Mike Adams forms new relationships with old songs
Bloomington band Mike Adams at His Honest Weight celebrates the 10th anniversary of 'Oscillate Wisely' with a reissue and spring tour dates, including a stop at Spacebar on Saturday, April 2
A few years ago, singer and songwriter Mike Adams went to visit his buddy Adam Jessup, who records and co-produces all the albums from the Bloomington, Indiana, musician’s band, Mike Adams at His Honest Weight.
“I got in his car, and he goes, ‘Hey, I wanna show you something,’” said Adams, who watched Jessup insert a CD-R, which turned out to be a remixed version of the first Honest Weight album, 2011’s Oscillate Wisely. “He had been remixing it in his free time, just for fun, and he didn't tell me that he was doing it. It was just to see what he had learned and what he would do differently. … It blew me away. I couldn’t believe it.”
As the 10th anniversary of Oscillate Wisely approached, Adams knew he had to put those mixes to good use, so late last year he digitally released a reissue of the album that includes Jessup’s new versions, and this month, Joyful Noise Recordings' vinyl reissue made its way into record stores. (The LP includes a bonus CD with the remixes.) As Mike Adams at His Honest Weight gears up for a run of spring tour dates, including a show at Spacebar on Saturday, April 2, the reissue also offered a rare opportunity for Adams to reflect on the band’s journey the past 10 years.
“It's dense and complex. I still feel connected to these songs, but all the stuff I was writing about is in the past,” Adams said, pointing specifically to fuzzy, jangle-pop anthem “I’m Not Worried,” which he wrote about one of his best friends who was going through a divorce. “I felt so steeped in it at the moment. He was in such pain, and I was trying to be there for him, and also just trying to make sense of what's happening. And now that's ancient history in our personal lives. Everyone has moved on from that, and there are new relationships and new lives going on. So on the one hand, it feels alien, but on the other hand, I'm glad that I captured how I felt in that moment, even though it was fleeting — especially because it was fleeting — because now I can remember how I felt and what I was going through.”
In that way, listening to songs from Oscillate Wisely is like listening to songs written by another band. “My wife and I just saw Low, one of my favorite bands ever. I don't know where [Low singer/guitarist] Alan Sparhawk is coming from most of the time, but their songs have this way of fitting into my life. And I feel like that is what's able to happen now in some older songs of my own,” Adams said. “I'm not plagued by the tensions or the foibles of whatever was happening in that moment, so now I can reinterpret the thing to fit who I am now. It can speak to me now instead of me speaking to it.”
The song’s more confident remixes also brought the band’s sonic maturation to light. Compared to the two most recent (and excellent) Honest Weight albums, Casino Drone and There is No Feeling Better, Oscillate Wisely has a hazy, underwater quality. The new versions “retain that dreamy quality, but it's more like you're in the environment of the music rather than peering at it,” Adams said. “It’s like you’ve been dropped into the water with it.”
Plus, when they made Oscillate Wisely, Adams and Jessup had only known each other for a few years, so making the record felt like a big experiment. “Now that we know one another better, we're emboldened a little bit,” Adams said. “On the original mix there's a lot of vocal doubling. ... But on the remixes, there's a lot of times where Adam took out one of the doubles so that it's my voice holding the song in a more confident way. It's subtle, but there’s a surprising clarity that I would never have imagined we could actually wring out of this record.”
In addition to the reissue, Adams spent much of the pandemic writing and recording at home, amassing around 25 new songs that seemed to fall into three different categories: rock songs, a “cosmic take” on 1970s singer-songwriter tunes and a small batch of songs for which Adams ditched his guitar for synthesizers and drum machines.
The plan is to first release a rock album with 10 songs, many of which fans will likely hear at the upcoming Honest Weight shows, partly because Adam and his bandmates began a new pandemic tradition (after getting vaccinated): weekly band practice.
“We had never done that before. Rehearsal is always scrambling to prepare for a show that's coming up. … So we spent time learning the new record,” Adams said. “It feels like a chance for us to come out from behind the curtain as a new band. And it feels like a chance to do that all at once instead of evolving into it.”