A decade or more ago, there was a vibrant house show scene in SF, a regular of which was called The House of Love Cabaret. I saw Sean Hayes there, just a guy and a guitar, and comedy troupe Killing My Lobster tested out early sketches to loving crowds. Another act I first encountered there was a quirky guitar-playing songwriter named Michael Musika. Later, I saw him playing his songs in a corner at a random house party full of drunk 20-somethings and I bought his homemade, handwritten CD for a couple of dollars. I still have those songs in rotation, and “Blue Trampoline” remains one of my favorite songs.
Musika’s songwriting has always been playful and poetic – for 2011’s SPELLS he released an accompanying book of stories and poems – but when he teamed up with drummer/multi-instrumentalist and composer Eric Kuhn (of Eric + Erica) a few years ago for the pair’s first release, THERE IS NO NEED TO NAME THE MOON, the songs soared. This was no doubt partly due to production quality and arrangements, but partly to the magic that is created when creative collaborators find their groove.
While Musika (yes that is his given name) has lived in San Francisco for at least a decade, he’s spent the last year away from the city staring at his own loneliness and documenting his creative process. He is an artist who lives and breathes his art every minute – take one look at the menu bar on his blog/website and you’ll see what I mean, everything is art. At one point a short story of his, read a loud at a more recent variety show, knocked me out of an unconscious existential stupor. That is to say that there is more than just music to Michael Musika. He is a storyteller, maybe a shaman, conjuring something mystic in his music.
“Living in your art” in these DEY days (do EVERYTHING yourself) means that your time for self-promotion (a Herculean logistical feat) is probably not abundant, which is true for Musika. Luckily, his fans, me among them, are devoted. With no fanfare, a pre-order link to his new album with Kuhn, YOU CAN IF YOU WANT TO, appeared in my inbox this morning – set to be released next Monday October 31st. Recorded mostly in North Carolina, Musika says these are “eleven songs named after girls I used to know” with tracks aptly named – “Tia”, “Anna”, “Indianna” and etc.
“Phoebe” is a playful, poetic song that takes enough subtle turns to please any musical geek while still feeling easy to the ear. It features backing vocals from several local (and formerly local) musicians including Indianna Hale and Erica Fink (the other half of Eric + Erica), and instrumentation by Musika and Kuhn. The lines, “time goes by outside so slowly / as all alone i watch the sun go down / one night a girl yelled through my window / why you always inside looking out / you don’t need to be so lonely” reads like Leonard Cohen and sounds like a summer day on the Santa Cruz boardwalk, complete with Beach Boy harmonies.
Musika + Kuhn are hitting the road next week with a few shows around the Bay Area (see below) and beyond. Eric + Erica co-headline the tour. Expect these shows to be intimate and quirky, and to give you all the feels. Pre-order YOU CAN IF YOU WANT TO here, or wait for it be everywhere in a few days.
Mon Oct 31 – Oakland, CA – The Hatch – 8pm
Fri Nov 4 – Santa Cruz, CA – Bocci’s Cellar w/ Hod Hulphers – 8pm
Sat Nov 5 – San Francisco, CA – Amnesia ***Loving Cup Presents*** w/ Bob Thayer – 8pm
Sun Nov 6 – Petaluma, CA – Ernie’s Tin Bar w/ Camp Bud – 5pm