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INTERVIEW: Mike Mangione & The Kin

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

I have been well, thank you.  I am lucky enough to be busy and wise enough to know that I am lucky.  Thanks for asking. 

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

Sure.  Originally, Riding Down wasn’t the song I thought would be the single.  When recording I thought another tune called “Lay Down” would represent the record.  But after thinking through the songs, I realized that Riding Down had a different quality from what you would hear on any given day in the outlets we were pushing the record.

The song itself is about someone breaking free.  In the narrative, the protagonist is looking to break free from those riding on his trail.  He eventually jumps a train and skips town.  On the metaphorical level it’s a song about freeing ourselves from that which limits our true potential as a human.  Addiction, relationships, occupation, regrets, up bringing… Whatever the case maybe, the things that keep us chained.  Sometimes what we mistake as freedoms can turn on us and take control.  This is more applicable to the addiction and indulgence side of things. The character in this song is attempting to stay one step ahead of all of it and fully become himself.  

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

No, just life in general.  My narratives always pull from my experience and I never really write from one thing only.  My songs typically don’t try to proclaim answers.  I only want to unite in the struggle and point towards something greater.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

YES! And I am very excited.  We are currently working on it and it should be out around the Oct 20th release. 

The single comes off your new album But I’ve Seen The Stars – what’s the story behind the title?

The title comes from a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca called “The Encounters of an Adventurous Snail”.  The line “But I’ve Seen The Stars” is dialog between the protagonist, a snail, and an ant being executed.  The ant got lost and wondered off from the colony.  She ended up climbing a tree and for the first time in her life, she saw stars.  Excited to tell the rest of the colony what she had seen she hurried back.  The rest of the colony was furious because she broke the ant code, which was to work in the colony head down, no questions asked.  She broke that and was speaking crazy talk about these stars she saw … so she needed to die.  The stars represent the constant mystery and wonder that will never leave this earth.  It’s transcendence.  We can do our best to figure out the “what” and “how” of this world, but the mystery lives in the “who” and “why”…  and always will.  This line from the poem exemplifies that reality.   I include that line in the song “Promised Land” and thought it is a good representation of the record as a whole.

How was the recording and writing process?

I had a great team with me, some of the best.  We had some of the Edward Sharpe guys with us, playing and recording, so everyone was A+ caliber.  With that level of talent in the room there was also a high level of patience and musical understanding, so there were never any “stuck” moments.  We could work though any creative clog.  The studio was untouchable.  We recorded at United Recording, which used to be Ocean Way, in Los Angeles.  Frank Sinatra started this studio back in the day and it has been the roof for so many legendary records.   

As the band changed its name – has the sound been affected by this?

I would say so but not too much.  I have always been the songwriter so the same blood is in the vein.  But upon meeting the Ross sisters, who play violin and cello, I decided to write in a lot more harmony.  I think I have also hit my writing stride as far as groove goes.  I wrote most of the songs on drums first… which is unusual for me.  The result is every song is very rhythm oriented and structured.  Growing up as a drummer, I have always heard things rhythmic and syncopated.  This album is what happens when I begin writing without a band in place.

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

I am always fixed on the question “who am I, what am I, where am I going”.  That’s where most of the inspiration comes from lyrically.  Musically I am always inspired by the ones I look up too.  For this record there was a lot of trying to be Levon Helm, Bob Dylan, The Band with a slice of Van Morrison.

Any plans to hit the road?

I am always on the road.  I don’t do long consistent runs any more because I have a family.  I have also found that sometimes playing a Tuesday show in Omaha isn’t always worth it.  So I do regional spurts all the time. 

What else is happening next in Mike Mangione & The Kin’s world?

Release the record, play shows and promote it.  Release a few more video projects.  Then start writing the next!  It’s the circle of music life. 


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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