Music

The Soft Side

The Mellowing of Mike Wu

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It's almost impossible to compare the ear candy pop of Mike Wu's former band Poolside to the quiet and contemplative path he's now taking in Seaside. Essentially a solo project with occasional collaboration from fellow guitarist Kevin Kruse, Seaside gives Wu a chance to focus more on his lyrics and vocals. "With Seaside I want to showcase the quiet, bedroom-type stuff I come up with," Wu says. "Plus, I like my voice a lot more when I'm not straining, and I also like the idea of just setting up anywhere and doing this. After being in a really loud rock band for seven years, it's nice to be able to do music in a different way and in different venues."

Wu recently began playing his solo material at clubs and has been faced with audiences showing varying degrees of interest. At a crowded show at The Medicine Hat, where he opened for Steve Malkmus' new band, the place was so crowded and full of chatter, it was hard to hear any of Wu's music unless you stood right by the stage. At a less crowded show a week later at The Tonic Lounge, a small, appreciative audience listened respectfully as Wu played lovely introspective tunes like "Logical Hole" and poppy, almost Poolside-esque tunes like "Summer Off."

"It's a lot more nerve-wracking being up there by myself," he admits. "I actually get nervous, whereas before I never got nervous. I suppose any fuck-ups are totally apparent and kind of ruin the mood, whereas in Poolside, messing up was part of the fun."

With only a few songs in his new repertoire, Wu hopes to keep writing and eventually record them in some manner. If there's one thing he learned in Poolside, it was patience. Despite being one of Portland's best pop bands, the foursome, originally called Sidecar, never really claimed a large audience. "I can never figure out what it takes to have an audience in this town. Whatever it is, we didn't have it." It's a shame too, because despite the band's live shows sometimes being hampered by shyness and missed notes, the band's CD, Indyglow (Bong Load Records, 1999) was undoubtedly one of the most infectious batch of pop songs to come out that year. Now with Seaside comes a fresh beginning for Wu and his fans, new or old. Be quiet and pay close attention.

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