Mike Ayley, best known for his role as bassist for multi-Platinum selling Vancouver pop-rock band Marianas Trench, has stepped into the spotlight under the moniker MIKEH with his debut solo project, an EP titled Golden Hour: First Things First via 604 Records.
Golden Hour: First Things First was produced by Mike and Pedro Dzelme, and together, the pair explored the line between full-on rock and pop effortlessly, capturing the kind of beginnings, endings, and uncertainties that lay between them when anything can happen in a manner that’s relentlessly hooky, richly textured, and leans heavily on Mike’s soaring, often chill-inducing vocals.
Aptly titled, the five-song EP is inspired by emotional gray areas Ayley often found himself pondering during his favourite times of day while the pandemic put his musical career on hold. The songs are highly personal, while leaving plenty of room for listeners to see their own lives and the kind of uncertainties so many of us have experienced over the past two years and change reflected in them.
Mike credits much of his musical inspiration to the creative world that Marianas Trench exists in, lead singer Josh Ramsay’s approach to vocals as instruments in their own right, and the band’s ability to up their game and push the envelope with each successive record; things that opened his mind to endless musical possibilities.
Ultimately, Golden Hour: First Things First is a celebration of the kind of daily victories we too often take for granted that’s compellingly honest and immediately relatable, musically, and lyrically.
I had the opportunity to chat with MIKEH about his debut EP, songwriting and what to expect for the rest of 2022.
Kat: Can you talk about the inspiration behind your debut EP? What made you want to embark on a solo music project?
MIKEH: The songs themselves are inspired by life challenges, moments that changed everything and moments yet to come. I didn’t intentionally think “I’m going to do a Mike project!”. I just wanted to make music. I had just recorded a 2020 Christmas song with my wife for fun. I really enjoyed doing that and when I realized we were going to be “hanging out at home pandemic style” longer than initially thought, I just started to record songs to fill my time. It kept me happy. It kept me busy. It kept me motivated and focused. It “filled my cup”.
Kat: What do you hope fans take from the EP?
MIKEH: I didn’t really approach this thinking about that side of the equation. I’ve talked to so many Marianas Trench fans over the years and the one thing I’ve realized is the songs all connect in a unique way to each person. Trying to calculate that connection seems…well, calculated. I just kept the songs honest, true to my feelings and experiences and hope that the sincerity will come through and resonate with the human in each being.
Kat: What do you find is the most challenging part of your creative process?
MIKEH: I love doing the music part of recording. It usually comes very quickly and there are more ideas than I can fit into each song. The words take me longer. It is a little more challenging to come up with words worth sharing. I literally walk for hours thinking of different melodies and stories that apply to the music and then work on finding the best words to support that. Sometimes I will write, record, and edit the vocals for days and then delete it completely and start from scratch because it’s not the right story, melody, or part at all. It sucks when that happens, but the song is always better in the end.
Kat: As the bassist for Marianas Trench, what has been a career highlight for you so far? What have you learned along the way?
MIKEH: Getting to play shows for people around the world has been the biggest highlight. I’ve been to more places than I had dreamed of growing up. Seeing so many different cultures and meeting so many different people really opens your mind to a wider perspective on the world. I think one of the most interesting things about it all though, no matter how many different states, provinces, and countries I visit, at the core, people are all the same. There may be different political views and religious beliefs, but we are all good people trying to find happiness.
Kat: What’s next?
MIKEH: After the Golden Hour EP, it will be continuing work on the next Marianas Trench album. We have already started this album. The theme is established-and it’s a great one (but I can’t share that yet, it’s top secret!). And after that there will be lots of live shows. Getting busy with concerts again this year has been incredible. I can’t wait for more!
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