After 10 years on the independent scene, Mann Friday have just signed their contract with V2 Records (former Virgin) Benelux. Even better news is they still sound independent, meaning it in the best of ways. Their music is genuine, their live gigs are pure energy, the guys are down to earth and the public loves them. Their new album, Train Rides & Radio Play – now available on iTunes and through their website – is the perfect combination of rock and folk, the new single Sunrise Everyday being the enjoyable summer tune you can have fun to with your friends and party on the beach.
On July 22, 2013 they delivered a kick-ass performance at the Half Moon in Putney (London), where during the years some of the biggest names of the music world like U2, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Kasabian and many more have performed.
After the gig, I had an interesting chat with Rob, Ryan, Justin and Michele in the backstage.
Q: The band is based in London, but some of you live in Africa, so was it difficult to come up with the songs in terms of distance?
Rob: I think it wasn’t too difficult. The tracks were written in Cape Town. some of them are quite old, One Window that’s an old one, it’s about 4 years old. And City Love is actually also years old, we tried that groove and didn’t work. It’s a studioalbum, so we got together in the studio working in London, in Kore studios, we were very lucky to work in this beautiful studio and George Apsion, who worked with us, is really awesome. As a studio album I think you tend to go long overboard with your production because it’s limitless possibilities. It’s a lot more epic I think, it is quite tender, it’s got a lot of epic parts which is a bit of a challenge cause now we gotta play it live.
Justin: I think the challenge with this album and all the previous things we kind of add a song we work on it and we played it live and we adjusted it. We had the benchmark, and I know we tried to recreate what you’ve done live in studio. You know the benchmark was the studio thing.
Q: How would you describe your music? Does it fit in any particular genre?
Rob: Well, I’d say Alternative Folk Rock. Mann music can be quite tender, and cocky and can be quite heavy. So, it’s difficult to classify but if we had to choose one it would be folk rock. Most of the songs have a kind of an acoustic beginning, and the percussions and the drive, they end up being a lot heavier.
Q: Your new album Train Rides & Radio Play sounds less rock than your previous works. Did it happen naturally or was it something that you decided consciously?
Justin: I don’t think its conscious, it’s more the songs themselves kind of be… I think that’s the process of what we went through, that’s where it ended up. So the fact that there are far rockier sounds, you know the way we previously were to be, Rob and I had an idea for a song and we worked it out to play it live. I think it gets closer to the original idea then what we would normally have done, so maybe if we had done it the old way it probably wouldn’t have come out. But also, I think you can get these songs were written in the sunshine. Those are the songs that were written in Africa; I think the location has a big influence on that. The darkest stuff we’ve done has always been in dark times, in winter and rain.
Ryan: If you listen to songs like Not For Sale particularly like that I can see that there’s a vein of Indie London.
Q: Is there any particular song that you prefer from the new album?
Ryan: For me I think it’s Clouds From A Plane, to play as well.
Rob: I’m with you on that. Justin wants to say Feel It All…
Justin: I think I prefer that song , we don’t even play it live.
Michele: To play probably One Window is one of my favourite. Live, I think Fallen Knee.
Rob: Fallen Knee is a bit of a surprise, when we play it live it surprises me as a song. Like track 9, For Anna, one of my favourite tracks, it’s a real journey and it’s got a lot of epic parts to it, but live we’re just feeling it, it’s just not right. Really surprising.
Justin: I think it’s so. It’s different from when you rehearse it to when you play it live.
Q: You have recently singed with V2, how do you feel about it and what are your future plans?
Rob: I think we’re obviously very excited to be with a big label, it’s been quite a validation process as a journey, because we’ve always been so fiercely independent since inception like 10 years ago. We struggled in London to be honest with the networking, none of us was from here, we’re all from abroad and we didn’t plug into the british scene as much as we could have in terms of label and promoters. And looking in hindsight, it’s quite crazy to think the start that we had. The first thing when we arrived we travelled down to Camden with our demo album handing it out through any gate. We were very naive. It’s quite frustrating to see the efficiency of a label, it’s like we bloody needed this. Six years ago would have been really good to have what we have now, because I’ve just seen the way they execute a lot of things, working with the press, and the radio, and they did a great road map for us for august.
Justin: They’ve done all the things we’ve tried to do in the past ourselves, but you kind of hit brick walls. People keep saying do it by yourself, but when it comes to getting on the radio, you need someone to promote it who actually knows the DJs and so on.
Rob: So we’re really excited, we just wanna work hard and do whatever they say or do whatever they want. I’d do a commercial for a hairspray if they’d ask to! (laughs)
Q: What or who is your main inspiration?
Rob: We all have different ones. I’m gonna steal Ryan’s before he says his. The first cassette I bought was Tracy Chapman by Tracy Chapman and I’ll always be a great fan of her work. So Tracy Chapman for me, and also David Gray is a big one and Dave Mathews. I love more other bands, but in terms of influence I really like what they do.
Ryan: For me it depends, like Mann Friday’s bass-wise and bass, I’m definitely very in the space where I enjoy things like Coldplay. They sound like simple but they’re actually very clever with bass lines. Muse as well I really love what they do. So I think when I listen to what I’m doing I’m not far off, I can see their influences. From the singing point of view, and in terms of our songs and the rhythm I’d say Ben Howard.
Justin: My influences are grunge, Alice in Chains, Faith No More, but for some reason that doesn’t come through while I’m playing.
Ryan: he’s Coldplay, but if you mentioned it he’ll say not he’s not! (laughs)
Justin: I think when you play with a bunch of guys you actually got to adapt your style to make the sound work. I think I’m probably taking a lot of influence from a lot of music that I haven’t really listened to a lot. I guess I developed a style for Mann Friday, which is probably very different to the style I’ve grown up listening to.
Rob (to Justin): so Guns’ Roses basically (laughs)
Justin: Guns’ Roses are big one, Faith No More, Alice in Chains, some 80s heavy metal, that stuff, but I don’t sound like them anyway.
Michele: I think Dave Mathews Band and Arcade Fire.
Q: Who would you like to do a duet or tour with?
Rob: That’s an easy answer for me. There’s a band called the Wicked Hands. If you’d ask me which band to go on tour with, U2 or the Wicked Hands? Seriously, if there’s any band I’d like to go on tour with it’s the Wicked Hands, they’re from Canada. My favourite band. I love their stuff.
Ryan: As a band Mann Friday I think we would have a great time on the road with Dave Mathews, cause he’s a nutcase he’s awesome, you see him talking on stage, he sounds like a fun guy.
Justin: Yeah, Dave Mathews. There’s lot of pretentious people in the music industry, I don’t think we would get along with them, but he’s quite down to earth and some of his songs match us.
Michele: I think Sting.
Q: Your favourite album ever?
Rob: Probably “August and Everything After” by Counting Crows
Ryan: Oooh…. I’m gonna go with one of the first ones and it’s gonna be “No Need To Argue” from The Cranberries.
Justin: Mine is probably the most complete album where you don’t skip any tracks and it’s Grant Lee Buffalo’s “Mighty Joe Moon”.
Michele: For me I think Fiona Apple’s “When The Pawns”. Yeah, that’s one of my favourites.
Q: What’s the band’s biggest achievement so far?
Rob: Getting signed by V2!
Justin: I think that the signing didn’t actually do much except enabling things like getting the stuff on Vevo, getting radio play, in a country where we hadn’t actually played in. That’s pretty special.
Ryan: I think as an independent band it’s a great achievement, it was really important to us.
Rob: I think for me it would be Shepherd’s Bush Empire. There’s still one thing on my list which is Brixton, it’s not Wembley and it’s not like the mega rockstars, but Brixton, there’s something about that place.
Justin: And Glastonbury, too, I think a decent slot at Glastonbury. We’ve been there a few times and always got really upset we were not there to play. (laughs)
Rob: I’d like to go to after parties with Pete Doherty as well. I really would like to do that! If you had to ask whether I’d rather go to after parties with Pete Doherty or play Glastonbury? …. (Laughs)
Justin: I’ll tell you what, you can go to the after party with Chris Martin when Coldplay play at Glastonbury (laughs).
Q: What do you think of the state of today mainstream music?
Justin: It’s quite varied at the moment to be honest, I think there’s some really good stuff. I’m not completely plugged into it cause I don’t get to listen to the radio quite as much as I should. But I do hear a lot of great pop music, dance music is huge it’s broken from underground again.
Rob: I think the timing for this album is quite good. If you think of The Lumineers, Mumford and Sons… I think the folk side of Mann Friday, like tracks like Sunrise and One Window, I think we’re in a good space.
Q: Anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Rob: Buy the album on iTunes now! (laughs)