Hands down, I’m a sap for success stories. I’m always inspired by those instances where someone had a dream and worked toward making it their reality. Recently, I had the honor of being introduced to another one of these stories — Michael Lerner.
As a kid from a Seattle suburb, Lerner dreamed of becoming a musician. He began with the drums during elementary school and from there Lerner continued to follow his musical passions. Gradually, he began writing and then recording music under the name Telekinesis with Merge Records, learning the ropes with help from Chris Walla (guitarist for Death Cab for Cutie). Lerner plays all the instruments on the records.
Fast forward seven years later, and now Telekinesis has just released a fourth album, Ad Infinitum and is currently on tour (eventually making a stop in Chicago on Oct. 28).
The PHOENIX had the privilege to chat with Lerner over the phone for a bit — gaining the inside scoop about Telekinesis, the new tour and just what sets his Ad Infinitum apart from the other three Telekinesis albums. Telekinesis’ indie rock tunes and eye-catching music videos (that feel like mini-movies) have now led to lively concerts. Learner told The PHOENIX he’s excited for what’s to come and why fans should be too.
Lerner has come a long way from Telekinesis’ first record release in 2009, but his musical journey started long before that.
“When I was a kid in my mom’s tummy still, she was at a Stevie Wonder concert and after the concert she was backstage,” Lerner said. “Stevie Wonder walked over to my mom and put his hand on her stomach and said that he blessed this child, which was me. So I was blessed by Stevie Wonder.”
Lerner still remembers the moment when he just knew that music was his calling: “I watching that movie That Thing You Do and I watched Guy Patterson playing the drums and that’s when I realized I wanted to be a drummer.”
Despite Stevie Wonder’s blessing, Lerner said he’s shocked by his success. “It feels pretty crazy; I mean I never thought I’d make one record, so having four records feels pretty nuts.”
While all of his albums are indie rock with the light electronic sound, Ad Infinitum was made a bit differently. This new album was made in Lerner’s newly built basement recording studio.
“If you’re making a record with someone else in a recording studio … you have more of an opportunity to focus on the performance you’re trying to give and, when you’re making it at home, you have to worry about a whole other set of parameters … I don’t prefer one of them over the other really,” Lerner said. “The unfortunate truth is that budgets for albums [in general] are getting so small that it’s hard to justify spending money on a recording studio, which is sad because I really like hanging out in a recording studio.”
Luckily, Lerner is still having loads of fun even without hanging out in a recording studio. He’s traveling all over for Telekinesis’ tour (with Say Hi as the opening musical guests). During shows, Lerner plays the drums and sings while musical guests cover the bass, guitar and keyboard.
When he’s not performing in Chicago, Lerner plans to explore the city.
“I love Chicago. Chicago is probably my favorite American city,” Lerner said. “I haven’t been to the bean thing. I gotta do that. We’ll try to do it this time.”
So after this tour, what’s up next for Telekinesis? Lerner plans to stay focused on his music.
“I’ll keep going on until I don’t feel excited about it anymore,” he said. “It’s just fun. I like making music. It’s something I enjoy doing. And I feel really proud of myself when I’m done doing it. I still get excited about it every time I write a song and now I’ve written four records worth of them. If I’m still excited about it at this point, then I’m happy about that.”