Mike Tuley’s been around. Madd Scientists, Or Die Trying, Short Bus Kids, Hairy Belafonte, Ad Astra Per Aspera, Ad Astra Arkestra… he’s played in them all. And with Bloodbirds he’s added hyperdistorted psych-tinged post-punk garage rock to his musical resume, assuming guitar and vocal duties in the trio along with Brooke Tuley on drums and Anna St. Louis on bass. Their new album Psychic Surgery should resonate with you if the word “rock” is connected to whatever guitar + rhythm section genre you find yourself digging on. For what it’s worth though, Mike doesn’t want to define the band by genre. He’d rather just let the music do its thing. As Psychic Surgery is one of my favorite albums to be released out of KC this year, I’m alright with that, too.
Did you and Brooke play together before you were married, or were you a couple before you tried creating music together?
Brooke and I have played together in several bands over the years. The longest-running was a Lawrence-based band called, Ad Astra Per Aspera. We were together for about eight years and put out several records, the last two being 45′s put out by Love Garden. We’ve played in a bunch of other groups together, including Ad Astra Arkestra, and Hairy Belefonte and various side-projects over the years. She occasionally releases her own music under the name Aunt Beast. We met through playing shows together in our respective teenage punk bands. I lived at a punk house that had shows in Lawrence, called the Pirate House; she lived at a punk house in KC that had shows called the Rainbow House. For our first date I took her to a park by a sewage treatment plant that we all called “shit park.” Worked out great.
How did you two connect with Anna? Has she played in any other local bands?
We met Anna about 10 years ago through her band at the time, Crap Corps. Ad Astra Per Aspera used to play shows with them at El Torreon, MoMo Gallery, Stray Cat, and various other places around town. Crap Corps were rad, they had a 7″ put out by BBS, a label our friend Justin runs. We became good buds with her and joined forces musically in Hairy Belefonte in 2007. Here’s an HB video from the last show at the Haunted Kitchen in Lawrence for reference. Hairy Belefonte was formed to fuck with people and combat this weird, lame, macho-vibe that was happening at punk shows in KC at the time. We had a good time. We’ve been close with Anna ever since. We started jamming as Bloodbirds when Anna moved back to KC a couple of years ago. She’s also playing bass in Torben. They rule and consist of some of our best buds.
I like how Kill Your TV compared Anna’s bass to Kim Deal in their review [of Psychic Surgery], only “Kim Deal in a human sacrifice blood cult.” Influences are one thing, but do you ever try to purposefully make sure that you don’t sound like bands you enjoy?
We don’t really try to sound like any one band or genre in particular. I know a lot of bands do that — they want a certain sound. That’s fine, that’s really easy for people to latch onto. But I like things to be more eclectic. It’s more interesting to me. That said, every now and then a band or an individual just nails it and makes something that helps define or expand a genre or sub-genre. There’s something to be said for honing in on a sound. We did that more in Hairy Belefonte, where we tried to make all the songs fit together in this trashy, hooky, pop-punk kinda way. But it’s a focus I just don’t normally embrace.
There’s quite a distance between Bloodbirds’ sound and that of Ad Astra Arkestra… was there a driving force behind changing up the direction you took with your music?
Bloodbirds has a looser song-writing structure than any of the previous bands. We jam a lot. I’d say AAArkestra, initially, was an extension of, and a completion of, some ideas that were being tinkered with in Ad Astra Per Aspera at the time of that band’s demise. The song “Slowbird Blues” off the AAArkestra’s Reverse Fishing EP is a reworked version of “Danger Bird Blues” off the AAPA’s first Love Garden 45. I was interested in doing bigger arrangements with multiple percussionists and a choir. So some friends got together and did the AAArkestra for a couple of years. The AAArkestra is still in existence, albeit in a pretty different form than it was in the beginning. I’d imagine we’ll play a few shows this year once everyone’s other bands settle a bit. It’s a really fun group of people.
I read that you’re a stagehand at Johnson County Community College, is that right? I’m wondering if that artistic environment helps motivate you to constantly be creating?
I mostly do audio engineering at JCCC. Front of house, monitors, etc… It’s a good gig. I also record a lot on my own time. I just finished an LP for a local hardcore band Sucked Dry, and I’m in the process of scheduling time to record an LP for the band Dark Ages. I record out of my house, or at our practice space. Occasionally at a studio. It’s fun to work closely with a band and see their creative process and how they think about recording and making music. Definitely gives me ideas and inspiration. I’m also a monitor engineer for the band Gossip, out of Portland. I’m headed up to Seattle next month for a show with them. That’s really fun. Great group of folks and their live shows are rad.
Question in the form of an answer: “Aliens for Breakfast.”
That’s a song by my high school punk band. Released on cassette in 1996. We later went on to add a couple more members and form a hardcore punk band. We put out a record and a tape and toured around the country in a short bus. Great times.
Rapid fire finale: Favorite local venue to watch a live show; favorite local venue to play at; and favorite Middle of the Map Fest moment.
For all-ages shows I really like FOKL and Arts Closet — Kaw Collective and the Studded Bird were also rad. I hear Kaw is going to re-open sometime soon. For bars: I like the Record Bar and Davey’s Uptown in KC, and the Replay in Lawrence. The Bottleneck too. Recently Bloodbirds played down in Little Rock at this placed called the White Water Tavern. That place is the shit. I wish there was a place that size with that vibe in KC. Kirby’s in Wichita was also excellent. Favorite MoTM moment was playing. I’d almost always rather be playing than watching.
[This article first appeared at Mills Records Company.]