Music Interview

Interview: We “Borrow” Over/Under From Condé Nast To Ask Liquid Mike About Michigan


Power pop correspondent and erstwhile impresario Luke “Diamond” Phillips is back on the beat, speaking with fellow Michigander Mike Maples of the titular Liquid Mike, a heat-seeking and scuzzy power pop group from Marquette, Michigan. The band just released their new album, PAUL BUNYAN’S SLINGSHOT, and Luke was excited to talk to Mike about that Real Pure Michigan Shit.

It’s a bummer about the Lions.

Mike Maples: I was definitely rooting for the Lions. But actually I grew up as a Packers fan.

I’m a bit of a “Wal-Mart Wolverine,” as they say, for the Lions. It was a nail-biter game against the 49ers. We blew that lead so bad.

MM: That was sad.

Hopefully they’ll have a good season next year.

MM: I think you guys will be good for a while.

I used to be a big Pistons guy, and look at them now.

MM: That’s tough. It’s really tough.

It’s that GRIT. That Pure Michigan grit.

MM: You gotta respect it.

PAUL BUNYAN’S SLINGSHOT is the name of the new album. Paul Bunyan is obviously a looming figure in Michigan folklore. How many Paul Bunyan statues have you been to?

MM: There’s one on the way to Munising I think, and I used to drive for work pretty often near there. I used to see ‘em when I was a kid—I grew up in Ashland, out in Wisconsin. We used to take field trips to this place called Hayward because they had a bunch of outdoor stuff for the kids. I feel like Paul Bunyan was always a thing there. They used to tell the stories. In Minnesota especially, you’ll see that shit all the time.

There’s at least eight Paul Bunyan statues in Michigan alone. Is Ashland close to the UP?

MM: It’s about five minutes to the left. Culturally it’s the same.

I’ve only seen one Paul Bunyan statue, and that was the one at Castle Rock.

MM: I think that’s right below the bridge.

It’s in St. Ignace.

MM: Yup! I’m sure I’ve driven by it. You start to go blind to ‘em.

It’s funny: as a Michigan expat in LA, I feel like I’m a fucking hobbit or something whenever I talk about Michigan—“Oooh, you go to the state park or you go to the lake.”—It’s a very pastoral vibe.

MM: Mhm-hmm. People from here like to talk about it. You could say that about the Midwest in general, though.

Everywhere in the Midwest has their version of “Going Up North”—although going “Up North” is definitely a Michigan thing. We’ll touch on a lot of Michigan things. Being based out of Marquette, are you a fan of JOE PERA TALKS WITH YOU?

MM: For sure, yeah.

I always thought it was interesting how that show was set in Marquette, but they filmed a lot of it in Wisconsin. I don’t know how accurate the portrayal of Marquette in the show is compared to the reality of it.

MM: A lot of the establishing shots are in Marquette, but they did a lot of the shooting in Milwaukee. I don’t know if that show is too representative, but I’m also not sure if that show is representative of how anyone actually lives. It’s just bizarre. I ran into him [Pera] about two years ago, and he was just shoveling snow outside wherever he was staying. I said hi, and he said hi back. It didn’t look like any of that was a bit. That’s kind of how he really is.

It’s one of those things like Nathan Fielder or Tim Heidecker, where he’s doing a character comic bit, but the character is really just accentuating his own eccentricities.

MM: I don’t think he’s leaning too hard.

The show does kind of feel like what it is, which is a show made by people from the East Coast imagining what life is like in the Midwest. There’s an alien quality to it.

MM: He’s living an alien’s life. He’s in town in Marquette soon. I wanted to get a ticket but they immediately sold out.

I love that he does shows in Marquette. I’d love to see him in Marquette.

MM: I saw him a year-and-a-half ago, the first time he performed here. He’s the man.

Open in Spotify

To talk about the actual record itself, I see many labeling you and the band with the new power pop movement. How do you feel about power pop? It’s the mirror that we reflect all these different bands against. Do you feel connected to the greater power pop scene? Who are you into right now?

MM: So many powerful questions. I do feel connected to power pop and the greater scene. I feel like power pop is more of a spectrum thing, where you don’t necessarily have to hit all of the…

It’s one of those “you know it when you hear it” genres.

MM: That’s how I’ve always thought. I could see people listening to us and being like “This is not power pop…” I don’t know. It gets into pop punk territory.

I think Liquid Mike passes the smell test. I could see people saying that you sound like blink, or sound like Joyce Manor, who are definitely pop punk bands, but I think you sound like the more power poppy blink or Joyce Manor songs.

MM: Pop punk is so hard to be good a lot of the time.

There is a very distinct difference between power pop and pop punk. I’m pretty adamant about it, and a stickler about it. There is a line you can cross!

MM: The best pop punk, I’ve always thought, was the stuff that felt like it had more in common with power pop. Tenement, stuff like that, were always records that really switched me on.

I always gravitated towards the hookier or more Ramones-y type pop punk bands. I like Ramonescore punk.

MM: Right. Ramones and AC/DC both kind of live in the same space in my head—I just get the same blissful feeling I get listening to AC/DC that I get listening to, like, Teenage Fanclub.

Blissful is a good way to describe it. That sugar rush, hook-y fundamentals. Obviously power pop goes back to The Beatles and stuff like that. The Ramones are an iteration. I was talking to James from Dazy a couple years ago about that too. Dazy uses drum machines and has more modern sonic textures that they incorporate into power pop songs, and in doing so they’re updating the genre by a couple decades. Stretching out the definition of what constitutes power pop by creating a bigger tent. Maybe Sugar Ray is power pop!

MM: Sugar Ray rocks!

Open in Spotify

There definitely is a subset of “power pop guy” who is, like, Gen X or boomer and would be completely opposed to the concept of a drum machine in a power pop song. Thankfully, we were raised in the ‘90s and drum machines were in Mountain Dew commercials.

MM: I always liked them! Maybe that’s something to do with age. I always preferred ‘90s-on power pop. There’s the classic stuff from the ‘70s that I like, but there’s not much from the ‘80s I like.

‘80s power pop is a bit of a blind spot for me beyond XTC. Brad Shoup has a lot of great power pop playlists defined by Presidential years in office that are very good.

MM: In my group—my circle—I was always the authority on that type of shit. Now that I’m thrown into the online aspect of it, I’m like a kindergartener. Just when I think I have an upper hand on something, I get totally blown out of the water.

So, speaking on music authorities, Pitchfork is dead. Which is a bummer. So I’m just going to shamelessly steal their Over/Under conceit and do a Merry-Go-Round Over/Under with you about Michigan Shit. It’s a Pure Michigan Over/Under.

MM: Nice. Love it!

Merry-Go-Round Over/Under w/ Liquid Mike: Michigan Shit

Coney Dog Detroit


MM: Underrated.

I think so, too. I have to explain coneys to a lot of people.

MM: They’re not too much of a thing up here. You can get ‘em up here for sure, but it’s not as much like a downstate thing like in Detroit where you can get a coney everywhere.

As a bridge troll Lower Peninsula person, I’m trying to think of stereotypical UP food. All I can think of is pasties.

MM: Pasties. Those are overrated.

Pasties weren’t even on my list, technically, it just popped into my head.

MM: A coney dog—that’s the perfect, ideal dog.

Oh yeah. Absolutely. Do you know the difference between the Flint style coney and the Detroit style coney?

MM: Detroit is chili, onions, and mustard.

You got it! Flint style uses a dry chili, more of a spiced, loose meat deal. 

MM: What do you like more?

I’m from Flint, so I prefer Flint style. There’s nothing wrong with Detroit style though, that’s kind of the default coney style.

MM: I’m sure I’d love a Flint dog.

They’re good out here!

MM: Pasties suck, though. You really can find a pastie anywhere in town here. But there’s a ceiling on how good they can get.

Blue Moon Ice Cream

Blue Moon Ice Cream

MM: Imma say, a little overrated.


MM: Much to the chagrin of some of my bandmates… Zack, who plays bass, loves it.

I can’t get it out in LA! I have to get my fix whenever I’m in Michigan.

MM: It’s kind of the Fruit Loops-y flavor?

Yeah, it’s an almond-y Fruit Loops flavor.

MM: It’s good. I never reach for it too often. Mackinac Island Fudge, I guess that’s the one “Michigan” flavor I can think of that I really like.

Mackinac Island Fudge or Moose Tracks with Mackinac Island Fudge is definitely a top tier. Superman ice cream, because it incorporates blue moon, I like a lot.

Superman Ice Cream

Superman Ice Cream 

MM: That one I’ll say is overrated. That one is way overrated. Blue moon I’m cool on. Superman is way too much. And I like sweet stuff too.

It’s kind of a twist on a neapolitan. It’s a lot of weird, fruity flavors going on with the Superman ice cream combination. I like it!

MM: I’ll still eat it! It’s basically cotton candy.

It’s basically a sherbert or a gelato. It’s a very sweet, tart kind of vibe. Very different from most ice cream.

MM: It looks like they melted a bunch of crayons in a bucket. It’s really cool looking.

It’s really cool looking! Very tie-dye. Primary colors. I never really understood it as a Michigan thing until I moved outside the Midwest—you can’t really get that shit on the West Coast! You might be able to find frozen yogurt or something that is similar. It’s really not the same.

MM: What do they have out there that you can’t get here?

Out here, it’s a lot more international—you can get good Korean food. Pound for pound, there’s better tacos in LA than anywhere else I’ve been. 

Detroit Style Pizza

Detroit Style Pizza

One thing you can get… I had this for Over/Under: How do you rate Detroit style pizza?

MM: It’s great. I love it. I think it’s right where it should be.

It’s accurately rated.

MM: Thin crust is my favorite, though. There’s places that have that. There’s not too many places up here that have Detroit style besides Jet’s.

Yeah, Jet’s or Hungry Howie’s.

MM: Jet’s is top-tier pizza I think.

I love Jet’s. Jet’s has been my parents’ go-to for a couple years now. They don’t have any Jet’s in LA. They do have a Hungry Howie’s in Glendale.

MM: I’ve never been to a Hungry Howie’s, actually.

There’s a lot of Hungry Howie’s in the Lower Peninsula. Throw a rock at any town and there’s a Hungry Howie’s. It’s a step above Little Caesar’s, essentially. They’ve got flavored crust. And a Detroit style square.

MM: Little Caesars is great. I love it. It’s underrated. We just lost ours though. They couldn’t afford it anymore. The service was hit or miss. They were always pissed off that you were there buying pizza.

I always tell people that the closest thing to Detroit style pizza that you can get outside Detroit is to order a fresh Little Caesars’ Deep! Deep! Dish—they get mad at me!!

Little Caesars Arena

Little Caesars Arena

How do you feel about Little Caesars Arena?

MM: I think it’s sick. Monica is a big Red Wings fan, who plays in the band. I’m turning into a Red Wings fan.

I love it too. I was very impressed with it when I went. I went to a wrestling event there 18 months ago.

MM: Are you into wrestling?

Yeah, I do the wrestling column for Merry-Go-Round.

MM: Do you like Cody Rhodes?

Yeah! Our column is called Hard Time Blues, it’s named after a promo his dad did.

MM: That’s really cool. Nick, who plays in our band, is way into it—he and his kid are super big Cody Rhodes fans. I don’t follow it too much, but they always keep me in the loop. He just won the Rumble, right?

Yeah!! He is the fourth wrestler in history to win the Rumble back-to-back.

MM: Wrestling was a big regional thing back in the day, too.

For sure! There was Big Time Wrestling, which was an NWA subsidiary based out of Detroit until the early ‘80s. They ran some WWF house shows out of Perani Arena in Flint 35 years ago.

MM: My dad would tell me about wrestlers coming to his school when he was a kid.

It’s an evil carny tradition that goes back 100 years or more!

Party Store in Michigan

Party Stores

MM: Hmm, that’s tough.

People look at me like I’m an alien when I try to explain party stores. It’s a liquor store!

MM: Not all party stores are made equal.

Some party stores have food…

MM: Most of the time, I’d say underrated. I feel like I’m talking to death about this mailman shit. I feel like the “mailman” thing constantly gets into the conversations with me or with the band. But like, the truth is, I’m out and about all day and I hit the party stores all the time because they have bathrooms and snacks and shit. Definitely, at least for me, underrated. They’re just good.

Any kind of corner store like that is good. A lot of party stores serve the same function as a bodega, or that’s how they should function. 

MM: I live right next to one, and I do my daily shopping there. It’s not very cheap, but it’s the easiest place to pick up eggs and milk.

I think it’s smart to expand to produce and market items. You can sell beer, and you can sell cereal.

MM: Most of the time, they’re good. Especially if they’re a one-of-one store that’s just some guy’s store.

Yeah, you get the nice family-run ones with the deli in the back. In the ‘90s, the one near my house had VHS rentals.

Jeez O Pete Shirt

“Jeez o’Pete”

I’m not sure why I put this one for the Over/Under… “Jeez o’Pete”

MM: “Jeez o’Pete…” I never say that shit. I hear it every day. I hear it constantly. I’d say overrated. I don’t like saying it. I think there’s better things to say. “The Holy why?” is the popular phrase over here— but I don’t like that one either.

“Jeez o’Pete” is just the classic… everyone’s mom says “Jeez o’Pete!” Weird Michigan shit.

MM: I didn’t grow up with it, growing up in Wisconsin. I’ve lived in the UP for eight years now. I feel like it’s ramping up all the time. I hear that shit all the time.

Something to be said for the environment of Michigan and the Midwest, talking about Paul Bunyan and these larger-than-life figures. There’s something about the environment—might seem like a weird comparison, but I feel like it’s kind of like the Pacific Northwest, which also has a lot of lakes, forested areas, and cryptids, and it’s near Canada.

MM: Do they have Paul Bunyan out there?

I’m sure other regions have their tall tales or mythological figures.

MM: John Henry and Johnny Appleseed and shit.

Even now, you have like, a strain of horror movies over the last couple decades set in Michigan. IT FOLLOWS takes place in Metro Detroit. Sam Raimi is from Royal Oak.

MM: I didn’t know that! Did you see BARBARIAN?

I haven’t yet!

MM: That’s a Detroit movie. It’s a good setting. It’s black here.

Totally. When it’s winter, it’s like pitch black—and you get the pitch black.

MM: Even when it’s daylight, it’s gray and nasty out sometimes.

It’s like damn Alaska sometimes. You definitely get that, that weird, very still blackness in the night or early in the morning.

MM: Are people sun-drunk out in the West? Does it feel good?

LA is really warm during the day, but then it cools down really quick. People will dress really warm during the day and then be fucking freezing at night. As a Michigander, you know how to prepare for it. You know how to dress for warmth. You have the layers prepared.

Liquid Mike’s stellar new album PAUL BUNYAN’S SLINGSHOT is out now, grab a copy over on Bandcamp!

Luke Phillips
Luke Phillips is a radio promoter currently living in Los Angeles. His go-to karaoke song is "A Little Respect" by Erasure. You can usually find him going to local pro wrestling shows, playing Dungeons & Dragons, at the movies, or some twisted combination of the three.

    The Dredge: Crime Light, HIRS, and Cel Ray

    Previous article

    Bandcamp Picks of the Week 2/9/2024

    Next article


    Comments are closed.

    Free ebooks Library zlib project