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Band to Watch: Telekinesis Craft Upbeat Tunes in Hard Times

Stream the Seattle power pop band's new album '12 Desperate Straight Lines'

March 1, 2011 2:40 PM ET

Click to listen to Telekinesis' "12 Desperate Straight Lines"

Who: A rock trio led by Michael Benjamin Lerner, a 24-year-old songwriter from Seattle, Washington who specializes in sunny, dynamic power pop. Lerner's songs are concise, catchy and exceptionally well-crafted, calling back to generations of melodic rock and roll while keeping an emphasis on his own distinct personality. "One of the main criticisms that the band has gotten is 'Well, they're not trying to reinvent the wheel' but I feel like, there's no wheel to reinvent!," Lerner says. "I'm just trying to make a pop record, which has been done many many many many times before. We're all using the same three chords, so there's no secret to it. I just hope to do my own thing."

Hard Times: Though Telekinesis' second album 12 Desperate Straight Lines (which came out last month) does not stray too far from the upbeat sound of their 2009 debut, Lerner's songs have a slightly darker edge borne of some very hard times leading up to recording the record. In addition to ending the long-distance relationship that inspired the first album, Lerner went temporarily deaf in one ear. "It was like some fluid building up in my ear, but no one could tell me exactly what was going on," he says. "I don't understand what was going on really still, but I think it had to do with the amount of salts or sodium I had been taking in, and at that point I didn't know that was what was going on so I was eating a lot of potato chips or whatever."

From Bad to Worse: After Lerner's mystery ailment cleared up, he went to Berlin to write material for 12 Desperate Straight Lines. After returning to Seattle, he planned to drive down to San Francisco with Death Cab For Cutie's Chris Walla to record the album. "The day before I was supposed to do that, I was driving around in my van with all of my equipment in the back," he says. "I was on all this medication and feeling pretty gnarly, and I got in a really bad car accident." Though no one was was hurt, Lerner was traumatized by the incident. There is a bright side to this unfortunate turn of events, though. "I wrote a ton of songs in the interim of that time, from getting in a car accident to July, when I recorded the album, and those ended up being the ones that I'm most proud of on the record."

Darker Sound: Though Lerner channeled some of these bad experiences into the new album, it didn't come out quite as he expected. "I went into my practice space like 'I've got to make OK Computer,' and I can't make OK Computer," he says. "I'm fueled by the Kinks and the Beatles and all that stuff, that's just what I do." The dark vibe mainly came through in the album's heavy bottom end, which was inspired by Flin Flon, an indie pop band led by Teenbeat Records founder Mark Robinson. "They are all about the dirty bass sound," he says. "I got really into it, it was my drug for a while."

The Singing Drummer: Lerner has the distinction of being one of a rare breed of singing drummers. "I think there's a reason why it doesn't happen too often," he says. "It's not the smartest idea in the world, to be totally honest, but it's the only thing I feel really comfortable playing because I grew up as a drummer and all the other instruments are secondary to me." He has considered switching full-time to guitar like his hero Dave Grohl, but he's reluctant to abandon his kit. "I don't want to ever stop playing the drums because it's so fun. You get to hit shit all night as loud and hard as you want!"

LAST WEEK: Diamond Rings, a One-Man Dance-Pop Spectacle

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