The Nonconformists – Mike & Joe Poetically Expand Folk Rock Boundaries on ‘What About You?’

Mike & Joe blend folk and rock influences on their latest album, “What About You?” Photo by Brandon Fecteau

As modern beat poets, Mike & Joe distinctly carve new pathways to folk rock.

The Detroit-Ann Arbor first-cousin duo of Mike Benoit and Joe Provenzano etches experimental elements of dreamy psych pop soundscapes, rich retro textures and deep mystical lyricism into traditional harmonized folk rock on their second and latest album, What About You?

“Our little tagline is ‘folk rock and beyond,’ and there’s a lot of folk rock on that first record, but when you get to the second record, you hear my crazy ass solos on ‘One Trick Pony?’ We’re able to do that because we trust each other so much as songwriters, and through doing that, we arrive at what we feel is an original, seamless collaboration that’s something special,” said Provenzano, co-lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist.

“If that trust and expansive, multi-genre appreciation didn’t exist in both of us, then it would be extremely stifling to our collaborative process, so that’s why we just trust each other and rock on.”

Throughout What About You?, Mike & Joe rock beyond typical folk genre boundaries and jam into new territories draped in jazzy prog, baroque pop and singer-songwriter sensibilities. They seamlessly weave a broad spectrum of folk and rock influences, including The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, Fleet Foxes, Father John Misty and My Morning Jacket, into 10 captivating, nonconformist tracks.

“They were making this music that was informed by their own enthusiastic study of history and filtering it through their own modern, original minds. It was like finding out this whole army of like-minded people existed, and they were acting, and they were doing so with power. It’s the extra torch-bearing, energizing thing that made us demand even more of ourselves and feel even more of a kindred association with those acts,” Provenzano said.

Provenzano and Benoit share this kindred association thematically through several internal struggles – heartbreak, inauthenticity, disillusionment, desensitization of violence and self-doubt – while externally chronicling their creative growth as songwriters, lyricists and musicians. Track by track, they share different emotional challenges, unearth hidden meanings and reflect poignantly on their newfound growth on What About You?

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Soulful Cleanse – Greg Paddock Overcomes Personal Struggles on ‘Cotswold’ Debut EP

Greg Paddock experiences a “heroic” moment in the U.K.’s Cotswold region.

For Greg Paddock, Cotswold’s rolling green hills, quaint stone villages and storybook cottages provide an idyllic creative retreat.

The Detroit alt rock singer-songwriter visited Oxfordshire in the picturesque southwest region of the U.K. last fall to record his six-track debut EP, fittingly titled Cotswold, with guitarist Ryan Harrison and former Dishwalla frontman J.R. Richards.

“I still have dreams about being there and walking through the pathways to the Thames River. I made such a big deal about the village they’re in because there’s a red phone booth, and it was used as a book depository. I’d walk around the village and the fields on the days I wasn’t recording and would listen to music,” said Paddock, who’s a longtime friend of the U.K.-based Richards.

“It was good to have that extra time there because we were able to do a bonus track and do the acoustic version of ‘No One Fights Alone.’ I was able to work more on ‘Sunshine Smile’ and get more into what I want to feel.”

One listen to Paddock’s Cotswold instantly drenches listeners in cathartic waves lapping against the shores of wounded souls. Released in March, the emotional EP poetically addresses internal struggles, family losses, failed relationships and personal recoveries as long, winding sonic roads that eventually lead back home.

“My hope in sharing all of it is there are people out there who hear and can relate to it in their own way. It always helps me cope when we perform the songs at one of our acoustic shows, and I can either see someone reacting in the crowd, or they talk to me afterward. I am so fortunate to be able to live my passion as well as how much it has helped me heal me,” Paddock said.

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