Influenced by the Beatles, Beach Boys, The Who, Talking Heads and “a lot of psych-rock among other things”, Peter Michaels Jr is an eclectic artist from the USA. We speak with Peter Michaels Jr about his new album Dunce, musical inspiration and much more!
OSR: What drew you to music?
Peter Michaels Jr: My dad was a key musical impact on me. He was a drummer and also picked up the guitar. We’d watch Beatles clips together and listen to their songs a lot. They’re sort of my first musical memory. I started learning how to play drums around the age of 3 and I picked up the guitar a few years later when I was 8, and that’s when I started being serious about music.
OSR: What inspires you to make music?
Peter Michaels Jr: It’s anything that comes to mind really. Sometimes it’s real-life stuff, whatever situations I’m in or I observe. Other times, it’s my imagination running around picking up and writing down everything it sees. A lot of music inspires me too. Often I’ll be attached to a particular song or band and, after a little bit, I’ll write something inspired by that. People often tell me they hear a Beatles influence in my writing and they’re not wrong, I guess. They’re probably so ingrained in me I don’t notice at this point.
Another thing that heavily inspires me, especially now, is my fellow musician friends. After starting at The New School and making connections around NYC, I’ve met so many amazing, talented, interesting people who I’m fortunate enough to call my friends. Seeing and hearing what they do musically really inspires me to try to create more and hone my craft as they are.
OSR: What is the backstory or theme to your album Dunce?
Peter Michaels Jr: Dunce has a pretty basic backstory. I was on the phone with my friends Henry and Sophia, and we were talking about my album NOVA that had come out at the time. Sophia then suggested I do an album called Dunce as sort of a collection of songs with an air of self-aware doubt to them. I liked the idea and had it in the back of my mind for a bit. After I released Hi, I started thinking about Dunce. I wrote a couple of songs directly for it, such as ‘Medication’, ‘Songs In A Well’ and ‘Cut Me Off’. I had a few that went as far back as the Absolute Madlad album series, such as ‘Out’ and ‘Crying on the Phone’. Some fun surprises came about as well, like ‘Do The Dishes’ and ‘Zapped’. I wasn’t anticipating including them on the album but felt they were a good fit.
OSR: Did you face any challenges when writing and recording Dunce?
Peter Michaels Jr: The main challenge with Dunce was making it sound more polished than the last album. I’m starting to try to figure out mixing/mastering techniques on my own and it’s partially why it took as long as it did. I’m very satisfied with how some of the tunes were mixed.
Another challenge was keeping somewhat of a theme with the album. There are maybe three or four songs that truly live to the theme of the album. The rest are a bit of a reach in my opinion. Not saying that’s a bad thing. At the end of it all, I’m still satisfied with how it turned out.
OSR: If you could change one thing about the album, what would it be and why?
Peter Michaels Jr: If I were to change one thing about the album it would be how it was mastered. I was trying to do it myself, but I’m still aways before I’ll be able to pull that off. Another thing I would do is re-record ‘Zapped’. I feel that song deserves better.
OSR: Do you have a favourite track on Dunce?
Peter Michaels Jr: I do enjoy quite a few of the tracks on Dunce. One of my favourites would have to be ‘Medication’. It was the last tune I wrote for the album and I liked it so much I didn’t want to sit on it any longer. I was close to making it a single, but the album release date was getting close.
Another tune I really like is ‘Songs In A Well’. I feel it’s a good opener and it’s very catchy. We’ve been playing it in every show with my band and people seem to like it.
OSR: What about a least favourite track?
Peter Michaels Jr: I’d have to say my least favourite tune is ‘Out’. It was written at a rough time in my life and I honestly could’ve put any song in that slot. It’s filler material, but I do still like it a little bit. It has that drone to it, and I enjoy that.
OSR: What do you hope people take from your music?
Peter Michaels Jr: I hope people will listen to my music and make that moment a little bit nicer and, hopefully, more memorable. Maybe it can show them a new perspective, or just give them something sweet to chew on. Either way, I want something productive to come out of my work.
OSR: What is your current biggest worry?
Peter Michaels Jr: I suppose my biggest worry is that people won’t listen to the tunes. It’s a long climb up the metaphorical ladder of popularity. Not to say I want to be popular, but I want to be known enough where if someone’s looking for something like what I make they can find my stuff without having to search too hard. I’ve always wanted to make music people will hear, and I guess the thought of that not materialising worries me a little. That’s why I keep making it. Hopefully, I’ll come upon something people really like and that’s how they might find me. It’s a matter of time and luck, I guess.
OSR: What plans do you have as a musician?
Peter Michaels Jr: My plans are to keep releasing albums. I’m also producing for friends of mine and playing out with my band Rubbasnuff. I want to dip my toes into as many sects of music as I can. I like digesting different forms of rock, jazz, classical music, international styles, avant-garde, etc. My overall mood is not taking myself too seriously and I hope I can reach people through that. Whether it’s playing my own tunes live, playing in someone’s band, or my own releases. I don’t want people to think I’m some pretentious artistic “persona”. Life’s too short to be stuck up like that. My plan is to keep living music and have fun doing it.