January 20, 2016 Interview – Michael Meinhart of Socionic
Integrity in art is a quality many creators strive for in their quest to express themselves. Unfortunately, sometimes outside influence detours some in the process, but for Southern California’s Singer/Songwriter Michael Meinhart, it is the only way he knows. Leader of intriguing Progressive Hard Rock outfit Socionic, what once began as a side project, soon blossomed into a full-fledged band. Established as an idea back in 2008, the band’s in-depth approach to crafting songs has seen them make tremendous strides with their 2015 debut LP, Dividing Horizon, under their belt. With a dark, yet ambient and cinematic sound, Socionic may only just be scratching the surface of their potential at this point though. Recently we caught up with Meinhart for a closer look at the idea behind Socionic, the concept behind their music, plans for the future, the challenges of an independent band, and more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in music for many years now, working with a few other projects. First tell us, what inspired Socionic’s formation as a full-time band?
Michael Meinhart – Socionic started off as kind of a side project in the beginning, and that’s where some of the more abstract concepts surrounding the art, message, and symbolism were incubated, but the intention was always to become a full band and ultimately fulfill its true potential. With the talent that is involved now, the heights of that potential have been greatly raised, and we are really only at the beginning stages of what is possible.
CrypticRock.com – That is exciting to hear because the band is sounding very promising already. With that said, Socionic has seen a great deal of positive things happen over the past few years sharing the stage with bands such as Tool and Nothing More, among others. What are some of the most important things you have learned in this crazy whirlwind of an entertainment industry thus far?
Michael Meinhart – We are very grateful for the opportunities that have been coming to us lately, and it’s reassuring that our hard work is starting to get noticed. It has definitely taken a lot of persistence and effort to get to a place where people are starting to pay more attention to what we create. I would say the main underlying factor that enables us to continue to push forward, even at times when the industry isn’t so kind to Independent artists such as ourselves, is our passion for the music, message, and the fulfillment that we get from artistic expression. To “make it” in the music business today, or at any time, requires many factors to align, and without the devotion and passion for the art itself, it would be far too difficult to continue to fight through obstacles with only commercial success as a possible reward. We hope to continue to expand and grow in the industry, but in a very real way we are already living our dream of creating art and connecting with people who resonate with our music and message. Through that, we receive growth and fulfillment. Creation and connection are the most important things.
CrypticRock.com – Agreed completely. You mentioned how sometimes the industry is not kind to an Independent artist. As an Independent band, do you find it a challenge handling everything on your own without the backing of a record label?
Michael Meinhart – The current climate of the industry, and technology’s affect on it, is very much a double edged sword. On one side, more than ever before, Independent artists are able to affordably create professional quality music and then, through the internet and social media, connect with people who love the art that they create. On the flip side of that, there is the skill, work, and time that it takes to manage all of the business, digital media, marketing, and everything else which essentially ends up taking energy away from creating music and working on that craft. It is definitely more challenging in a way because there is far more to manage and a band needs to be more diversified in their abilities to execute on all fronts.
As everyone knows, the industry is still in somewhat of a state of flux and I feel that even labels are still trying to find the best ways to represent and promote their artists. We have embraced technology and digital media, and continue to grow our abilities to create and connect through different channels that social media provides, which I think has helped us greatly up to this point. In the bigger picture, I look at it as a positive thing for artists in that there are almost no limits to the potential of their creation and expression today. Music is the core of what we do, but we are artists foremost and I love the fact that now we are able to express in so many more ways and create a broader voice for our art beyond music through visual art, blogs, social media, video, and interaction with fans and other artists online. Ideally, we will find the right manager and label that has the same vision and passion that we do in order too continue to expand the art of Socionic as a whole beyond what we have created so far.
CrypticRock.com – Well, judging by the band’s sound, that is a strong possibility that the right people will take notice. The band did in fact recently release a brand new full-length record, entitled Dividing Horizon, last month. What was the writing and recording process behind the record?
Michael Meinhart – The writing process for the new record was very organic and productive, with everyone contributing ideas and together enhancing and building upon those foundations to create songs that we all felt were strong and representative. In that way, I feel this record is very diverse and dynamic stylistically as it very well melded our individual styles and influences.
Honestly, the writing of this record was incredibly fulfilling and even at times effortless to the point of feeling like the songs manifested themselves as we worked on them. In some ways, creating, for me personally, can be a bit painful and tedious, but with the dynamic that we had writing for this record it was a great experience and we are all very happy with what we came up with. “System’s Son,” which ended up being the first single off the record, was written only a couple weeks before we went into the studio to record drums. Before working with these guys, I would have never believed something like that was even possible (laughs).
The recording process took a little more effort, but it was a pivotal effort for us in that we became much more self sufficient in production, and from it, ultimately were able to be more creative and ensure everything turned out how we wanted. Having the knowledge and ability to record and create our own records as an Independent band is very valuable from both a creative and financial perspective, and this effort really helped to move us forward. We also had the pleasure of working with some very talented people at various steps of the process, namely Evan Rodaniche from Cage9 who helped with guitar recording, and Charlie Waymire from Ultimate Studios, who got us great drum tones and tracks. Adam “Nolly” Getgood from Periphery did a great job mixing, and Jens Bogren is an absolute wizard at mastering. We are extremely happy with how everything turned out.
CrypticRock.com – Nolly did a great job mixing, and Bogren certainly finished it off with his mastering. That is fantastic you had the chance to work with such high caliber production. Immediately upon first listen, it is easy to tell that the music of Socionic is much deeper than an average Rock band. The songs are laced with a clear-cut concept and deep meaning. Is creating this sort of soundscape essential for you?
Michael Meinhart – It is very essential, but not calculated as such. The main reason that we create music is for expression, and that depth is very much at the center of it for us. We don’t write music with the intention of matching the current style of what is popular with the hope of getting a radio single and attaining commercial success. The fulfillment that we get from creating something that is deep and meaningful to us is far greater than just writing a good sounding song that we think people might like. How it comes out is very much who we are and a reflection on our creative voice. Ultimately, that reward is immediate and immutable, regardless of how it is interpreted or accepted. The true beauty being that when our music does connect with other people, it is a true reflection of who both parties are and ultimately forges a deeper, long-lasting relationship through art.
CrypticRock.com – That is something you want to build with an audience. It is not easy, but with the right approach, it is possible. What is really interesting about Dividing Horizon is that there are peaks and valleys throughout. What is the key to balancing that heavy edge with the delicate ambiance?
Michael Meinhart – I think that is another element that comes through us naturally rather than consciously. We all have great appreciation for various styles of music beyond just dark and heavy, which is a reflection of who we are as artists and people. Our collective approach to music in that regard is something of which I am very appreciative personally, because I like that dichotomy in music and art in general. So much about life and existence is cyclical and polar: dark and light, love and hate, good and evil, happy and sad. I think that reflection in art tells the deepest and most complete story.
It is definitely something big for me lyrically whereas I tend to interpret and observe many experiences in a binary perspective. In a way, that concept is one of the biggest underlying philosophical attributes of existence in our world and can be seen in so many different things. I think to truly understand any one thing, you must be able to see and try to understand all characteristic elements between its extremes, which is often very difficult to do. All the more reason to warrant exploration of that concept through art.
CrypticRock.com – Right, well it does come across very sincere in the music and not forced, thus, going back to the previous topic of connecting with a listener. The band has been compared to that of Tool. How do you feel about the comparison?
Michael Meinhart – They are definitely an influence, but I would say more ideologically than musically. Their devotion to their art and message, as well as passion for different art forms, is definitely something that we share. I feel that, in a way, Tool opened up the door for more Progressive and intelligent minded bands to be accepted and have more mainstream success, which to me is their biggest contribution. To us, music is much more than entertainment, and it’s reassuring to have bands like them around at the level they are to remind people of that, and ultimately help bands like ours to continue to grow. It seems that much of music in the mainstream today has regressed to shallow, sugary entertainment rather than something that wakes you up to new ideas and stirs dissent. As a scene, we are all working and fighting to maintain and spread deeper and more intelligent music, and bands of the profile and influence of Tool help that effort greatly.
CrypticRock.com – Understandable. While the comparison is understandable, it is not completely accurate. Meaning, Socionic clearly has their own identity. Seeing we are living in a world where there are many sound-alike artist, do you place emphasis in the identity of Socionic?
Michael Meinhart – Absolutely. As I mentioned, we feel our identity is founded in the dichotomy and diversity of our musical style combined with expression through various mediums beyond our core of music. With as many bands and artists that are out there today, it is somewhat remarkable how few of them are actually true to themselves and the fans that support and follow them. Put simply, the journey and evolution that we pursue as artists and the ongoing relationship and conversation that we have with our fans is very much a part of our unique creative voice.
Also, in an individual sense as a lyricist, the words that I write are very personal and hold profound meaning to me as they connect to a time and emotional state that held importance enough to imprint upon my conscious. The nature of that experience is very much my own, uninfluenced by any other, and the music through which it translates is very much our own as a band. I can’t align with any criticism of that as artistic expression whereas to me it is a pure and individual outlet.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly. People are going to draw comparisons, positive or negative. The bottom-line is staying true to your expression. Seeing you have this album out now, does the band have any plans for a national tour, and what would be your dream touring package?
Michael Meinhart – Doing a national tour is definitely something that is high on our list and to do it right is a dream that we all share. We want to be smart about it though and make sure we are focusing our efforts and resources in the most efficient way, which right now we feel is getting some industry help to find the right tour and support rather than jump in a van and spend all our savings on gas. We are starting to book some Southwest regional dates right now though, which we are excited about.
Personally my dream tour package would be opening up for Nine Inch Nails and Tool, although I don’t think they’ve ever toured together (laugh). Honestly, to be able to get out on the road and connect with people through music at any level is a dream come true.
CrypticRock.com – Well it would be exciting to see the band showcased on a national stage. Judging by the music of Socionic, it seems you have a diverse influence. What are some of your influences beyond the ones already spoke of?
Michael Meinhart – As I mentioned earlier, we are all pretty diverse in musical appreciation and influence. Even though I love the heavy stuff, I’m probably the softest musically of the group though (laughs). I fell in love with music in the Grunge era of the ’90s with bands like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Stone Temple Pilots, and then later, really got into bands like Tool, Katatonia, Porcupine Tree, Karnivool, Deftones, and Nine Inch Nails, all of which I’m a huge fan still today. Being a big fan of production and sound design, I also really get into electronic/industrial and ambient music like Depeche Mode, Killing Joke, Massive Attack, Conjure One, Carbon Based Lifeforms, Hecq, Solar Fields, and a bunch more. I’m also a fan of talented vocalists in various genres, but I won’t list them in fear of losing some of my Metal cred (laughs).
In a more abstract sense, as a lyricist, I am influenced by a desire for personal growth and experience, a resilience to the fear of asking unaskable questions and a nearly infinite number of events and injustices witnessed in the world around me.
CrypticRock.com – That is a fantastic mix of artists. All unique in their own way. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of these films, what are some of your favorites?
Michael Meinhart – I live Sci-Fi! I am very much a nerd in that regard. Well, that and many others (laughs). I particularly love Sci-Fi with a deeper message and/or a Fantasy influence. I’m a huge fan of the classics like Star Wars (1977), Alien (1979), and Blade Runner (1982), which has an incredible Vangelis soundtrack. I also like newer ones like Inception (2010), Donnie Darko (2001), The Matrix (1999), Moon (2009), District 9 (2009), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), and a bunch of others. I’m a particular fan of the movie, PI (1998), for its intellectual depth regarding spirituality and science and would encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it to check it out.