I sat down with Michael Santana of Cafe Racer right before the band took off for a mini-tour through Detroit, Cincinnati, and Nashville. Santana has been in the garage rock scene for a few years now, which has allowed him to forge a myriad of connections. The band itself seems to have formed through the relationships Santana builds. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Santana as a member of a Chicago super-group in the future.
I was able to talk with him about the band’s newly released debut album and what’s next for the band.
Rose Blanton: Let’s just start off with how Café Racer became a band.
Michael Santana: When I stopped being able to write songs for Gross Pointe, I moved onto a new musical venture. I started Café Racer with my buddy Adam Schubert. He would always come to Gross Pointe shows and we would always talk about playing music together, so after the demise of Gross Pointe we just kind of started. The rest of the band just kind of fell together. I didn’t really have to try to find anyone. One of our other guitarists, Tommy Noir, actually plays for a band called Jollys that I had a short stint in.
RB: Sounds like a pretty serendipitous beginning. How long did you and the band work on this debut album for? What was the recording process like?
MS: A couple of months. I recorded some of the songs myself and then added the instruments to it. Three-fourths of the records was played live in the studio. That’s really how I like to record. We really knocked it out in, like, two days in the studio. Then there were some sporadic mixing and mastering sessions. The recording process was really fast. We’re actually already in the pre-production phase of the second record. I just want to constantly be shoving records out.
RB: Where was the album recorded?
MS: Public House Sound recording. The engineer’s name is Dave Vettraino. He’s an awesome engineer; he’s recorded pretty much everything I’ve ever done. He’s done a lot of my friends’ bands as well, like Son of a Gun and NE-HI. He’s a great person to work with.
RB: Do you want to work with him on the next record?
MS: We’re going to self-record our next record. We share a practice space with this band Glyders, and they have some equipment we’re going to use.
RB: How did you guys end up releasing through Dumpster Tapes Records?
MS: Long-time friends. Since I’ve been a part of the garage rock scene, they have, as well.
RB: Do they literally just release tapes?
MS: Yeah. They released one vinyl for Flesh Panthers with help from Tall Pat Records, but other than that, just tapes.
RB: Do you think it’s hard to release just tapes? I mean, who has a tape player these days?
MS: I mean, other than vinyl, people purchase that format more than any other. I’ve had great experiences with tapes and it’s a good avenue to use with record companies and blogs. Plus, when you buy the tape from Dumpster, you get a download code for an MP3.
RB: You mentioned you’re already in the pre-production phase for the next record…
MS: Yeah, we have a lot of songs that are ready to be recorded we just need to find the time. It can be hard because there are six of us. Even practices can be hard; sometimes it’s just on a whim. Sometimes it feels like we play more than we practice.
With recording, though, I like to do everything live, so it works. It’s a good experience. We’ve also added a keyboardist since the last record, Andrew Harper. With the next record, we’re looking to make a more complex, intricate sound. Tone down the guitars a bit.
You can catch Café Racer August 24 at the Whistler for CHIRP night and September 29 at the Hideout.
Cover image by Alex Mott.