Monday, May 30, 2016

Song Premiere: The Michael Character Schools Us on Political Punk and Wants You to Get Over It

Quick vignettes and radical folk songs.(photo credit Michelle Lisbeth)

Google “The Michael Character” and expect to find featured reviews in prominent indie music blogs, a social calendar littered with gigs, an official Reddit band of the month nomination, and yourself with a serious case of early-stage FOMO. Referred to by journalists as “a prolific folk punker” and “(legitimate) activist”*, The Michael Character appears to be the greatest addition to folk punk that you never knew existed.

"I look at songs as ways of initiating difficult conversations with lots of different people simultaneously and indirectly."

Musician James Ikeda has produced 7 acoustic punk records under the alias of The Michael Character since 2011 and will be releasing his 8th recording and follow up to the well-received 2015 album 'Do Your Work', entitled ‘Wheelie?’ (mixed by Benjamin Greer of Sun Brewed Records).

The 10-track record continues Ikeda’s style of quick vignettes and radical folk songs, premiering with “26” which talks about the emotionally conflicting phase of “feelin' old at the punk rock show” while “feeling like a kid at the staff party”, but advises that we rise above opinions and just get over it.

If your sometimes insecure, kind of blunt, partially reflective, slightly opinionated, fed up 50% of the time inner monologue auditioned for a musical; it might sample a track from a TMC record.

Taking a philosophical approach to advocating the recognition of racism, sexism and social standards, by highlighting inner conflict, and his general observations, The Michael Character often stimulates dialogue by pointing out the methodology for learning from failures, and driving change, but keeps his authoritative tone in check by explaining his lyrics are based on personal experiences.

“I look at songs as ways of initiating difficult conversations with lots of different people simultaneously and indirectly. I don't write songs that are just like "screw capitalism, buying an iPhone makes you bourgeois scum!" or whatever, I try to leave room for people to get in on important discussions without relying on the discourse-stifling rhetoric that is so often the downfall of political punk,” Ikeda tells Bishop & Rook. “So yea, I'm about dialogue and swapping experiences rather than selling people something prepackaged and absolute.”

Sometimes with lyric-heavy art, a listener can experience a strange phenomenon when a performer’s insecurities can provide introspection and receptive comfort. “Performance is all about vulnerability for me,” Ikeda admits. “Honestly, many of the songs I've written in the last two years have been initially really difficult to perform live because they required me to be uncomfortably forthright about who I am or what I think. You can't really connect with another person unless you are both vulnerable, and if I am vulnerable as a performer that makes it possible for audience members to open up too.”

“So much about being a performing artist is inherently narcissistic (at least as I see it) so a performance being useful for someone else in some way is the absolute best case scenario. More than anything else I really hope that people find something to connect with in the new record.”

You can learn more about The Michael Character by visiting the official Facebook page. "26" is available now for free download (at a name your price donation) on Bandcamp.

*Sarah Samways @ &

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