Mike Collins talks about Rooftop Screamers Vol. 1.
You have to catch Mike Collins‘ new studio release. The drummer from Portland’s Throwback Suburbia has put together a set of 8 super power pop tunes entitled Rooftop Screamers Vol 1. One listen and you’ll recognize influences such as Tom Petty, Bowie and ELO. Most importantly, there are pop hooks a-plenty.
Rooftop Screamers. What’s the story?
Rooftop Screamers was an idea I had after my former band Throwback Suburbia decided to call it a day. I wanted to record some of my songs, but I wasn’t interested in putting together a band as I’m already in a couple bands/projects that keep me busy playing drums. But I needed an outlet to showcase my music. Since I don’t sing, I decided to invite different guest vocalists to sing on my songs. The idea was loosely based on the album Carlos Santana did years ago called Supernatural, where he utilized different guest vocalists on his songs. I also borrowed the idea from my old bandmate Earl Slick (who appears on the track “Your Ghost”). He released an album of songs called Zig Zag that featured different guest vocalists as well.
I felt that by having different singers, the songs would have their own personality as opposed to all the songs sung by the same person.
After I had written a handful of songs, I started to reach out to different producers, singers, and musicians that I’ve worked with in the past as well as people I’ve always wanted to work with. As luck would have it, they all said yes! The first person I worked with was multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and producer Rob Daiker. I’ve worked with Rob in the past as his drummer and always admired his music and production skills. Rob has worked with people such as Katy Perry, Meredith Brooks, the Dan Reed Network and many more. Except for the drums, Rob played all the instruments and sang the song “Talk About It”.
I also reached out to my producer friend Mark Plati (Bowie, Prince, The Cure) who worked with Throwback Suburbia in the past. It just so happens that Mark also produced the aforementioned album Zig Zag for Earl Slick. Mark produced as well as played bass, acoustic guitar, rhythm guitar and keyboards on the track “Your Ghost”. He also referred me to singer Kim Wayman. Kim’s sultry and haunting vocals were perfect for the song! For “Roses Again” (which was actually an early Throwback Suburbia song), I asked Ken Stringfellow (The Posies, R.E.M., Big Star) to play on, sing and produce the track.
I had recently worked with an artist he was producing in Portland named Joanne Hodges and during the session I planted the seed that I would like for him to be part of my Rooftop Screamers project. He said yes and his treatment of the song is amazing and it’s a stand out track on the album for sure. The remaining five songs were co-produced with my longtime friend and collaborator – Kevin Hahn. He and I work very well together and it’s very rare that we’re not on the same page when it comes to our approach to songwriting and production. Kevin did an amazing job producing, engineering and playing some great guitar parts on the songs: “Sign Me Up”, “Have Mercy”, “Get Outta Your Way”, “I Belong” and “Good Intentions”.
For vocals on “Sign Me Up” I reached out to power pop crooner Kyle Vincent. Throwback Suburbia and Kyle have done a show together in Portland years ago and we stayed in touch ever since. I knew his voice would be perfect for the song and luckily I was right!
For “Have Mercy” I wanted more of a gritty/Americana style singer and I didn’t have to look too far to find him. I chose Geoff Metts, the singer in my band Metts, Ryan and Collins. He singing and guitar playing provided the edginess the song needed. Our bassist Dain Ryan laid down the perfect bass line for the song as well.
For the song “I Belong” I reached out to my friend Bob Byers. Bob had a band in Portland a few years ago called Black Mercies. He has more of a goth style voice in the vein of David Bowie, Robert Smith and Matt Bellamy from Muse. The song is definitely the darkest sounding song on the album and Bob knocked it out of the park!
For the song “Get Outta Your Way”, I asked my good friend Andrew Paul Woodworth. Andrew is an amazing singer/songwriter and has one of the best voices I’ve ever heard. He has a bit of a Neil Finn sound to his voice on the song which gave it a Crowded House vibe. That was exciting for me as Crowded House house is one of my favorite bands.
And last but not least, for the song “Good Intentions”, I reached out to my old friend Jeff Carrell. Jeff and I were in a band together in the 90s. I’ve been a huge fan of his singing and songwriting for over 20 years. He has an incredibly dynamic voice which is like a cross between Kurt Cobain and David Bowie. He gave the song a beautifully melancholy feel.
I also want to give a shout out to Kelly Lemieux (Buckcherry, Paul Gilbert, Goldfinger) and Don Schwarz (Tales Untold, Eric Matthews) who played some brilliant bass lines on the album as well!
I’ve already begun working on demos for the next Rooftop Screamers album and have some surprise guest vocalists and musicians that I’m super excited about!
Do you feel part of a community, the power pop community?
Yes, I do. My former band Throwback Suburbia received a lot of support from some prominent people in the power pop community like Alan Heaton, David Bash, and John Borack. We also got some accolades and respect from some of our favorite artists in the genre like Jason Falkner, Eric Dover and Chris Manning of Jellyfish, Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day, producer Jack Douglas (Cheap Trick, John Lennon), the band The 88, The guys in Rooney, Kyle Vincent and Rodney Bingemheimer the legendary DJ at KROQ in LA. He played our song ‘Circles’ on his show for 11 weeks I believe.
I have since maintained relationships with a lot of the aforementioned people and they have been very supportive and said nice things about the Rooftop Screamers stuff. I think for the most part people in the power pop community are intelligent people and they appreciate smart pop music. They, like myself, like great melodies, sweet harmonies and that nostalgic throwback (no pun intended) to the late sixties and 70’s.
She tells you she will decide on a 5-song-mixtape if there is going to be a second date. Which 5 would you put on?
Maybe I’m Amazed -Paul McCartney
Moonage Daydream- David Bowie
Four Seasons in one Day – Crowded House
Ten Years Gone- Led Zeppelin
Day after Day – Badfinger
Which is the song you wish you had written every time you hear it? And why?
There’s so many, but if I had to choose one I would say “Life on Mars” by David Bowie. It’s such an epic song. The melodies and the lyrics are transcendent. I remember hearing it as a kid and it just transported me to a very surreal place. The lyrics, his voice, the symphonic nature of the song, the arrangement…it’s just a perfect song.
If you could tour the world with 2 other bands, who would you ask to join?
Hmmmm, probably Jeff Lynne’s ELO and Cheap Trick. If we’re talking about Rooftop Screamers touring, then I would want to get in front of their crowds as I think they would appreciate the music and it would be inspiring to see and get to hang out with those talented icons night after night.
If the budget was unlimited, how would you record the next record?
I would record it at Abbey Road with Jeff Lynne. To make music in those hallowed halls and have Jeff at the helm would be a dream come true!