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Mike Krol, The Social, London - The Gig

  • Published in Live


It's Bank Holiday Monday so who in their right mind would be heading into central London rather than staying totally clear of its high street tourist infested gridlocked carnage? The answer is about 150+ of us lucky enough to have secured tickets to see our very own Pied Piper, Mike Krol (@mikekrol) at The Social tonight. Most of us here for the show are sprawled out on the ground over the pavement, curbs, street and sidewalks chattering away about our weekend exploits and enjoying both the dregs of the sunlight and our drinks on Little Portland Street. It's all but vacant now as the sun sets behind the tall buildings replaced by neon lights and warm lamps which splash their luminescence across our backs and over the ground in front of us stretching out and distorting our shadows. Probably a good time to start heading downstairs into the concrete tombs.

I swing by the merchandise table which is to my right at the bottom of the stairs. I'm well impressed. A variety of 3 clever t-shirts and record sleeves await us. Not only does Mike 'One L' Krol play, write and sing but his also not-so-secret identity as a graphic designer by day shines through. We speak briefly upstairs about how it's his day job and that not only does he design cover art and the like for other bands but for himself as well. It's all very clever, quirky and fun, an amalgamation of costumes and pop-culture kitsch. Definitely a conversation starter.

Over to, and around, the stage all the safe seats are taken. What I'd later learn when watching this performance is that nowhere and no one would be safe once the music started. As the space has filled up I've been pushed and cajoled right to the front front. For anyone that hasn't been here before you're surrounded by stage, concrete to just above your elbow, undulating bodies and walls, you'd have a better chance getting out of an asylum riot alive than this pit. The music on offer tonight ain't your grandma's honky-tonk pianie either, things can get whipped up into a frenzy and out of control quickly. I put my earplugs in (I wish I'd brought elbow and knee pads though) and hope for the best.

The band enters with their back to us, Mike's nowhere to be seen. The lights are out(ish) and suddenly a door opens at the back of the stage, a block of red light in the shape of a door appears with Mike enveloped inside of it. He comes out, the crowd explodes and the band turns around. Everyone looks like they've been thrown out of the tour van as it's flipped over and burst into flames. (fake?) Blood runs out of face holes, Mike's got a black eye and blood coming out of his face and everyone is dressed to kill, or die (Mike Krol is never dead), albeit a bit disheveled. I don't know (or care) what's going on because it's a fuckload of a fun already and Paul the in-house sound engineer is manually strobing the stage lights from the sound booth. Mike wraps about 30m of mic cable around his arm and heads to the drum kit. He counts down, and starts beating the fucking daylights out of a symbol and we're OFF.

 I'm going to borrow an analogy Iggy Pop uses in Jim Jarmusch's 2016 bio-pic Gimme Danger to describe former guitarist James Williamson. "As a guitarist, James fills the space as if somebody's just let a drug dog into your house and it's big. And he-he finds every corner...of a musical premise and of a piece of space and time and fills it up with detail. It's a very detailed approach and it's really hard to find a space to say something that he hasn't thought of or occupied". That's a pretty apt summary of watching Mike inside a venue. No one/where is safe, the first song hasn't even made it to the hook before he's climbing the walls and anything else he can latch on to. Everyone's a trouble maker in this group and bloodied. The drummer has no expression on his face and looks like the kind of guy that could have a stick of dynamite easily roll and stop at his foot, fuse burning, and casually bend over picking it up while simultaneously chucking it over his shoulder without a second thought. The lead guitarist is totally off his chain, shredding up a fucking typhoon. He's removed his glasses and I'd later find out that he can't even see when he does this. Allison, Mike's girlfriend, is blasting out lyrics and thumbing the bass like she's putting out flames.


Before I know it the show's over, and an hour+ of my life's gone missing. Miraculously I've sustained zero injuries, Mike did ask us politely not to hurt each other. Perhaps a bit of hearing loss, but generally unscathed, hazzah! Speaking of missing, it's a show not to be missed. If you HAVE missed it and are in the London area this weekend, you're in luck. Mike Krol is playing Test Pressing Festival April 27th in Hackney Wick, which still has a few tickets left. Gettem before they're gone folks!


Mike 'One L' Krol, The Social, London - The Interview


I'm here on Little Portland Street loitering about outside The Social on a school night in hopes of catching some words with man of the hour, Mike Krol when I run into Paul, The Social's long time in-house sound engineer. Has Mike 'One L' Krol done his soundcheck? The response is in the affirmative and he points me over to a very unassuming looking guy and says, "that's one of his guitarists". "Mike's in the van eating his dinner" the guitarist thumbs over his shoulder at a windowless white van that would raise eyebrows and suspicions near any school district, "but I'll let him know you're lookin' to grab some words with him". I thank him and tactlessly forget any form of introductions or pleasantries. I pull up next to a group of strangers who offer me a stool to sit while I wait and I reciprocate by eavesdropping on their conversation, which was far too spicy to publish. Seriously saucy stuff folks, great way to pass the time though. I look back over by the guitarist and his signature thumb gesture's over shoulder again but this time it's pointed at me! He pivots much the way a bullfighter would to avoid the horns and from behind his wiry frame appears not a raging bull but a force equally to be reckoned with, none other than Mr. Mike Krol.

He walks over in a white denim jacket that's been on tour and yet is as crisp and white as the day it was purchased. Aside from the jacket he's dressed in black from head to toe sporting a Rough Trade T. I'm not sure why but I'm already at ease, or as close to is as I've ever come to. Mike's an unhurried sort of dude which makes you feel like you're catching up with a good buddy who's just happy to chew the fat for the sake of it. It's refreshing.  I run the request for an interview by him and he's cool with it. I offer him my stool for a seat, which he accepts, and I take a knee. Outside of my laughter, which on playback sounds hysterical (not in a good way) I find myself really enjoying hearing both the questions and responses even though I know what's coming. He's just got that way about him.

Cpt: Okay, so the first question I'd like to get out of the way is, what questions do you hate being asked?

Mike: OoOoo I guess it would be like, 'what does your music sound like' or 'how do you describe your music.

Cpt: Everybody says the same thing by the way

Mike: Yah, because that's the worst. It's like, yeah I dunno, just listen to it, what does that sound like, you know? It's hard to, I dunno it's hard to say something that doesn't sound like, you're cocky or you're , you know, it's a hard question to answer? It's like if someone asks you, how good looking are you?How do you answer that?

In Mike's case, it's easy, very.

Cpt: Next question, what's the first thing you bought with your first real Music Money was it like a night of, 'drinks are on me' or did you get yourself a little something you've always wanted but couldn't justify?

Mike: I would definitely say I've had a nice meal before with friends or people involved in the music making process, celebrated in that way, food. Ya I dunno, mostly I've always had a job so I've always had, you know, income and been able to purchase the gear and equipment I need to make music. I've never had to take out an advance to buy something. Mostly just been celebratory food.

I went off the rails here talking about a real good pineapple I had in a jungle once, it's a true story but I'm not eloquent enough to describe the experience. Probably because it was completely indescribable. If you're ever in the Amazon jungle and somebody offers you pineapple, do not turn it down. Same goes for mango in the Philippines.

Cpt: What's your favourite food?

Mike: OoOOoO (I really love hearing these OoOoos on playback, they're genuine) I really like plums if we're talking about fruit and I think plums are a real underrated, fruit. Not many people like them.

Cpt: I think it's a mysterious fruit.

Mike: It is mysterious.

Cpt: Yeah, because it can be real sweet or it can be that insane tartness of a crab-apple.

Mike: Right right right. I like it somewhere in between when a plum is sort of more firm.

Cpt: Texture?

Mike: Yeah.

Cpt: Agreed.

Mike: And it's kind of more like an apple and when you bite into it, like, I prefer that to, but then also when it's sweet and not to tart. So there's kindofa window of a day.

Cpt: Like an avocado?

Mike: It's like an avocado.

Cpt: For me, I'm a watermelon guy.

Mike: Watermelon's a tough one.

Cpt: But?

Mike: It's like, no one can eat a full watermelon

I'm pulling a face at this point, not because I doubt him, but because I'm trying to remember if I have ever eaten an entire watermelon. Mike looks at me sideways through slitted eyes.

Mike: You can? ← said in earnest without even a hint of sarcasm.

Cpt: I wanna say yes, but I'm certain I just get to the point where I feel like I'm going to explode and need 15 minute to take a knee or lay down or something.

Mike: Yeah, it's a little much, I don't think it's a snack that you can partake in by yourself. You need to have a party.

Cpt: How am I for time, am I good?

Mike: You're good.

Cpt: Okay, biggest disaster you've had on a tour and how you overcame it?

Mike: Urrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Cpt: We can skip it?

Mike: I know there've definitely been disasters. I dunno, just recently a couple of weeks ago, I lost my voice and I'm still kindof recovering from it. We had to cancel the show which is how I overcame it and took a night off to recover.

Cpt: How long were you going for before you voice finally gave out? I know that coming over to Europe is costly and you wanna hit everywhere you can, then go back again to some places if you can.

Mike: This tour has been 24 days total, like 24 shows total and we've only had 2 days off. I don't know when it fell off during that stretch but I dunno maybe after 10 or 11 shows. It's been rough and before this tour we had a week off and before that we had a 5 week US tour. We also played SXSW, which were multiple shows, over 3 days then 6 days off before coming over to europe.

Cpt: What was the first thing you did when you had time off to yourself, crash in your own bed?

Mike: Absolutely yes. Not being in your bed forever, my girlfriend and I (Alison) who plays bass in the band, literally just spent a week in bed eating junk and watching Netflix.

Cpt: What did you watch on Netflix?

Mike: Let's see, we definitely binged some Queer Eye, we watched some Office, we started to watch on Hulu this show called The Act.

Alison: Are you alright?

 Alison has come up in my blind spot because it probably looks, and sorta kinda is, like I'm holding Mike in a hostage type situation and my time with him was up like 5 minutes ago. She introduces herself politely in that way that only North American ladies do and I miss very much. I manage to get a few words with her too. She's polite funny and as easy to talk to as Mike. We shoot the breeze a while tossing Netflix recommendations around for a while and upcoming shows. I try to the best of my abilities to make a polite exit so they don't full on have to leg it. 

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