Photo by Jessica Segura //
Skyping me from his bedroom in the mountains of Montreal, Michael C. Hansford is just trying to take ‘er easy.
After a botched skate sesh on Day One of his most recent tour, the nerves in his right hand are left swimming in shards of bone. “October was definitely a really shit month for me. Everything just kept getting worse and worse,” he tells me.
After muscling through an entire tour with a shattered hand, Hansford heads home to have major surgery if he ever wants to play normally again. While he’s under the knife in the hospital, his backpack containing his money, I.D. and pain pill prescription is stolen.
I know because he’s live-tweeting the entire thing on Twitter a few days before we’re set to chat. I notice the posts because they’re so unlike his usual. Normally his feed promotes other bands, many of them friends of his also residing in the Great White North.
At this moment in life, it seems like the self-described gloom pop rocker is just cruelly being kicked while he’s already down.
Photo via Molly Drag FB Page
I ask Hansford what he’s been up to during recovery. He says being in and out of doctor’s offices so much lately has inspired him to start watching old episodes of House M.D. “Wilson’s the best character for sure,” he spouts fiercely.
I ask what he’s been listening to. He switches screens to check his music history and the camera connection cuts out. I’m unable to see his face for the remainder of our conversation.
He rattles off a list of artists old and new including The Silver Jews, Neil Young, Baths and his favorite of ten years, Elliott Smith. I confess to him that I’ve never actually listened to Elliott Smith for a bunch of (honestly) bullshit reasons. He educates me on Smith’s suicide- two stabs to the heart.
Hansford’s solo project, Molly Drag is just as much a part of the current sadcore scene as Elliott Smith was (and still is).
Photo via Molly Drag Twitter
I ask how Hansford manages to craft such emotional songs. He reveals that it’s all about what he can’t do.
“I make use of wherever I’m at to record and I let the restrictions dictate the music,” he says matter-of-factly.
Me: “What do you mean by restrictions? Like the equipment you have access to or the physical space you’re recording in?”
“Both,” he explains. “If I broke something or there’s restrictions of where I’m living, people get mad if I’m too loud, etc. That’s what makes music special, being able to work with restrictions and making sure you have an outlet no matter what. It’s not about the tools you have.”
Hansford applies this same restriction theory to his songwriting. “I find a lot of my lyrics. I’ll have stuff written down, not to a melody and then when I write a melody with a song, I’ll try to make the lyrics work to that song and change words around, twist and turn them, almost use them as an instrument.”
Looking at his newest release, the ethereal nodding off, this exclusionary style is evident. The soothing six track EP lists one dedication to “Peggy,” who I find out is his late aunt.
“She was a painter and a singer. She committed suicide when she was 19. I’ve been told I remind my family of her a lot of the time. I feel like I have this connection with her even though she’s not living in this 3-dimensional world,” he says with a sense of nostalgia.
While nodding off is clearly a piece in tribute to someone deceased, almost every Molly Drag song could pass for an elegy or poem.
Hansford’s vocal delivery is no less intense. Ranging from speaking to singing to screaming, he sometimes finds a home for all three in a single song. Hansford shines brightest live and in person where he’s able to use every inch of his voice.
With such dark, off-putting and at times uncomfortable lyrical content, Hansford’s creative process is much lighter than expected.
“I get treated with some weird pixie dust,” he laughs. “I breathe in and then all of a sudden I’m creative for like 24 hours and then I finish something and I’m back to normal and wait for the gas leak to come back in.”
Photo via Molly Drag Twitter
We talk for a while about our mutual love for fellow bedroom artist (Sandy) Alex G. Then he spills that the name Molly Drag is actually based off of 70’s cult singer/songwriter Nick Drake’s mom and indeed not the nickname for ecstasy. Then we talk about his best friend’s dad (who was basically like his own) who recently passed from cancer.
We also eventually land on rabbits. They’re on the cover of his third album, “Whatever Reason” and there’s a track titled after them on his second. I ask about the appeal.
In one breath he clues me in. “Rabbits are not very communicative things, they’re really pretty, they’re kind of mystical, they’re just like there, it’s just really weird, you can’t really read them. And they’re hard to catch.”
“That’s true,” I agree, still talking into the blank space of the screen. “They really are one of the least emotive animals.”
“Exactly,” Hansford continues. “Their eyes are just so glass, their eyes don’t even seem like they even work.”
I finally ask the question that’s really pressing on my mind. Did he ever get any of his stuff back that was stolen from the hospital?
“I found my shit,” the musician happily replies.
nodding off. What Lady Gaga’s Joanne is but for the bedroom rock world.
“I think of your love, I think of your love. It’s covered in blood, it’s covered in blood.” That’s why it’s my favorite.