IN THE FALL OF 2012, COMPOSER AND PIANIST MICHAEL COLEMAN (CHRIS COHEN, TUNE-YARDS, BEEP!, CAVITYFANG) BEGAN RECORDING HIMSELF ALONE IN HIS REHEARSAL STUDIO IN OAKLAND, CA. OUT OF THIS SMALL ROOM FILLED WITH CASIO KEYBOARDS, CURIOUS SYNTHS, ABANDONED PERCUSSION, AND DISREPUTABLE GUITARS, MICHAEL ROCKETSHIP EMERGED. THE NAME CAPTURES THE UNINHIBITED AND SLIGHTLY MISCHIEVOUS NATURE OF COLEMAN'S UNPREDICTABLE POP SONGWRITING, WHICH CALLS TO MIND THE BEST OF DEERHOOF, CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, SMILE-ERA BEACH BOYS, AND ACID-BALLADEER RODD KEITH.
“Coming back to New York after being gone for 15 years, I realized that this is a strange reality,” says Brooklyn-native Coleman. “In New York, you're being exposed to so many things that people will just dismiss it if it doesn’t come strong—if it's not ready then there's no space for it. In the Bay, it's a small scene so everyone's just kind of doing their own thing, developing their own different ways. Everyone becomes weirdos because that's what you think is normal, which I really love and appreciate. The musical personality is strange because of it. For me that was a major influence, the idea that you can have lots of time and space to let ideas develop."
After returning to Brooklyn, Michael set up a makeshift studio in his parent's bedroom, setting up a variety of pedals, amps, ancient drum machines and whatever else was around. “It was more like a writing workshop than meant to be a record, but my idea was to write a song every day for a month. And no matter what it was, I wasn't going to judge anything until later,” Rocketship describes. “I would sit at the keyboard and play some chords and be like, I got a song, and then write the lyrics immediately. Whatever came out of my mouth in the demo, that was the lyric. I wanted it to be really off-the-cuff, like no thinking, which made it really improvisational, which I enjoy.”
Following these preliminary shotgun studio sessions, Coleman spent a week up in Cape Cod re-recording and augmenting the demos: “so the songs are either just recordings that I did in five minutes that I liked the way they sounded, or I spent a day on them. And then I mixed them all in 48 hours—so the whole thing was completely insane.”
On April 6, Figure & Ground releases these songs in final form as Michael Rocketship’s debut LP The Meaning of Love, comprising 11 original tracks written, performed, mixed, and produced by Coleman. In his words, “the thematic material of the album is being alienated from the places you live and how stupid our society seems to have become."
THE MEANING OF LOVE FOLLOWS A LONG SERIES OF SEVEN SELF-RELEASED ROCKETSHIP EPS THAT FEATURE AN ASSORTMENT OF MUSICIANS AND BANDS. ALL OF THE EPS WERE RECORDED AND/OR MIXED BY MICHAEL AT FIGURE 8 RECORDING, A STUDIO HE MANAGES IN PROSPECT HEIGHTS. BEYOND ROCKETSHIP REALITY, MICHAEL COLEMAN’S DISCOGRAPHY RUNS DEEP AND RUNS WIDE. AFTER TOURING AS CHRIS COHEN’S KEYBOARD PLAYER FOR A YEAR AND A HALF, MICHAEL NOW PERFORMS PRIMARILY WITH SAM EVIAN, IAN DAVIS: ROCK BAND, AND RENATA ZEIGUER, WHO CREATED A STOP-MOTION VIDEO FOR THE ALBUM’S FIRST SINGLE, “SMITH, ST. JOHN & PIERRE.”