MSB Details a Dysfunctional But Irresistible Relationship In 'A Thousand Times': Video Premiere

Shervin Lainez

It's been eight years since his debut album, but MSB -- aka Michael Sackler-Berner -- hasn't been slacking. He's released five EPs and formed a band, the Slim Kings, during the interim, and he kept writing at a pace that accrued some 50 demos he considered for his upcoming album Short Stories, whose animated video for the track "A Thousand Times" is premiering below. 

"Over the course of the last six or seven years there would be songs that felt too good to put on an EP," Berner -- whose songs also appeared in TV programs such as Chicago Fire, Nurse Jackie, Bloodline and others -- tells Billboard. "So I was slowly collecting songs for a record, and the ones on (Short Stories) were the ones that were hanging around the longest and wouldn't go away." The range, however, presented a bit of a problem in turning the songs into a cohesive album. 

"I decided that rather than making another singer-songwriter rock record, which can be boring, I wanted to sort of let each song do its own thing and go as far in that direction as possible," Berner explains. "The idea was each song living on its own, and the thesis was this is a book of short stories or a shuffled playlist, depending on the medium you're talking about."

Amidst the album's many stylistic flavors, "A Thousand Times" is one of Short Stories' most spare tracks, a somber melody he wrote on piano in a basement in Santa Fe, with Berner's vocal accompanied by a string arrangement. "It was written about a friendship and a friend you're sort of magnetized to and can't get away from -- can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em," Berner says.

"It's sort of a dysfunctional relationship, but it's the idea that your love for one another or the shared history and experience continues to win out. That's the optimism in there." The video by John David McGrew uses 2D paper cutouts to illustrate a couple at various stages of their lives, separating and reuniting into old age. 

"Life can pull people apart, but certain people always return to each other no matter what," says Berner. "That makes for an awful lot of hellos and goodbyes -- in the case of the video, a lifetime of them." The singer and songwriter has been with his wife for a largely functional 16 years, but he adds that "the longevity of a relationship adds to the magnitude, which is something that's conveyed in ('A Thousand Times'), too."

With Short Stories out Feb. 22, Berner has set a March 4 MSB show for Joe's Pub in New York City and plans to line up more dates soon. The Slim Kings, which also includes former Billy Joel drummer Liberty DeVitto and bassist Andy Attanasio, is also working on a new album, though no timetable for release has been set just yet. 


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