5 Minutes With Mike Kinsella

With a brand new Owen record released this week - before a tour with American Football, Mike Kinsella has a huge rest-of-year lined up.

We caught up with him to discuss 'The Falls of Sioux', how touring differs for each of his bands - as well as getting the low down on the 25th anniversary celebrations of American Football's seminal debut LP.

Check out the full interview below.

You have quite a busy and exciting year ahead – did you originally plan for it to be this way?

"It hasn’t got exhausting just yet – but it ramps up a the end of the month and becomes pretty crazy!"


When you decided to start writing a new Owen record, was there any plans in place to also do an American Football anniversary tour?

"Everything just sort of came together naturally. Like you say, at the start of a project you try to make a timeline of how long will it take to write and record, how much labour will I need to invest and what’s the lead time to make sure it is all ready. We were aiming for the Owen record to be wrapped up and released in Spring, to open a window for touring in the Summer."


The record, ‘The Falls Of Sioux’, comes out in April – how did crafting it differ from ‘The Avalanche’?

"With ‘The Avalanche’ I was coming out of a divorce, so it was essentially like written going through that period and there was a lot of things coming out naturally. With this album, it was more on my calendar and intended to be made at this time. I always have music laying around and there’s always going to be things that I’m excited about musically that I want to share."


How do you find writing when you have a job to do and deadlines to meet, so to say – rather than like you mention with ‘The Avalanche’ where ideas and themes poured out?

"I had to chase the song more and spend time arranging the music with ‘The Falls Of Sioux’, and then find what the vibe was. As I wrote more the theme sort of revealed itself and naturally came together, whereas on ‘The Avalanche’ the theme was there all along and in some ways obvious from the offset."


In a way – you could say both records are cathartic. Would you say that’s the right word for it?

"That’s totally true. I feel so lucky to have this outlet that I can make a job. I’d be doing it anyway because it is satisfying and like therapy. Sometimes just by saying things out loud – either to a therapist or into a song – gives you the ‘that was great and I can process this now’ feeling, you know?"


Having both Owen and American Football to pile these feelings into without saturating one must be a great position to be in?

"Even just having two projects where my guitar parts are probably similar if you break them down, but different enough is great. The processes are different for writing with the guys in American Football or for myself with Owen – again, it is like having two different therapists but if I don’t like what one is telling me I can go to the other and choose which I’d prefer to hear."


Owen will be touring in June before you come back to the UK for the American Football run in September – was there a temptation to tour both concurrently?

"With American Football we have to make sure that everyone’s schedule lines up and the window we had for that was Summer – for the Owen shows I play those solo and it works out nicely. They are always cool and a different vibe because I can just do whatever I want. It is really low stakes and a low turnout and feels like I’m just hanging out in a different city each night."


It definitely felt that way when you last toured solo – I think the free-flowing nature of the shows adds a rawness and authenticity to the performance?

"Yeah, totally! They’re definitely more relaxed and candid – sometimes I’ll have a bad night and we’ll joke about it, but there’s no script and I’m always open to do whatever people want from the show."



For the American Football shows – will it be the debut album played from front to back and then some select hits as an encore of sorts?

"We’re still not sure how we’re going to do it! There's a debate at the moment about whether we play it in order or play a set of hits, then come back and play some of LP1. All five members have a different idea if how would be the coolest way to see a reunion show, so we’re getting together this month – and barring having a fistfight – we’ll come out of the room with a decision."


We love the record – but I imagine there has been times over the past 25 years that you’ve wanted to change bits of the album, so is now the opportunity to do that on a live stage?

"Funny you should say that, because on the first reunion we didn't really play some stuff because it didn’t translate live. Now, though, we have more of an understanding of it and ways to make it a little more fun to play live."


Similarly, was there ever a lingering thought over the years that you’d be celebrating 25 years of the album?

"To be honest, when it was approaching the label got in touch like ‘oh, we’re going to do something special for 25 years’ and then it snowballed from there. The first time we did a reunion was supposed to be it and we’d be dead and buried, but that revived American Football so this one is definitely more self-gratifying and us patting ourselves on the back."


Has there been times over the past quarter of a century where you’ve performed or re-listened to a certain track and though ‘I wished we’d have done this differently?’

"Oh, totally! We often ask ‘why are we playing this part for four minutes’ but it must have felt great at the time. Recently, the label found another demo tape from back in the day and we don’t even know what the songs are called – maybe they’re the original ‘Never Meant’ but none of us remember."


Despite it being a quarter of a century old, it still feels like new fans are discovering it – do you get a sense of that internally?

"For us, it has been a lot like finding your old high school yearbook and reminiscing. I think it speaks to a lot of moments in people’s live – whether that be transitioning from youth, or going through some anxiety or sadness or whatever. These are things everybody’s going through or has gone through, so that might be someone has rediscovered us after they first heard us when they were 15 to 18, or someone that’s feeling it now."


A limited amount of tickets remain for both Owen and American Football headline shows across the UK.

Owen Tickets

American Football Tickets

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Image credit: Alexa Viscius

Hey - I'm Callum. Fan of The National, collector of vinyl, season ticket holder at Leeds United, owner of Dougal the cat.

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