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Mike Herrera keeps busy with MxPx, Tumbledown


The idea of Mike Herrera fronting an Americana-sounding band might throw a few MxPx fans for a loop. But that’s what the longtime punk is doing on the self-titled album by Tumbledown, which is due this month.

Herrera recently fielded some questions about his new project as well as the most recent MxPx album, On the Cover II. Many of the tempos and/or topics on the Tumbledown album are prime punk territory. What was it about this material that made it more suitable for you to record it as an Americana-sounding side project rather than a new MxPx album?
Mike Herrera: “Well, I think lyrically they were written for Tumbledown, and I just had it set in my mind to put out this record and make sure it wasn’t all slow and boring. I love slow songs, but only in moderation.”

How did you recruit the other musicians for Tumbledown — by holding proper auditions, choosing from players you were already friends with or some other method?
Herrera: “I had been a fan of a band they were in called Rocky Point Allstars. It’s very Southern rock and blues-based. I offered to produce their next CD if they would back me up. That experience turned into us being a real band — [it] worked out very well.”

Talk about the guitars, amps and accessories you used when recording the Tumbledown album and how it felt to relinquish bass duties to someone else.
Herrera: “Giving up the bass for this was easy. Stand-up bass is much different, and even the style I wanted is much different from what I do with MxPx.
“On all the guitars, we used mainly tube mikes. On the acoustics, I used Telefunken AK47 and Telefunken M16 as well as a Blue Cactus. On the electrics, we used a few different amps: my Mesa Boogie Express 5:50 and [a] Vox AC30. We miked with anything from a Shure 57, all sorts of condensers to a Telefunken M80 for different coloring.

“No samples were used on the drums, of course. And I used the three different tube mikes mentioned above on my vocal and the backing vocals. I just kept switching mics in and out to get different sounds.”

For the CD booklet to MxPx’s On the Cover II, you, Tom Wisniewski and Yuri Ruley dress like many of the artists whose songs you interpret. Was it difficult not to laugh during the photo shoots?
Herrera: “We laughed the whole time! It was so ridiculous to shoot those photos and embarrassing when we went out on location!”

The bridge in the MxPx take on U2’s “I Will Follow” is almost Led Zeppelin-esque. Was that part written specifically for the song, or was it something that the band had hanging around and managed to work it in?
Herrera: “That was just a part I wrote as we were working on the song. I love it when that kind of thing happens. It always seems to come out best when you’re just enjoying the process.”

Whose idea was it to throw in the chorus to Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” as part of your cover of The Proclaimers’ “(I’m Gonna Be) 500 Miles”?
Herrera: “We had been doing that live and originally we had also covered ‘Surrender,’ but the whole song. I don’t remember how that came about. I think we were just looking for a way to do that song without having to actually play the whole thing.”

Right now the summer is pretty much a blank slate for both Tumbledown and MxPx. Are there plans for you to tour with either band during that time?
Herrera: “Tumbledown will be playing some select June and July dates, but we are waiting on some full tour possibilities {in] late summer. MXPX needs to get back into the studio and lay the hammer down.”

— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior