(This is a few years old, before the release of At Home With, Owen’s 4th studio album.)
Owen is the work of one person; a veteran of the Chicago indie scene named Mike Kinsella. The music he creates as Owen can best be described as ‘alone music,’ which works wonders during one on one sessions pinning the solo listener against the solo artist. I don’t personally know too many people that are comfortable sitting down with me and discussing their deepest shortcomings in a musical sort of anonymous therapy session, but Kinsella and Owen are among that chosen few. Kinsella has the uncanny ability to musically personify introspection, but he does it in a way that doesn’t scream “Help me, I’m a wounded emo boy.” He’s comforting and reassuring and in no way self-pitying. Owen recently released his (or their) third album, and Mike was kind enough to answer some questions about the endeavor….
To begin with, if you don’t mind me asking, I was always curious what happened to your former band American Football?
Two of us were graduating college and moving back home, so we recorded the full length and called it quits.
Why is the project called Owen as opposed to Mike Kinsella or the Mike Kinsella Band or anything along those lines? Are you afraid of the singer/songwriter tag?
Yeah, I like the fact that people might hear the music and not know if it’s a band of one guy or what have you. And I just kind of like the name ‘OWEN’ better than ‘MIKE.’
How does your approach to Owen differ from that of the bands that you’ve been a part of? What projects outside of Owen are you also currently involved in?
I can write on my own time and tour when I want and record when I want. It’s pretty ideal actually (especially for a guy who doesn’t like band practice…). I’m playing part time with Joan of Arc still and I’m writing songs for my other band, Shirts and Skins.
Can you explain what the title of the new album (‘I Do Perceive’) means?
I’m attracted to simply stated things, and ‘I Do Perceive’ is just about as simple a statement as I could come up with.
I read a quote from you about Owen’s 2nd album (No Good For No One Now) where you said that it was a reaction to what you thought about Owen’s first album. What would that make ‘I Do Perceive’ then? Is it reactionary to ‘No Good For No One Now’ or (the ep)?
Yeah, I think ‘I Do Perceive’ falls somewhere between the first two full lengths. The first one has a lot of drones and is more atmospheric, while the second one is more stripped down acoustic. This one is like stripped down acoustic stuff with drones on top of it, or that’s how I hear it as a whole, anyway.
What changes has Owen undergone since its beginnings? Is it now more of a collaborative effort than it previously had been?
The songs are pretty much written by myself, but I’ve been getting some more help than before filling them out. My cousin Nate played cello on a few songs and helped me mix ‘I Do Perceive,’ and I think it added a lot, so I’m definitely going to ask him to come around again.
What are the benefits of recording Owen in a bedroom rather than a studio?
Oh, there are too many to list. I can take all the time I want to place mics in different positions. I can eat all my mom’s food. I can watch her cable, I can shoot baskets on the driveway…
Are the songs on ‘I Do Perceive’ difficult to translate into a live setting?
Actually, I just figured out that yeah, they are. I toured this past month and tried some of the new songs with just me and a guitar and most of them seemed to drag on, so I ended up only playing a few of them.
Finally, have you ever ridden BMX?
Yeah, but just for transportation. Nothing fancy…