Before the beginning...
Before the world came into existence, all was a chaos, unimaginably limitless and without shape or form. Eon followed eon, particle became mass: then, lo! out of this boundless, shapeless mass something light and transparent rose up and formed the heavens. And from the heavens fell five shapes, loud and heavy and jumbled, and from these rough forms were shaped and sculpted the first firsts: Honus Honus (the High-August-First-Voice), Sergei Sogay (the Divine-Center-of-Four-Strings), Pow Pow (the August-Beat-Divinity), Critter Crat (the Divine-Twang-and-Everything-Else) and Chang Wang (the Other-Twang-and-Wondrous-Everything-Else).
And they set out to fill the yawning void that gripped the earth, and they crammed the emptiness with sounds, of voices and guitars and drums, yes; but also with squeaky toys and pots and spoons and cap guns and chopsticks and old shoes and fruit and stuffed frogs. And such was their exuberant good time, and such was the mess they made, that they did not see their jealous creator, envious of their ingenuity and novelty items, sneaking up on their ebullient pandemonium and casting them out...
In their lost divinity, Man Man took up residence in Philadelphia, perhaps because of the Sweet Philly sound, Noam Chomsky, the water Sun Ra was drinking, Charles Barkley's elbows, the excellence of the Philly lacrosse team or Rocky or Betsy Ross or John Coltrane. Or maybe it was it's close proximity to south Jersey.
Never you mind. The point is, Man Man keeps on keeping on, filling the blankness with their weird/beautiful, esoteric/heart-rending, profound/hilarious sounds. There is so much lovely commotion to be made, Man Man famously does not break between songs during their live shows, but rather moves, revolving-door fashion, from one song to another, commandeering and discarding any of number of the instruments lying at their feet as the mood strikes and the music dictates.
Comparisons to the usual avant-garde forefathers - Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, Tom Waits - persist, but Man Man are decidedly not identity thieving or even overtly referencing these spiritual godfathers in their music, but rather are acting as torchbearers of the unusual, the spontaneous and the plainly fucking funny in an increasingly homogenized world. "I'm just making the songs I know how to write," says Honus. "The one thing I want to clarify is that this is an organic project -- who we are, the kind of lives we lived before we met each other, and the lives we have together. [That's] what makes this band and this music what it is. I would say being broke is one of my biggest influences. That and being in and out of relationships. Those are bigger influences than listening to a Beefheart record."
Indeed, it would be a mistake to write off Man Man as simply "experimental," "psychedelic" or even "jokesy," for they are some, but mostly none, of that. Their music is clearly rooted in rock, blues and pop, and they can really play all those instruments. A long list of the most successful, accessible and accomplished indie rock bands working today - think Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse, Cat Power - have asked Man Man on tour. At a Man Man show, one might see a hipster chaining up a fixie out front, a gaggle of high school kids with a genuine "Lord of the Flies/Peter Pan's Lost Boy's" fire in their eyes, some hippie old-timers, still in it to win it. The scope of their appeal attests to Man Man's genuine abilities and the palpable emotion of the music.
With Rabbit Habits, their Anti- Records debut, and the natural extension of their body of work begun with The Man In A Blue Turban With A Face and continued with Six Demon Bag, Man Man bring their incomparable vision to bear. Successfully capturing the raw spirit and essence of a Man Man live show, Rabbit Habits is the end product of the efforts of a band who are earnestly saying something important, even if you can't always make out the words over the blare of the sousaphone.
Life Fantastic is the first Man Man album with a proper producer behind the boards. And not just any knob-twiddler, either. We're talking Mike Mogis, the Bright Eyes member responsible for the widescreen backdrops of nearly every major Saddle Creek release. The record also features lush string arrangements by fellow Bright Eyes member Nate Walcott.
"The songs were fully-formed entities by the time we got to Mike's studio," says Kattner, "But he was there to say things like, 'Okay, that's a bit (too) much.' He was able to help us carve the beauty out of the chaos we brought. It wasn't whittling down the points; it was sharpening them so they'd puncture even deeper."
The celebrated avant-garde rock outfit Man Man will release their brand new album entitled Life Fantastic this May 10 on Anti-Records. The album opener "Knuckle Down" is available for streaming today on Pitchfork.
Diamond Doves was formed in 2010 by longtime friends and musical collaborators Nick Kinsey, Brigham Brough and Wyndham Garnett. The sound of Diamond Doves is the meeting of their three distinct vocal, instrumental and compositional personalities. With a seemingly endless instrumental palette and a penchant for genre-hopping, Diamond Doves draw from a wide range of influences both foreign and domestic, new and old. Their sound at times recalls the mass and drive of Funkadelic, the studio experimentation of Os Mutantes and the democratic ethos of The Band, yet it clearly owes a lot to the pop-craft of contemporaries like Animal Collective, The Walkmen and Kanye West.
The three songwriters and nucleus of Diamond Doves met as kids and began a friendship and musical partnership that eventually brought them around the world playing and recording with their friend Elvis Perkins. Know collectively as Elvis Perkins in Dearland the acclaimed folk-rock quartet toured for years performing at Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble, Newport Folk Festival, Bonnaroo and many other festivals, pioneering an influential hybrid of American music. They released their eponymous full-length debut and The Doomsday EP in 2009 on XL Recordings.
Apart from their experience with EPID, all three Diamond Doves have carved out individual creative paths; Brigham owns and runs Smith Hill Studios in Providence RI where he has recorded bands including Deer Tick and Tallahassee. After a lengthy tenure in the Hudson Valley, Wyndham and Nick recently returned home to NYC where they are active in the music scene. Wyndham records and performs original music as Little Wolf, and as a drummer, Nick has recorded and performed with the likes of AA Bondy, Felice Brothers, Marco Benevento and others. As "Dearland Horns", (Wyndham on trombone, Brigham on saxophone and Nick on clarinet) the three have performed with many of today's most celebrated bands including My Morning Jacket, Bon Iver, Dr. Dog, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Felice Brothers, Okkervil River, Cold War Kids, AA Bondy and others.
Both live and in the studio the sound of the trio is augmented by an accomplished posse of collaborators; including co-producer/engineer Jesse Lauter (Low Anthem, The Woes) who plays guitar and sings harmonies, and trumpeter Mike Irwin who has made a name for himself on the NYC club circuit as well as recording and performing with EPID, The Walkmen, Vampire Weekend and others. The extended Diamond Dove family also includes Kevin Russell (The Woes, Himalayas) who provides woodwinds, Odetta and Camellia Hartman on strings and harmony vocals and both Marco Benevento (Benevento/Russo Duo) and Leo Genovese (Esperanza Spalding) play keyboards.