Mike Krol released his fourth album in January, Power Chords. He also got engaged over the past year, to Birmingham’s own Allison Crutchfield, who has spent a lot of time as his labelmate at Merge Records.
Before his first ever visit to perform in Birmingham, I called Krol to chat about the new record and the recent engagement. When he answered, someone behind him shouted what I believed to be “Roll Tide,” but Krol corrected my observation. “I was eating lunch with some friends, and I told them I had to take a call from Birmingham. And he actually said ‘Krol Tide.’ A little play on ‘Roll Tide’ for you. You can write that one up. That’s a free one.”
I guess you have a bit of a relationship with Alabama now because of your relationship with Allison. Does that bring you here often?
Yeah, yeah. I’ve been down there maybe three or four times. I love Birmingham; never have played there, though.
I didn’t think that you had. Is there any particular reason you haven’t yet, or just typical routing issues?
Typical routing stuff never really gets me over there. But this particular tour – we were on our way to Merge Fest – and it made sense because we’re going to be going through there. And Allison’s family is still there, so we have a place to stay. I’m excited. I’ve been wanting to play. Every time I go, we hang out at Saturn and we’ll get a drink there or whatever. So I’ve been around it, but never in a playing situation.
How did you and Allison meet?
She played a show out here in L.A., and I just went because I’m a fan of the label. I try to see any Merge band that plays out here. We met that way, and we kind of hit it off right away. She was planning on moving to L.A., and we stayed in touch because I was helping her – telling her about neighborhoods and giving her suggestions on places to live. But then our relationship escalated to a point that when she moved out here, she just moved in with me. So it worked out.
You mentioned fairly recently that the two of you wanted to work on a Christmas record together. Is that still on the table?
Oh yeah. It’s something that I, for sure, want to do. I’d like to collaborate with Allison more in general. She’s working on a solo album, and I’m hoping to help some with that; just by being around.
Would a Christmas album be the type of thing where you’d write originals for it or would you do traditional songs or covers?
I would love it to just be all originals. I would just want it to be a Christmas album that’s about Christmas stuff, but it’s just a record you can listen to whenever. I’m not into covers; I don’t really do covers.
Power Chords came out in January. You briefly moved back into your parents house while you were working on this one. How much did that experience inform the album?
Quite a bit. It was a return back to my roots and trying to find that feeing of someone that had just learned how to play guitar – how to play power chords – and for the first time, just plugging into an amp. It feels that power, if you will, of music making and songwriting. You’re in your bedroom and no one is really listening to what you’re doing and you’re kind of free to do whatever you want. That was a big part of the sound and what I was trying to get. That was the whole vibe of it. You’re angsty in your own bedroom.
Is it possible to do what you do from the middle of America or did you feel like you had to move to a coast? Could you have done this from Milwaukee?
That’s a good question; no one has ever asked me that. I think that I probably could have, mostly because of the way that I got any sort of attention was through self releasing records and putting them in the right hands of the right people. I think I could have done that in Wisconsin. But I think being in L.A. definitely sped that process up a little bit.
You’ve often said this was an outlet for you to get a lot of emotion out of your system. Do you worry that now that you’re in a better place, it will have an impact on your creativity?
It is a worry for me a little bit. I’m a little bit more productive with that stuff when I’m feeling frustrated; when I need to get stuff off my chest. Lately I’ve been really happy, really content; feeling really good. I haven’t written a song in a long time. It goes in waves, though, where the desire to make stuff never goes away; regardless of if I’m feeling happy or sad. I’ll always be someone that wants to be a creator and someone that wants to make stuff. I feel my most fulfilled when I’m putting some sort of product of expression out; whether that’s a product of happy expression or sad expression, it’s still something I feel like I need to do.
I hope that when I write from a place of being happy that it’s still good; it’s still something that people can listen to. That desire to do that stuff will always be there.
Mike Krol comes to Saturn on Tuesday, January 23. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show begins at 8 p.m. The Burning Peppermints and Cosmonaut on Vacation open. Tickets are $12.