Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Sunday Conversation With Only Makebelieve

It took 8 years to see the light of day, but thankfully, Only Makebelieve’s grand opus, Message from a Mockingbird is here and getting the love that it so richly deserves. Joining us this week are Wyatt Michael and Samuel Atkinson, the patient masterminds behind the project. Here’s what they have to say on their labor of love and the craft of songwriting.


When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, and Simon & Garfunkle, the first time I ever hear Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphanies since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.What have been your musical epiphany moments?


When we (Samuel Atkinson and Wyatt Michael) first heard "Head Over Heels" by Tears For Fears on pop radio when we were kids back in 1984 it was the beginning of our romance with music. Their album Songs From The Big Chair (from which this song came) combined with Dire Straights' Brothers In Arms album which was released around the same time were very popular with us. These two albums made us realize that we had the same taste in music.

Little did we know what lay ahead for us when four years later, during the start of our high school years, a new and glorious album emerged: Tears For Fears' The Seeds Of Love. It was then a new type of music for us was discovered. Because of our age and because of the unbeatable content, this became our most influential album of all time.

Not long afterward we discovered Rush via Moving Pictures, XTC's huge catalog of wonderful albums, and a band called Jellyfish whose sound was a mix between The Beatles and Queen. These are the artists whose works most influenced our sound and songwriting style.

You’ve told us that it took close to eight years for Message from a Mockingbird to be realized. Why such a lengthy amount of time?

To truly accomplish the desired sound and feel that we imagined for Message From A Mockingbird a lot of thought had to be put into the recording process. We decided to build our own studio where we could spend as much time as needed to make these songs grow and form. By doing this, we would not be blowing our money in a commercial studio where we could not spend as much time in the experimental stages. Over the course of eight years we had a lot of work to do. As everyone knows recording equipment isn't cheap, so over time we added to the studio all the while learning how to operate it. We suffered many crippling setbacks from trial and error, but what has emerged is a great labor of love and we're much wiser for it.

Message from a Mockingbird highlights the bands strong songwriting and unique spin on the craft. The music has heavy pop leanings, however, there’s a distinct progressive flavor to the whole thing. Was this a goal set by the band or something that just kind of happened?

Being musicians our writing is a product of studying what we believe to be the ultimate form of popular music. The flavor of the music is something that comes naturally because it feels right. As far as our goal in the songwriting process we believe that it is possible to bridge the gap between a commercial radio band and a musician's band even now in the modern music scene.

What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

Message From A Mockingbird would best be described as bittersweet. There is a feeling of melancholy throughout the album laced in by its writers. The "tortured artist" syndrome is evident in the writing and even the happier songs are filled with some subtle ironies. Hopefully the listener, like us, will find the album both haunting and beautiful.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

Almost always, new inspiration for us comes from life experiences; the birth of things, the death of things, things that come and go. Change, though sometimes negative, can have a positive effect.

In songwriting, how do you bring the song together? What do you look for in terms of complexity? Simplicity? Time changes?

It is our belief that each song is an entity all its own. They are floating about in the cosmos finished and finalized. We are merely a type of frequency receiver that knows how to tune them in. They cannot be manipulated one way or another and we work them out as we've already heard them. Funny as that sounds we believe it to be true.

When you write a piece of music, do you consciously write from the mind set of being different than what's out there now?

Actually, we haven't listened to anything at all that's out there since the 1990's and any of it's remotely talented commercial artists went the way of the Condor. We still cling to a very small selection of artists of a rare breed who have made the cut. We always first write for our own pleasure to entertain ourselves so no conscious efforts are applied at all.

The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harder than ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the band forward? How do you stay motivated in this brutal business?

We feel that our style of writing encompasses both the TV and film industry as well as the commercial radio industry. We're pushing the music now on all of these fronts. Having several options for ways to make money from your work certainly does more in the area of motivation.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

CD format is the truest mirror to reflect the original recording to date and our preference always. Compressed MP3 files are a true artist's worst nightmare. It's like watching the Rose Bowl Parade on a black and white TV.

We, at The Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. When we come to your town, what's the best record store to visit?

Nothing in our town but dusty cornfields, closing factories, and a strong desire to leave it.

Thanks again for taking the time to help us out with this. Is there any last words of wisdom you’d like to partake to the Waveriders?


Without Faith it is impossible to please God.
Thanks to Pope and all at The Ripple Effect for the Love.


----Wyatt Michael

----Samuel Atkinson

Only Makebelieve

1 comment:

Nikki said...

They are truely amazing individuals and have always had such a great love for music. They were great friends in high school, who was always there for their friends. I am proud to be able to say that I was friends with Wyatt and Sam and I wish them all the best of luck.. peace and love guys!! You guys kind of inspired me to find what I love to do. Now I am on the path in the right direction. I am enrolled in Full Sail for Music Business and I am the current manager for Soul Feast (www.myspace.com/thegreatprovider666) who just made it to the 20th Anniversary Michigan Deathfest 2010. You guys are truely an inspiration to us all... Find your dreams and follow them!! Congrats Only Make Believe ;)

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