Interviews / Authorized / Unauthorized
In May, Michal Menert released his soulful and groovetastic EP, “Fearless.” Since then, Menert has joined forces with The Pretty Fantastics to release “Permanent Vacation”. The album is a seamless blend of melodic beat work and funk that will be your perfect summer soundtrack. We recently caught up with Menert to talk inspirations for his “Fearless” EP and the chaos of the present world.
“Fearless” has a retro and nostalgic feel to it, besides the religious records you found while on tour and used as samples, where else did you draw inspiration from?
I started on this project before COVID19 hit, and the initial inspiration was to put out something that touched on several different feels & tempos and was a bit more narrative/evolving & upbeat than the “Slow Coast” series. I think I wanted to create something that was empowering, and that I could work into my live show. It’s hard to pinpoint where inspiration comes from because each ingredient of each song has some sort of story or home it comes from. Most of it is me smearing all the sounds until it’s almost impressionist so that it feels like a song moving as an interconnected being rather than focusing on one layer as a lead or standout element drawing attention. A lot of it is my attempts at making things in my studio match the vibe of samples, or chasing ways to make my voice or instruments sound like something that would catch my attention on an old record I picked up.
The album art for “Fearless” is quite unique and striking, can you tell us about it?
It’s us against the unknown. It’s this daunting shadow or darkness we stare into, which is both intimidating & fantastic. It’s us gazing up at the stars, searching for a message, sometimes seeing monsters, sometimes gods, and sometimes, if we’re lucky, we catch a glimpse of our destiny.
How have you been making your soul happy and staying sane during this era of social distancing?
I am fortunate enough to have a beautiful home with a studio, a forest, and a private beach that allows the neighborhood to enjoy it while other places are shut down. I’ve been isolated for a few years now, and hanging with my wife, Becca, and my cat, Biscuit, is usually enough social interaction for me. But after several weeks, I think the Groundhogs Day feeling of repetition is starting to chisel away at my sanity. I can’t complain. We have food, nature, & each other, While so many are struggling to get by. Yoga helps, creating things for fun like meals & art definitely distract the mind from worry. The hardest part is really just the uncertainty. Our government has really failed to prove it’s value to us during this pandemic. Many people suddenly realized they may not work again for months, that they may not have adequate health care coverage to survive this age. The usual distractions of drinking, going out and blowing off steam on the weekends disappeared, leaving a gap for us to start finally questioning the whole scope of capitalism, and how we’ve been ushered into an economic state where the american dream is nearly impossible without either starting with wealth or finding some way to exploit others. I think many of us started asking ourselves “what is this all for?” especially when you see these captains of industry try to rush us back into their production lines because 3% mortality of their human capital is an acceptable loss to them. Then, as we all sat, frustrated, looking into our screens for some sort of answer or hope, we saw George Floyd get murdered by police. We learned about Breonna Taylor being shot repeatedly in her bed by ‘mistake’, we saw Ahmaud Arbery get executed in broad daylight for the color of his skin, with no consequence for those who killed them… We suddenly followed these stories, one after another, after another.. hundreds within just the last few years. We could no longer pretend it was just a horrific exception to the usual way things should be, but rather that Black people were being hunted and killed or imprisoned everyday by our government, deliberately. It seems insane that people ignored it for so long, but that’s what centuries of propaganda and privilege can do. Now, almost overnight, people came together and took to the streets in support of the injustices forced upon the Black community, and it seems as though our government can no longer pretend to ignore it, like many of us did for decades. The police response only supported the point of the people, that these are armed thugs, with carte blanche to harass, hurt, detain, and kill those they had sworn to protect, right before our eyes. It’s heartbreaking seeing what has been done, what’s still being done to Black people, but for the first time since this pandemic hit, I feel hopeful. I feel like maybe, if we all stick with this momentum, we can force changes in legislation, dismantle the capitalist machine devouring this world, & we can start giving back to a culture we’ve taken so much from. I hope we can build communities that use our capital and energy to support each other and a sustainable future, rather than the corporations that hijacked our country and world.
The track “Afterglow” is so serene and calming, would you ever consider doing some spoken word or guided meditation over it?
I think words would take away from the serenity. It’s already a guided meditation, just not in English!
With festivals being put on the backburner this season, let’s reminisce. What is one of your favorites to perform at/attend and why?
Electric Forest is one of the best curated and decorated festivals I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. It’s not scorching hot in the middle of a field, so the Forest, with its elaborate art and installations you can interact with brings something special. Sonic Bloom is also a great one, the vibe there is right and there’s always been a gang of friends which makes it feel like a reunion.
Do you see yourself collaborating with Derek Vincent Smith of Pretty Lights again?
What music did you listen to as a kid that still influences you today?
Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails, James Brown, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, Mike Oldfield, David Bowie, ATCQ, De La Soul, Wu-Tang… So many artists, I’m probably leaving out a lot…
What is next for Michal Menert? Do you have any projects on the brain?
More music with the Pretty Fantastics, more solo releases, a laidback rap beat album with my buddy Trophy Beats, a really interesting EP & a soundscape/ambient-ish ep with my friend Adam Tannenbaum, more Animating & video exploration. More focus on how to help use my platform in alliance with others to try and make the world better for everyone.
*Featured Image Via Garrett Poulos*