My Pet Dragon are Todd Michaelsen (Vocals, guitar, trumpet, keys) and Reena Shah (Vocals, percussion, guitar, keys, dance.) Together, the duo cranks out upbeat rock and roll songs that are reminiscent to the 90’s. Currently based in New Jersey, Michaelsen took some time out of his schedule to fill us in with news on a new record, memorable band moments and plans for the future.
Vintage Grind: When did My Pet Dragon (MPD) form and how long have you been together?
Todd Michaelsen: My Pet Dragon was formed in 2006 after Reena and I came back from India. I had wanted to start my own outlet for my songwriting and was inspired to get to it.
VG: How would you describe your sound to those who aren’t familiar with your music?
TM: I’d say we are melodic and high energy rock pop music. Our music has lots of vocals and ethereal elements. And for lack of a better word, I think we have a lot of “heart.” We want to be ourselves and play what we like. I don’t care what style it is as long as the emotion of the lyric comes through.
VG: What have been your most memorable moments since the band started?
TM: When we filmed our music video for “Moonshine.” We always have good shows in Albany, NY because I grew up about an hour north of there and I have tons of friends and family still in the area. The energy of the crowd was absolutely amazing. People were bouncing up and down and freaking out, singing all the words. I think I even started to destroy my guitar out of joy during that set. That is some rock n’ roll cliché shit I never do, but the energy was just beautiful and mighty!
VG: Your latest album, “Mountains and Cities” came out in 2011. What was the inspiration for the album?
TM: “Mountains and Cities” has songs that span a 3 or 4 year era for me. I was finding myself and trying different styles. I still felt like a country boy living in the big city. I wanted my music to adapt to what I was hearing living in Brooklyn. There are elements of the electronic music and art rock stuff I was hearing all around me but the 90’s rock of my youth was still shining through. Every song on that album was a different moment and a different learning experience. I’m in a much different place now but I do look back on the album fondly.
VG: What artists/bands are you listening to currently?
TM: I love the new Cat Power record called “Sun”. I think the world of her as a singer, and as an artist. The new Jim James solo record is fantastic as well. I’m also going back listening to the remasters of The Smashing Pumpkins “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” record. That is the album that turned me on to music as an art form. Been getting back into Miles Davis again lately, and I’m very excited to hear the new Atoms for Peace record.
VG: Are you working on any new material for a new album?
TM: This winter I had a bit of a manic breakthrough and wrote the seeds of about 20 new songs. I’m still trying to figure out the instrumentation but I’m hearing lots of acoustic guitars, trumpets, and simple electronic loops and pulses under them. I’m very excited to head into a new direction. The new songs are uplifting and positive but still have a bittersweet melancholy to them.
VG: Do you plan on going on tour any time soon?
TM: Our next step will be a scaled down acoustic tour with electronics and loops. I’m excited about stripping things down and trying something new. We are planning some shows in India and London in the spring. We have a residency at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City in April. We are probably going to make our way to the west coast soon after that.
VG: What are your goals for the upcoming year?
TM: Our goals are to play music in a very positive, organic, and relaxed way. I want to savor every moment and really enjoy and take in the process of recording the songs and then playing those same songs live. There was so much pressure I used to put on my shoulders and I was admittedly trying to fight things that were out of my control. I can only do so much with my voice and my songs. I am what I am and I’m comfortable in the songwriter that I’m becoming. Obviously every musician wants to be heard by as many people as possible but now its time to be smart about how we do business.