Against the faded flags of many Brooklyn outfits, My Pet Dragon stands out sharply. The group moves away from the roughed-up sounds of its noisier contemporaries, favoring a more highly refined approach that recalls the anthem hits of U2. “Our desire is to follow our own muse and make the music we want to make,” explains frontman Todd Michaelsen, “not based upon any current music scene.” The core melodies are built around slow builds and sustained drives that break into soaring vocal harmonies. MPD’s latest LP, Mountains And Cities, was produced by Stephen George, who has mixed and produced for Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and the Cars. George’s talents combining with the band’s technique speaks for much of the band’s ability, but hardly does a band waltz into a studio and record music this thoughtful—it has to come from somewhere.
For Michaelsen it was two places: New York City and Mumbai, India. Michaelsen grew up in upstate New York before driving down to the city in a beat-up Buick. His life in music began in Brooklyn where he met drummer Rajeev Maddela and through him the singer Reena Shah. Before long Michaelsen and Shah moved in together into an apartment with no hot water. They escaped to India to visit Shah’s family, and while there for two months, Michaelsen proposed. Back in America, the couple started MPD. While Mountains And Cities dwells here and there on the topic of love, Michaelsen tells us it isn’t a “love” record. “It’s not overkill if every song that expresses some sort of love is not necessarily the gushy romantic love … I felt when I wrote these songs for Mountains And Cities that it had weight and meaning at those particular times.”
The band will be touring the Northeast this fall and winter, playing new songs every show to test material for an album in the works for next year. Michaelsen says he’s got the Beatles’ Revolver on heavy rotation, so perhaps the new work will have some psychedelic rough edges.
My Pet Dragon plays at Mercury Lounge on Saturday, October 22, as part of CMJ 2011.