Thursday, June 30, 2011

Musician Mike Bloom steps out on his own with new album, will perform at Schubas with The Elected


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

After years of playing with other artists like Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis, Rachael Yamagata and others, Mike Bloom has finally gotten around to releasing his own album.

"King of Circles" was released in June on Little Record Company, the label founded by Pierre de Reeder of Rilo Kiley. But the album was originally funded by friend and fan Toby Maguire.

Returning the favor, Bloom's friends show up on "King of Circles," including Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley and longtime friend and bandmate Blake Sennett, of Rilo Kiley and The Elected, which also recently released a new album, "Bury Me in My Rings."

Bloom, co-founder of The Elected, will perform songs from "King of Circles" as well as play with The Elected Saturday, July 2, at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, Chicago.

Tristen also is on the bill. The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $13, $15 at the door, available at www.schubas.com.

I had the chance to talk to Bloom, www.myspace.com/mikebloom, about his latest activities in an e-mail interview.


Q - Of course, The Elected also has a new album out. Is it just a funny coincidence that you have a new album out at the same time?

Mostly I'd say it's a coincidence. I'm open to the idea, though, that friends sort of tend to drive each other forward with whatever they're doing, especially the talented ones. Of course, we were both aware that these two records we coming to a head, but it wasn't like we were consciously trying to put them up against one another in any way.  Hopefully, they both stand on their own.

Q - You've been busy the past few years playing with different bands. Was the time just right to release your own album?

I'd been working on these songs on and off whenever I had the time, which meant whenever I wasn't on tour or producing/mixing a record of someone else's from home. Part of me feels like the time was right quite a while ago to be honest, but then it's hard to argue with the chips falling wherever they do. This is the time when things most seemed to fall into place for an official release.


Q - What goals did you have for the album? Did you intentionally try to do something that was different than the work you've done with different bands?

I'd like to say I had an extremely pinpointed vision for what the overall feel would be but, the truth is, these are songs that came out of a larger batch of material I'd been honing for a while, and they seemed to work together best.

Having said that, I do thrive on dipping my toes into disparate waters, if the opportunities present themselves. 

So, I suppose it is my general intention to have every record or project I work on, if I have any say in the matter, to be conveying something different, either sonically, or emotionally or whatever. Hopefully, when all is said and done, there will be some subtly discernible thru line to it all.

Q - You worked out the songs while you were on tour. How does it feel to be out on tour performing the completed songs?

That's a good question. It feels like a relief and a little scary at the same time. I'm enjoying attempting to build connections between these songs and actual people.  

On this tour, I'm mostly performing alone (outside of The Elected sets every night). This can be nerve wracking but can also be freeing. 

The songs don't necessarily hit you over the head with sound. I think the goal is to be as connected to the songs as possible, and hope that people respond to that on some instinctive level.

Q - I understand that Jenny Lewis was able to come up with the lyrics to "Butcher Paper" in short order. What do you think of the lyrics and her contributions to the song?

I think her writing abilities are pretty well documented at this point. The words to the song are pretty much undeniably good and the song wouldn't have made it off the shelf without her to be honest. To that point, it was Blake Sennett who brought my guitar part to her, so I owe him credit as well.  


Q - What was it like working with Blake Sennett on the album? Was he the person that you had in mind to sing on "Til It's Over?"
 
Oh, good segue. Well Blake's a long time friend and musical partner of mine. However, I suppose the dynamic was a little bit different with him helping me for my record, rather than all the time we'd spent in the past working on Elected stuff.

Blake had helped me finish off the song, and sort of tighten up the arrangement and a few of the words, so it only seemed natural that he would sing the harmonies for the song. Also, he's got sweet dulcet pipes in that range.

Q - Blake had stepped away from the music business for a while. Were you surprised that he wanted to get The Elected back together?

In short, not really. Sometimes it's easier to see someone else's situation from the outside. Also, I just know that music is way too much a part of who he is for it to be given up completely.

As for The Elected, we put a lot of energy in the past into building it up, and it would have been sad in a way to not at least try to continue it and see where it would go. I had a pretty strong feeling it wasn't over.

Q - Is it hard touring on both your solo album and The Elected's new album? How do you juggle the two?

I thought it might be a bit overwhelming to do two sets a night on this tour, so I talked it over with Blake and we basically picked certain nights of the tour for me to open.

Those are the nights I usually don't have time to eat dinner. I had to relearn a lot of these Elected songs for different instruments (I find myself playing bass on most of these, which I've never done live before), and the whole undertaking seemed like a bit much.

For the first third or so of the tour we've been sort of rearranging things to try and make them work best with lineup. I think we've finally stumbled on something that's pretty interesting, so now I feel like I could open all of these shows. But, alas...
  
Q - How did you befriend Toby Maguire? Do you share musical tastes with him?

I've known him for a long time. He's friends with my older brother, who lived out west long before I did.

He's always been a good and supportive guy to me, and to my music. I guess, early on, he would seduce a young lady here or there to my demos. I was flattered and horrified. 

These days, I would fully embrace that sort of thing. Our tastes do crossover, but like a Venn diagram of west versus east coast influences, I imagine we have some significant sections that don't touch.


Q - Do you see Rilo Kiley ever getting back together? Should the band get back together?

Well, anything's possible. I don't see it in the near future but, then again, I didn't necessarily predict that the singularity between man and machine were as close as they are.

They're a great band so, for music's sake, they should get back together. For other reasons, well....
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