Future Crooks is a long-time classic San Diego band fronted by Mike Rogers. In the early days, the band went simply by Crooks and played gigs at diy venues like It’s a Grind Cafe alongside other mainstays of the scene Weatherbox, Snuffaluffagus, and Japandi. In 2015, Future Crooks signed with Bad Timing Records and dropped “Future Crooks in Paradise,” a 26-minute ripper of snarky pop punk tunes reminiscent of Say Anything‘s “Is a Real Boy.”
The band have been mostly quiet since then, but have returned this year with a full-length album LIGHTEATER on Half Way Home Records & an appearance on the bill of Soda Bar’s 15th Anniversary party. We reached out to Mike to ask questions about the secrets behind LIGHTEATER, which he answered like a Dungeon Master for some reason. We found them very enjoyable to behold, just like LIGHTEATER!
Photo: Half Way Home
1. What were your early musical experiences like, and how did they lead you to start the band Future Crooks?
In the echoes of my earliest musical memories, my other brother would blast Metallica and ACDC in his giant red truck hurtling through time. Also, in my possession was a collection of scrolls, otherwise known as analogue cassette tapes, featuring ‘The Lion King,’ Sublime, and No Doubt. When I turned 8, I embarked on a journey across the misty mountains to Oregon, where my sibling, in his benevolence, mailed me ‘Dude Ranch’ on a disc of light. The enchantment only deepened when I stumbled upon Weezer’s Blue Album, casting a spell on my consciousness, rendering me captive to its melodic incantations for an entire lunar cycle.
2. Can you tell us about the concept or theme behind the album “LIGHTEATER” and how you came up with the title?
LIGHTEATER is a mess—a sort of kaleidoscopic narrative. However, my favorite thread involves a concept where my eldest daughter, Poppy, travels back across time to rescue me from Mr. Grim.
3. What was the creative process like during the making of this album, and how did it differ from your previous work?
LIGHTEATER is a collection of spells crafted between the solar cycles of 2014 and 2021, a mystical collaboration with other senior mages who venture into the depths of the Future Woods intermittently. Typically, I weave the song and melodies, and with the support of fellow future changers, together, we sculpt the lead guitar, drums, and bass into a chaotic audio tapestry. The gestation of each spell can vary widely, spanning from a fleeting week to the passage of an entire solar revolution. I hold no dominion over when a song concludes its metamorphosis; instead, I discern its readiness, distinguishing it from the realm of inadequacy.
4. Were there any notable collaborations or featured artists on the album, and how did those partnerships come about?
Ah, yes! Allow me to regale you with the tale of Brian from Weatherbox, a cherished and enduring companion, a Future-changer of many, many futures, must I remind you! Together, he and I wove the spells, co-creating “Boombox.” His magik, intertwined with other enchanters, contributed to the creation of additional sonnets found on LIGHTEATER, such as “Summer Thunder,” “Big Leagues,” and “Robot Boy.” Brian and I have traversed the realms over the years, a bond enduring over three-plus decades. I have known him longer than any other person. To me, Weatherbox is wondrous—perhaps my most cherished! During my studies of Magik in college, I sought to emulate Weatherbox, not intentionally, but its influence is obvious in the echoes of early Crooks songs. However, now, FUTURE Crooks has forged its own sonic existence, or so I hope. Brian is a wonderful friend and a talented mage, to say the least, and I owe him a great debt for inspiring me musically and for his contributions over the years.
5. What were the main musical and non-musical inspirations that influenced the creation of this album?
Alone in the Future Woods for all those years, I had amassed more future spells, along with ones I already possessed from 2014-16. Alas, they never left my personal computer or mind; they were trapped. Marriage and the arrival of my little clones took precedence as my financial responsibilities increased. Time Magik got pushed to the side, a casualty of my dreams, I suppose. Both of my children are my greatest influence, and in the end, I left them LIGHTEATER. I hope, in the distant future, they listen to it and think, ‘Man! Dad was pretty cool!’
6. Were there any significant challenges or obstacles you faced during the production of “LIGHTEATER,” and how did you overcome them?
Ah, yes, the creation of this tome was incredibly arduous. Most Future Changers are human, with their own complex lives, much like myself. Naturally, they have perpetually entered and exited, and so has the spirit of Crooks. Furthermore, the virus known as COVID wreaked havoc across our little blue dot, making existence exceedingly challenging for all. We began tracking LIGHTEATER in 2018-19, but then all came to a standstill once the virus emerged, leading us to essentially redo everything in 2022. The magik needed to be restored; it had sat for too long, much like bread in a pantry. Twas covered in mold and had grown hard.
7. Do you have any personal favorite tracks from the album, and if so, what makes them stand out for you?
Ah, indeed! My personal favorite spells are ‘Gloomy Sunday’ and ‘Poppy’s song!’ Another senior Crooks mage, Jordan, a communicator with whales, urged me to conjure ‘an epic’ FC spell, and ‘Gloomy Sunday’ stands as that attempt. Within its enchantments, there are passages of light dedicated to my friend Justin, who departed from Earth in 2018, and I’m truly delighted that his song resonates powerfully with the Earth and her moon. I believe he would revel in its magik.
8. What advice do you have for someone picking up a guitar for the first time?
In the realm of art or magik, there are no rules. Do what you want.
9. Any words about your performance at Soda Bar’s 15th Anniversary? What was it like playing for the first time in a while?
Ah, indeed, the time event we collectively witnessed, successfully altering the future—what a splendid memory! However, I suspect my guitar was out of tune for the majority of the set, a truly embarrassing detail. BUT fear not, for the mages of Position-are, the last White Lighter, came to the rescue. It felt like a reunion of sorts. Back, many lunar cycles ago, we once danced in the woods and performed our own fire and time rituals, and those moments stand as some of my happiest memories. The realization that the Soda Bar show has concluded is surreal; it almost feels as if it transpired 200 years ago. How wild time is!