A Short Manatees feature in this months Terrorizer Magazine, following from an excellent review of Icaurs the Sunclimber in last months...
Full un edited interview below....
Much thanks to Noel Garderner.
The noise influence seems to come to the fore a lot more on this release – it’s pretty harsh at times (the end of ‘The Sunclimber’; percussion/end part on ‘Untitled’), and not riff-based all the time. How has that come about – what have you guys been listening to that’s prompted this, and was there a feeling that you had to expand your remit a bit to avoid going over old ground?
Good question. Well I guess the subject matter that greg based his lyrics (he did 95% of the the vocals on this record as opposed to the other way round as on other releases) was pretty spiteful, so the music kind of reflects that. The first record was a heavy slab of sludge but pretty hypnotic at times, the e.p was mellow and meditative and this time round I guess we just wanted to vent some frustration and anger. I don’t think it was conscious thing though, maybe being in a struggling band has made us angrier as time has gone on!! We've just been listening to the same music we always have, which is pretty varied. everything from Unsane, to Yes, to Sunn O))) to Leonard Cohen to Sabbath to sleep etc. Pysc, punk, metal, prog classic, folk. mixed bag. So long as it's good, it's good!
How are Manatees songs put together in the main – do they chiefly arise out of improvisation or splicing together parts?
usually, we come in with pretty skeletal parts, jam them out see where they go, pretty free. For Sunclimber, Greg came in with pretty much everything in a solid but skeletal frame and me and Pauley threw our stuff in the mix. A few changes here and obviously myself and pauley's input will have made a difference, but Greg came in with a pretty solid idea for the record. Although saying that there was quite a few bits of improv whilst recording. We always seem to have a stupid amount of overdubs, they just keep springing up to our minds whilst recording!
Also, ‘Icarus...’ is a pretty manageable length compared to that first album. With that one, was it just a case of crazy ambition, like ‘we’re gonna make our first release 75 minutes long BECAUSE WE CAN’? Also the number of labels in the UK that would be willing to fund a double LP must be pretty small at this point... have the economics of the ‘music biz’ impacted on Manatees much, or are you basically operating outside of that?
Well, originally the first record (the forever ending jitter quest of slowhand chuckle walker: an introduction to the manatee) was only 5 tracks in around 45 to 50 mins or something. When we re-released it on vinyl we chucked another tune on adding around 20 or so mins. The first record was really done with no forth planning or anything, just a document of the three of us writing music together. But yeah to a point it was really a "because we can" attitude. We didn’t expect to sell any copies or anyone to take any interest so yeah, we just did what we liked. We named it with a ridiculous title but told the label it was unnamed, roman numerals for track listing, ridiculous art work etc wasted the recording budget till we were happy with the music. I mean, potentially you don't know what’s going to happen, or how long you'll be doing this together, so if it had been our only record you really need to do what you like and be satisfied otherwise why are you doing it in the first place? Luckily we've had labels that respect that and are totally understanding of your vision. And even luckier people have taken interest and records have been sold. I think we do work outside of the "music biz", as do the labels we work for. I mean I think nowadays you have to. It's not so much the "music" biz anymore but a business and that sucks but it's the way it is. When all those big labels are fucked and dead in the water, all the proper "music" labels will be laughing. An uprising! a revolution!!....perhaps...
Was the ‘We Are Going To Track Down...’ CD intended as a kind of temporary diversion before the next album? It takes stuff in a different direction which hasn’t necessarily been carried onto ‘Icarus...’ – for example there’s no guest spots. (Related subject – have you kept in touch with Eugene Robinson since he recorded the spoken part? Did you get to see his recent spoken word tour promoting his book? We put it on in Cardiff, it was really cool!)
Yeah definitely. That's just where our heads were at when we wrote and recorded that one. Just went into our friends studio and knocked it out in two days. It was pretty experimental for us in tones, sounds and moods and I'm really happy how it turned out. It's a shame it was just a tour release really as I would have liked it to be a bit more accessible in hindsight. Maybe that’s a possibility in the future. We do still keep in contact with Eugene. We talk over the net sometimes, and We played with Oxbow again last year and I caught up with Eugene on his recent spoken word tour and had a few drinks. He really is a great guy and it's always a pleasure to see him. His work on the recording was a real pleasure.
Are you, as a band, big believers in the validity of DIY / punk values? What, if anything do you define these as, and do you consider yourself very much part of this network and grateful for it? (This might come off as a ‘well duh, of course’ type question – on the other hand I guess there are a lot of bands who aren’t super stringent about ‘DIY values’ but just sort of find themselves in those circles cos they play music that fits maybe.)
Oh yeah, totally. Not only is it a great ethic but we HAVE to right now!! ha. I don’t think of ourselves as a massive part of it but we definitely work along side it. Its partly by choice and partly just because we have no choice! In this day an age it really is essential to be able to things on your own with your music. It creates a real community and a real drive. The subject matter for Icarus , the Sunclimber is very much tied into bands who think to be "doing" music or for it to be of any value or merit it must be on the grounds of "professional" music labels and "professional" musicians, like money or outside perception makes your music real .As if to say it's not real just because you don’t have a manager or a label or publications aren’t writing about you. ridiculous. People in that frame of mind run the risk of letting the experience and the joy of music pass them by. They really do miss the point. Music is from inside and should be made because you just HAVE to make it play it right?
Is there ever any sense that it’s a slight uphill struggle being a UK band playing music like this? Without wanting to get on a ‘well, you guys sound like...’ tip, or chuck around stupid names for subgenres that no-one likes to use, most of the best known bands *of this nature* are American, with the odd Japanese or Swedish group in there. Do you think there’s a certain mentality that ignores a really good UK band playing down the road while waiting for Pelican or who the hell ever to tour again?
ha, I hear you. Yeah for sure. The kind of music circles we are linked with seem to becoming more and more popular each day. It's always been the way though, that the american bands will be more popular in the UK. I think it's the old allure of the big ol' US. It's lucky for them because I know there are some bands who are pretty much in the position we are in, in the US, but are regarding much more highly here. it's a very strange phenomena really, but just seems as though it's always been. With the exception of prog perhaps. The most well known prog artists seem to be from the UK, but again there are so many amazing ones from other countries who were never as popular such as Italy or even Hungry. Back to the point though, yes it is an uphill struggle. But people who are in the know, they know, if you get my meaning. And that can only be a good thing, spread the word!!
Do you as a band have a certain... plan of action for Manatees? Not like a career arc, so much as just different ideas for future albums. I get the impression that influences come from a lot of different directions and it could be taken in many of those different directions. Or do you just sort of take everything as it comes?
We don’t really have a defined master plan no. When we started we never imagined we'd do one record let alone the four releases we've done so far!! The influences comment is a great observation, thanks. We do have a lot of different influences, some which aren’t so immediate others which are. It really leaves the door open for us, which is good because I guess you have to keep things fresh for yourselves and who wants to listen to albums that sound same the same one after another let alone play them (although there are some great bands who make that a plus!) We don’t have a set blue print or anything like that so who knows what we will come up with in future. The only "plan" is to keep writing, recording, playing as long as we can keep it going and stay interested! So I'm sure we will have some variation in there. We have a two new releases in the pipe line which are quite different from each other already so hopefully they will see the light of day this year or next.