Analogue Music | Michigan Rattlers

Michigan Rattlers

By Matt Conner

I can quote the couplet that grabbed me.

Radio makes me crazy and the silence does the same,
But there's a savior of a sunrise just behind the mountain range.

The lines halted my casual listen through a new artist playlist. I went back to replay the song to hear them again. My immediate attention needed to know the who, what, when and where of the band involved—but first I had to hear those lines again.

"Just Good Night" is the magic windows-down track that gave way to the rest of the Michigan Rattlers catalog that night. Fans of Dawes or other such heartland rock will enjoy the precious few tracks the band has put out. For now, it's just shy of a full-length album's worth altogether—a collection of singles and an EP—but we recognize the thread that will keep them going.

Analogue: I want to get the story right, because you guys have played together since high school days in Michigan and yet you didn't all move to L.A. as a band already formed, right?

Graham Young: The three of us all grew up together—through middle school and high school together. Adam [Reed] and I have played on and off for the better part of 10 years at this point. We had a high school band and then all went off to college separately. Adam went to Kenyon in Ohio. I went to Columbia in Chicago. During the summer and winter breaks, we'd come together and jam.

I was in Chicago for three years in a band and then moved to Los Angeles to do my own thing. I was there for a year doing the whole singer-songwriter thing playing open mics. Then Adam graduated from college and I said, "Hey, let's get the band back together." So he came out and Christian [Wilder], the keyboard player, was a little younger than us. He graduated from school in Boston and moved to L.A. just last October. So that's how the band technically formed in Los Angeles, even though we've been playing together for a long time.

Analogue: How similar was the music in Michigan to what you're making today?

Graham: Not too similar. When we were playing in Michigan, it was a lot of goofy cover songs and classic rock kind of stuff. We were big Red Hot Chili Peppers fans, so we had a lot of songs where I was pretending to be Anthony Kiedis. [Laughs] On my own, I started diving deeper into the whole songwriting thing and got into Ryan Adams, Wilco and the older country guys and a lot of people like Petty and Springsteen who really care about songwriting when I was living in Chicago.

Analogue: When you're joined in L.A. by the guys, were they falling in line with the same sort of music at the time?

Graham: Yeah, it was kind of weird, especially for me and Adam. We weren't together, yet we continued on the same path of what we discovered and what we were listening to. Adam went to school and started playing upright bass and that totally fit into the space I was heading into and the style of music I was wanting to play. So it all worked out organically.

Analogue: Was it clear from the beginning that everyone was all-in to give this a go or was it a bit more organic at first—like we'll see where this takes us?

Graham: No it was definitely about giving it a go. When I moved out to do the solo thing, I also knew Adam would be done with school. I'd call him every other week and say, "Hey, you're moving out to L.A. and we're doing this. No messing around." So I think we definitely had an idea that we were going to make this a career to make music.

Analogue: It seems like the music caught on quickly with critics. There are a lot of great reviews and comments out there about that first release. Did you have any clue what to expect?

Graham: Yeah, everybody was really kind. I don't think we were expecting people to be unkind, but I also don't think we were really expecting... well, I don't know what we were thinking. We just had this batch of songs and we wanted to record them and put them out. The people who have heard them all seem to think they're pretty good, too. So I don't know. I try to write songs for myself and somehow it comes across as universal enough for other people.

Michigan Rattlers

Analogue: When Christian joins you last October, there has to be a lot of obvious changes that come with adding a third member to any group. But how specifically has he changed the band on stage and in the studio?

Graham: On stage it definitely opened it up a bit more. There's a lot more space. When it was just me and Adam, the bass was the rhythm but there was also a lot of rhythm with me strumming on the guitar. Now on stage with the three ofus, sonically I don't have to go as crazy to keep the rhythm.

In the studio, Christian is a wizard on the piano and organ and he's just an incredible musician with a good ear and his ideas. We were already going in this direction, but it's definitely helped having him push us there.

Analogue: As a newer band, I was curious about your own relationship with the sheer amount of music being made. I just spoke with an artist earlier today who mentioned that he'd hate to be just starting out.

Graham: Yeah, I'll definitely have moments of weakness where I'm like, 'Oh my god, there's all kinds of great music out and so many people doing it. How can you even think you can stand a chance?' But I think we do a good job of not letting those thoughts continue. We love playing music and we love writing songs. I don't know what the hell else we'd be doing. And it's starting to work out. I don't know.

You just can't think about it. But I don't think we have to try too hard not to think about it. We're all pretty focused on the whole idea of keeping our heads down, continue to write and work and play and good things will happen if you stay true to what you believe in.

Analogue: You're working on some new songs. How is that comparing to what you've released before?

Graham: It's definitely evolved. In a songwriting sense, I love all the songs on the EP but a lot of these songs on the new full-length are better songs. Musically adding Christian adds a whole other level that we didn't have on the EP. We have an electric guitar player I met in Chicago who was in the studio with us who is insane. So I think it's similar to the EP but I also think it's kicked up a few notches in terms of arrangements.

Analogue: Do you have a date for that yet?

Graham: No. Some of it is mixed and mastered and we're still waiting on half of it. It's probably going to be early fall.