Q and A with Manic PixiNovember 8, 2016
Our old friends in Manic Pixi have been keeping busy lately. Find out what all they had to say when they sat down with Barebones Ent to catch up!
BS: How have you guys been? It’s been a long time.
MP: Well it was only July that you “saw” us last, so don’t worry, we haven’t left you to the winds. Thank you for your support to bookend the Manic Summer ’16. We’ve been terrific! Riding the wave of Iron Heart has certainly been the highlight. It was such a blast to put out, and supporting this album has been a joy. We’re hitting the road three times over the next few months, so the summer has been like winding up a spring to launch our looniness across the country.
BS: So you released your sophomore album, Iron Heart, What did making this album feel like to you?
MP: We sure did. It was like a humongous, “Ah ha!,” moment that took over a year to finish saying. Really, it was more like three years if we’re getting historical, which I love to be. This band isn’t even five years old yet, and it could already have its own encyclopedic PBS documentary. So if we’re mid-movie, say 2014 when we changed our name from Sugar Bomb! to Manic Pixi, we transformed, got a fresh start, and it was in large part to having a permanent line-up. That freed us to get close as a unit and to get our music into the shop for an overhaul.
For me, making this record was seriously invigorating. I, the drummer, got to have a hand in the song writing process in a serious and meaningful way, and I don’t think there are many people who can say that. I feel really fortunate that I can flex my composition muscles in MP because everyone is so open to new ideas, and the rest of the band can assure you that I usually have a different approach to pretty much everything. I feel much more freedom as a drummer on Iron Heart too, and there are some really gymnastic parts on here both physically and mentally. The context of this band has evolved quite a bit, so the borders of what can be used on the kit have expanded tremendously.
For the band, it was a unifying experience. Even now, I can look back at the making of Iron Heart and say, “This is the turning point. This is when we became what we are, and when we gave ourselves the permission to grow into who we will be.” And we’re just getting started.
BS: What challenges, if any, did you come across while writing/records the album?
MP: The greatest hurdle we had to overcome was distance, like sheer physics. No body lived in the same place: I was in Brooklyn, Kat had left Brooklyn and was mostly in Philly, Drew was in Queens, and Marshall lived all the way in @#$%ing State College. We are olympic medalists in the google calendar events. So to combat unbreakable science and gas prices, we became the Postal Service of pop-punk, sending demos across the email pipelines back and forth and only getting to rehearse a few times a month. To add to the fun, I can’t play the instruments I write for, so when I would bring in a song to learn, everyone would have to read sheet music and translate that into a way that was playable. Only then could we assess from there. It was messy in the beginning but we figured out how to deal with and optimize that system, so that by the time we finished pre-production last summer, we were a well oiled machine, ready to blow up the studio.
When it came time for the studio, we had completely different hurdles: two weeks to fully record ten songs. It was a marathon, and the longest any of us have ever spent making a record. It was a grind 8-10 hours a day every day on full blast mentally and physically. Cabin fever struck a few times, there were some tears, about twenty arm cramps during guitars, and so much gas. I love curry. We used every single second we had in that room and it shows. The record is huge sounding and never feels under-powered or underwritten. Kat really blew me away, singing all of her parts in three days, and some of the songs have thirty to forty tracks! That’s insane. A memorable quote is definitely from a background vocal session and went something to the effect of, “I just hear the chords in my head for the lead line and sing harmonies that make up that chord.” Every one looked around and was just like, “What the hell dude…”
BS: How have people received the album?
MP: They hear it? They love it. Even if this next evolution of pop-punk we’re flying the flag for isn’t their thing, they appreciate it in some way: musicianship, lyrics, artwork – there’s something in every facet of Iron Heart to grab onto.
BS: Does there seem to be a fan favorite song off of it? Why do you think that is?
MP: Right now, it would appear to be, “Laughing,” just from the reactions in the room from when we play it live. That’s been our closer for a while. There’s something about the way it kicks into gear that just seems to get everybody in the room in a, “Let’s do this team,” mentality, and they go off. It goes against what I think anyone would assume about Manic Pixi being able to get anyone to enjoy because Laughing is the longest, most progressive song we have ever written, and yet it just slams people right in the chest time after time.
I’ll attribute that to each section keeping the listener on their toes; the thing never drags. As soon as you’ve wrapped head around the opening riff, we hit you with the chorus. Then when you’ve been bouncing to that, a subdued yet dancy verse hits you. After repeating all those again, this cloudy bridge kicks in that is absolutely setting you to rocketed away by the second half – this is the highlight of the song for me. It’s where everyone becomes one headbanging family, and the intensity between the band and audience can’t be ignored.
BS: What was the release show like for you?
MP: It was the most meaningful Manic Pixi show I’ve ever played. I’ve never played an album front to back like that before, so I felt quite vindicated about bringing the record to fruition that way. That night seemed to become greater than the sum it’s parts, bigger than us who created it. After a year and some change of preparation, it all boiled down to that one night, that one performance, to a room jammed with people we love just unabashedly beaming back at us. Plus, it was at one of our favorite New York City venues, Arlene’s Grocery, and that’s always a treat. That place always sounds terrific and seems large and intimate at the same time. What a surreal hour; I was so high on life for the whole weekend.
BS: Well, we have not done a release show or anything. So what all goes into planning one of these? Is there any extra stress in preparing for the show?
MP: Stress was like the vitamins in cereal for this thing: it was always being fortified and made it’s way into everything at every turn. That kind of stress, you could actually reframe as urgency, a more positive reaction and that is because everyone is excited and wants this night to be meaningful, larger than life, affirming of their artistic output and intention, etc. So, we’re all doing that and it tends to magnify everything happens and makes you feel like it’s all falling apart when you’re actually on course, doing what you need to do. This applies to anything or anyone you get excited about: you can get so excited and want things to go well so badly that you suffocate it all under your intentions.
As for extra work, there was certainly a good bit of that too. We filmed the entire show to give our IndieGoGo donors who couldn’t make it a chance at a front row seat to the MP experience. We cannot wait unveil that down the line when it’s all cleaned up. That was the biggest coordination hurdle on top of what a show already entails as far as the venue was concerned. The other thing was actually playing the album in order which we had never done before until the rehearsals leading up to the big event. It was more an intentional production than usual so adjusting to that was interesting and felt closer to the way you go about rehearsals for a theatrical performance than a rock show.
BS: Are you currently working on a new tour?
MP: We sure are; three in fact. We’re going big before the holidays kick in so hang onto your hats world! The closest one is this week, September 15-19th, where Manic Pixi takes on Ohio for the first time. Can’t wait to get there and shake things up. I’ve never been to the midwest and always imagine they would collectively throw me out for being too loud and east coast, but I’m sure they’re all sweat hearts. So here’s to hoping either way because getting personally kicked out of the midwest would be hilarious.
BS: When can fans expect to see some new information from you guys?
MP: Oh you guys didn’t know? This is actually our final transmission before we get absorbed into the governments top secret projects and we can never talk about what we do ever again because the weight of that information would re-kill the dinosaurs. Two youtube holes later, and I bet it’s a conspiracy theory.
Seriously though, fans can hear from us pretty much everyday. We are literally always up to something. There is not a day goes by when Manic Pixi does not speak to each other about what to do next. The next thing to come out will be our two tours at the end of September and October, so watch for us in a city/town/gender neutral bathroom near you. Then after that will probably be the live show and a music video sometime next year. Until then kids, keep spinning Iron Heart and singing into everyone’s ears you can find.
BS: Anything else you would like to add?
MP: “[We’re] in debt to the very distinction of love and hate. They’re both in our hearts. We choose an imbalance.” – Kurt Travis