Before Wakey! Wakey!’s Mike Grubbs started making anthemic Chamber Pop/Indie Rock that sounds like a cross between Ben Folds, The Shins and Modest Mouse as produced by Van Dyke Parks, he had to endure the childhood musical gauntlet of piano lessons. In Grubbs’ case, those lessons came at the hands of his mother, whose work as a choir director ensured that he was subjected to an abysmally high percentage of church music in the bargain.
Grubbs’ mother even factored homework into the equation, trading practice time on the piano for completed assignments. In high school, Grubbs discovered piano aces Billy Joel and Elton John and Rock wild card Led Zeppelin, combining them with his newfound Classical passion for Brahms, Bach and Beethoven.
Grubbs was still a long way away from his Wakey! Wakey! destiny; he played a bar gig for drunken collegiates, joined a Rock band working a Southern boogie groove and did time with the touring productions of Camelot and Brigadoon.
Somewhere in there, he took life lessons from Lach, the leading light of New York’s anti-Folk movement, and eventually started Wakey! Wakey!, a totally unconventional outfit blending jauntily melodic Pop and obtusely fascinating Indie Rock.
W!W! turned out an impressive string of releases, including a pair of live discs, a covers album and 2009’s War Sweater EP. In one of life’s moments of weird opportunity, One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn was so taken by the band when he saw them that he not only included “War Sweater” in OTH’s season-six finale, he wrote a recurring role in the series for Grubbs, a musician/bartender named Grubbs. Ah, the magic of art imitating life.
Wakey! Wakey!’s latest triumph is their first proper studio album of all original material with the stream of consciousness title Almost Everything I Wish I‘d Said the Last Time I Saw You. And it’s brilliant, by the way, a soundtrack to a film collaboration by Martin Scorcese and Wayne Coyne, with music from Randy Newman, Radiohead and, every once in a while, Gogol Bordello. There’s very little out there like Wakey! Wakey! when there should be a whole lot more.
(Buy tickets, check out performance times and get club details here.)