BY: ASHLEY BERRY
When it comes to music, Mike Andrews does it all. He plays with several groups including a group called Namism and the San Diego-based funk and jazz group, The Greyboy Allstars. He is a music producer, a film composer, and he just released his second solo album titled Spilling a Rainbow. After wrapping up his penultimate residency show at Bootleg Theatre on August 22nd, 2012, Mike Andrews talked to me about his various projects and how the biggest one just might be fatherhood.
AB: Great show!
MA: Yeah, this is the fourth week of the residency and next week will be the last. I’ve enjoyed it.
AB: On August 14th, you released your new album, Spilling a Rainbow. How would you describe the album?
MA: It’s a record that I made in the process of having a child. So topically, it’s a father record for me and it’s about my experiences as a new father. Sonically, it combines everything I like in music. It’s primarily acoustic and non-mechanical. I play everything on the record except for one piano track and one drum track. So, it’s me just writing and playing spontaneously. I would describe the sound as psychedelic folk.
AB: Your son is now 3 years old. How has your experience of fatherhood changed as he’s grown?
MA: Fatherhood, especially with your first kid, to me is a very magical thing. It’s a very new thing. For me, having my first child was the biggest life change since moving out of my parents’ house, in terms of the shift in the way you think about who you are and what your life is about. It’s a big thing. But honestly, the more I talk about the record, it feels like it’s a big idea, but it’s really not. The ideas on the record are very small moments, little, instant, tiny things that I’ve picked up on as I was going through the process of becoming a parent. There were little things that I saw my son experience that made me think of times in my life. There’s a lot of sense memory stuff that comes up when you have a child. You’re basically going through life again. You can’t really compare it to anything else. That’s why it’s good to make music. Otherwise, I’d just tell you what it is, what the feeling is, but it’s more than anything I can tell you. You’ve got to make music about it because words aren’t enough.
AB: A lot of people know your work as a score composer for films like Donnie Darko and Bridesmaids. What does your process look like for scoring a movie?
MA: It’s a lot like the process of making a record really, in the sense that you start with nothing, and then you try to come up with something that’s happening in the picture. It depends on who I am working with. Sometimes there are several different directors and it’s like working with a bunch of different bands. Each collaboration is different and everyone has different ideas about what they want and visions of how different elements should be represented. So that’s where I come in. I try to represent their vision and still have a piece of myself in it. Then, I just start making music. It’s really simple. I just get into my studio and start banging away.
AB: It seems like it would be very important to be able to both work well with a team, but also be able to have a personal vision that ultimately drives your process.
MA: Well, I grew up with eight kids in my family so I am used to chaos; I’m used to a ton of people around and multiple conversations taking place at once. So being in a band and collaborating with people is perfect for me. It’s exactly what I’ve known my whole life-chaos.
AB: I would imagine that in a family like that, you would learn how to work together, but you would also have to find a way to carve out your own space. You seem to have a very similar approach when you perform with other artists on stage.
MA: Yeah, well it’s their thing. It’s their trip. What that said, we got together a little before this and practiced and we said, “Well, this is what we’re going to do.” But you want people to feel comfortable. It’s like when someone comes to your home. You wouldn’t want to say,” Hey maybe you want to sit here or maybe you need…” You don’t want to get in people’s faces and that’s just not how I work. I’m more like, “Come up. This is kind of weird. I know this isn’t your gig, but still…” I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable.
AB: How is working on scores different for you than working on your solo projects?
MA: Well, the solo project is like blowing off steam. I barely get any time off, so it was an opportunity for me to just do whatever I want. Which is cool and not cool, because there are no parameters. You’re just kid of way out in the wilderness and that’s why I’ve been making a bunch of different kinds of music. This group of songs represented more of the earnest side of my life, the warm, cuddly stuff. There’s a little bit of other stuff going on, but this is the warmest stuff that I’ve made during this period of my life.
AB: As I was listening to you play tonight, I noticed that there is quite a range of musical styles that you incorporate into your songs seamlessly.
MA: I just try to combine things I like. I like folk music and I like new wave music. I like ambient music and I like funk music. I like all these kinds of music, so I’m just making stuff I like. I play with The Greyboy Allstars, which is an improvised group that plays funk music all the time. So, that been a part of me for a long time and it creeps its way into this music. I like playing live and improvising and trying to get the group to push and pull, not to be confrontational, but to be like, “Hey! Let’s make music together!” I want to try to cause a little bit of a rumble, be in the moment, and make something right then.
AB: If you could pick any movie and create a new score for it, what movie would that be?
MA: Gosh, I don’t know. I’m more critical of myself than that. I’m not like, “Oh, I’m the shit and I’m going to kick someone’s ass on this score.” I mean, I’ll see stuff I don’t like but it’s usually because I don’t like the movie either. I will say that the score doesn’t always represent the composer as much as you might think. Sometime’s we’re up against a wall. There are time constraints, money constraints, stylistic constraints, and screenings. Sometimes they’ll have other people’s music in there and then the composer has to get in there and work with that. It’s not the most free-form creative experience. It’s a gig. It’s like being an interior designer and walking into a place and thinking, “Wow, what am I going to do with that staircase right there. It has to be there.” So you just try to make it the best that you can and finish it on time. But I love working on films. I love recording. It’s my favorite thing to do, so it’s good to be able to work doing what I love.
AB: What’s next for you?
MA: My movie that I did with Mira Nair, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, screens at the Venice Film Festival the day that this residency ends. Then, that film will go out into the world and hopefully get sold. I start a movie and a television show in September. I also have a record with Greyboy Allstars in the can that will probably come out in the beginning of next year. I have another instrumental group called Namism that has a record finished and that will be coming out soon. I also produced another couple of records that willing be coming out soon. Other than that, I’ll probably just continue to record.
AB: Wow! That is a lot on one plate. Do you sleep?!
MA: Yeah, I work a lot but I am trying not to work so much. I had an internal moment last night where I thought, “Maybe I should join Workaholics Anonymous.” I really need to figure out how to just not work and have fun.