Origins is a recurring feature that lets artists dig into the various inspirations behind their latest music.
At the end of the week, Mikal Cronin will release a new two-song 7-inch, his first solo effort in some time. His last album was 2015’s MCIII, but that’s not to say that the California rocker has been absent from the scene since then. Rather, the “Weight” crooner has always been a prolific creator, though he frequently shares his talents with his collaborators like Ty Segall and Kim Gordon.
But it’s good to have his voice front and center again. Back in March, Cronin released “Undertow”, which makes up one half of his forthcoming 7-inch. Now, ahead of the vinyl’s release this Friday, May 10th via Brooklyn-based bedroom label Famous Class, the singer has released the B-side, “Breathe”. Recorded live (for the first time in his career, no less) with a handful of his musical friends, the effort was captured by Jason Quever during an intimate winter 2018 session in Los Angeles.
In a statement, Cronin explained,
“It’s easy to get caught up in an undertow, pulled down into the water, weightless and directionless. The current stirs and you lose your way. But eventually, if you’re lucky and patient, you can float back up to the surface and take a breath. This is my first new music in a while — my gulp of air. Many talented friends joined me, the basic tracks were recorded live together for the first time in my recording career. This felt good… Thanks for listening.”
Hear “Breathe” below.
In addition to sharing the track, Cronin has explained the Origins of “Breathe”, highlighting how Grecian explosions, whistling tea kettles, and a MOOG Sub 37 all came together to shape the track. Read on below, and pick up your copy of “Undertow”/”Breathe” in a variety of vinyl colors — including the newly announced silver — at Famous Class.
I wrote the core of this song in Athens, Greece, while on tour with Ty Segall. I had woken up early and walked to a music shop where I found this bouzouki, which the core of the song is based around. I sat on our hotel’s balcony in the rain, figuring out the instrument and finding the song. While recording a voice memo, a huge explosion rocked the neighborhood. It was so loud that it set off all the car alarms on the street. I quickly stopped the recording and ran inside, calling my bandmates (who had just left the hotel) to make sure they were alright. Everyone was fine. People told me it could have been lightning striking nearby. I still really don’t know.
I’ve been a resident of synth city for a bit now. I knew I would fall down the rabbit hole eventually, but I mostly held off for years. A Moog Sub 37 begins the song and continues throughout — a few tracks of arpeggiating chords. I have many synth jams that will likely never see the light of day. There can be a pressure when writing my own songs to “make them good…” I don’t put the same pressure on myself in synth city. Bleep blip blop.
Friends in Studio:
I had never recorded my music with a live backing band until these sessions, outside of radio performances and such. Especially with a song like this, having friends come and play with me was important to the sound and vibe I was looking for. I play bouzouki and guitar, William Tyler on guitar, Marc Riordan on drums, Ryan Weinstein on bass, Jordan Katz on trumpet, and David Ralicke on trombone.
I continued to work on this song in a cabin in the woods. I started boiling water for tea and went back to continue listening in the meantime. The tea kettle starting whistling over top the music in a pitch that seemed to match the track. I ran a mic line into the kitchen, recorded the tea kettle for my demo, and used the same kettle track on the final version (and added a little space echo, of course).
Waking Up Too Early:
I’ve long had trouble sleeping, though until recently, it had always been troubles falling asleep. These days it has switched to problems staying asleep. I’ve been waking up very early for a while now, which is sometimes very frustrating. “Some days are too long” feels to me like the anchor of my lyrics in this song.