Cover Story: Mike Llerena

As I walk into Mike Llerena’s apartment, his roommate and his roommate’s girlfriend are cooking. She’s carrying a skillet with sauté potatoes.

Mike Llerena, who born in Miami and then moved to Cooper City at the age of 12, fetches his guitar. While I prepare for the video shooting, Mike rehearses some songs.

He’s a bit out of touch; he’s been busy with end-of-term studying and assignments and his stories for The Alligator, a newspaper in Gainesville propelled by students.

Mike Llerena playing guitar
Mike Llerena jamming out

The first song Mike plays for me is a cover of “Dammit” by Blink-182 followed by an original song called “Destiny.”

Mike is a third-year journalism student at the University of Florida. He contributes to The Alligator as an “avenue writer.” Mike has been playing guitar since he was in eighth grade.

Mike has had the opportunity of playing a few shows in Gainesville, having played a gig at the Backstage Lounge, one of the prominent venues here at Gainesville. “I feel like the Gainesville music scene is definitely a very communal environment,” Mike says, “one that definitely nurtures independent bands.”

His recordings have the whole shebang: guitars, vocals, keys, bass and programmed drums. When Mike performs live though, he relies solely on his acoustic guitar and his voice.

Mike commented on the dichotomy of his live music and his recorded music: “When you're recording, you have the ability to flesh out the songs. When I perform in my current state, I perform solo acoustic. I strip the songs to the way most of them started: with me in an acoustic guitar and one vocal.”

Mike Llerena Outside
Outside his apartment

Among Mike’s influence are Against Me!, a punk band from Gainesville. Although Mike’s music is not entirely punk by definition, he has absorbed many aspects of punk.

“The thing I like about punk now, and this might be more of the punk I’m into, I think its less about the anti-establishment and more about community, and its more about music for music's sake,” Mike says. “As far as sound-wise, vocally, probably more than anything.

Mike’s journalistic endeavors intersect with his passion of music – he has written many music-related stories, such as a story on Aerosmith’s and AC/DC’s new records.

Mike commented on his two solid occupations and the facility of someone else pursuing similar circumstances, “I wouldn't say its something that necessarily works; it’s just what I have. I love music, and I love writing. If you’re good at one thing and your focused at that one thing, you don't necessary need a second thing.

He sums up his journalistic and musical efforts with a mantra: “Journalism is the desired career path – music is the passion.”

Mike Llerena playing guitar

Not all of Mike’s music has been created within the confines of Alachua County. It begs the question of whether a local scene is necessary or not, but Mike believes it is highly beneficial. “The importance of a local scene, I do feel, is vital: it nurtures bands, it gives bands a sense of community, helps them to grow,” Mike says.

When I asked mike if being a “Gainesville artist” is a significant definer, he responded: “I feel like maybe subconsciously being in school here and going to shows here… subconsciously its affected my songwriting, but I feel like more on the whole, its about the music I listen to regardless of geographic location.”

That being said, the Gainesville music scene does seem to properly nurture Mike Llerena, a highly prospective musician.