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Another Michael Loosens Up on 'Pick Me Up, Turn Me Upside Down' [An Interview]

By Giliann Karon

Another Michael, the Philadelphia-based band comprised of Michael Doherty and Nick Sebastian, has comfortably hit their stride on Pick Me Up, Turn Me Upside Down. This album arrives a mere eight months after Wishes to Fulfill, which they wrote and recorded concurrently. In a soft-spoken twang, Doherty recounts stories of cozy nostalgia and mundane routines with a haunting underbelly of what it actually means to live in modern America. 



The band pushes their boundaries on this most recent album, sparsing in louder instrumentals and experimenting with different tempos, all while remaining playful and accessible. They refuse to take themselves too seriously and let their collaborative intuitions guide their lighthearted storytelling. I caught up with Michael and Nick to discuss the latest album and what sets it apart from their prior work.

 

GILIANN KARON: Your album touches on what it means to live in America today. Living under capitalism isn’t new and America has always boasted an image of freedom and prosperity that obscures how forces of oppression dominate our daily lives. What about now felt like the right moment to put these ideals at the forefront of your album?


NICK SEBASTIANO: That was something that was on our minds particularly around that time because of COVID and its aftermath, just seeing how the effects of capitalism became even more unavoidable.


MICHAEL DOHERTY: The isolation during that period also drove lots of discussion about that stuff.


GK: The songs on this album tell stories about pretty mundane and universal experiences. How does tapping into these moments help you grapple with an increasingly chaotic present?


MD: Focusing on the little things that we appreciate helps break the static of all that chaos. When it comes to writing lyrics, I always try to write about what I know and then connect that to broader concepts. And sometimes what I know best is the stuff that’s the most mundane. My childhood street and hometown come to mind a lot.


GK: Your last album, Wishes to Fulfill, came out late last year. How are these two records distinct? How are they in conversation with each other?


MD: They're definitely in conversation with each other because all the music is from this three-year period that we worked on and off recording and writing it.


The distinctions came when we had to figure out how to take what we liked from these recording sessions and turn it into something everyone can digest. The way we figured it out was to divide it into two records, the first shorter and more concise and the second longer with some things we haven’t tried before.


NS: We definitely wanted to make them distinct from one another and create two different listening experiences. Wishes to Fulfill was very bite-size chunks of songs that felt more immediate. We get more experimental on Pick Me Up, Turn Me Upside Down. There’s still stuff on there that we feel represents the way that our music has sounded before. It’s more of an album listen, whereas on Wishes, you could just drop the needle anywhere.


MD: With Pick Me Up, Turn Me Upside Down, we wanted to have more of a front-to-back album. Because we worked on the two albums from 2020-2022, we spent a lot of time finding what a record would be. We focused a lot on living in songs individually, so that naturally made some songs jump out and be quicker to make. Others took longer and had more experimental processes.



GK: You touched on this a bit, but how did you decide what songs to put on what record?


NS: We had a lot of people involved in our band, making the records, and on our label, so it was super hard to stay objective towards the music we had been working on for so long. I was doing some mixing and so was Scoops, our recording engineer. All of us had been very exposed to the music. It was a conversation amongst ourselves in a group and with our label. We really wanted to accomplish our goal of an easily accessible, digestible album, so we made selections that way.


If you asked us to choose the songs over and over again, we might change, but that’s how we did it at that point in time. 


MD: I feel like we first tried to conceptualize the records, sorta make them like mirrors or yin and yang.


NS: There are a couple tracks on Wishes that we feel belong more with the Pick Me Up songs and vice versa. We wanted to have some cohesive ties between both records and not feel entirely separate, even though they’re meant to be different listening experiences.


GK: What do you hope the listener will take away from this album?


MD: I think about this a lot. I always want listeners to be surprised and recognize that we’re trying new things without sacrificing what they know our music to be. I always want little things to jump out in each song, in each record, without them feeling like we’re shoving it in their faces. I want to hold people’s attention but I also want to feel like the amount of magic we can pull out and put into a song is limitless. 


We hope people approach the record with an open mind because there’s a lot of different styles on it. It was what we were feeling, and there's a lot of meaning and emotion behind the songs. We hope that if people enjoy it, they’ll enjoy it for different reasons.


GK: What did you watch and listen to while writing this album?


MD: I watched a lot of Sesame Street on YouTube. I love going back and watching things I watched as a kid because I get an entirely new perspective. I get the nostalgia and I also get something new because I’m taking it in as my present adult self. Sesame Street is so crazy. There's so much variety and color. It’s got a great pace. The music in the 70s through 90s felt like it was coming from such a free place, which really influenced my approach to writing these songs.


I really loved this movie Annette from 2021, which was sort of like a rock opera. It was such a crazy film that I remembered two months later when we had a session and I just thinking about it a lot.


GK: What song on your upcoming album challenged you the most?


MD: “Is There a World?” took the longest amount of time. We were always opening that one up and telling ourselves there are no rules. We can do it this way, do it that way, join it with these things that we recorded and loved like six months ago, or put them back in maybe six months later.

It was challenging because there were a lot of iterations of it and a long period of time in which we were like working and not working on it. A lot of trial and error went into that one.



GK: What song are you most excited to perform live?


MD: Probably “I’ve Come Around to That.” It’s pretty bonkers. It’ll be fun to play really loud, distorted music for the first time. 


We’re really only just starting to be louder as a band. There are a couple songs, like “Hub of Dreams” that’ll be fun to play loud. The more mid-tempo songs will be like fun to do. I'm most excited to add more variety to our shows.

 
Pick Me Up, Turn Me Upside Down out May 31 on Run for Cover Records. Follow Another Michael on Twitter and Instagram.

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