Mike Donovan of Sic Alps is a nice guy. How do I know this? Because when I spoke with him recently about his band’s new album, he was incredibly patient as my 2-year-old completely halted our conversation to plead (loudly) for Honey Nut Cheerios.
But I also know he’s a talented guy. The San Francisco-based singer/bandleader is set to release Sic Alps’ fifth album on Tuesday, another installment of perfectly imperfect lo-fi psychedelic rock that fits snugly somewhere between Pavement and Sonic Youth. He also brings their live show to Bar Pink on Monday, with Bay Area compadres Thee Oh Sees in tow.
Scott McDonald: How are you?
Mike Donovan: Good. I’ve been in L.A. for a few weeks practicing for these upcoming gigs. Three of the four of us are in Los Angeles now.
SM: Are you in L.A.?
MD: Me? No. I’ve just been couch-surfing. We’re going to be doing four dates coming up, and San Diego is one of them. Then we’ll have a couple weeks off, meet back up with Thee Oh Sees, and do eight more shows with them before doing a lap around the U.S.
SM: New album comes out this week.
MD: Yeah. And we’ll be playing four even newer songs than that on this tour as well. I feel like this past year has been pretty heavily documented. And in retrospect, I’m glad about it.
SM: You’re going the self-titled route. Didn’t feel like naming the record?
MD: No. [Laughs] I actually love naming records. It’s really fun. But, this time, it was more to signal a change. A start-over. New page. It’s funny. I was talking to Dan K. [Koretzky] at Drag City and asked him if he thought it was cool, or if he thought self-titling was a bad idea. He told me that Royal Trux did it twice, which I thought was pretty f---ing hilarious. We also talked about calling it Velvet Underground’s Third Record. Not to put us in the same breath with them, but we thought that was pretty funny as well.
SM: Do any songs from the EP of Tronics’ covers you just put out make it into the set list?
MD: No. But that’s a good idea. I actually hadn’t thought of that. But the EP was something I was just doing for fun at home. I didn’t know if I was even going to put it out. I talked to Drag City, and they thought I should. And then [Tronics bandleader] Zarjaz heard it and got in touch. He said the nicest things. It was unbelievable. He actually called me on the phone, which was awesome, and the upshot is that we’re doing a split 7-inch with him now. His project is called Freakapuss. It’ll be out on Drag City in November.
SM: Nice. That has to feel good, right?
MD: Yes. And his song is so good. It’s so great to hear someone like that still doing it and still so fired up. It’s supercool.
SM: Stephen Malkmus [of Pavement and Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks] says nice things, and now this. That’s better than one of us, right?
MD: [Laughs] Yeah. I guess so. [Laughs] But there's no doubt that it's absolutely awesome.
SM: Things seem to be going well.
MD: They are. But it all feels pretty normal to me. Sic Alps has never been the kind of band to push too hard in terms of commercialism and stuff like that. And I’m really happy with the pace of it. It started out kind of slow, but it’s really been all consuming for me since about 2004. It’s like the other woman. [Laughs] That’s actually what my mom calls my dad’s cell phone.
SM: What’s coming up for you guys?
MD: Well, we have those new songs, and we’ll be recording those as soon as we’re done with this tour.
SM: Is that typically the way you do it?
MD: No. It’s very atypical. And I really wanted to do it that way this time, just so we could continue to keep rounding the curve. I want to keep trying to push one step ahead. And I hope I’ll be able to censor myself when it gets boring. I want to be the guy. I want to have a happy death.