Shepherd Express – Mike Krol Feature
Mike Krol Embraces Mistakes on His Debut for Merge Records
By Joshua Miller
September 2, 2015
Mike Krol playing piano? “I didn’t sign up for this shit,” the Milwaukee native and current Los Angeles resident jokes at the end of “Piano Shit,” the final song on his third album Turkey.
While “Piano Shit” indeed is entirely piano driven, it’s an outlier on the album, his first for Merge Records. The rest of the album is full of raw garage rockers that wildly frolic about with no shame of their imperfections. Songs range from a minute and a half to three minutes and the entire album of nine songs runs a quick 18 minutes.
“I’m definitely a believer in less is more and quality over quantity,” Krol says.
Krol recorded the album in March 2014 at a Sacramento, Calif., studio called The Dock, which he describes as a “gutted-out warehouse next to a banana plant factory in the industrial part of town.” He was joined by Beau Sorenson, who helped engineer and mix the album. Krol had met him several years prior while he was living in Madison. They recorded the album on two-inch tape and mixed it by hand.
“We would record the songs and go back and hit play on the reel of tape and, while it was playing, on the 16-track board we’d manually mix volume levels while it was playing back,” Krol says. “And whatever happened was the mix.”
As a result, Krol says that it sounds like it was “done really raw and very spur of the moment” with “mistakes everywhere.” Sometimes Krol forgot to mute a guitar in a section where it shouldn’t have been and then halfway through remembered to mute it. Other times you’ll hear him talking between takes.
Krol has spent his adult life moving across the country. From his start in Milwaukee he went to college in New York, moved to Madison after graduating, then followed a girl to Connecticut. When they broke up, he decided to move to Los Angeles. The three albums he’s recorded have chronicled his journey: 2011’s I Hate Jazz talks about his time in Milwaukee and Madison, 2013’s Trust Fund captures his move from Connecticut to Los Angeles and Turkey is all about Los Angeles.
While dressing as a cop for the album cover of Turkey may give Krol the appearance of someone that doesn’t take himself too seriously, Krol is very serious when it comes to music. He says it’s not so much that he’s trying to be humorous but that it’s an attempt to appear confident in his decisions, have an opinion and be bold.
“The music itself isn’t goofy but it’s smart; it’s tongue-in-cheek,” Krol says. “It’s very self-aware. It’s not about making a joke or making something funny. It’s about being smarter than that.”
One early fan was comedian Marc Maron. Since Maron lived only 10 minutes away, Krol put his album in a package and left it at Maron’s house. By the time Krol got home, Maron had posted a picture of his record on Twitter. He immediately began selling more records.
He later began sending it to different radio stations around the country. Comedian and DJ Tom Scharpling of New Jersey station WFMU liked it so much he played Krol’s music on his show. Scharpling offered to shop around his next record and found an interested party in Merge Records. Signing with the label was an easy decision for Krol.
“I think I own more records in my collection that have the Merge logo on the back than any other record label,” he says. “It was a goal to be on that label and I was thrilled that they liked the record and my music enough to put it out.”
Krol is about to set off on his first big national tour. His backing band features musicians from Madison band Sleeping in the Aviary. Krol is looking forward to starting the tour in Milwaukee.
“I still consider Milwaukee my home, so it feels like a homecoming,” he says.