Mickey is the worst opening band you’re likely to encounter. Its live shows exhaust everything—blood, sweat, beer, spit—and leave the headliner performing in a pool of residue to a crowd that’s already seen what its paid for. The band is a discordant mix of libertines who only barely tie everything together through a mutual affection for chaos.
But the one thing Mickey does unanimously agree on, its musical output, is much more focused than its dialogues. Its debut LP for Hozac Records, Rock ’N’ Roll Dreamer, is an airtight assault on contemporary rock, fusing the now-divergent roles of glam’s theatrics and punk’s intensity. The group’s members say they’re already halfway done with their follow-up, but that’s assuming they don’t change their minds and scrap the whole collection for something better. The A.V. Club talked to Mickey’s members about the band’s process and its output before Mickey plays the Cobra Lounge on New Year’s Eve.
The A.V. Club: When did you all meet?
The Dark Prince: As far as being a real band, we started in January of 2009 as a three-piece—Christmas [Woods] on drums, me and [Dirty D] on guitars. We had another bassist, but then Brent joined in summer of 2009.
Christmas Woods: Our first show, we played in a garage in Pilsen with Nobunny in May 2009.
AVC: What were you just working on in the studio recently?
TDP: We’ve been in the studio since January of this year.
CW: We recorded our LP. We recorded shit, scrapped it. Then we re-recorded basically a whole album, rewrote it and everything.
AVC: That’s what we’d heard, that you go through a ton of songs that nobody will ever hear. So what’s the songwriting process like?
Brent Zmrhal: We scrap a ton of songs we bring to the table.
Dirty D: Nah, we use more than we scrap.
BZ: It’s like 50-50, if we don’t scrap more.
DD: Name all the ones we scrap, and I’ll name all the ones we play.
TDP: Here’s the deal. Me and [Dirty D] are the main songwriters. Usually he’ll bring a song and I’ll finish it, or vice versa. But if I write six songs, we’ll do two of them. We scrap tons of shit.
CW: We do scrap a lot of songs, that’s true. [Starrchild] brings a lot of full songs to us with, like, cardboard drums and all. And a lot of the new songs have been really good. We’re already halfway through our next album.
DD: Until we say what sucks or until we change them. We’ve never had a song that someone wrote and we didn’t change.
AVC: And how about the production end? Because for how often you’re called garage-y or dirty, the production quality is very high.
CW: A lot of our production has to do with Mark Freitas, our producer.
DD: Well, I worked with Mark, too, and I didn’t want anything raw either.
TDP: We take production really seriously. We spent, like, 100 hours on mixing alone [for Rock ’n’ Roll Dreamer]. We have some songs that have 30 different tracks on them.
AVC: It seems like contemporary trends have made punk and glam very divergent, but they haven’t always been. And it seems like while most bands have been taking after, say, the Everly Brothers, you guys are rare in that you seem much more interested in, say, T. Rex.
TDP: We don’t sound like T. Rex at all.
CW: We like T. Rex.
TDP: We have one song that sounds like T. Rex, but we also sound like Alice Cooper. We just play whatever we like.
DD: I wrote a lot of shit just trying to sound like shit we like. Trying to cop the feel.
TDP: Cop a feel. [Laughs.]
AVC: You’ve talked about your music as “cartoonish” rock. What does that mean for you?
TDP: Thing is, a lot of the lyrics are written by [vocalist Mac Blackout], and Mac is a cartoon character, just alive. So it comes off sounding like a cartoon because that’s what Mac is like.
CW: He’s our Motown man. That’s just what it is. We’re all into everything. We’re all into different shit, and it all comes together in Mickey.
DD: I don’t listen to showtunes.
CW: Cartoonish rock is everything, it’s just theatrical. It’s Alice Cooper, it’s Kiss, it’s all that.
BZ: We played a loft show this one time and this guy John was tripping on acid and he saw us playing and he thought Kiss was playing.
DD: I don’t know why he thought that.
CW: Well, we have been playing in make-up recently.
AVC: About your live show…
DD: It’s badass.
AVC: It always sort of teeters on chaos and anarchy, but you normally do a good job of not quite getting there.
DD: It’s gotten there. I think each of us have quit the band at some point on stage.
CW: We’ve exchanged blows. Mac’s kicked me in the face.
BZ: We have to pay for a lot of microphones because [Mac] is kind of nuts.
TDP: [to Brent] Tell him the knife story.
BZ: No that wasn’t on stage, that doesn’t count.
CW: Oh, this guy was about to get killed. You don’t fuck with the [Sirius XM station] Boneyard when you’re riding with Mickey, dude. We’re listening to Sirius radio, driving at 5 in the morning; you don’t change the Boneyard. And [Brent] changed it, and I snapped. I pulled a knife out and I climbed in the back seat, put it to his throat and was gonna kill him on the side of the road.
BZ: But there weren’t audience members there. That’s not the question.
TDP: We just want people to pay attention. If I see somebody with their arms folded, I might slap them with my guitar. If we’re playing, you shouldn’t be talking to your friend, you shouldn’t be on your phone—and if I see that shit, I’m going to get mad. Just pay attention, don’t be a fucking dickhead and check your phone.
BZ: I think it’s just about having fun while you’re playing.
TDP: Fuck fun.