Published May 11, 2015In a lot of ways, gifted garage rock songwriter Mikal Cronin's MCIII feels like the culmination of the last decade of his life.
"About ten years ago, life got really difficult for me. I was starting to have emotional problems and sleeping problems for the first time; I had this pretty intense back problem, so I was medicated for that and I was getting depressed. I wasn't playing music. It was just like, 'I'm not going to play in bands because I need to get a degree and get a well-paying job so I can start a family.'"
When a "psychological breaking point" and emergency back surgery brought Cronin home from college to California, he turned back to his first love, music, as part of the healing process, and found a fresh perspective after starting a band with friends. "I was like, 'I've never tried [songwriting], but I'll give it a shot,' so I wrote some lyrics and sang them, and then I'd written a song all of a sudden!"
After years fronting the Moonhearts and touring with high school chum Ty Segall, Cronin struck out as a solo artist, writing his own songs under his given name. He released a psych-garage debut, MC, before honing his craft for the sunnier, more complex MCII, on which Cronin added piano and a more refined melodic sense to his sonic arsenal. Slowly, he was building towards MCIII, his most robust and fully realized album yet, complete with a string quartet (for which he wrote arrangements), saxophone, French horn and a Greek instrument called the tzouras.
"I've gotten more interested in playing around with arrangements. I wanted [MCIII] to sound heavy, but heavy in more of a pop way. I wanted it to be intense, or striking."
While the collection of strings-and-piano-inflected guitar-pop nuggets that comprise MCIII's first half demonstrate Cronin's full songwriting capabilities, it's the album's second half — a six-song, conceptual mini-album about his pivotal life episode ten years ago — that really signals his grand ambitions this time around.
"When I had the idea to make a concept record, or a mini-concept record, I wanted it to still be personal. That was a tricky but cool experience for me, to try to write that way lyrically and musically. It's kind of scary to depart so drastically, but I pushed myself through, and I'm glad I made the choices I made. I followed through and committed."