It’s a good time to be an Ergs! fan. Not only did the band just announce that they will be playing at Fest this year and releasing a 7” via Whoa Oh Records, vocalist Mikey is also getting ready to release his first solo full-length. Here’s an interview we did with the pop-punk force that is Mikey Erg. “Tentative Decisions” will be out June 24th via Don Giovanni Records.
PRT: First of all, when and how did the Ergs! reunion happen?
Mikey: We started talking about it a couple years ago. Last year was my 10th year at the Fest in Gainesville and I wanted to do something special for it. We were supposed to do it then but ended up having to cancel but we made it happen this year.
PRT: You recently talked about experiencing writers block since the Ergs! called it a day in 2008. Obviously, you’ve kept busy since, playing in a zillion bands. But wasn’t it extremely frustrating for you?
Mikey: It was. I would start songs and immediately just decide I didn't like them and throw them away. Looking back now, it’s crazy to think about how many songs were actually probably pretty decent that I just never finished and forgot about.
PRT: Did you deal with it by playing in all those other bands? Or – looking back on it now - was it possibly because of playing in all those other bands that you didn’t have the time or energy to focus on writing?
Mikey: For a while after the Ergs I definitely wanted to take a break from being the songwriter guy in a band. I wanted to play other peoples songs for a bit. Then it got to a point where I was touring so much that I didn't have any time at all to write.
PRT: Anika from Chumped then challenged you to a songwriting pact. Did some of those songs end up on “Tentative Decisions”? Or was that a starting point for you?
Mikey: They pretty much all ended up on the record. A couple songs, Faulty Metaphor & 1001 Smashed Motel Rooms, were older but everything else on the record came from that period where I was just sending Anika a song a week.
PRT: Was the decision to record a solo full-length a tentative decision on its own?
Mikey: I had been wanting to do a record for a few years now. I just absolutely did not want to force it. I needed it to just happen. Once I started writing, at a certain point I looked at the list of songs in my notebook and it really felt like I had an album.
PRT: You’ve already played solo shows and contributed to splits under your own name, but “Tentative Decisions” is your first solo full-length. Does it feel different to have an album with just your name on it instead of a band name?
Mikey: I toyed with the idea of releasing it under a band name but I couldn't really think of anything and that goes back to the feeling forced thing. I've been playing under the name Mikey Erg for so long that it just feels natural.
PRT: The album turned out quite diverse and covers a lot of ground. What were some of your biggest influences going into this album, both musically and lyrically? And would I be wrong in saying that Elvis Costello is a big influence?
Mikey: Elvis Costello is a HUGE influence. I've had a couple people tell me they hear his influence which I love. The Beatles are also up there. Andy Partridge from XTC is probably my favorite songwriter so I'm sure his influence pops up in there too. Musically, I feel that Superchunk has been a huge influence on me the past few years. I just love that band so much.
PRT: The album was produced by Jeff Rosenstock, who I always picture like a kid in a candy store when he’s in a studio. What was it like working with him? Did he have to reign you in from time to time or was it the other way around?
Mikey: Jeff is incredible. Working with him was a blast. I don't even wanna think about how different the record would be if he hadn't worked on it. He definitely had a lot of ideas, as did I and we both pretty much threw it all onto the record. It was like, why not? I'd always wanted mellotron on one of my songs. Boom, there it is. Horns? Sure, let’s do it. Anything we thought of kinda went on. We had the luxury of doing most of the overdubs in his apartment so we had time to try out whatever we wanted.
PRT: Throughout your stints in other bands, you’ve played pretty much every instrument ever invented. But on “Tentative Decisions” you’re sticking to singing and guitar. Was that because you already had one eye on live shows or is there another reason?
Mikey: Well when I started writing the record, Lou (my bandmate in Worriers) was missing playing drums and offered to "jam" with me so I could kinda hear how these songs would sound a little more rocked out. We did that a few times and then it was pretty obvious to me that she should play drums on it. Also, Jeff was really into the idea of us tracking live to tape as opposed to me just playing everything so he ended up playing bass. I also always knew that I wanted to play guitar and sing once I started doing the full band thing live so that could have played a part as well.
PRT: Possibly a dumb question… but why do you think it is that self-deprecating lyrics and upbeat melodies so often go hand in hand in pop-punk, and not so much in other genres where it’s mostly either one or the other?
Mikey: Hmm, good question. I'm not sure. My lyrics tend to be self-deprecating because that's just how I feel sometimes. It has a lot to do with influences too I think. We're all just going by what came before and hearing the Descendents and Green Day do that kind of thing puts the idea in our heads that we can do that 'cause we feel that way too.
PRT: What are your plans for the rest of the year once “Tentative Decisions” comes out?
Mikey: Well I'm doing a couple tours this summer and really just hope to fill out the rest of the year and beyond with as much touring as possible to support the record.