey
Who do you think will play ACL this year? Sound off in the comments below.
This is probably going to be the most important historical event you will ever be able to watch on television within a 30 mile radius of the actual event. Prepare accordingly.
Decorate with red, white and blue streamers, glittery stars of independence, the whole shebang. Never mind that you are booked with midterms or projects, the campus will be too full of people attending the event you will be following from your couch, so you might as well turn inconvenience into a party. Don’t forget about food. Hot dogs, burgers, popcorn — nothing elevates freedom like heartburn. This week is all about equality which means everyone gets a piece of the homemade American pie.
Bonus tip: Turn the watching party into a masquerade by printing out a bunch of presidential and governmental faces and strapping them over yours. The whole night will be a mysterious, yet slightly awkward affair. Are Dick Cheney and Nancy Pelosi making out in the bathroom?
2. Gather your watchers
An event like this is too big to stay bundled up under your blankets in PJs like its a Netflix marathon. Dress nice and invite all of your friends over.
Eventually watching a bunch of old people talk about things will get boring, so have activities to keep the night rolling. There should be a loud group whooping session every time a president does a Hook ‘em. Drink a beer every time someone mentions the word equality. Don’t worry about keeping up with all the confusing jargon. You can always go back and watch the most important moments on YouTube.
What makes Cloud Nothings such an interesting band to follow is their commitment and penchant to grow almost exponentially on each subsequent release. The band’s first, self-titled record came out in 2011 as the epitome of the under-produced bratty pop-punk that resembled early Green Day that was on the rise back then, along with bands like Wavves. The second album, Attack On Memory, was heralded as a step up creatively and sonically, as the band dabbled in noise-rock, accompanied by the raw production of esteemed producer/musician Steve Albini. Albini’s involvement dominated the narrative behind Cloud Nothings’ breakout album, which still retained memorable pop melodies at parts, but was dominated by a definite squalor that overtook the record.
Here and Nowhere Else, the bands third record, reveals that Albini’s work only served as a small piece of what helped take the band’s music in a markedly different direction. Dylan Baldi has proven himself to be more than an apt songwriter, and his growth and experience makes Here and Nowhere Else a marked improvement over Attack on Memory, the same way that record built on the first one. Gone is the messy squeal of the last record, and in its place is a band finding their way through taut and controlled songs.
Another aspect of these tracks, one that may weigh heaviest on the band’s improvement, is the way Baldi controls his singing. The vocals on Attack On Memory were arguably it’s weakest piece, with Baldi’s nasally screaming turning off many. This time around, he shows restraint, exploring the relatively deeper and fuller sound of his vocal range, which makes moments like the bellowing screams on “No Thoughts” all the more powerful.
Beyond the improvement in the crafting of melodies, there are a good amount of interesting musical ideas that are explored here as well. The abrupt tempo change of “Psychic Trauma” is a high point on the album, a tricky and rewarding tool to use that pays off well for the band. “Pattern Walks” also serves as a response to the 9 minute jam “Wasted Days” from the last album, and proves that while the band may have toned down the noise, the members haven’t lost a step when it comes to just rocking out on a song.
The cathartic release towards the end of the album leads right into its best moment, album closer and lead single “I’m Not Part Of Me.” While it may not have the millennial sense of unease and nervousness of earlier single “Stay Useless,” it stands out as the best song Cloud Nothings has made to date. The lyrics of the song, and the album in general, find Baldi coming to term with maturing as he enters his mid-20s, coming to terms with growing up and learning how to be present. The track contains the band building catchy melody upon catchy melody that lead to a rousing chorus. The song finds the band reconciling the separate desires to write catchy pop tunes while also crafting heavy, noise-filled punk.
Here and Nowhere Else succeeds because Cloud Nothings have become assured in their sound and embrace the blend between the two seemingly opposing styles they work with. Even if the band cannot sustain the rate of growth between records that it is currently working at, it has delivered a confident and engrossing piece of work with their latest album.