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  • Laura Musselman
Mal de Mer is not the French saying for sickness of the sea, they’re a four-piece rock band from Seattle. A collaboration consisting of Slender Means members and former members of the Divorce, the Amazombies, and Lila. Fronted by guitar player / vocalist Michael Lee, Mal de Mer gathers and cinches intellection of melody. They gild a take on the taking of a new take, sounding like they’ve been a band for years. New but not new. Decorated within intricate chordal pop-wise framework. Currently Mal de Mer is finishing the writing for their first LP to be recorded and released later this year. More currently, Michael Lee spoke, and ate a funsize piece of candy:

Mal de Mer: "Dolled Up"

Why "Dolled Up"? Who's dolled up?
Michael: That tune has been kicking around for awhile. It's stilled labeled "I Drive A Dodge Stratus" in my iTunes for some reason. We went up to London Bridge and did a few songs with my pal Geoff Ott just to see what we sounded like and "Dolled Up" was one of the keepers. It used to be a folkier number but it somehow ended it up as one of the punchiest.

How did Mal de Mer form?
I worked at the Crocodile for a long time and Jimmy did security there. We were fast friends. His band (the Divorce) would play there a lot, and Eric's band Slender Means would too so later on when I had some songs they were just the obvious guys. And Josh Kramer introduced Kim and I at an Amazombies show at the Funhouse several years back.

Give me one memory from working the old Crocodile days.
The time when the band Train did a five-night stand there. That was a difficult time in my life

What’s it like for you singing now? You were just a guitar player before.
It’s definitely something I’ve had to get used to. Getting comfortable singing. It feels like I'm refereeing the battle in my head between Elliot Smith and Michael Jackson.

Do you ever solo?
All the time. I was kind of running on a "no guitar solo" policy until I jokingly did one at a rehearsal and the mates insisted it stay.

What do you think about guitar solos?
I have contempt for guitar solos.

Do you ever think about candy when you play / solo? What candy?
It's more like I drift away into my own personal Candy Land. But it's smaller than normal, really more of a Candy Town or Candy 'Hood. I like to think I'm the Sheriff.

Who are your favorite bands right now?
I saw a local duo called My Goodness at Neumos and they were fantastic. Moondoggies are great. We are playing a show with Erik Blood (Moondoggies producer) band at the Sunset for this year's Noise For The Needy festival in June and his live show is always kind of a spectacle. Black Whales are pretty neat too.

What is your favorite candy?
I'm partial to Krackle. The bite-sized ones remind me of being a kid at my grandparents' house. They would feed me chocolate when I was talking too much. Krackle doesn't get its fair share in the shadow of Nestle.

Mal de Mer plays Noise for the Needy on Thursday, June 10th at The Sunset Tavern with Animals At Night, Daniel G. Harmann & the Trouble Starts, and Erik Blood.

You are a pedal board artisan. What’s your board like now?
In the past I've had these massive pedal boards with all sorts of quintuple ring-modulating delay nonsense and something happened in the last couple years that made me want to start from scratch and rebuild. Sort of not falling prey to the instinct of stomping on distortion every time a part needs a boost. It's like reestablishing trust with your children, which I know nothing about. In fact, nevermind, I'll probably be using all my pedals when this goes to print.

How does Mal de Mer make, find, and distill their magic?
Cazadores Reposado. And If I have time, I like to demo my song ideas on my MacBook before I present them to the band. I'm not super gear-savvy, I just know what I like and don't like. I use the built-in mic and start recording basic tracks and build from there. It's kind of tedious to record everything individually but it's a great way for me to think things out and arrange. The songs usually end up totally different after everyone puts in their two cents but I always have that demo to go back to if I feel like we're straying from the original spirit. Jimmy (Curran, bassist) is more of a loose concept kind of writer. He'll bring some lyrical concepts or maybe a riff and say, "Let's do some maritimey bar-brawl diddy", and then once we figure out what the hell he's talking about we just sort of do it.

Break down your gear. What do you play?
I just got a really neat '72 Fender Super Reverb from the Georgetown Music Company. The shop is pretty new and all the merchandise was labeled with Trading Musician tags so I'm pretty sure it's one of those dude's. The tremolo switch was removed and replaced with a master volume which is pretty ideal for playing club gigs. You can still get that big tone without the sound guy thinking you are trying to be Mogwai.