INTERVIEW: The Manimals

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thanks for talking to us! We’ve been great. There has been a really positive response to the new album, which we just released a few weeks ago, and we have a month chock full of shows and rehearsals… The Manimals have been seeing an awful lot of each other lately.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Talk”?

“Talk” is pure powerpop that vacillates between an angsty punk energy and a slower, more bittersweet tempo. It ends on a chorus of four-part harmony. We wanted to convey a lot of conflicting moods- it’s possible to be angry, wistful, hopeful and grieving, but still be able to crack a joke. I imagined a group of friends talking late into the night over drinks at the pub.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

I was in the midst of writing this Game of Thrones concept album, and each song would represent a different character’s point-of-view. I was a little intimidated about writing something for Tyrion Lannister, who is so clever and good with words. How would I live up to the great prose that George R. R. Martin already wrote for him? I was really stuck on it, but the word “talk” came to me. I thought it would be interesting if we met this brilliant character in a moment where he was at his lowest, and he’d just sing the word “talk” over and over… like, “this is the one thing I’m supposedly good at, and it feels really meaningless now”. It’s very literally about Tyrion, but I injected it with my own feelings. We’ve all felt judged at one point or another, and his advice is to take these perceived weaknesses and make them your strength.

How was the film experience?

We shot this video in one night at a really grungy rock ‘n’ roll dive that we love, Clockwork Bar, with Vonesper Studios behind the camera. The plan was to just film the band meeting and having a raging party together, but Matt [O’Koren, drummer] brought a skunk costume, and it was so funny and weird that we had to build the story around it. Overall, it was a really fun shoot and we drank a lot of beer. At the very end, I jumped on Chris [Norwood, guitarist]’s back and we started running… and you can’t see it in the finished video, but he stumbled and dropped me on the pavement. It’s sort of par for the course, though- I’m always getting injured!

The single comes off your new album Seven – what led you guys to write down this concept album?

I had totally quit writing and performing music for about a year, which felt necessary, but it was also really depressing. One thing that I became maybe too obsessed with during this time- probably to fill the void- was the A Song of Ice and Fire books. I was already a big Game of Thrones fan, and had begun reading the source material, but I really went off the deep end into fandom. Something about getting lost in a fantasy world made me feel alive and inspired again. It sounded like a really stupid idea when I first said it out loud- “I want to write a concept album about the characters from Game of Thrones“- but I approached it carefully, and honestly, and with a lot of love. It felt less and less stupid the more I wrote!

From the beginning you were looking to make a concept album or how did that happen?

Yes. I’m a big fan of the album as a storytelling medium. We’re very conditioned to listen to singles these days, with the way we buy and stream music, but I’ve always liked sitting down with an entire record and consuming the whole thing. I love when there is thought put into the order of the tracks, or when musical themes reappear from song to song, or how the first song connects to the last song. I had been listening to one of my favorites, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, which is so steeped in magic and mystery, and I decided that I really wanted to try writing one.

What’s the story behind the title?

Seven is an important number in the world of the story- the major religion features seven gods, there are Seven Kingdoms, there will (probably) be seven books in the series. I thought I’d write about seven characters, just to be cute, and the title stuck. It feels lucky.

How was the recording and writing process?

I started writing the songs in August, and we recorded it in late February/early March. It’s been a very emotional and exciting thing, because these were the first songs I’d written in a long time. I ended up learning so much about myself via these fantasy characters. The band is so great right now, too. We’ve been through a lot of incarnations, and this lineup just feels perfect. Everyone was so open to going on this ride, and exploring new sounds. Nate Jasensky and Tommy Cormier engineered and mixed the album, and they were so wonderful to work with.

Does Brooklyn play a role in your music?

I think New York City as a whole does, for sure. We’re inspired by the city and the sounds that were born here- there had never been anything like the punk scene that came out of CBGB in the ’70s, and I think there’s still room for that kind of movement to happen again. Maybe not punk, maybe something else. Most people are probably much more cynical about it, but I think that whenever you get a lot of hungry, brave individuals in one place, cool new things can happen. And that’s who comes to NYC to make music.

Did Game of Thrones get to inspire any other songs?

Yeah, all seven of them! There are some characters I love that I didn’t get to write about on this album, and who knows, maybe we’ll make some companion songs to SEVEN one day.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

The key to making the songs work was to fill them with emotional truth. So I looked to myself, and how I connected to something in each character. “Mother” is about Daenerys and her dragons, but it’s also about me thinking about my own fertility… if I’ll ever be a mother, or if I’ll only create songs. “Lone” is about Jon Snow and Ygritte, but it’s also about my own experience with a doomed relationship. I think that this approach helped the songs also function out of context.

Any plans to hit the road?

We would love to, but we’re all so busy! I hope that it will happen soon. We might try taking some shorter trips to nearby cities first, before we plan an entire tour.

What else is happening next in The Manimals’ world?

We have plans to record a couple of singles in the coming months, and some more music videos in the pipeline. We also perform a set as ’90s No Doubt every year at a nostalgic prom-themed party I co-host called Spring Fling ’98- that’s coming up on May 29th, so we’re starting to work on all of these cover songs right now. Playing SEVEN as a set- from start to finish- is a lot of fun, so I hope we get to do some more of that this summer. It’s also probably time for me to start writing some new material!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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