The Airborne Toxic Event visits the Mitten State
The indie alternative group, The Airborne Toxic Event is coming to the mitten for two shows this September. First up is a stop at The Loft in Lansing on Monday, Sept. 16th. This sold-out show is sure to be a memorable one.
Tickets went on sale for only $9.41 thanks to a special promotion put on by fusion shows and 94.1 alternative radio. The following evening Z96.5FM welcomes the band will perform to the District Square in Kalamazoo.
The Airborne Toxic Event released their self-titled album in 2008, named “The Debut Album of the Year” by the Boston Herald. Next, they embarked on their 30 shows in 30 days UK tour, and performed roughly 400 shows in just under 2 and a half years.
Each member not only brings a different instrument, but also a different background to make up the classically trained-meets –rock band iconic sounds that is The Airborne Toxic Event. Frontman Mikel Jollett began as a fiction writer and transitioned to lyricist. “It felt oddly natural,” Jollett said.
What started out as fiction soon became chart-topping songs. Late night show appearances, a never-ending tour schedule and 3 albums later, he still finds it hard to categorize their sound.
And with reason, the band includes Mikel Jollett on vocals, guitar and keyboards, Steven Chen on guitar and keyboards, Noah Harmon on electric and upright bass as well as backing vocals, Daren Taylor on drums, and Anna Bulbrook on viola, keyboards, tambourine, and backing vocals. If you’re thinking that’s a mouthful, just imagine the amount of equipment they carry while on tour.
I was able to talk with lead singer Mikel Jollett about the band’s music, influences and life on the road.
Having so many different musical backgrounds and styles, do you find it hard to categorize the band’s music?
Yes. Good. I don’t like the idea that we are one thing or another. Mostly we’re just sort of playing things we like and not too worried about the “category.”
You were a fiction writer before your musical endeavors. Was it difficult going from writing novels to having to perform your innermost personal thoughts in front of huge crowds night after night?
It felt oddly natural. I can’t explain it except to say that at our first show, the mantra that kept running through my head was: “Don’t be afraid to show people how weird you are.”
Also, how much of your music now is fiction versus the tell-all feeling of songs like “Somewhere around Midnight?” Its songs like that that leave listeners believing you just can’t fake emotion like that.
There’s a commonality to both. Meaning that the autobiographical stuff is highly fictionalized and the fictional stuff is laced with autobiographical emotion. I think hyperbolizing, expanding and torturing your biography for the sake of a story is the heart of the thing.
What musical artists/groups do you look up to?
Leonard Cohen for his lyricism and wit. Bruce Springsteen for his dedication to his audience. The Cure for the dizzy awesome weirdness and anger. And a lot of modern bands for their keyboard sounds. God damn they sound good.
Do you sit down with the specific purpose to write a song or do thoughts/memories just evolve onto the album? Describe what songwriting is to you.
Both. Sometimes it’s a project, like “I want to answer this question.” Other times it’s an exploration of an emotion or a memory. Mostly I think writing is about feeling weird and wanting to understand your weirdness.
You’ve mentioned that playing music for you is making art in front of people, rather than making friends on the internet. Is it common for the band members to stick around before/after and meet up with loyal fans at gigs?
Yes. Like, every show for nearly a thousand shows now.
Fun Questions! Being that it seems you’re constantly on tour, and you continue to find ways to be on the road like the 30 shows in 30 days UK tour…
Name 3 things you need on the road.
Write group raps to pass the time.
Go running with Anna
Drink too much.
Favorite current song:
“Flaws” by Bastille
First place you heard yourself on the radio:
The most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to us on stage is…
I nearly broke a rib falling down in the spilled beer in New York City.
Finish this sentence: Life without music would be…
Be sure to check this band out!