Michael's blog for his late-girlfriend, love and partner, Summer Serafin. The scattershot beginnings of a memoir...
Michael is the lead guitarist, singer, composer and co-founder of NYC-based dreampop trio Bipolar Explorer. Beginning with their double-album Of Love and Loss (Slugg Records, 2012) - named to the Critics Poll of Best Albums of the Year by Ground Control Magazine who called it "the most significantly stirring and addictive musical accomplishment we've come across in some time - taut, emotional, urgent and altogether haunting" - through 2018's Sometimes in Dreams - praised as "epic and affecting" (Surface Noise) and cited by France's Indiemusic as "unforgettable and essential - a major record" - the band has released eight albums on Slugg Records. Their latest, Til Morning Is Nigh, released November 23, 2018 and was immediately hailed as "dreamlike, luminous and enchanting" by France's Les Oreilles Curieuses. Les Oreilles Curieusers, in the same feature, named Sometimes in Dreams a favorite of 2018 releases, going on to describe it as "Celestial and spell-bounding compositions alternating between spoken word and emotional flights of lyricism, astounding us with beauty. Brilliant, luminous and cathartic. Puts shoegaze back into a state of grace"
Til Morning Is Nigh, Sometimes in Dreams, Dream Together, Electric Hymnal, Angels, and Of Love and Loss are all albums of, for and about Bipolar Explorer's fallen bandmate and co-founder, Michael's love and partner, Summer Serafin (who passed away in 2011 after a tragic accident). Summer appears on every album as Michael reworks her isolated vocal tracks into new material. Proceeds from each record are marked for the memorial fund in Summer's name at The University of Minnesota Medical Foundation.
Michael is also co-founder of Bipolar Explorer's sister band, Tremosphere, who release their debut album, Interiors, on February 15, 2019.
MORE ABOUT BIPOLAR EXPLORER:
Their seventh album, Sometimes in Dreams (2018) hailed as "Brilliant, luminous, cathartic - astounding us with beauty" by Les Oreilles Curieuses and as "epic and affecting" by Surface Noise, their sixth album, Dream Together (2017), praised by France’s Indiemusic as “magical and majestic - an ultimate tour-de-force”, their double-album, Of Love and Loss (2013) - "The most significantly stirring and addictive musical accomplishment we've come across in some time. Taut, emotional, urgent and altogether haunting” - and its follow-up, Angels (2015) - “Electrifying, what music fueled by raw love and emotions sounds like” - each a Critics Pick for Best Albums of the Year by Ground Control Magazine, Bipolar Explorer are an NYC-based dreampop, post-rock group founded by Summer Serafin (vocals) and Michael Serafin-Wells (lead guitar & vocals, bass, synth, organ, melodica, tape loops and percussion), notable for intimate, electric live performances, unimpeachable songwriting, uncompromising DIY ethos and their playing without drums.
The band's newest album, their eighth, Til Morning is Nigh, was released on Slugg Records on November 23, 2018 and immediately hailed as "dreamlike, luminous and enchanting" by France's Les Oreilles Curieuses..
Featured on the legendary Irene Trudel's show on WFMU ("America's best radio station" - Rolling Stone) who calls their sound "beautiful, great drifty pop, filled with sadness and wonder”, Til Morning is the band's follow up to their celebrated seventh album, Sometimes in Dreams - "Unforgettable and essential. This is a major record" (Indiemusic -France), reaching the #19 position of WFMU’s album charts in May 2018 and entering the top 200 of the North America College and Community Radio (NACC) listings, prompting a Wikipedia page about the band to appear.
A 23-track dreamscape of shoegaze, dreampop and spoken word underscored by post-rock guitar, Til Morning is Nigh features both new compositions and new instrumentation (organ, synth, melodica)… and new voices - joining band co-founders Summer and Michael Serafin-Wells is Sylvia Solanas. Originally from the south of France, Ms Solanas voices spoken word in French on the new album and is a co-founder, with Michael, of the band's brand new sibling in dreampop, Tremosphere, who themselves will release a debut album early in 2019.
Work on Til Morning Is Nigh had just begun late in April 2018, when Michael was hit by a car while on foot in NYC (on the day before his birthday), awaking in the ER with serious injuries. Then, two weeks later as he was initially released, collapsed on the sidewalk outside of the hospital, in Sylvia’s arms. Terrified, she screamed for help and texted Summer’s dad, an MD, who replied immediately in all caps: “pulmonary embolism”. Rushed back into Trauma, his heart stopped for a full ten minutes. Usually fatal, it’s something of a miracle he is still with us - returned and guarded by angels on both sides of the divide.
The new record, a dream bridging that very chasm, echoes those moments between worlds. Like a late night broadcast from a distant radio transmitter drifting to us as we lay half asleep in the midwinter twilight. The album’s bilingual spoken word mirrors this, too. The dreamy instrumentation and largely French spoken word, sprinkled with whispery English phrases drifting periodically just above, like familiar little twinklings in the night sky, helping us know our bearings. As angels (Michael’s and our own), both celestial and earthly, envelop us with love and protection.
Recorded, mixed and produced by the band at The Shrine in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, Til Morning Is Nigh is the band's eighth album overall and their fourth in just the span of twenty-eight months.
The interweaving of spoken word into the band’s work was explained by Serafin-Wells recently in conversation with USC filmmaker, Alexandra Dennis-Renner, who is making a documentary, "Sonic Prayer", about the band.“The idea of a female voice, a spoken word narrator - like in a novel or off-camera in a film - came to mind, to tell the story in tandem with the band. We’re enormously romantic about radio”, Serafin-Wells continues. “I can’t tell you how much we’ve been immersed in the work of ambient masters like Stars of the Lid as I’ve written and we’ve recorded these last four albums. I really see that as our template going forward, the album itself, an uninterrupted flow of sound taking you somewhere and really both audio document and the performance of its composition all in one.”
Forging an unique sound - described variously as shoegaze, dreampop, slowcore, post-rock and minimalist indie - well serves the new songs Serafin-Wells began writing in the aftermath of the tragic loss of the group's female vocalist, Michael's love and partner, Summer Serafin, who passed away after a tragic accident in 2011. She was just 31. At work at the time on a new record, the group eventually returned to those recordings, adding them to a handful of newly written songs post-tragedy and re-conceiving the album as both a testament and tribute to Ms. Serafin – muse, collaborator and True Love - yielding a double-album, Of Love and Loss, released to great acclaim in October 2012.
As Michael told Indiemusic’s Raphael Duprez in a feature about the band (February 2017): “All of this is entirely for her. I often say that our music, each album, is of, for and about her. It’s my way of telling people about her and talking to her myself. That’s the “for’ and “about” parts of the equation. And Summer remains an integral part of the band - not only as its inspiration but, because I have lots of her isolated vocals from other recording sessions - as her voice, both spoken and singing, graces each record. I’ll write songs and fly in her voice. Summer isn’t the main reason BPX goes on, she’s the only reason. She is the reason. And I think I can trust that I’m doing things for the right reason if I always know the reason for it is her. Not out of any ambition other than to honor and conjure her. She’s my conscience."
Bipolar Explorer's releases include Til Morning Is Nigh (2018), Sometimes in Dreams (2018), Dream Together (2017), Electric Hymnal (2016), Angels (2015), their holiday album - BPXmas (2014), Of Love and Loss (2012), the digital-only singles Better Girl (2018), Watchers and Holy Ones (2017), We’ll All Go Together (2016) and Downtown Train (2015) and their earlier (pre-Summer) debut Go Negative. All titles are available on Slugg Records.
Currently at work on the first of three volumes of memoirs about his life with his late-sweetheart, Summer, Michael's writing encompasses both narrative poetry and prose, non-fiction, short stories, and, formerly, works for both the theatre and indie film. His narrative poetry often finds voice as spoken word, underscored by instrumental composition, as a recording artist with his group Bipolar Explorer. Michael is also the author of the ongoing blog, Summerlove, dedicated to the memory and in honor of his late-sweetheart Summer Serafin.
Perhaps best known for his work as a former playwright (1994-2014) his writing praised by The New York Times as "LaBute territory with fresh angles and sustained tension", Michael is a winner of The London New Play Festival, Icicle Creek Theatre Festival resident playwright, two-time finalist for the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Heideman Award, inaugural recipient of a First Light commission from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and finalist for the Verity Bargate Award at London’s Soho Theatre & Writers Centre. His plays have seen production, publication, workshops and readings in New York, London, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington, DC and elsewhere.
The first anthology of Michael's work, "Collected Plays", was released in print (Aug 2014) by indie publishers The Ginger Press. An e-book version is now also available via Amazon (for Kindle), Barnes & Noble (for Nook) and iTunes (for iBooks).
Serafin-Wells made his professional debut in New York with Real Real Gone (published by Smith & Kraus), which The Star Ledger observed “heralds a new writer with an acute sense of language and a special ability to dramatize human behavior” and Variety pronounced as “the best of the bunch - far and away – with language that laces the natural poetics of the street with erudition”.
Other works include The “I” Word: Interns (Faber & Faber), about idealistic Clinton staffers, cited by Show Business as “ripe with political savvy” and The Village Voice for “handling the Beltway lingo with brains and Shavian brio!” as well as Detail, winner of The London New Play Festival and produced in a new version in New York in June 2006.
Michael's final full-length, My Before and After, was given a two-week workshop co-produced by Seattle's ACT Theatre and the Icicle Creek Theatre Festival.
In June 2011, his one-act, Two From The Line, saw production Off-Broadway at New York's Ensemble Studio Theatre as part of their Annual Marathon of One-Act Plays. Cited by The New York Times as "La Bute territory with fresh angles and sustained tension", it was also selected for publication by Smith & Kraus for their “Best Short Plays" anthology. In July 2010 Michael adapted this work for the screen overseeing casting, rehearsals and principal photography. And in February 2011 the film version of Two From The Line took Best Screenplay and Best Film honors at the 11th SC Independent Film Festival in San Francisco.
His play, District of Columbia, set in a cooperative house on the eve of the 1988 US Presidential election, was workshopped in March 2007 at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and given a subsequent developmental reading off-West End at The Finborough in November 2007 - both under the direction of Wilson Milam.
Another full-length, Seven Pages Unsigned - in development with San Francisco’s Magic Theatre under Artistic Director, Chris Smith, received a workshop in December 2007 as one of three plays selected for “New Voices West”, a program dedicated to new works from emerging American playwrights. The play saw its European premiere in May 2010 with a workshop reading directed by Wilson Milam at London's Finborough Theatre as part of their "Vibrant" festival, curated by Finborough Artistic Director Neil McPherson in celebration of the theatre's 30th anniversary.
Michael's primary focus presently are the aforementioned volumes of the Of Love and Loss trilogy (he keeps a regular blog, Summerlove, that is the seed and online manifestation of those works in-progress) and the spoken word narrative poetry he writes for Bipolar Explorer - their work described as "seamlessly weaving shoegaze with spoken word undergirded by ambient post-rock guitar. A cross between Slowdive and the work of Laurie Anderson, like a late night post-rock radio transmission drifting across the airwaves as we lay half asleep in bed”.
Serafin-Wells is a member The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
Since the tragic passing of his love and partner, Summer Serafin, in 2011, Michael's acting appearances are now infrequent. Indeed, he finds it of little import and considers himself now retired from the profession.
From 2011-2015 a pair of rare exceptions, however, found him on stage in New York, off-B'way in 2013 as Robert Hooke in the premiere of Lucas Hnath's "Issac's Eye" - his performance celebrated by The New York Times as "deliciously sly" and featured on both NPR's "Studio 360" and "Science Friday". And most recently (November 2015), creating the role of Mick in the World Premiere of Irish playwright Bryan Delaney's The Seedbed at New Jersey Repertory Theatre.
Previously, perhaps best known as an actor for his work as Clemens (3 seasons recurring) on NBC's "Law & Order", Michael has appeared extensively in film, television and on New York and regional stages. An NYU Graduate Acting Program MFA candidate and scholarship designee, just prior to his semi-retirement Michael was seen in Patrick Link's "Sweet Forgotten Flavor", staged by Youngblood Artistic Director RJ Tolan; off-Broadway as Trotsky in "Lenin's Embalmers" with Zack Grenier; and in "Two-Handers" directed by Tony-nominee Wilson Milam. Other personal favorites have included playing 6 roles in the World Premiere of Edna O’Brien’s "Tir Na nOg" at San Francisco’s Magic Theatre, staged by Artistic Director Chris Smith and "Tilted House" directed by Mabou Mines Founder Lee Breuer, at New York’s Flea Theatre.
Indie films audiences may remember him as the lead in Fraser Bresnehan’s "Shut Yer Mouth!" and featured in Sam Henry Kass’s "The Search for One-Eyed Jimmy". Earlier in his career Off-Broadway, Michael appeared with Calista Flockhart and Liev Schreiber in Paul Weitz's "All For One", at the Manhattan Theatre Club in "Joined At The Head" (dir: Pamela Berlin) and as Wilbur Wright in Arthur Giron’s "Flight". Further New York credits include the role of Archie Landrum in the original NYC workshop of Mark Medoff's "The Homage That Follows" (with Kathleen Chalfant), Andrew in Bruce Paltrow & Tom Fontana's "1761" (with Marylouise Burke) and a brief stint in the recurring role of Reggie on ABC's daytime serial "Loving".
Among his regional credits are ten plays over four seasons with Washington, DC's Studio Theatre including his professional debut as Phil McCann in the US premiere of John Byrne's "The Slab Boys Trilogy" (Helen Hayes nominee, dir: Joy Zinoman).
Also an audiobook narrator, Michael recorded over 30 titles with the major publishing houses including Random House, Penguin, Simon and Schuster, Harper-Collins, and sadly, Audible - Amazon's notorious audiobook arm. He urges readers and audiobook enthusiasts to support the work of authors and voice artists by giving their patronage to proper publishers, especially the small and independent imprints.