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Claiming he’s “the worst athlete on the face of the planet,” it’s a good thing Wakey!Wakey! frontman Mike Grubbs had a burgundy baby grand to wail on instead, the centerpiece of a Partridge-like music room that also housed a French horn, clarinet, violin and autoharp. Grubbs started climbing scales and chords here when he was 5. Back then, his mother—a longtime piano teacher and choir director—would ask the kids to sight read songs before they could even think of eating cereal.
It was much like a game to Grubbs, until the “game” got much more complicated when he stumbled upon the songbooks of Billy Joel and Elton John. Not to mention the arena-ready anthems of Led Zeppelin.
Before Grubbs could tap his true voice through a string of buzz-stirring Wakey!Wakey! releases on Family Records (two live LPs, a free collection of covers and last spring’s War Sweater EP), the following dues were paid: a totally ‘90s bar gig aimed at pint-slamming college kids; a rock band best described by its beard quotient and Black Crowes nods (Satellite Kid); and two touring musicals (Brigadoon, Camelot).
Wakey!Wakey! made their presence known over the past couple years by finding a perfect balance between crowd-pleasing pop and art-damaged indie rock. Grubbs is known for slapping his piano around and singing like his life depends on it while conducting a rich backdrop of sweeping strings, heavenly harmonies, and enough delicate details to make Wakey!Wakey!’s first proper LP feel like an Oscar-nominated film soundtrack.