Wintry Enchantment: Michael Skib Chronicles a Spiritual Quest for Truth on “This Bewitching Season” Album


Michael Skib wears a black tank top and holds an electric guitar.

Michael Skib features the hypnotic sounds of progressive rock, heavy metal, and shoegaze on This Bewitching Season. Photo by Alex Hancock.

For Michael Skib, winter brings a sense of enchantment.

The Ann Arbor singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer feels most creative during the darkest and quietest time of the year.

“It’s the best time for reflection, introspection, and creation because I’m not going to be out and about,” said Skib, who’s also half of the electronic-experimental duo Mirror Monster.

“I do find myself wanting to try and capture the melancholy that I feel because snow and darkness are beautiful. Those are the reasons why I’m drawn toward this type of music.”

That beautiful melancholy is woven throughout Skib’s latest album, This Bewitching Season, which features the hypnotic sounds of progressive rock, heavy metal, and shoegaze.

“I’m a seasonal person in the sense that there are different types of music that I listen to in different types of seasons,” he said. “I’m very sensitive to the way my environment impacts [my writing].”

Alongside those seasonal influences, Skib chronicles a spiritual quest for truth, peace, redemption, and salvation across the album’s nine tracks. His candid lyrics, ethereal vocals, and fearless instrumentation entice listeners to vicariously accompany him on his journey.

“One of my goals with this album was to reconnect with myself … and honor the experiences and where I came from and how I became the person that I am today,” said Skib, who’s inspired by Opeth and Devin Townsend

“I’ve done a lot of therapy, and one of the therapeutic practices that I found to be very helpful is to go back to your younger years and see situations you were put in.”

I recently spoke to Skib about his background, previous projects, the album’s religious themes, select tracks, his creative process for the album, and upcoming plans for new material.

Q: How did you get involved in music while growing up in Ann Arbor? At what age did you start singing, playing different instruments, and writing songs?
A: My first exposure to music was through singing in church every Sunday growing up and then through an elementary school music program I had when I was about nine. I started playing the violin in fifth grade and enjoyed it enough that I played it through middle school and high school. As my musical tastes changed, I became interested in learning new instruments and started playing bass when I was about 15.

My tastes were all over the place growing up—from reggae to classic rock to video game music. In middle school, I became an obsessive heavy-metal kid. It started with Metallica and then grew into a quest to find the next heaviest thing I could get my hands on. I also started downloading guitar tablature, reading it, and seeing how all of the chords were spelled out. 

Then, I would start writing stuff in guitar tablature, and that’s how I started writing music. Opeth was a big influence, and I remember downloading Opeth tabs and looking at them. I would write stuff that looked like that and then play it, and it would all be in MIDI, but that’s how I figured out how to write things that I liked the sound of.

Q: How did your musical journey progress from there and lead you to study music composition at Earlham College?
A: At age 17 or 18, I got a guitar and started trying to play stuff. I started recording my own music around that time, too. That was the only reason why I learned guitar was because I wanted to record my own stuff. In college, as I began to study music, the desire to find the heaviest, most intense music I could find ended, and the pendulum quickly swung the other way into jazz, classical, and indie rock. I learned a ton about classical music there … and I studied that a lot. I started to get a sense of art history, too, because I’m a pretty introspective person. I like to think about what I like and why I like it. Art history can help inform you about what was going on in the world that made some of these musical pieces happen and what’s happening right now in the world that’s making you do what you want to do.

Q: After college, you moved back to Ann Arbor and worked with other bands. How did those experiences help shape you as an artist, songwriter, and musician?
A: As obsessed as I was with music and as much as I wanted music to be part of my life, I was still a little scared of pursuing it full-time. I immediately started looking for groups to play with … I connected with some folks, and we had a band called The Paths.

We did that for a couple of years, and that was a great opportunity for me. At that point, I started doing more production stuff and learning more about electronics and mixing. I did something completely new … and my role in the band was playing keyboards and synthesizers and adding ambiance to everything. The first [project] I produced and mixed was our debut EP, Carried by Crows. At a certain point, we naturally lost focus and momentum … it’s just one of those things that happens.

Then I just went searching for other bands to produce and record. I worked with The Static Dial on their Audio Nomad album and played some shows with them. It was a great learning experience for me. … That was nine years ago, and I’ve grown so much since then.

Q: In 2019, you released your debut solo album, The Cat Lazer Project. What role did that album play in your musical evolution?
A: I disappeared off the face of the earth a couple of years after that. I had some stuff going on that took my attention away from music, but I would dabble on things in the background. I never stopped making music in my spare time and kept learning new skills. The album was something that I had built inside of me. I had done smaller, personal releases in the past, but they weren’t of that scale before. They were smaller, cinematic, ambient, experimental pieces. Ever since 2019, I’ve been a lot more musically active and have done different projects that I’ve enjoyed.

QThis Bewitching Season represents a spiritual struggle between light and darkness. What inspired these personal and religious themes on the album? How did writing this album help you reconcile the past and embrace the future?
A: Growing up, [going to mass] was something that we did every Sunday. At a certain point, when I was 15, I refused to go to church one day and thought, “This isn’t for me. I don’t believe any of the stuff that I’m saying.” Being based in any sort of spiritual tradition and believing on some fundamental level things beyond the material world that we see with our eyes and with our senses did stick with me. It’s something I still feel, and I think about my relationship with spirituality a lot, and I write about it a lot.

I grew up feeling ashamed and embarrassed about things … and at this point in my life, I can look back at that and think, “Well, the reason why I acted this way that I’m ashamed of now is because I didn’t know any better. I was doing the best that I could, my father was doing the best that he could, and my mother was doing the best that she could.” We’re all just people trying to survive this crazy, confusing, chaotic world. I’m trying to give myself some grace as much as I can for things that I feel guilty or shameful about.

The best possible outcome would be if people listened to [the album] and felt a sense of camaraderie or commiseration in the fact that we are all struggling with demons. We want to survive, but we want to feel good, and we want to feel recognized and seen for everything that we bring to the table as humans. I want people to listen to it, and at the end of the day, feel like others are in the same boat as they are. We see each other, and we get through it by acknowledging and sharing the burden.

Q: The title track serves as a plea for strength, growth, truth, and survival. How did writing that track help you face your own struggles?
A: It’s a letter to myself observing myself as I’ve wandered aimlessly through life. I feel like I’m floating on a sea of desires, wishes, hopes, and dreams … and I’m not very good at making goals and chasing any specific thing.

Along with the reference to the time of year that I was writing it, which was winter, I think there are references to self-deception or the lies we tell ourselves to make it through every day. To some extent, it’s also based on the stories that we tell ourselves depending on how we want to feel. It’s a backward reasoning that we use to survive.

Q: “Heaven’s Light” addresses learning from past mistakes and embarks on a path of spiritual forgiveness. How was writing this track cathartic for you? How did it help you find peace and prompt you to move forward?
A: The lyrics for most of it were very unconscious. When I’m writing music, I’ll write the chord structure and some melodies first, and then after that I come up with vocal parts. And oftentimes, when I’m writing vocal parts, I’ll sing a collection of words and whatever comes out. Those are just the words that I had sung the first time, and I thought, “That kinda works.” I don’t need to dress it up; it’s straightforward, and there are references to feeling disconnected from spiritual tradition or faith. There’s also indecision and feeling like there’s a lot of darkness or a sense that you’re destined to fail no matter what you do.

Q: The two short instrumental interludes, “07/07/2020” and “12/23/2021,” address specific points in time. What’s significant to you about those two dates? How do they help chronicle the album’s musical journey for you?
A: Those dates are just the days that I wrote those pieces. They give me a reference point of when I can remember and picture exactly what that day was like. It’s a musical diary for me. I was able to create this piece that I found to be emotionally significant in some way, and it anchors onto some emotion that I processed.

The first one, “07/07/2020,” was during an insane thunderstorm that day, and I felt inspired by that. The other one, “12/23/2021,” was a spooky winter track—I think it might have been foggy on that day.

Q: “This Fire” accepts the religious consequences that come from committing sinful acts. How did writing this track bring you a sense of freedom and redemption?
A: It’s not an autobiographical song, and the lyrics are more abstract, but it draws from being raised in the Catholic faith. It raises questions about faith and punishment. I was imagining a charismatic leader character who was saying all of these horrible things and suffering all of this pain to get what they want ... and then they’ll be redeemed. It also relates to cults, and I think cults are fascinating. You can see it as somebody being told that they need to suffer and that they need to torture themselves … to get a sense of relief.

Q: “Xenolith” is a haunting, ethereal electric guitar-driven instrumental mixed with pulsating drums and electronic soundscapes. What inspired this instrumental’s powerful and emotive sound?
A: Honestly, I have such a mixed relationship with that track. I almost didn’t include it on the album because it feels so different from everything else to me. It doesn’t even belong in the same group as these other tracks. … It’s more cinematic in scope, and it makes me think about an epic journey. From a compositional standpoint, a lot of stuff on the album is much more verse-chorus than I typically do. The structure is going to be all over the place, and I want to free myself from as many constraints as I can and focus on building layers.

Q: You wrote the nine tracks for This Bewitching Season from 2019 to 2024. How did these tracks evolve during that time? Did you initially write all of these tracks to compile them on an album?
A: The oldest track is “Heaven’s Light,” which I wrote in 2019, and “This Fire” is the most recent one. That one I wrote while I was producing the album. … I had a couple of ideas floating around in my head musically. And I started writing, and I kept writing and writing, and it was one of those things where it spilled out of me all at once. I thought, “OK, this song has to be part of it.”

The album idea only came together in the winter of 2022. I had a set of four or five songs that I thought were pretty good. I was doing other production and mixing projects for folks, and I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to think about it. That winter, I bought a new guitar, and I started writing again, and I thought, “Oh my god, this guitar!” It’s one of those things you learn about production as you get closer to realizing exactly what you like about certain sounds and pieces of equipment. The guitar is a seven-string with these EMG active pickups … and it’s so much closer to what I want to sound like than anything I’ve ever played before. I wrote half of the material on it that winter.

Q: How long did you spend recording the nine tracks for This Bewitching Season?
A: This was all recorded at home and it took two months on and off since I work full-time. It was a couple of hours here and a couple of hours there. The drums are samples, so I didn’t have to record any of the drums, and I focused on the parts that were most important to me.

Q: How did you come to meet co-producer Kate Wakefield of Lung? How did Kate help you shape your vocals as well as the album’s overall sound?
A: We both went to Community High School … and have kept in touch over the years. During the pandemic, I asked Kate if she would be willing to give me vocal lessons. She said, “Yes, we gotta do it by Skype because it’s a pandemic.” And I said, “As long as that works for you,” and so we did. It taught me a lot about how to use my voice, and I was thinking when it came time to record, “I want to make the vocals sound as good as they should, and that I have to work with somebody.”

I have no vocal training except for what Kate gave me. I would record and have her on Zoom at the same time. She gave me so many ideas about how to hold myself, how to stay loose, what kind of energy things might have, and exercises to warm up to … everything. She is a fantastic teacher, a great vocalist, and a great human. I hope she does more producing in the future because she’s quite good at it. As for the harmonies, that wasn’t even something that I asked for. She said, “I want to put some harmonies on this because I hear some things.” On “Asleep Inside the Arms of the Trees,” she did this whole four-layer opera harmony stuff that’s deep in the background in one section. She also sings harmonies on “Heaven’s Light.”

Q: What’s up next for you? Any plans to write, record, and release new material solo or with Mirror Monster? What about plans to collaborate with other artists on their projects?
A: David [Minnix] and I are working on new Mirror Monster stuff, and we’re planning to release a couple of tracks at a time that pair well together. I’m working on solo stuff, too, and I have a project in the pipeline right now. … I’ll be releasing at least two things in the next year. I’ve also been working with Riley Bean on some new Beanstalk material.

Lori Stratton is a library technician, writer for Pulp, and writer and editor of