Mikey's Imaginary Friends

When: 9 pm Wednesday, July 3, following the Downtown Art Walk
Where: Swagsonville, 109 E. Bay St.
Cost: Free
Info: jacksonvilleartwalk.com and swagsonville.com

“Rectangles dominate people’s lives,” says Jacksonville-based musician Mikey Kettinger of Mikey’s Imaginary Friends. Televisions, smartphones, computer screens: they are simple shapes wielding not-so-simple implications, driving a cultural obsession that Kettinger freely admits permeates his own life.
This phenomenon inspired the title of his latest work, Powerful Rectangles: Part One, a short, colorful album that, while named for today’s technological reality, sounds reminiscent of 1990s acts like Harvey Danger and Pavement. Less expansive and psychedelic in sound than on previous albums, the band has taken a more melodic, minimalistic approach.
Mikey’s Imaginary Friends has seen several incarnations, but Kettinger has played regularly with drummer James McMurray for about two years. They typically perform alone, but when they clamber atop a vintage fire truck to perform at their upcoming release party, they will be joined by the guest musicians featured on the album, which was recorded locally at Warehouse Studios.
Kettinger and McMurray, both in their late 20s, say the album’s title is not a complaint about our society. They’re not the type to gripe, they insist. As a couple of laid-back guys, they’d rather communicate positivity. Yes, the “powerful rectangles” referred to in the album’s title can be harmful, they say. That’s obvious. People love to talk about how much they hate smartphones and Facebook and iPads, but “why not use the technology for a positive outcome?” Kettinger asks. “I embrace [technology]. We can sit here and complain about it, or we can learn how to use it. It can be a really good tool to let people know about good things.”
McMurray sees the band as a vehicle for reminding people not to limit themselves with cynicism. “Surround yourself with more positive people,” he says. “When you surround yourself with Debbie Downers and Negative Nancys, it’s easy to become that way, too.” “I don’t want to be infected with negativity,” Kettinger chimes in.
Kettinger, who teaches Art and P.E. to kids, has noticed there’s a certain point during youth when cynicism sets in. He believes it’s a superficial way of thinking, and the song, ‘Anthem for a Shallow Youth,’ encourages people to veer from that, he says. They aren’t snubbing younger generations or claiming superiority.
“You can be in the treehouses with me. We will see many things. Brown, blue and green. It’s in my brain for today. I hope it stays,” he sings. His lyrics tend to be abstract, but with his explanation of the song in mind, it becomes clear he wants to encourage young people to maintain – and for grown-ups to regain – a child’s sense of wonderment.
The new album is just 25 minutes long, which they think matches people’s short attention spans amid a world of “powerful rectangles.” Rather than produce one massive project, they split the tracks, and Powerful Rectangles: Part Two is set for release late this year.