It’s been five long years since What Made Milwaukee Famous released an album. This week is the week that fans of the Austin-based indie pop-rock band have been waiting for. They released their third album, You Can’t Fall Off the Floor, on Jan. 22.
WMMF lovers will have a chance to catch them play at Antone’s on Saturday, Jan. 26, before they head out on the road to hit up the West Coast.
Michael Kingcaid took some time to talk with Red River Noise about the new album, their video for “Gone and Done it Now” and a few other things.
So, it’s been five years since the last album. Why did you make us wait so long to finally hear it?
Michael Kingcaid: Cruelty. Well, I had a lot going on, in a way. We came off tour in 2008 after being out for like eight or nine months of that year. Two of us got divorces and all of us had to kind of pick up the pieces. We were kind of hemorrhaging money with the gas prices at that time. So, we kind of just had to figure out job situations and stuff like that, and instead of going back to the real job, I pretty much just started a cover band and joined three or four other bands and that kind of took up a lot of my time. But, whenever I got the money, or had the chance to record, we would go in. I’ve been recording since February of 2008 and finished recording it in Nov. 2011. So, this last year there’s not much of an excuse why. Well, money. Money is the main excuse for everything. Everybody is separated in terms of different cities and it’s just been kind of hard to get everybody together to do it. But, um, yeah, I apologize.
You recently released the video for “Gone and Done it Now.” Why was this chosen for a music video? What was the inspiration for the premise of the video?
Kingcaid: That had always been the choice for the single, definitely, but the video idea, I had wanted to do a game show video, actually. A kind of Price is Right type thing. So, right before we started the Kickstarter video, I saw that Lenny Kravitz had pretty much released the same video that I had in mind and his sucked, kind of. So, we had to, at the last minute, we went back to the drawing board and brainstormed and came up with the idea of making it like an ’80s kind of talk show which would still have the same idea of the host being kind of a douchebag and all of his employees being treated like peasants. I fleshed out the idea with Mark Spacek and Joey Hood, and I think it turned out really well. We were excited about it.
Your new album, You Can’t Fall Off the Floor, feels like it’s got a different vibe than the first two albums. Parts of it feel like there is more of a country influence. Is that what you were going for?
Kingcaid: Well, with this band, from day one, I had always said we’re not going to paint ourselves into any musical corners, that we want to spread out over the musical landscape and try to cover as much territory as we possibly can. We’re not very concerned with people being able to pinpoint any of our songs as like, well, that particular sound, they obviously know us by. I wouldn’t even say that I was listening to any more country or anything like that. I had been hanging out with Mike and the Moonpies a lot and lived with them for a stint, so, maybe that kind of seeped in there. I had always kind of wanted to write a country song and I think for the most part, there’s really only one country song on there. There’s some more acoustic-y kind of stuff on there that I think was kind of dictated just by, or at least some of those were, just dictated by me writing them with an acoustic guitar and then it just kind of stuck in terms of the presentation. But there’s still, I think, quite a bit of other musical territory that we haven’t really ventured into until this album as well. Like, “Demons & Monkeys” is pretty much our prog-Sinatra song and “Gone and Done it Now,” I call it our John Cougar Primus-camp song. “Prescription for Purpose” is, I don’t know, circus music. It’s just insane. “Just Run,” I consider that the closest thing that we’ll ever write to metal. So, there’s still a fair share of different genres that we represent on this one, but I think that if it comes across as country, maybe it’s because I moved down to Conroe to write a lot of those songs and lived in a double-wide trailer with eight goats on two acres of land. So, that could be why.
“I’ve spent over $20,000 of my own money—that could have gotten me out of debt twice—on making this record, so I very much wanted to make the record I wanted to make.” Michael Kingcaid on making the new album
Did you write most of the music for this album or was there an equal collaboration with the rest of the band members?
Kingcaid: This one was exceptionally just me mostly. I had some co-writers on a few songs like Mike Harmeier from Mike and the Moonpies helped me flesh out a couple of ideas. There were a couple that I recorded with Jason (Davis, guitar/vocals). Some of these were old demos, like “Gone and Done it Now” was actually an old demo from probably 2007 or 2008 that Jason and I recorded at my house. So, there are a few that I co-wrote with. For the most part I, you know, I cashed out my 401k to make this album and have spent an exorbitant amount. I’ve spent over $20,000 of my own money—that could have gotten me out of debt twice—on making this record, so I very much wanted to make the record I wanted to make. Everybody in the band, that’s technically still in the band, made appearances on the record. Some people who aren’t in the band anymore made appearances on the record. There are tons of guest musicians on there. It’s probably like 20 or 30, whether they be local or other places. Matt Vasquez from Delta Spirit sings on a song, Dana Falconberry, from Austin, sings on that same song and Kathleen Edwards is on a bit of a duet there on the album. So, since I was going to be spending my money to make the record, I, maybe selfishly, just kind of did it my way.
There are quite a few guest spots on this new album, how did it come about that you got together to work with all these Austin musicians? What was it like to work with these talented people?
Kingcaid: Well, it was great. What I was doing, essentially, was finding the right person to play the right style. If I had something that was more of an R&B bassline, I went to Jason because that’s up his alley. It was really great to have all those people at my disposal. Especially considering the last three years of being in other bands. I was in the Coveters and that really opened my eyes to things. I was trying to kind of broaden my horizons in playing keys in a band and then it just turned into an amazing experience of Susanna Choffel, Warren Hood, Brad Houser, Dan Dyer and Jeff Botta being in that same band with all those amazing talents. Some of those people are on the record as well and it’s great. Gary Newcomb is on there and he just came in and killed it. I feel really honored that those people lent their talents to this record. It was kind of an arduous process to get everybody’s schedules lining up but it was absolutely worth it. The only thing that I lament is basically, not being able to – I don’t lament it at all because they did a great job – but just for the experience that I kind of had to send off some of these, in terms of sending it off to Matt in California and him recording it there and sending it off to Kathleen in Canada. I wish that I could have been around just to be around it, not to change anything at all. They did an amazing job, but just to be in the studio as they’re singing on one of my songs. It’s awesome to have it forever, but, I would have liked to have seen it just because it was a nice little memory to tuck away.
As a musician who makes a living working in Austin, how do you feel about the Austin music scene? What do you like about it and what don’t you like about it?
Kingcaid: There’s a lot to like. On any given night you can go out and see an amazing band in any genre and probably five amazing bands in one genre or five amazing bands in five different genres. There’s so many talented people here. It’s definitely nice to be surrounded by that kind of talent and to always have the option to see something new and be inspired by something new. If there was anything that leaves me desiring more, and I’ve had this discussion with a lot of people, I think that Austin is better on a microcosm because it’s not New York or Los Angeles. It’s not that huge. It’s not that stuffed to the gills of people trying to make it. It’s a smaller city but it’s got equally as much talent and as much variety in terms of what it has to offer musically. I’ve lived here for 13 years and I love this city. I will always call this city home but recently I have been thinking about heading somewhere else possibly. A – for the experience and B- to get out of this city before it explodes or something. It’s very worrisome that it’s just getting so crowded, traffic is awful and it’s getting to be a little bit too much. I’m always going to hate traffic no matter where I live, but that being said, maybe the quantity of people that are moving in, it’s even going to make it harder. I’ve said for 13 years probably, if this city should be like the next Seattle, like if it blows up like that, where all of these bands are kind of thrust into the limelight and it’s the next Seattle scene, like that happened in the 90s, well, I think that one of the reasons that it hasn’t happened and one of the reasons that it’s probably, I don’t know, I actually feel like it won’t happen, is because, it’s not as much of a community. You know, I think it is a community, I’m not going to piss anybody off – well, I don’t really give a shit either – but, in terms of saying there is a community, I just think that it can be a little more, I don’t know. I feel like it’s more of a competition now, and it is. It’s a huge competition. The whole music industry is, we’re competing with you know, pre-Myspace is like, it was such a different landscape to hit musically and for something to take legs and blow up. Now, with social networks and how far it can reach, somebody can record an album in their bedroom and post it online and then two weeks later be, this is an exaggeration but, playing Madison Square Garden or something. Or have the potential to, you know, because it blows up and it’s just out there. There’s so much stuff going on that it’s hard to really give a shit about anything except for yourself in terms of trying to be part of a fierce competition. I think that the shear numbers in Austin alone are going to make it much much more like that and it’s going to be harder and harder to develop any kind of sense of community because it just comes down to a numbers game and I think that there’s a lot more cooperation that could be happening than is happening and I’m always for more cooperation. It’s just better for the city, the state, the world, the United States, for sure. And, yeah, the world.
What are your plans for the rest of 2013?
Kingcaid: We are headed out on a West coast tour starting Feb. 1 through March 1. We’ll be back for South By Southwest and we’ll most likely be headed back out to the East Coast at the end of March through April. I know we have a festival in Denver that we’re playing in May, so, I’m pretty positive that we’re just gonna be out on tour for the rest of the year. Which is good, because then I won’t be so grumpy about Austin because I can go see other cities. Having not toured since 2008, I guess we went out on a three-week stint in December, but having not toured since 2008, I am absolutely ready to hit the road. Hopefully some time within the confines of the time that I’ll have here between tour dates I can start recording the final versions of the demos for this next album that I’ve already written. I think it will be a year full of the road, which will be awful fast food and cramped sleeping quarters, which is totally fine. I’ll take it, I just wanna be out there.
Watch What Made Milwaukee Famous’ music video for the song “Gone and Done It Now” below.