Propelled by a genuine reflection of many of the beloved power pop groups of the 70s, Michael Rault delivers slick, high-spirited, and thoroughly dynamic songs on his new album, It's A New Day Tonight, out now via Wick Records.
Your record has an indiscreet focus on sleeping and dreaming. Why were these such fascinating concepts for you during the creation of this record?
I'm not really one hundred percent certain why the whole sleeping/dreaming motif came up. I think I wrote the song "Sleep With Me" first, quite spontaneously after trying to write a song for a few days straight with no real idea of where I was going with it. Eventually, I started to notice that the idea of dreaming vs. waking life kept emerging in the different bits and pieces of songs that I had been working on. After that, I made a couple more intentional efforts at writing specifically dream-themed songs.
I think I generally approach writing songs from a relatively subconscious place, just letting my mind run free and seeing if a recognizable form pops out of the mist at some point in the process. It wasn't until after finishing the album that my friend Meg Remy suggested that I read "Man And His Symbols" by Carl Jung, which ended up shedding some light on the whole thing for me - both on my writing process and some of the subject matter of the album.
Oh, yes. Of course - in a huge way. Previous to this album I had exclusively done digital recordings, so making the transition into analogue recording was a huge change for me. It was a bigger change than I expected. When you are recording to digital, you switch your whole state of mind, and you start to edit every little thing, and there is a tendency to get really lazy with performances, and every time you make a mistake you just move on - knowing that you can edit it, or patch it in, or combine a number of takes later to form a super take of all the best bits. But, when you're recording to tape, suddenly you realize that you need to play the song well - from beginning to end - like a live performance. Except - unlike a live performance - it will live on forever and become your album afterwards, and you have to stand by it and feel OK with it. So, the process really whipped me into shape as a singer and musician. I went to boot camp!
It's night and day looking at my abilities before this album and afterwards. On top of all of that, Wayne Gordon's engineering and co-producing added so much to the quality of the sound on the record, and having Gabe Roth and Neal Sugarman involved and overseeing the process added so many years of combined experience and overview to the mix. It wouldn't have been the same album without them.
What was the biggest difference between making the new record than for your first?
Sort of like I said earlier, but the biggest difference was having a team of people to work with who have so much experience and confidence in what they do. It simultaneously made it clear how hard I had to work to bring my performances up to the standards that the Daptone crew maintains, while also strengthening my confidence that I could do it - because they all believed in me and were into the ideas I'd brought into their studio.
What’s your process like for songwriting? Do you fill up a notepad or iPhone notes in a piecemeal fashion or are you more focused on finishing songs before starting the next? Is there a certain instrument you are most inspired to write on?
On this record I had a lot of bits and pieces floating around. A lot of unfinished guitar riffs and ideas - some with bits and pieces of lyrics attached, others without any lyrics. I'd record notes on my phone - for some reason I generally do videos, even though it is a larger file size. I think I like being able to see what I looked like at that point in time, and where I was - later when I'm looking back through months of notes. I still feel that the songs that come all together - lyrics, chords, structure - are the best songs usually, but on this album I got more into collaging different ideas together. Certain sections of songs started as pieces of other songs, or as stand alone works that got incorporated into other songs.
You opened some shows for the psych lords King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. How did your time watching those guys perform impact your live sets and songwriting?
I actually think the idea of collaging pieces of musical arrangements was an idea that I started to consider when we were on tour with them. They would have certain sections of songs that reoccurred throughout the course of their set - at least on that tour. It was really trippy and took me a while to notice that they were doing it, because I was seeing them play every night for a couple of weeks straight, and at first I thought I just recognized certain bits from the previous night's show. Mainly, the take away I had from touring with them was the same that I take from every great band that we've toured with, and that's just that I'd like to push myself to try to bring myself closer to their level of performance. King Gizzard is an insane live band. It's just so powerful.
What were some of your motivations and influences for the new record? How were your influences different while writing New Day Tonight compared to Sleep With Me?
I don't generally go into writing songs with any strong motives. Except maybe that I would like to make a song that evokes some sort of feeling and moves me on an emotional level in some way. The ideas that come out of the songs are more given to me, rather than me put into the song by me. At least, that is how it works when it is working best.
New Day Tonight came from a lyrical inspiration first - the actual phrase "it's a new day tonight" was the initial idea. Sleep With Me came with the chords and melody and lyrics all at once, or really fast one after another - I think it was the first and second verses and the chorus. Then I added in the middle instrumental section, which I wrote independently and realized it might fit well with the rest of the song.
Your music has a sense of nostalgia without an overbearing revivalist nature. Are you mindful about creating a totally unique sound or being intentionally individualistic or is the process more organic and simply a product of whatever you’re able to create in a certain moment of inspiration? Does music of the past play a significant role in your songwriting?
I love looking for inspiration in old records. Not because I want to try to make old music, but more because I feel that there is more room for me to take the ideas I hear and reimagine them for today. When you're listening to a new band - especially a new popular band - your hands are sort of tied if you want to take their ideas and adapt them for yourself. People are going to see that you are coming out of that band's sound, and you either have to accept always being compared to that band or you have to change it so much to avoid the comparison that you probably will lose the inspiration that you originally felt from it. In general though, when I'm writing - I'm not trying to ape anyone. I write my own songs, and then when I'm arranging and producing I might borrow some sounds from records that I love to bring it to life.