HomeInterviewsMike Chick on His New Dream-Influenced Singles, Van Tours, Yawn Mower &...

Mike Chick on His New Dream-Influenced Singles, Van Tours, Yawn Mower & More

Photo Credit: Richie Brown

Retelling a wild/awesome/horrifying dreams sometimes is one of the hardest things to do. While in the state of dreaming you’re vividly aware of every little detail of the dream, but once you wake up every piece of minutia fades from your memory and into the ether.

Mike Chick, a staple in the Asbury Park music scene, has somehow found a way to recount his wildest dreams in lyrical and sonic form in his two brand new singles “Call Up The Doctor” / “Sleep Walking” that were released in October via Mint 400 Records. The songs are a sonic masterwork of melding the disparate, bizarre and surreal moments of a dream with the underlying impactful meanings of them. It’s truly a sight to be seen (via video at the end of this piece) and to be heard.

We recently caught up with Mike Chick to talk about his new singles, his preference of EPs and singles over full length records, being a part of the wildly popular Asbury duo Yawn Mower, dreams, the intricate recording of these songs and what city truly may have the “heart and soul” of the New Jersey music scene.

Year I Started Performing: Hi my name is Mike Chick and I’ve been playing music for the majority of my life.

I’m Based Out Of: I am currently based out of Asbury Park, NJ.

Bands You’ve Seen Me in Before: Past bands have been Saturnalia, Blue Tom, Grand Alto. After Grand Alto, I played solo acoustic for a number of years and released an album called “Hello Mountain”, which is streaming on Spotify. Then I didn’t play shows for about two years, until Biff Swenson and I started Yawn Mower in 2015. Yawn Mower has been playing shows and releasing songs and videos consistently since then. I play live as Mike Chick whenever I get offered to do so.

Platforms You Can Buy/Stream My Music: Mike Chick’s music, including my newest double single “Call Up The Doctor” / “Sleep Walking” is currently on Bandcamp and all streaming services. You can find Yawn Mower’s music on Bandcamp and Spotify as well. All are released by Mint 400 Records.

Famous/Rad Bands I’ve Shared the Stage With: Hot Snakes, The Electric Six, Dentist, Omni, Shut Up, Jigsaw Seen, Wetbrain, Mothers, Pamela Flores, Tide Bends, Dogs On Acid, Jae Bird, Well Wisher, Grasser, The Components, Little Hag, Sheila Divine, Sunshine Spazz, Trap Bang, Lyons, Ultra Major, Gay Guy / Straight Guy, gods, Chemtrail, The Extensions, Black Flamingos, Accidental Seabirds, Glazer.

One of the fascinating things about your new single “Call Up The Doctor / Sleep Walking” was you really seemed to capture the essence of the wild landscape of dreams — both lyrically and sonically. Can you talk about how you put this song together? For many, remembering dreams, let alone stitching pieces of them together to create a cogent and realistic work of art would seem like an impossible task.

When I wake up from a real whonper of a dream, I try to write down what happened in the dream and use it for lyrics in the future. It makes for some interesting material. The dream that was the basis for the lyrics in “Sleep Walking” was pretty intense, I was in a hospital for some reason and couldn’t escape. I was nauseous in the dream. The nurse was trying to feed me soup that had small plastic babies in it, and I remember the nurse saying “isn’t that nice?” It was one of those dreams that feels like it’s closing in on you and you know you need to get out of. Luckily, I woke up.

You recorded the song on a “Four-Track cassette using drum machines, acetone organ and hollow body fuzz bass.” Not your traditional recording method. Can you talk about why you chose a four-track cassette to record this song and what challenges did using this recording method and these instruments pose? Also did you perform all the instruments yourself or did you have other musicians perform on the song with you?

I use the same Yamaha MT4X four track recorder that I bought as a teenager today for as many projects as possible. I used it to record the two “Beach Wolff” songs and the “More Sh*t To End Up In A Landfill” EP. I’m amazed at what you can do with Pro Tools and am trying to learn how to use that DAW more, but I do enjoy the restrictions you have with a cassette four track. There aren’t unlimited tracks. There’s no built in metronome. Punch Ins/Outs are a pain in the ass so you have to nail your part in one take. You have to make your song work within four tracks. I dig that challenge.

These instruments were all recorded directly into the four track which allowed me to bypass using a microphone (except for vocals, which were done in the mixing process). I’ve been a fan of fuzz bass since Spirit In The Sky (could have been a guitar, but you get what I mean) and the Acetone Organ since Stereolab (they probably used Farfisas, but you get it). I performed all of the instruments / vocals on these tracks. There were no guest spots. I wasn’t being greedy. No one was around at the time.

You recorded at home and then took this out to the studio for additional recording and mastering — did the song change shape and form (lyrically, musically) when you took it out of your house and introduced it to the teams in the studios?

No, not really. I transferred the tracks to Pro Tools with help from my good friend / lifelong bandmate Bill Bourke and added vocals and tambourine with him as engineer. I recorded the vocals while sitting on a couch behind Bill, holding an SM-58 vocal microphone. No pop filter, no booth. Just headphones. Bill got a call from a friend in between takes and said, “Yeah, I’m at the studio with Chick. He’s been screaming right behind me for the last 30 minutes.” After vocals I recorded the tambourine, which to me is a serious job that is not to be taken lightly.

After that I brought the track to my friend Pat Noon, who has recorded and mixed my songs forever. At the time, he and Bill were working in the same studio. Pat’s always excited when I bring in songs on the old four track. He loves a challenge. After some EQ and levels adjustment, we the songs that are streaming today. Mastering was completed a little while later at Azimuth Mastering.

The reason I love working with both Bill and Pat is they’ve known me for so long that they expect I’m going to show up with an old four track and not want to change the sound of the original recordings too much, even though that’s an option. I don’t want the songs to sound perfect. My favorite records all have a little bit of dirt on them. That’s what I want to sound like.

Obviously have to ask this one due to the state of the world. How have you been dealing, as a creative, during this time where live streams and the infrequent socially distanced outdoor show are your only means of performing your music?

We do what we can. If we can’t play shows, we write new music. We record as much as we can. We practice our other songs so they stay tight. I’m hoping to do more New Jersey van tours with Yawn Mower like we did earlier in the summer (Yawn Mower would play several shows a day in people’s driveways from the back of a Sprinter van).

Will we be seeing a new full length coming from you within the next year?

A full length? No. I like EPs. I like singles. I think I’m over working so long on a LP to have a release party and then have yourself and everyone else be onto the next thing. Recording an LP is too long of a process, I’d rather release multiple EPs and singles in a year. I think creating music is more fun that way. I can’t believe that people still release double LPs. That seems insane to me. Why not split those songs up into multiple releases? Most people are listening to your music how they want to on streaming services anyway. But I digress. Will I be releasing new music as Mike Chick in the next year? Absolutely.

You’re part of Yawn Mower, a very popular Asbury Park duo, will we be seeing any new music coming from that band in the near future?

Yawn Mower will continue its quest to be the best two piece in the world until our enemies defeat us, which is unlikely. That quest includes new music and videos in the first quarter of 2021.

Obviously, Asbury Park is the heart and soul of the Jersey music scene. What’s one positive change you’d like to see in the scene once it can safely come back to 100% efficacy?

I would like to hear the arguments from Jersey City, New Brunswick and Trenton on who has the heart and soul of the New Jersey music scene. That would be an interesting panel discussion. I don’t think I have an answer to that question. I would guess that we all have gripes about scenes, venues, bands, people not coming to shows, not getting paid for shows, but we keep doing it. We keep writing songs and recording and playing with our friends because we love it. And if you don’t love it, you can always take up golf.

I can’t stop writing songs. It’s like the nails at the end of my fingers. They keep growing and once in a while I have to clip them.

If someone wants to check you out for the first time what song (and if you want, what band) would you recommend they check out in order to fully understand what the band is out about either lyrically or sonically — and why?

I think for Mike Chick the three songs to start with would be “Call Up The Doctor,” “Not You” and “You Are Always Seeing Ghosts”. For Yawn Mower check out “Convenience Store,” “Shed Is Old” and “Operators.”

Finally, what are your creative plans for the rest of 2020 and heading into 2021?

My creative plans are to complete the new Mike Chick and Yawn Mower EPs that will be released in the first half of 2021. I’m also always drawing under the name Modern Animals, most of that can be seen on instagram (modern_animals).

Shout out to Pop Break for having me, Mint 400 Records, my family and friends, Fusaro Pizza and Asbury Park. Please check out the video for “Call Up The Doctor”, streaming now on YouTube and featuring Richie Brown! You’ll love it.

Be well and do your best. Thank you for your time.

Check out Mike Chick on Bandcamp, Spotify and YouTube.

Bill Bodkin
Bill Bodkinhttps://thepopbreak.com
Bill Bodkin is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break, and most importantly a husband, and father. Ol' Graybeard writes way too much about wrestling, jam bands, Asbury Park music, HBO shows, and can often be seen under his season DJ alias, DJ Father Christmas. He is the co-host of the Socially Distanced Podcast (w/Al Mannarino) which drops weekly on Apple, Google, Anchor & Spotify. He is the co-host of the monthly podcasts -- Anchored in Asbury, TV Break and Bill vs. The MCU.

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