Mancino Interview (Part 1 of 2)
I fell hard for Mancino (MySpace). Like asking my first "girlfriend" out in fifth grade. The equivalent of having that butterflies in your stomach feeling, but sonically. Er, scratch the sonically part ... they got right into my heart, went straight for the gut ... a perfect strategy, and now I'm hooked.
I posted about the Brooklyn band all but six days ago, and required more from them. So now we've an interview here! Read on to discover the inner workings of the wonderful Mancino!
(1) How would you guys describe your sound? I see the XTC comparisons, the Tapes 'n Tapes likeness, and the grungy allusions, but ... how would you put it?
Nadim: I think the album is pretty eclectic, kinda running the gamut between playful/light “major” songs and more serious “minor” songs. Musically, I think that the XTC comparisons might stem from the fact that we like to mold seemingly disparate parts of a song together in ways that sometimes produces unexpected results. I think part of that is that we get bored easily. And as you allude to below, we do spend a lot of time arranging, so I guess you could say our music is somewhat adorned in nature.
Jonathan: Yeah, it's always interesting to see what people compare us to. The XTC thing is pretty recent, and I think started with Spin's review. I had never listened to XTC before but like Nadim said, I think people are responding to the playful nature of the music. But we've had everything from The Doors to Spoon, and Ben Folds to Islands. It's rarely the same thing twice which is good and bad, I guess.
Mike: It's funny because I've never listened to XTC before so I can't speak to that comparison really. As Jonathan said, the comparisons are kind of all over the place, which I'm personally okay with.
(2) How did you three meet? You seem to channel a quirky and off-beat sound that doesn't just come up these days ...
Nadim: Mike and I went to Brown Univ. together. Our senior year we were in a 4-piece band together called Admiral Nelson. After graduation, Mike moved to New York and I followed several months later. Once there, Mike and I started playing music again and coming up with new songs. I then met Jonathan at work, a place called the French Film Office, which promotes French film in the US. Anyway, it turned out that Jonathan played drums and eventually we started Mancino... that was in 2003
(3) I'm totally baffled but charmed by some of your song titles ... "Hetchie Hutchie Footchie," "L'Amour (or Less)," and "Monster Trucks," in particular. Where'd these names come from, and, for that matter, the lyrics?
Mike: "Hetchie Hutchie Footchie" came from a conversation I had with my friend Jake where he couldn't remember the name of this girl we went to college with, so he kind of stammered out, "Hetchie? Hutchie? Footchie?" in frustration and I for some unknown reason thought those three words in succession sounded like the name of a dance. So the lyrics treat it as the fictitious Australian summer dance craze of 1958 that involves guys getting over their aversion to dance by putting down their drinks. "L'Amour (or Less)" was originally called "More or Less" and the lyrics were a conscious declaration of simply categorizing the things I wanted more of in life and the things I wanted less of. I think Jonathan thought to change the title and it just jives a lot better now with the playful feel of the music I think. "Monster Trucks" obliquely uses a random childhood memory, in this case seeing monster trucks flatten cars for my 7th birthday, as a touchstone for the entire range of feelings you have as a little kid and the frustration and sadness that comes when you "grow up" and realize you can't get that innocence back. Sorry, very Holden Caulfield-ish I know...
(4) On that note ... what sort of process do you incorporate to make these songs? They're all immaculately arranged and layered, pieced together and thoroughly thought through. Where do you come up with all the awesome hooks, choruses, and structures?
Jonathan: Thanks, but I think "process" is probably a euphemism in our case. I mean, I guess generally we tend to just sit down at our instruments and jam when we're not cluttered by the thought of preparing for a show. So it can start from a guitar riff, or a noodle on the keys, or some drum beat, and things sort of turn into these ridiculous twenty minute jams. So on top of that, we usually lay on some thick vocal stuff for the hell of it. It's usually pretty silly, but we occasionally get serious, too. If we like a piece of that jam, we'll stop and extract it from the slush. But this system doesn't always work. It can end up taking us in circles, which is fun to play, but not fun to listen to necessarily. So often times Mike will bring in a progression he's worked on at home, or something more thematic like lyrics or a concept, or Nadim will email us a keyboard doodle at 4am and we'll all add to it at practice. In general, it tends to be a very democratic process, which is nice. We work well together, despite the fact we can't stand each other in "real life."
(5) What sort of musical background do you three have? From when you were kids to now ... it's always interesting to learn where a band came from before they catalyzed into the current form.
Nadim: I began playing the piano at the age of 8, taking classical lessons up until the age of 18. I also started to casually dabble in blues and jazz at the age of 14 or so.
Jonathan: I started playing music at a young age, mostly because my father was a professional musician at the time. He made my brother and I play music with him and my mother pretty much every day. It started with Cello, which I played until I was about 16 - incidentally the age where I switched to drums thinking they would get me more girls than the Cello. Turns out I was wrong, and drums are heavier. Stick to the cello kids!
Mike: I think I have the most pedestrian musical pedigree of the three. I watched my brother play "Crazy Train" on his spray-painted Peavey guitar and immediately knew that was what I wanted to do. I started taking lessons when I was 9 and continued until I was about 14 and then played in a series of bands from middle school until now.