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Reacting to ‘radiopassive:’ Behind a Notre Dame artist’s newest release

| Monday, April 26, 2021

Maggie Klaers | The Observer

Michael Hanisch is perhaps best known around campus for his frequent Thursday night performances at Acousticafé or for his 2020 performance of Radiohead’s “Creep” at the “Keenan Revue.”

A self-taught guitarist and pianist, Hanisch began writing songs about three years ago. For Hanisch, songwriting is somewhat of a therapeutic art form.

“You get out on paper a lot of things you need to get out,” he explained, adding that the songwriting process involves “getting out that nasty stuff that needs to come out and trying to turn it into something beautiful.”

“I kind of started and never stopped,” Hanisch said with regard to his level of enthusiasm for the craft. “I play all the time. It’s something I have to do. I don’t want to say I’m addicted but it’s kind of like a drug, I feel off when I don’t play.”

Now a Notre Dame sophomore with a few years of writing experience under his belt, Hanisch recently released his newest album, “radiopassive.”

Its title is a pun on the word “radioactive,” Hanisch’s album explores his experiences with love in high school, a period during which Hanisch said “[he] kind of just let things happen to [him]” and “was generally a very passive person.” The progression of the album’s narrative mirrors the trajectory one takes when falling in love and ultimately being rejected. In the first three songs of the album— “Boat Shoes,” “Stupid Together” and “IJWKY” (“I Just Wanna Kiss You”) — Hanisch masterfully portrays the innocence and infatuation characteristic of new romance. In “Boat Shoes,” Hanisch enters the headspace of someone with a new crush: he’s nervous, according to the song’s lyrics, but feels as though he can talk to this girl anyway. “Stupid Together,” according to Hanisch, is meant to be “more upbeat,” to evoke the feeling of “that first step, [when] you’re at a party and kind of forgetting about inhibitions and having fun in the moment.”

Hanisch considers the album’s third song, “IJWKY,” to be “the love song” of “radiopassive.” Indeed, the truly genuine nature of Hanisch’s lyrics is striking: by his own account, the artist himself “thought the lyrics were really cheesy and corny and didn’t want to have to name the song that.” However, he added that “all the lyrics [he] wrote in that were true and [he] didn’t want to change it to sound cooler,” perhaps suggesting that part of the song’s authenticity lies in its relative corniness. As Hanisch put it, the song “really captures [his] feelings.”

The tone of the album shifts dramatically from a romanticized first love to “rejection in the worst possible way” in “Bleeding Ink.”

In explanation for this change, Hanisch explained, “a lot of the songs are me trying to guess what was going through her mind.” More specifically, “Too Close” allegedly embodies Hanisch’s feelings, including his retrospective view of this failed relationship. “She had only liked me for my music,” he reflected, “and [for] the image of what I could give her, the conception that somehow what I produce is more interesting than who I am as a person.”

Despite “feeling conflicted about releasing it,” Hanisch ends the album with a track called “Who’d You Think You Were?” — according to the artist, this song amounts to a cathartic “dump of emotions.”

Presently, Hanisch considers himself to be a student first, but dedicates the remainder of his time to working on his music. “The plan right now is to keep writing and keep producing, and hopefully if one [of my releases] gets noticed I can produce a studio album,” he remarked. “I want to play as many shows as possible.”

As for the future, Hanisch said the following: “After graduation, I know I would be angry at myself if I didn’t go for it. I want to take at least a couple of years to really focus on music, maybe move to Nashville or Boston. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out, but at least I [will have gone] for it.”

Hanisch’s “radiopassive” is the result of rather humble circumstances, having been written, recorded and produced in Hanisch’s bedroom. This “bedroom album,” though, perfectly encapsulates authentic music.

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