Interview: What Drives Mini Mansions' Michael Shuman To Keep Creating

Friday, September 28, 2018

We caught up with Michael Shuman (aka Mikey Shoes) of Mini Mansions and QOTSA to dive into Works Every Time (which is out today 28th September), their current musical direction and what drives him to keep creating music. 

It's been three years between your last album The Great Pretenders and your new EP Works Every Time, Are you excited to get it out?

Sure am! We don't do this for nothing — well actually, we do it for ourselves first, so I would be happy either way. But yeah, I am excited, and I'm excited to go play these new songs live. So far, our fans are happy with what we have put out, so that feels good to make them happy. 

I have just finished listening to the EP, for like the hundredth time, and it has a much cleaner sound — it's still got that dark sexy vibe, just much more crisp. Is this something we can expect from you guys from now on?

Aww thanks! I wouldn't say forever — you know, because I think every record we make, and I make in general, you explore different sounds, different recording techniques and they suit different songs and what you want to portray. But for this batch of songs, we recorded more than these four. I just really want to break away from what we have been thought of as, which is a psychedelic pop band. It still sounds like Mini Mansions, like you said, but I wanted it to be a little more focused on the song more than experimenting with sounds and I think that this production style does that.

What inspired this new direction for you guys?  

I listened to so many different types of music. I am a big fan of what Damon Albarn does with Gorillaz — so taking on that style with our music and seeing what it came out with. And I guess, songwriting wise and lyrically, it has been an interesting couple of years for me, in a relationship I had that kinda took over my whole life really, mentally and emotionally, so that's all I really had to talk about, or let out of my body was these feelings I was feeling.     

So it was sort of a natural response for you?

Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, fuck, you never know when you're going to fall in love and when a relationship is going to come into your life in any form, but it was a surprise and it just took over. 

Now, the only thing wrong with this EP is that there are only four songs! When can we get an album from you?

That's a very good question. In the very near future! We have songs done, they are ready to go. They just need to be released. 

Nice one. In the past, the songs that you wrote, you sang and the songs that Tyler wrote, he sang. Is this how the new EP has worked out?

I think even more so in this new batch of songs. We were a little divided after we first started writing and recording songs after The Great Pretenders. I was doing some Queens stuff and Zach and Tyler were touring with The Last Shadow Puppets and we just couldn't really get in the same room together — so it made it really difficult and a little bit of a strain on our band relationship. I honestly didn't know if we were going to make it through, it all just seemed a little weak. When we're not together, it doesn't seem right, it doesn't seem fun or seem like a band. So we demoed them separately  once we came together, we put a little spin on it. It was a different experience, but at the same time when it came to recording it, it was the first time that we were all together. We did it for about two weeks and focused together. And that's kinda what saved us. 

So glad you could come back together — now you have a song featured on a video game already. What would be your dream way of getting your music out there?

Mmmm, I think it is an interesting format, but I am still a sucker for the way it was always intended, which is on a piece of vinyl — and to be able to sit down and experience the music and be focused on it. At the same time, I would love to be able to give our music away for free! I mean we make this music and we want people to hear it, so who gives a shit. At the same time, we need to have an income. It's a very weird world out there for musicians. So it's a very interesting question, although I don't have the best answer for it. 



You play bass for Queens of the Stone Age, and drums and various other instruments for Mini Mansions. Did you get to experiment with anything new on this EP or on the upcoming album?

I played a bunch of keys on the EP and this was the first time that we had a real drummer playing the drums on all the songs. So I am no longer playing drums. Although I wrote all of the drum parts — this is the first time I got to record in a room tracking with someone that wasn't me. And having a full kit is different for us, my whole drumming technique, because I don't know how to play drums, was using a floor tom and a snare drum and now we finally have a full kit. So this process allowed us to do more with our songs. So no crazy instruments per se, but that was a big one for us. 

I saw on Instagram that you received a big book of birthday messages from your fans. Is it important for you to feel that type of love and dedication from your fans?

I don't think I realized how important it was until I got it. I mean, that right there, you think you make music for yourself, but when you go out and play it's about the connection that the two of you have. And if you don't have that, you feel so empty — just like you're kind of going through a routine of playing songs over-and-over-and-over every night, so I think that it's really important and does make you reflect on why you are doing it. I mean, I have played almost two hundred shows this year, and you wonder why the fuck you are doing it and then you see that stuff and see what it means to people and how it has affected them and it really gets to you, and it meant a lot for sure. It's very cool. 

It was very cool. Now, what would you say is the best way for fans to experience this new EP?

I've never been a big fan of EPs, like you said, four songs is kinda not enough. But this, in particular, we kinda crafted it to be as much of an album, in the way that it was written and sequenced. In a way, it's a single and then three B sides that weren't going to make and just needed to be a filler. These songs, including the cover song, were all hand-picked and crafted to be on this mini-journey, so I would just want fans to keep that in mind.

You have done a few soundtracks for movies such as Feed, is Mini Mansions your main focus now? Or would you like to do more of that in the future?

It's been a long time since I did that, with the release and all. I have done two other features, one that me, Josh and Troy from Queens did together, and then I have a new movie coming out, so I have been doing it and I want to keep doing it because it's a totally different experience and it's great for my mind to sort of detach myself. But I played my last show with Queens, so I'll put it this way, it's full-on Mini Mansions time, and we're not going to stop for a while. 



Your last show with Queens is just for now right?

Yeah no, no just for this tour...don't get scared (laughs)

(Laughs) I did panic for a second there. So what direction are you wanting Mini Mansions to head in? 

I think once you see what we have done — we have been creating music over the last two years, so there's a lot to come out besides this EP  so we will be focusing on touring and playing all these songs live. It's kinda hard to give you the full plan, without giving you the full plan.

Yeah, I get it. Do you have any plans to come out to Australia for Mini Mansions, that you can tell us?

We sure have them! Um, they're in the works right now. I am hoping it will be sooner than later, so yeah, very soon.

Amazing. Looking forward to seeing you then! Thanks, man, it's been awesome.

Thank you Emily, I appreciate it. 


Words by Emily O'Brien 
Photos by Kristy Smolcic (folio)

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