Totally Michael: madcap one-man synth-punk 

We sat the ADD-afflicted kid down for an interview

Totally Michael has a fever, and the only prescription is to be as madcap as the body and spirit allow. The Arkansas-bred, Bloomington resident's self-titled debut is a half-hour sprint through punk rock rhythms and gaudy synth-scapes. In keeping with his campy lunacy, Michael also has a penchant for delving into John Hughes themes in his songs, such as prom night, cliques ("Cheerleaders Vs. Drillteam") and pop-tart actresses ("Winona").

Dressing like a sexy bee and other creations on stage was initially the exclamation point to his persona, but Michael now eschews that for more casual garb. However, he still inspires manic audience participation - good and bad - wherever he goes. We recently conducted this e-mail interview with Michael.

NUVO: Describe your beginnings in music. What instruments did you play and what kind of music did you like?

Michael: My stepdad bought me a guitar when I was in eighth grade. I never had formal training and it totally shows. Growing up I went through a lot of phases. At my most embarrassing point I was into Korn and Limp Bizkit. But my mom introduced me to a lot of doo-wop and oldies, which is still some of my favorite music to listen to. I got pretty big into pop-punk and was in a band for like a year and a half when I started 10th grade. That's pretty much how I got introduced to the D.I.Y. music scene. And from there I found out about all kinds of music.

NUVO: Some of the songs on your debut deal with pivotal moments in adolescence. Are you a nostalgic person?

Michael: I think I'm the most nostalgic person I know. My childhood was pretty amazing. I'm constantly looking for old games I used to play or old movies or old books. And when I do find them, it seriously brings back feelings that I haven't experienced since I was young. And I love that. It's not like I'm bummed about what I'm doing right now or anything. I just think it's awesome to temporarily bring back those good ole' youngin' days.

NUVO: Why did you eventually decide to ditch the costumes in your performances?

Michael: Well, when I started doing this I pretty much just wanted to write party songs and play party shows. But after a few years I realized I didn't want to be seen as a complete joke. And the costumes weren't helping. So I made the slow transition from a sexy bee suit, to a pumpkin suit, to short shorts, to pants and a T-shirt.

NUVO: Recording solo is one thing. Do you perform alone as well, and if so how do you do it while keeping the audience engaged?

Michael: Yeah, I perform solo. I run my beats through the P.A. and play guitar and sing over it. I don't really know how to answer that question. I mean it doesn't work all the time. I just played in Muncie and got booed off the stage after two songs. But for me just being one dude a lot of it relies on how good the P.A. is at the venue. I don't have a drummer or a band with lots of amps to back me up so if the P.A. doesn't bump then it's really just embarrassing. But if the P.A. is nice with good subs and you can feel it in your chest then it's a lot easier.

NUVO: What's your secret to staying so positive in a world seemingly so full of adversity?

Michael: I don't know. I tend to stay near friends who are awesome who make me laugh a lot. Don't hang out with assholes. But it's not like I'm totally positive all the time. People just think that because of the music I write. But, of course, no matter how bummed I am, I'm not going to write a song that's going to spread that bummerness. I really believe that everything gets better with time and if I can write music that helps speed up that process for some people then I'm going to do it for as long as I can.

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