Molly Drag Walks Us Through His Stripped-Back New Album “Resemble Another”
Michael Hansford’s latest slowcore LP is out now through Terrible Records.
There’s a scene in Blue Velvet—which you almost certainly remember if you’ve ever seen Blue Velvet—in which Isabella Rossellini’s character, covered in bruises and completely naked, suddenly materializes on the front lawn of Kyle MacLachlan’s character as he’s about to spar with another teenager over a girl. While it goes unspoken, there’s a heavy contrast in the scene between what we perceive as a serious situation as a teenager and one that feels exponentially more dire and only conceivable through the eyes of an adult (Mike, the belligerent high schooler who instigates the fight, flees at the sight with a bewildered apology).
While Michael Hansford’s output as Molly Drag has rarely dipped its toes in the pools of juvenile subject matter (let alone macho confrontation), his latest LP Resemble Another still feels a bit jarring in its naked expression of topics ranging from addiction to death to mental disorders to divorce, along with heavy themes of extraterrestrialism and religion—how it impacts our lives regardless of whether we believe in a god—frequently packed on as the glue that holds these themes together. Stripped of much of the instrumental flourishes of his previous record Touchstone and its predecessors (even lacking the foray into electronic music those projects ventures into), this latest record feels like a lyrics-first confessional fit for a period of universal isolation.
“This album was recorded during a period of sobriety, lockdown, isolation, a break up, and overall clarity from a long-overdue mental disorder diagnosis,” Hansford explains. “A process that helped strip away the tortured artist trope, with a mindset of wanting my mind and body to be healthy. To me this album brought light into the project for the first time.”
With the album officially out today, Hansford took the time to detail each track, diving into the specific moments in the past he pulled from to weave the project together. “I’m not the best at explaining where my songs stem from,” he discloses, “but I’ll try my best.”
This song was a long time in the making for me. I probably mixed down four different versions of it over the last two years before I finally stripped it all back down to the basics of just double-tracked bass guitar. One thing I really did differently with this album than previous ones was that I wrote the majority of the songs on bass first, which was a fun process. Bass is probably my favorite part of tracking. Lyrically I was exploring themes of dark matter, blacking out, or stories of people being abducted by aliens and experiencing “missing time” in their memories. When I was 15 my mom got me a book called The Custodians which was written by a hypnotist who interviewed people who had claimed to be abducted by aliens, and it had a lasting effect on me even ’til now.
2. “Flying Object”
In continuation to the theme of aliens, this title is actually quite misleading. This was the first song I wrote for this record in full, and whilst doing so I was thinking a lot of how hard people try to become one with each other. Looking back at my own relationships I realized I had a very codependent shaping in my upbringing which lasted well into my adult life. During the recording/writing process of this album I was diagnosed with a mental health disorder and did a four-month out-patient individual and group therapy program. The program excavated a lot of deep-seated memories that really shaped the entire writing process. For this song, I wanted to give the feeling of leaving a house after a hurricane or house fire and surviving. “We came out clean.” It’s interesting to think how parallel the writing process and therapy program was and worked in tandem.
Musically this is me attempting to write a Two Hands–esque Big Thief song on acoustic guitar mixed with a little Harvest Moon–era Neil Young, which are both among albums that I was heavily spinning while recording the album in my apartment. I spent most of the lockdown days last summer in my room recording, walking around the Outremont area in Montreal listening to music, or sitting on my roof basking in the sun. At the beginning of the lockdown I went through a pretty heavy break-up and in a way this song is about the identity crisis you experience after an intense relationship ends, and how you get back to square one to center yourself.
This song weighs heavily for me. During the entire writing and recording process of this record, I spent at least an hour on the phone everyday with my oldest and closest friend. I don’t want to go too deep in respect to the family, but he was an addict who struggled most of his adult life with drugs and alcohol. I, too, have had my issues with substances in my life, but many of our discussions last year dealt with his battles of addiction and what he learned in treatment programs. He was the strongest and most beautiful person I’ve ever known, and sadly he passed last winter. We had an extremely deep connection, and I miss him very much. I think this song will always be a difficult one for me now.
This song is about dependence, but more so the withdrawal process of any kind—may it be a person, a drug, a place, anything you grow accustomed to that’s hard to part with.
I grew up surrounded by a lot of religious people. Not my own family much, we didn’t go to church or anything. But I ended up living with my first girlfriend’s family in high school and they were very Catholic. I mean, church twice a week, priests coming over for lunch—all that. I actually ended up playing guitar for weddings and a few masses. My hometown of Midland, Ontario is also where one of the oldest shrines in Canada was erected, the Martyr’s Shrine. I worked there one summer when I was 19 and my job was to clean the church itself, and there was the skull of John de Brebeuf in a fancy gold case that I had to polish once in a while. I’ve always had a major interest in theology, and this song explores that curiosity.
This is another theology-inspired track, which isn’t hard to uncover when listening. It’s a song about fathers, but it’s also a song about divorce. Many people I grew up with had divorced parents. I still remember the night my father left my mom. I was five years old. This song is an ode to that moment.
There was a brief period of time a couple years back where I experienced sleep paralysis quite often. It was actually quite horrific and would lead to insomnia. The feeling of being trapped and watched in a dream-like state. When I wrote this song I think I was trying to access some sort of remedy I guess? I’m not entirely sure, but it was definitely a response to those experiences. All of my songs deal with heaven or hell. If they exist or not isn’t a problem of mine or ours, but it’s the most influential flux for any artist to include or mostly exonerate.
9. “Found Footage”
All of the voice recordings on this album are from this old VHS video someone from my hometown put up on YouTube from our local high school in the ’90s. This song features my favourites from it. This song also features a lovely guitar solo from my close friend Finn from the band Dresser, who also plays in my live band here in Montreal.
10. “Leaving Song”
When I started writing the melody for the vocals on this song I wasn’t sure what I was writing about at first, but I bounced the unfinished song to my phone and listened on a long walk and realized that I was writing it from a father’s perspective of protecting his children from the dangers of the world. A lullaby mentioning “monsters” or “wolves at the door” coming at your family and reminding your kin that you would do anything to make them leave. This is also a continuum of my “song” songs like “Cold Song,” “Warm Song,” and now “Leaving Song.”
I wrote this song with a hangover on my last tour after seeing a lot of crosses and memorials on highways. I remembered also reading about a newlywed couple dying in a car accident pretty directly after they were married; looking back now it was a strange thing to just write about in a van with a bunch of people with headphones on, but touring is actually a hard and vigorous process and your time in the van can be used as a social time, or a productive time. I suspect I’ll start writing a lot more whenever, and if ever, I tour again.
This song was started and finished in one day toward the end of the entire year-long-ish process of making the album. I sonically wanted to make something dreamy and lush to close the album, but also have it lyrically incorporate some dark images of judgement or atonement, but ultimately finding a way out of that tunnel. It felt like an ending to me. I also sampled some jets that I played with and added some strings to make a more cinematic effect—that was fun as hell.