WLUW Chats with Indie Rock Band Telekinesis

Posted By: Allison Lapinski

Telekinesis is the moniker for Michael Benjamin Lerner, who has mastered self-made contemporary indie rock since his 2009 debut album. Based out of Seattle, Lerner’s music is pop-inspired, while still packing a punch with his profound and story-telling lyricism. In February 2019, Lerner released his 5th studio album, entitled Effluxion, following his 2015 synth-heavy record Ad Infinitum.

Within those four years, Lerner briefly toured with one of his favorite bands, Teenage Fanclub, while also searching for inspiration for his own music. Skilled as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Telekinesis is a force to be reckoned with. Beneath the surface of upbeat piano tracks on the album, such as “Suburban Streetlight Drunk,” we are given a glimpse into deeper life and relationship questions that are not easy to swallow.  

WLUW recently caught up with Michael to discuss his ongoing tour and the mechanics behind Telekinesis:

Can you tell me what it has been like since you released Effluxion in February? And how long did it exactly take for you to record the album?

Michael: It’s been great. Just really getting ready for the nationwide tour, which we started three days ago now.  The record took me about 2 years. I did it kind of on and off and I wasn’t working on it every day. I also did it in my basement, so I didn’t have a recording studio or anything like that.

I also read that you recorded it all yourself, even the instruments. Did that make the process longer being so independent?

M: It did make it make it longer and a little bit more difficult, but at the same time, you know, it’s nice to not have someone telling you that “I think it’s bad or good” or whatever. Instead you just go down and get it done whenever you want.

How about the songwriting process, was it spontaneous over the two years?

M: Exactly, it is was like watching TV or something, I would get an idea and take a voice memo. And then I just compile it. So I had so many of those little, tiny snippets of an idea and then I would just take those down into the studio and try to make a song out of those ideas.

And do you think that much has changed on this record since your last album, Ad Infinitum?

M: When I went into that record, I had clear vision of what I wanted to do with that one, as far as not really using guitars or drums and instead trying to figure out how to use synthesizers. So that was really different because when I went to do this record, it felt really good to pick up a guitar. And I also learned how to play the piano a little bit better than I have in years prior. So that was really exciting and felt different than the last one.

Do you think this album was more organic in that way?  I don’t have any personal experience with synthesizers, but it seems like it could be frustrating.

M: Yes and it’s very frustrating. You kind of just hook everything up from a computer onto one of the units. It’s a long process to try to get everything going to make actual music compared with a guitar, piano or bass or whatever. That’s just so immediate.

This is more specific, but I love your track, “How Do I Get Rid of the Sunlight” off the new album. And I was just wondering if that had any relation to Harry Nilsson’s track “Got to Get Up?” The message and the beginning just really reminds me of that song.

M: Totally, I love that Nilsson record. So I’m sure that I was listening to that at some point. I feel like the piano thing is really similar. And it’s in that Netflix show Russian Dolls like 40 or 50 times.

For sure, and that’s a great show. So how has your tour been so far, do you like being on the road?

M: It’s been great so far. I mean we have really long trips. But it’s been a really great last couple of shows that we’ve done. So I have no complaints.

What is one thing that you wish that you could tell yourself in 2009 if you could go back in time?

M: Oh, man. Yeah. Just to not worry so much..

Last question: Do you have any words of encouragement for upcoming artists?

M: Just play music because it’s fun that you get to do it with your friends. And try not to worry about all of the other stuff that’s not within your control, you know?

Don’t miss Telekinesis play Schubas next week on April 8th, tickets (21+) are available to purchase here.

Photo by Rachel Demy

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