Telekinesis is the name of Seattle’s own Michael Benjamin Lerner and his soft-spoken, incredibly charming indie-rock solo act. Since his 2009 self-released debut EP, Lerner has garnered a reputation for himself blending 80’s pop sensibilities with mellowed-out vocal stylings, a tried and true dynamic in which Lerner has managed to carve out and firmly establish his own unique sound. Don’t be fooled by the crunchy guitars and upbeat melodies however, Lerner’s songwriting at times reflects a much darker attitude than initially suspected. His latest album, Dormarion, which he recorded with Spoon drummer Jim Eno in in Austin, TX, is due out April 2 on Merge Records. Lerner, representing the rare breed of drummer/vocalists, was joined by fellow Pacific Northwest artists Erik Walters, Eric Elbogen and Rebecca Cole at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop for a live broadcast from our third day at SXSW.
As you’d expect, drums were the focus of the stage, but not the focus of the sound. From start to finish, the set was accompanied by smiles and dancing, exchanged jokes, and discussions of tacos. “It feels just like we’re in Seattle,” Lerner remarked with a grin, “but with better tacos!” As they kicked off their set with “Coast of Carolina,” Cole was dancing at the keyboard. They played straight through the next couple of songs from their solidly pop-rock repertoire. By the time Lerner launched into “Dirty Thing,” he was sweaty despite the coolness of the room. Throughout, the set was energetic and energizing to everyone watch. To close, Telekinesis rounded out the set with a cover of “Don’t Change” by INXS, lending the song their strong indie sensibility, before launching into an ecstatic version of “Tokyo.”