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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Father John Misty Delivers Strong Kalamazoo Customer Service for Audiotree Day 2

Father John Misty headlines the Audiotree Music Festival Sunday night in Kalamazoo.

Father John Misty is Kalamazoo’s favorite customer.

The Los Angeles indie folk rocker dazzled a Kalamazoo crowd last night with an 80-minute headlining Audiotree Music Festival set at Arcadia Creek Festival Place.

Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman) swaggered onto the Main Stage amid swirling clouds of smoke and deep red lights. He opened his swinging set with the catchy and melodic “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” from his 2012 breakthrough album, “Fear Fun,” and peppered it with six tracks from his latest album, “God’s Favorite Customer,” which dropped in June.

Founded in 2013, the Chicago-based, Michigan-born Audiotree Music Festival celebrates new and emerging artists and is curated by the popular web music series Audiotree Live.

Early into his set, Father John Misty sarcastically objected to the large red inflatable Virtue Cider beach balls bouncing toward the stage. The singer’s sardonic sense of humor is just as entertaining as his live show.

“That’s stressful for me just to watch people get hit in the head unawares over and over again. Is that a marketing thing? The balls – are they branded? Do you feel more prone to solicit their services after you’ve been hit in the head?” he asked.

“I’m just imagining that board meeting where they’re just like, ‘I don’t know, boss, sales are through the roof. It doesn’t make any f*cking sense, people hate them, they keep getting hit in the face with them, but we’ve having a very profitable quarter. I think we double down.’”

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Audiotree Music Festival Brings Emerging Indie Rock to Kalamazoo Today, Sunday

Local Natives will headline the Audiotree Music Festival in Kalamazoo today.

Indie music lovers will rejoice today with the start of Kalamazoo’s Audiotree Music Festival.

The two-day music festival kicks off at noon in Arcadia Creek Festival Place and features nearly 30 artists on two stages.

Denver psychedelic pop group Flaural will open the festival on the WIDR Discovery Stage while Los Angeles indie rock quintet Local Natives will perform a headlining set on the Main Stage.

New Jersey indie pop quintet Real Estate and Los Angeles indie folk rocker Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman) will headline on Sunday.

Founded in 2013 by Kalamazoo natives Michael Johnston and Adam Thurston, the Chicago-based, Michigan-born Audiotree Music Festival celebrates new and emerging artists and is curated by the popular web music series Audiotree Live.

In 2015, Audiotree purchased two Chicago venues, Schubas Tavern and Lincoln Hall, adding a live concert booking, promoting and streaming division to the company. Since 2011, Audiotree’s online following has grown to include more than 350,000 YouTube subscribers. Now, the Audiotree Music Festival is expanding the match the scale of the entire company.

“While this year’s festival is very guitar-driven, we’re really excited about the variety we’ve still been able to cover,” said Patrick Van Wagoner, a talent buyer for the Audiotree Music Festival and Lincoln Hall, in a festival press release. “Attendees will find elements of rock ’n roll, punk, folk, pop, funk and more, while seeing plenty of acts with Audiotree history.”

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Homecoming — The National Hosts Inaugural 2-day Music Festival in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI — Indie rock giants The National returned to their stomping grounds to host the inaugural two-day Homecoming music festival this weekend at Smale Park with Feist, Big Thief, Father John Misty as well as other emerging rock and alternative artists.

Along with Wilco, Bon Iver and The Decemberists, The National is part of a growing wave of indie rock artists who are curating their own music festivals for fans. It’s a way to provide music lovers with a more intimate experience in comparison to the larger likes of Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.

Homecoming truly felt like The National had returned to their roots with two special performances each night. Saturday’s set featured selections from “Sleep Well Beast,” “Trouble Will Find Me,” “High Violet” and “Alligator.” Sunday’s set featured 2007’s “Boxer” in its entirety and the debut of the band’s newest song, “Light Years.”

Bryce and Aaron Dessner also treated fans to a special performance at the Cincinnati Masonic Center Friday night to demonstrate their guitar prowess as part of Red Bird Hollow and celebrate the release of German electronic duo Mouse on Mars’ latest album, “Dimensional People.”

Lisa Hannigan, Spank Rock, Sam Amidon and Kristin Anna joined the Dessner twins and Mouse on Mars to kick off the first night of the festival.

Fans also enjoyed riveting performances by Lord Huron, Julien Baker, Future Islands, Moses Sumney, Alvvays and other talented artists.

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Taking Career Advice from Father John Misty

Father John Misty reflects on his professional journey to becoming a musician at Royal Oak Music Theatre.
Toward the end of his two-hour set Tuesday night, Father John Misty hosted a mini Q&A session with more than 1,000 fans at Royal Oak Music Theatre in Royal Oak, Mich.

He took one question from a woman crammed in the pit with other fans near the stage. She shouted, “How did you first get into doing this?”

Father John Misty paused for a moment and then answered matter-of-factly: “I started doing this because I was not good at anything else.”

His answer resonated with fans because it was honest and authentic. Unlike other artists, Father John Misty, a.k.a. Josh Tillman, is known for being real and direct.

Father John Misty, a.k.a. Josh Tillman
With a sardonic sense of humor, Father John Misty provides colorful commentary about life, politics, human connection and music through his latest album, “Pure Comedy.” I can’t help but laugh every time he gives a serious answer behind his sarcastic grin. His musings are just as entertaining as his indie folk rock.

Father John Misty continued to share his unconventional career path with fans: “I started as a dishwasher and then donated plasma for a long time, became estranged from my parents, played drums for a bunch of bands and then started taking psychedelic drugs, stopped doing psychedelic drugs, bought some really tight pants, so if you follow those steps in that order …”

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Stratton Setlist Snapshot: Mo Pop Day 2 Sizzles in Detroit

Scorching July temperatures and high humidity didn’t deter five hot acts at Detroit’s Mo Pop Festival on Sunday.

Mac DeMarco, Father John Misty, Matt and Kim, The Head and the Heart and M83 shined during the closing day of the indie rock festival with memorable summer sets at West Riverfront Park.

The Stratton Setlist captured the artists in action before thousands of sweaty, energetic festivalgoers.