Published Jun 01, 2000Like most fans of his late, great bass and drums duo the Inbreds, I first met Mike O'Neill in a dingy bar at an all-ages show. Seven years later, we're scheduled to meet in the lobby of Toronto's esteemed Royal York Hotel to discuss his first solo album ? not exactly a place you'd expect to find a 30-year-old indie CanRock survivor. But the album in question, the aptly-titled What Happens Now?, has a decidedly more "adult" feel: perhaps because the songs aren't built around O'Neill's melodic, distorted bass playing, which may have ghettoized the Inbreds. What Happens Now? could conceivably reach the Royal York crowd, rather than a campus radio cuddlecore show.
Is this an “adult” album? Without missing a beat, O’Neill smiles and launches into a relished anecdote. “Buster Keaton and Fatty Arbuckle once had an argument,” he begins. “Arbuckle said, ‘Buster, films are really directed towards 12 year olds, so I entertain people on that level.’ Keaton said, ‘Well, Fatty, I’m making films for grown-ups, and an intelligent movie will always find its audience.’ I’m not comparing my music to Buster Keaton’s films, but that’s what I’m aiming to do: make honest music for my age, and hopefully it will find an audience that’s like-minded.
“A lot of people would accuse the Inbreds of being a novelty act because of the bass and drums,” recalls O’Neill. “Sure, that made us different, but we always said, ‘No it’s about the music.’ But there was always a tiny insecurity. But I think this record sounds great, and there’s no novelty.”
O’Neill admits that there’s also a bit of insecurity about starting anew, on the heels of a well-loved band, but it helps to have the aid of producer Michael Philip Wojewoda and an all-star band featuring Don Kerr (Rheostatics, Ron Sexsmith) on drums, Matt Murphy (Flashing Lights) on guitar, and Charles Austin (Superfriendz) on bass. “I’m doing something different now,” O’Neill asserts. “I think people who liked the Inbreds will still like my songs. But it’s nerve wracking, for sure. I don’t know what the equivalent would be. Maybe writing a book about sports, and then deciding to write a novel. Inbreds were, of course, sports, and this is the novel!”