A veteran of the L.A. psychedelic scene, Michael Collins turned the trippiness down to a slow boil for his Drugdealer project. Built around his smooth keyboard playing and plangent soft rock melodies, the band sought to re-create the laid-back sound and vibe of Laurel Canyon of the ’70s, while also sounding as technically pure as a studio full of session players. Two albums recorded in the late 2010s (The End of Comedy and Raw Honey) combined Collins’ songwriting and producing skills with his knack for rounding up interesting collaborators like Weyes Blood and Ariel Pink. Tim Presley and Kate Bollinger were among the guests on the project’s third LP, 2022′s Hiding in Plain Sight.
Collins first became known while playing under the name Run DMT, a lo-fi psychedelic project started in 2009 that released a couple of albums before being sued by an EDM band of the same name. After changing the project’s name to Salvia Plath, Collins took a folkier, more layered approach on the 2013 album The Bardo Story. With Drugdealer, he changed directions again, looking to the singer/songwriters of the early ’70s and soft rock pioneers like Harry Nilsson and Steely Dan for inspiration. The band’s 2016 album, The End of Comedy, was pieced together from sessions that spanned a nearly-four-year period and released by Weird World in September. On it, Collins invited many guests to contribute including Ariel Pink, Natalie Mering (aka Weyes Blood), Danny James, members of Mild High Club, and Jackson MacIntosh of Sheer Agony. Collins assembled a live band to play shows over the next few years as he painstakingly wrote and recorded another album. Working with a core group of musicians (guitarist Benjamin Schwab, vocalist Sasha Winn, drummer Josh Da Costa, and bassist/co-producer Shags Chamberlain) in a variety of studio settings, Raw Honey came together slowly but surely as Collins doubled down on the soft rock sound and feel of the debut. Guest vocalists this time were Mering again, country crooner Dougie Poole, and fellow L.A. pop revivalist Harley Hill-Richmond (of Harley and the Hummingbirds), while MacIntosh and brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario of the Lemon Twigs also helped out. The record was released by Mexican Summer in April of 2019. The same label issued Drugdealer’s equally collaborative third long-player, October 2022′s Hiding in Plain Sight. Recorded at no less than nine locations, its many contributors included featured singers Tim Presley, Kate Bollinger, and Sean Nicholas Savage, while players like MacIntosh, CMON’s Josh Da Costa, and Video Age also joined in on select tracks. ~ Tim Sendra