Interviews \

Telekinesis Reveals Which Rock Stars Are Aliens, Performs ‘Dormarion’ Beauties

Michael Lerner chats about his recent obsession and performs at SPIN's offices

By: Taylor Berman // March 18, 2013

“I love straight-ahead rock records,” Telekinesis mainman Michael Lerner told SPIN, speaking on the phone during a recent interview, “but I also love records that that took a lot of risks.” Those twin affections are in full flower on the band’s third full-length album, Dormarion, due April 2 on Merge. The willfully diverse, irresistibly catch collection sets Mersey Beat jangle rock next to synth-heavy new wave next to power pop.

Lerner, 26, who lives and works in Seattle but recorded Dormarion in Austin with production help from Spoon drummer Jim Eno, Spoke with SPIN about some of his favorite things — and his firm belief that Eddie Vedder is an alien. 

As a bonus, the always amenable Lerner swung by the SPIN offices a few weeks after the interview to play stripped-down versions of some Dormariontracks (“Symphony” and “Lean on Me”) as well as a cover of Teenage Fanclub’s dreamy “The Concept” without his new touring band, which features Erik Walters of the Globes (guitar), Say Hi’s Eric Elbogen (bass), and Rebecca Cole of Wild Flag and the Minders (keyboards).

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
For [Dormarion] specifically I was really influenced by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and their album Dazzle Ships. It was a pretty big deal for me. It’s one of those records that doesn’t sound like anything else. Their unabashed love for Kraftwerk is awesome. I think Dazzle Ships is the record that ended their career, like they had a bunch of pop hits —  they wrote that song “Enola Gay.” They were one of those synth pop bands for a while, and then they did this record. It’s basically three song songs that are really poppy and catchy and super cool, and the rest of it is totally weird samples from shortwave radios all over the world. And it’s unbelievable. It’s so cool. And  I was listening to a ton of New Order, which is really a mainstay for me.

Spoon’s Kill the Moonlight
I’m a giant, giant fan of Spoon. And I think the record that really made me a huge fan was Kill the Moonlight. I was pretty young when I heard that, I think 16, so it was a formative part of my musical upbringing. I didn’t have a broad musical taste at that time in my life, and there was something really intriguing about that record. I loved the way it sounded. I’m a drummer, so I absolutely loved the drums on it. Stuff like “Jonathon Fisk,” I was totally obsessed with that song. I think I probably played drums to that song in my room in my parent’s house a hundred times, pretending I was in the band. It was really important record for me.

Old Fashioned Hobbies
Most of the things I really like doing are outdated or completely pre-historic. I love Polaroid photography, and I’m really bummed out that you can’t do that any more without spending your entire savings account. I also love being in a dark room and developing my own photos, which is becoming increasingly difficult to do. That’s my hobby, but I feel like it’s kind of being encroached on. And most of the Polaroid film is totally gone, which is such a bummer. I also love making records on a tape machine, and that’s becoming something you don’t do anymore because it’s really fucking expensive. And no one has a tape machine anymore. So I feel like all of my hobbies are becoming outdated, which is sad.

I just recently got turned onto a new band called Broncho. They’re this totally scrappy garage-rock band. I heard a song on the radio, and I immediately went out and bought their record Can’t Get Past the Lips. Their songs are really short, like around two minutes. “I Don’t Really Want to Be Social” is one of the best songs I’ve heard in a really long time. And it’s two minutes and 15 seconds. There’s no song on the record longer than three minutes. The longest song is 2:38, which is fucking awesome. The record is 20 minutes long. It’s great.

Members Only Margaritas in Austin
We went to the Hotel St Cecilia’s outdoor bar a lot. It’s this crazy hotel that you have to be a member to even use the bar. Like, you can’t just walk in. Of course, Jim [Eno, the album’s producer] has a membership. I feel like Jim is the mayor of Austin. He knows everyone. But that bar, most of it is outside and they have these crazy chandeliers in the trees, which is totally unbelievable. And they have all these amazing seats outside. You feel like you’re in The Godfather or something like that. It has the crazy Cuban, Italian feel. And it’s really swanky. I remember most nights we’d go there and they probably had the best margarita I ever had in my entire life was at that bar. It was so good.

Tony Soprano
Right now, I’m watching The Sopranos for the first time. It’s insane, it’s totally insane. So I find myself talking like The Sopranos all day long. It’s really bad. I’ll be in line at the grocery store and I’ll have like a super heavy Italian accent. So I’m pretty obsessed with that now. I also really got into Honey Boo Boo. I think it’s pretty awesome.

Rock Stars as Aliens
There are a few of people I think are [aliens]. Eddie Vedder is one. Thom Yorke being another. Bruce Springsteen is another. It doesn’t seem like they’re real people. Like, how on earth does Eddie Vedder stay onstage for two hours singing and running around like that. I don’t get it. I try to do that for like 45 minutes and I can’t make it. And someone like Thom Yorke, every single time I’ve seen him play a show, his voice is beyond perfect. He never fucks up. And even when they do fuck up, it seems like the coolest thing you’ve ever seen. And he also has the crazy eye thing, so I’m convinced he’s not a human being. And then Bruce Springsteen who, like Eddie Vedder, plays for like three hours and never falters. He’s just fucking on it for three hours, still! And how old is he? He’s not young anymore. So I’m sure he’s an alien.