With the release of his latest record, 'The Avalanche', last year - Owen (aka Mike Kinsella) further cemented his place as one of the finest singer-songwriters on Polyvinyl's roster.
Now over a year since its release, the Chicago, IL, cult favourite is set to finally perform tracks from both the record and his stunning back catalogue across the UK. We caught up with Kinsella ahead of the shows to talk about how he differentiates his projects, what to expect from this month's show and more!
After a couple of years away from the UK, how are you feeling ahead of returning this month?
We're more excited than ever! I think my favourite place to play in is London, so it seems crazy haven't been there years. For a while we always figured out how to go with American Football or Owen or in whatever capacity a couple times a year so yeah we’re excited to go back.
Union Chapel was the first one-off show you announced and now you’re playing a few dates – that must be pretty cool?
Yeah, this whole thing has been postponed since the fall of 2019 or something like that, so it is pretty sweet to finally be able to do this in a couple of weeks. I'm sure this is going to be worth the wait for sure!
The venues you’re playing are quite intimate – and include a date at Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club where you’ve performed with American Football a few times. Do you try and revisit these venues and make new memories?
I guess so, yeah! Brudenell has the best little pies and there's a great vibe every time we go there. My dad was a bartender at a Moose Lodge, which would be the same kind of vibe - not the show area, but like bar area because it was local and you’ve got to be a member, but it's not hard to be a member. After working with the venues and having the same booking agent for so long it's really cool to just trust the process. Sometimes I'm like ‘Tom, what do you think?’ and he's like ‘okay, I'll put it together.’
Since the announcement of the tour you’ve released ‘The Avalanche.’ How does it feel to finally be able to perform the album live?
Yeah, the first shows with that album out were just this past August. So it was funny to like, you know, have to relearn all of them. If you play a song long enough it sort of feels like a cover, but these have never been played. Now already I’m kind of like ‘oh, these old songs,’ even though it is only probably like 12 times now or something.
What's the sort of reaction been to ‘The Avalanche’ so far considering fans have had a year to hear and digest it?
Owen shows in general are pretty reserved, so some people were clapping when we start playing or something - there's never anything wild … like there's no beach balls being released from the ceiling or anything. But yeah it seems good and people seem to be cool with the record.
Can we expect to hear the album in full, or will you be dipping into your back catalogue?
My instinct was to play all of ‘The Avalanche’ just because I’m most excited about it, but there's a bunch of old stuff too. I usually try to get a couple from each album, but there's a couple of the albums that don't lend themselves to solo shows because there’s just there's too many layers, too many drums, too many whatever.
Since 2016 you’ve released 2 albums with Owen (The King of Whys, The Avalanche) and 2 with American Football (LP 2, LP 3) – how do you differentiate the writing process for each artist?
I think for me now it's pretty obvious, but there's a couple times I've been fooled. I brought a couple of things to American Football and we just couldn't figure it out with a full band. There's a song on ‘The Avalanche’ called ‘On With The Show’ and I think we were working on it for a while. We demo’d that song with American Football a few different times and felt like we were missing some little vocal melody or the main guitar part and couldn't get the layers and stuff to make any sense. Usually it's obvious from the minute I'm strumming and that sort of dictates the song lyrically or the voice I’ll use. I think I was a little more crass or a little more tongue in cheek as OWEN and then in American Football I’m possibly more sincere.
Being a musician in various bands for 25 years or so must give you a sixth sense where you can be like ‘today I’m Owen’ or ‘today I’m Mike from American Football’ – from the outside it is quite interesting to see people like yourself work on so many projects and keep them true to themselves...
Some days, I'll go out and be like ‘I'm gonna write and I'm excited to write my own stuff’ and some days it's the last thing I want to do for some reason. Maybe if I was a carpenter, it would be like building a decorative piece one day and just fixing shelves the next, you know.
On both American Football’s third album and your latest remix album you teamed up with a few different artists – what was it like to put your music out to external musicians and let them take ownership?
I've definitely reached out to people for like backing vocals and strings and stuff on Owen in the past. I generally hear my songs with the girls voice anyway, so I like that part of getting somebody else involved and getting to hear either my lines or, you know, just some girls voice as an instrument, I guess.
I think I was more confident or more excited to do the remix album after enjoying seeing what happened with American Football after having other people involved and getting different voices. So yeah, it was fun to just hand over literally all the files and say ‘make what you want.’ Everybody made like something very predictive for me from knowing what music they made, you know, but also like when you listen back to it, it’s like the album in itself is all over the place and I like that.
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