Michael's blog for his late-girlfriend, love and partner, Summer Serafin. The scattershot beginnings of a memoir...
Michael is the multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer and co-founder of NYC-based experimental dreamscape trio Bipolar Explorer. Pronounced "holy sonic icons" by legendary BBC 3 and Soho Radio broadcaster Max Reinhardt, their work described by France’s Les Oreilles Curieuses as "celestial and spell-bounding compositions alternating between spoken word and emotional flights of lyricism, astounding us with beauty - brilliant, luminous and cathartic”, Michael and the band have released eleven albums and seven singles to date. Their latest, another double-album, is called In The Hours Left Until Dawn.
A double-album, 22 tracks over two discs and two hours, it weaves together strands of the experimental, the ambient, spoken word, field recordings sprinkled with instrumentation and shoegaze-y compositions in a kind of eclectic, deep-listening dreamscape.
By May of 2023, the new album had already made the Heavily Played Albums charts of both New York's WFMU and California's KFJC and been hailed by the UK's music zine A Closer Listen as "a sprawling suite of instrumentals, sung and spoken word. Loss permeates the music, gracing it with a tragic mystery” and Italy's White Light/White Heat as Pick of the Week. The album also enjoyed extensive play on London's Resonance FM and Montreal's CKUT, who called it, "just a gorgeous, gorgeous album" going on to say of the group that "a lot of their music has a really strong spiritual undercurrent and maybe never more evident than on this new record."
Shortly after the double-album's release, Michael sat down for interviews with both Fringes of Sound editor Lars Haur and later with legendary BBC 3 and Soho Radio broadcaster Max Reinhardt, the latter saying "The new album I think somehow breaks new ground for holy sonic icons, Bipolar Explorer, because it feels and sounds like a whole, an unstoppable beating heart that's emanating fragile sonics and thoughts and words at the fringes of consciousness and subconsciousness, sleep and waking, dream and vision." Both interviews can be heard and/or seen on this site. The Fringes of Sound interview here and Max Reinhardt's "Late Lunch Show" here - Michael's segment opens the second hour of the two hour program.
Their tenth album - Forests, Voices, Coastlines, Dreams: Recordings for The Dark Outside - is a collection of the seven experimental music pieces Michael composed and the band recorded for the UK's noted experimental radio project between 2019 and 2021. WFMU's Irene Trudel, had praise for the new record calling it “Wondrous! A great album!” and it also quickly also found airplay on both London’s Resonance FM and Soho Radio. On December 17, 2021,BBC 3 and Soho Radio broadcaster Max Reinhardt reviewed the new album on air, pronouncing it “Sublime. Maybe their finest. Brilliant. Brilliant.” European radio also picked up the album, including France’s CAMP Radio (cited by The Wire (magazine) in their 100 Essential Online Stations feature), and offered Michael and the band, in November 2021, their own monthly show. The first episode of Bipolar Explorer’s “The Other Room”, a monthly one-hour program of "experimental and ambient music, field recordings and otherness” aired on January 4th, 2022, and can be found, archived, as future broadcasts will be, on the station’s MixCloud page.
On November 13, 2020 the band released its ninth album, the double-album Deux Anges, which went on to be named to four Best Albums of the Year lists in 2020, including that of the legendary BBC and Soho Radio broadcaster, Max Reinhardt, who pronounced the album “shimmering”, going on to say, “there is hauntology at work, hauntology right in the center of their work.”
The release of Deux Anges prompted California’s groundbreaking KFJC to devote a three hour broadcast to the band in late September, looking back at the group’s previous albums from 2012’s Of Love and Loss, 2015’s Angels (both Ground Control Magazine Albums of the Year), 2016’s Dream Together and 2018’s Sometimes in Dreams (both cited by France’s Indiemusic as “magical and majestic - a tour-de-force” and “unforgettable and essential - a major record”), 2018’s Til Morning Is Nigh and the band’s more experimental music recordings for the UK’s The Dark Outside.
All of the band’s work - as cited in the Slugg Records documentary about the making of the band’s eighth album, Til Morning Is Nigh - is 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. “She’s our soul, she’s my compass,” he says.
Michael is also multi-instrumentalist and co-founder, with Sylvia Solanas of Bipolar Explorer's sister band, Tremosphere, whose debut album, Interiors, was released in 2019.
MORE ABOUT BIPOLAR EXPLORER:
Bipolar Explorer are an NYC-based experimental dreampop trio featuring Summer Serafin (vocals, spoken word), Michael Serafin-Wells (guitars, vocals, bass, organ, synth, melodica, tape loops, percussion, spoken word) and Sylvia Solanas (spoken word - English/French).
The signature interweaving of spoken word into the band’s work is described by the UK’s Norman Records as “a cross between Slowdive and Laurie Anderson - a late night radio transmission drifting to us, half asleep in bed”.
Forging an unique sound well serves the new songs Serafin-Wells began writing after the tragic loss of his partner, BPX co-founder, Summer Serafin, who passed away in 2011, just 31.
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. Summer remains an integral part of the band - not only as its inspiration but, because I have an archive of her isolated tracks, her vocals grace each new album as I 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 In the Hours Left Until Dawn (2023), Forests, Voices, Coastlines, Dreams: Recordings for The Dark Outside (2021), Deux Anges (2020), 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 eleven:eleven (2020), The Dark Outside, The Light Within (2019), 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.