Mike Krol Is Kind of a Tough Guy

Mike Krol's new album couples aggression with deprecating self-reflection that elevates its emotional content

Mike Krol's website consists largely of webcam photos of himself. The headline reads, "I SPEND TIME ON COMPUTERS."

It's true; he does. Krol is a Los Angeles-based graphic designer in the music industry, and he's probably worked on a lot of your favorite band's merchandising. But Krol is also a one-man band called Mike Krol.

"When I make the music, I play everything myself except for the bass -- drums are my main instrument, and I like to record drums at the same time the bass is playing," Krol told me over the phone last month.

"It's always been like a one-man band, but when I play live I'll get people to fill in. Originally, I was thinking I would have a band in each region [of the United States], but now everybody's based in LA," he added.

Krol grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; lived in New York City; as well as New Haven, Connecticut; and finally took the opportunity, after a "pretty bad breakup," to make good on his West Coast ambitions.

"It was always my dream to live in LA. The idea of California and this endless summer was always very attractive to me," he said.

Now, he sits in traffic from downtown LA to Eagle Rock during his post 9-to-5 commute -- a sure way to generate all kinds of feelings that need explosive release.

"It's pretty much the same thing [Mike Krol the person and Mike Krol the artist].... There's a little more cockiness and confidence that I try to give off. Part of my approach is to come off kind of tough, but I'm definitely not. I've never been in a fight. I'm not an aggressive person in that way, but to me, music makes me feel like I could be," he said.

You can certainly hear the aggression on his new album, "Power Chords," but it's coupled with a deprecating self-reflection that masks the macho and elevates the album's emotional content to a careful complexity.

"I think maybe it comes being from the Midwest and always kind of being hard on yourself or really feeling like you're not -- just having self doubt or being a little unsure of whether it's okay to express your emotions or be creative even," Krol said.

"Music, to me, always started as a way ... for me to escape to be alone, to deal with problems in a personal way but not really share them. I used to go into the basement; I had a brother who had a four track and was always into recording, and I'd always go down there and mess around with recording equipment and just get ideas. It was always something that I only shared with my friends. To have it be a thing that people listen to is still weird to me -- to be like, 'I put this thing out, and people are actually listening to it,'" he added.

Mike Krol headlines Awesome Fest presents: Cancelled! at Soda Bar on Friday, Feb. 15. Get tickets here.

Rutger Ansley Rosenborg has been with NBC SoundDiego since 2016. Find out more here.

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