Essential New Music: Mike Gent’s “Career Moves”

Songwriter/guitarist Mike Gent’s band, the Figgs, has been pretty prolific since its 1987 formation, releasing 16 official LPs, including 2022’s Chemical Shake and the three-disc Shady Grove in 2019.

But every once in a while, Gent has some tunes that maybe don’t quite fit the trio—or perhaps the other members (bassist/songwriter Pete Donnelly and drummer Pete Hayes) aren’t, by Gent’s own admission, into them—so he puts out a record of his own. Gent’s latest/sixth outing, the cheekily titled Career Moves (Needle Drop), is mostly short on the typical numbers he might pen for the Figgs or previous solo outings like 2013’s The Rapid Shave. Career Moves finds Gent—who estimates he played “96 percent” of the instruments on it—searching for grooves, and finding them, rather than directly getting to the point.

“It’s definitely one of my most experimental records,” says Gent. “I enjoy listening to records sometimes where there’s a track and you just don’t want it to end. I was listening to something the other day … I can’t remember what it was, but I was thinking that I could listen to an entire two sides of this one track. That’s where I was going with some of the material on Career Moves. I also wanted it to sound like a group of people jamming and stretching out, even though it was just me.”

As with everything else in recent years, the god-forsaken pandemic impacted how Career Moves took shape. Stuck at home, Gent taught himself how to use Pro Tools—and promptly lost five songs due to “a glitch or something.” By the end of 2020, he had a record nearly finished, but with his technical skills improving alongside a burst of songwriting inspiration, Gent scrapped those tracks and started over. He then delayed Career Moves for a year to work on Chemical Shake.

That’s a lot to sort through, but Gent says that when he writes, he’s not thinking of whether a song ends up on a Figgs LP or a solo effort as much as whether the product is any good or not.

“Once I’m confident that it’s a decent song, I’ll consider where it may fit on a specific record,” he says. “For example, ‘Kennedy Page’ was one of the first songs I wrote and started recording at the very beginning of the pandemic. Then it was put aside when I started over, was worked on and in the final sequence for the Figgs record, then pulled off that and worked on some more, and it found its place on this new solo record.”

As far as the Figgs’ future, the band has a full schedule for 2023 and likely beyond.

“We did a run of shows in the Northwest, then there’s the Midwest in the summer and a bunch of East Coast shows scattered throughout the rest of the year,” says Gent. “We have about half of a new record already written, and we’ve been playing that material in the set recently, so we’ve been busy since the fall of 2021 when were finally able to get out of the house.”

Matt Hickey