Ocean Carolina is what happens when a life-long musician stops questioning himself and lets the music unfold on its own. Michael Simone left an EDM career as a producer to become the songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist behind the band. Maudlin Days is an exercise in giving up control and allowing the music to be what it’s meant to become.
Simone has immersed himself in music since he was a teenager, and his varied passions and interests from Prince to Led Zeppelin, The Cure to Waylon Jennings, and Jeff Buckley to The Smiths, everything has culminated to produce a record that sounds like ’70s alt-rock while maintaining a timeless story of heartbreak and trying to find one’s place in the world.
Ocean Carolina released Maudlin Days in late June via Old Hand Record Company.
In honor of the release, The Wall Street Journal debuted the video for “If It Burns Out Bright” on the Speakeasy blog saying, “The clip for the wistful song intersperses shots of Simone strumming an acoustic guitar with color-saturated images of ocean, sky and flowers and subtle animations by Pat Lavin.” (see below)
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Simone to discuss the record and this is what he said about it.
When did you begin writing the material for Maudlin Days?
The majority of songs were written in about a three week span. I was getting pulled around by this insane Scorpio girl while being on the rebound from a long term relationship, and they were sort of my method of trying to stay in or get out of the Stockholm syndrome situation I had found myself in.
So I would basically just come home from my day job and get as drunk and stoned as possible, write two songs in an hour and instantly record demos of them, and then send them off as these little love letters. That’s where the album title comes in to play because there’s really no better description of what those days (and nights) were like to me.
Songs like “Words” and “All I Can Do” had already been written, I guess a foreshadowing of the long term thing I was in getting ready to have the doors blown off of and then you’ve got a tune like “Someday Soon” I’ve had around since I was 18 or so. I like to write in batches and then take breaks I guess so there’s always a stockpile to choose from.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
Well. I don’t think any of them were difficult so to say. When I write a song I don’t really proof it or edit it too much, which was what was amazing about having a producer on this album. The fact we tracked these songs live was the challenge factor for me and I guess if there is one song that is my personal “beast” on the album, that would be “Nobody Wants to Cry”. There’s something I found in myself with the acoustic live demo I released on the Half In The Shadows EP, but when I brought it to the band, they hated how stretched out all of the parts seemed. So we hacked it up on paper before we cut it live and the band version is cool. But fucking hell, when I play a solo set I can’t help but to gravitate to the longer extended arrangement that I first laid down. But then I listen to the album version and I think, Yep that makes total sense. I’m sure there’s a middle ground but when you only have four days to track a live band and 12 songs in studio, you have to let the democracy flag fly.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
“Cry Baby Cry” by far for sure. Alex and I spent a few weeks recording this crazy tribal version of that song as a personal nod to my love for the Cure’s “Closedown” from Disintegration. It was that crossed with me digging on Father John Misty’s “Only Son Of the Ladies Man” track where he’s summoning Leonard Cohen. I think I was trying to summon all of that and Jon Graboff came in and pulled that back to a cool Roy Orbison vibe by going minimal instead. The word Cry and Roy connect, but going so minimal for me was a challenge after having such a full in your face, gothic/prog/folk recording of the song already. I dig both versions but for very different reasons.
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
That would be Jon Graboff. Jon’s an insanely talented guitarist and pedal steel player and he just has this instant ear and knows where a song should go and what could make it cooler and more timeless. I’ve always been a fan of his steel playing from the Cardinals days as you can hear on my last album, All The Way Home, but man, I had no idea what kind of playing this guy could do on a six string.
My buddy Chris couldn’t make the sessions last minute so Graboff had to take on double duty of producing and cutting live guitar in the room. That was something special to be a part of for sure. Add in the handful of writing sessions where he showed me what wasn’t needed and better directions songs could go and that is honestly what made this album the real deal in my book.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
There’s really no concept. Just some reactive tunes about going through hard times and how to deal with it or not deal with it and trying to impress a worthless girl or two along the way. What’s that scene from High Fidelity where he talks about how you would think that girls should have less effect on you than they did since 4th grade – skins thicker and maybe you’re a little wiser, I’m paraphrasing. I write those kind of tunes I guess and that’s ok by me, for now.
(Purchase / stream Maudlin Days: