After years of focusing on working with other artists (Happy Sometimes, DVBBS, Wyclef Jean, Ryon’s World) in the studio and on the stage, Mike O started his very own solo music project last year – and so, CARDS was born. The eclectic indie-pop writer and producer has been steadily releasing his solo singles to the world and have recently released a killer track titled ‘Periphery’.
With a wide range of influences, CARDS is a project that is always evolving, blending genres and weaving in-and-out of indie-pop and commercial music. Whatever CARDS is making, it’s always fun and thoughtful. Be on the lookout for more singles being shared this year by this rising star, as well as some exciting shows and an album on the horizon.
We caught up with Mike O of CARDS and chatted about the beauty of releasing your own music online, the importance of lyrics and hot peppers…
Set the tone for us. How would you describe your sound?
Seasonal Depression Indie-Pop
What’s on your current playlist?
Grimes, Harts, Chloe Foy, Ellie Goulding, Prince, George Taylor, Billie Eilish.
Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?
It’s a little different every time – sometimes I’ll have a chord progression I really like and I’ll improv some lyrics. Other times I might have a lyric I’ll sit on for a while and I’ll cycle through different musical vibes until I get the right one. Most of my songs get written around 3 – 7 AM and then I have a handful of close friends I trust to help me with quality control.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
A large cold-brew and the pen.
What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic career?
Most of my songs during the fall of 2017 and winter of 2018 were sort of dark and expressed or accepted negativity. When I sat down to start writing in the spring, the songs came out a little different, more sanguine. Some people thought this might confuse listeners or that it might be a weird brand move. I decided I didn’t care and it reinforced my idea that no CARDS song should ever really sound like the one that came out before it.
David Bowie is quoted as saying “It makes me so angry that people concentrate on lyrics. It implies there’s no message in the music itself.” What are your thoughts on this statement? Music or lyrics?
I wonder if he was speaking for songwriters or listeners when he said this and I also can’t imagine him angry. My personal belief is that music and lyrics go hand-in-hand. You might be able to interpret a song differently after-the-fact, but I feel that there’s only one way to accompany a certain lyric or a certain piece of music. It’s all one thing and if you second guess yourself while creating in the moment, you might miss what was really meant to be.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
My first live show for CARDS won’t be until later this fall or early this coming winter, but I play live guitar for a lot of the other artists I collaborate with. The chemistry is always based around the music and never really around aesthetic or effects. I think these days, it’s hard to tell if the artist you’re listening to is drawing you in because they’re a walking version of a Tumblr page or because they’re creating music that you actually connect with. As a listener, I want to get to an artist’s live show, close my eyes and love it just as much as when I listen to it with any visuals. I feel it’s like this when I play with Happy Sometimes or Amber Frank, they both put the music before anything else.
What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?
Probably the first time I showed a group of people my first two singles. I work on a lot of other artists’ projects as a producer/writer and I was playing a new batch of songs for my friends one night last summer. Somewhere in the mix I snuck in my songs ‘Facts’ and ‘Wonderful Life’. Everyone was really supportive and it helped me get the confidence to start putting out records. I don’t even think I had a name for the project yet at that point.
If you had to choose between never playing live again, or never being able to release music again… Which would you go for, and why?
Even though I have bigs plans for my live show, I kind of just like working on music at home and putting it online. It’s great to be able to record something in the morning and have the ability to release worldwide by yourself later that night. I couldn’t live without that.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you in the near future?
A couple more singles, the debut show in LA and then I’ll drop the full album. Hopefully after the album comes out I’ll tour or at least play some Philly and New York shows before releasing more records.
Famous last words?
Provolone, wit. Side of hot peppers.