Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Manchester Orchestra Interview with Chris Freeman(keys/percussion/ect.)

Increasingly gaining popularity, the alt-rock outfit Manchester Orchestra released their third full-length record, “Simple Math” to rave reviews and well deserved praise. The follow-up to the band’s groundbreaking 2009 release, “Mean Everything to Nothing,” aims to push the boundaries of their sound. A collection of diverse tracks that bring in new elements and instrumentation, “Simple Math” is sure to capture the ears of new listeners, while keeping the devout fans content. We had a chance to speak with Chris Freeman and get his thoughts on the new record, before their sold-out hometown show in Atlanta.

How's the tour been thus far?
Freeman: It has been awesome man. We love Cage and we love O'Brother. We have had a really good time just hanging out with some of our best friends on tour.
You have the big hometown show tonight, right? Did it sell out?
Freeman: Yes, why yes it did. We sold out about a week ago, which was a really big surprise and we are really stoked. We have been to the Tabernacle a million times to watch other people, and we always wanted to play it. It's like the Fox (Theatre) for us. It’s this big beautiful room that we are really, really excited to play.
How does it feel to be playing the bigger venues now?
Freeman: It feels great. It feels nice. The cool thing about it is that we have our own monitor now that we are sharing with Cage. I think that is a big part of being comfortable onstage every night. You walk out there and sounds exactly like the night before. It is great, and fun to have a good amount of people there every night screaming and singing along to the songs.
With your latest release "Simple Math," did you guys have a goal in mind before you started making the record?
Freeman: Yeah, the thing that we always have is to make something far better than what we've done before. I think that we knew with these songs, we had something that we were really going to be proud of at the end of it. I think it definitely came out exactly the way that we wanted it to come out. We definitely had somewhat of a goal when we walked in.
Where did you guys come up with some of the ideas for the record, in terms of the musical content? I noticed that you guys had a lot of orchestral arrangements on this record, as well as little things like a kid's choir on one of the tracks.
Freeman: Well, it went along as it did. All of the songs were written without any kind of orchestration, or children's choirs or anything like that. All of that kind of stuff was added afterwards, where someone was like "Oh, maybe we should do a kids' choir there!" So we tried it and it worked, so we kept it(laughs). A good friend of ours, Ben, did all of the string arrangements and that was pretty much it. We kind of trusted him with the songs, and handed them over to him and he made a whole orchestration and it sounded beautiful so we kept it (laughs).
What are you looking for listeners to take away from "Simple Math," as a whole?
Freeman: Hopefully some sort of experience through the whole thing. I think that it’s an "album" for sure. The songs definitely stand on their own, but as a whole they are a lot stronger. If you look at it from the beginning to end, it’s like an experience.
Did you plan on it being a conceptual album, or is that just how it came together?
Freeman: Yeah, it definitely is. There is definitely a storyline in there. That's kind of why we see it as sort of an experience album, from the perspective of Andy dealing with marriage and God. Those first couple years of marriage are a very difficult time. Once we realized that we had a conceptual storyline in the songs that we were going to end up putting on the album, it started coming together in that way. We noticed that lyrically, it was more cohesive. We had a lot of songs on this record and we ended up not using a lot of them, because these songs seemed to fit together really well. Then we noticed that there was a cohesiveness through all of them, as we were putting them together. It wasn't musically, but it was lyrically and thematically.
Do you think the songs that didn't make the record will eventually see the light of day?
Freeman: Yeah, we've talked about it a couple of times. Our band really does like going in the studio, so once we get some time off perhaps we can go in and "re-hash" some of those old songs. We definitely go back to old songs in the writing process, since we have so many. So yeah, hopefully we can do something with those songs. Maybe make a b-sides album or something.
I've read that you are kind of the multi-instrumentalist in the group. Were there any instruments that you were excited to use on this album, that you hadn't used in previous works?
Freeman: A vibraphone, actually. At Blackbird Studios they have an insane list of instruments that you are able to use. I knew that they had a vibraphone there, and weren't able to use it on ""Mean Everything To Nothing(previous LP)." So once we got in the studio, we were able to mess around with the vibraphone. I think that it is a very pretty instrument and also a very creepy one. So we were very stoked that we could use it on the record(laughs). And we used it a couple of time, so that was very sick!
I know that naming your favorite song off of a record, is like naming your favorite child. But what song were you most proud of(laughs)?
Freeman: Personally, I really like "Pale Black Eye." I think that the keyboard parts on that song were more difficult than most, for me, because its not really a separate part. It pretty much follows the chord changes with the guitars, which is unlike anything that I have ever done on any of the other records. Usually my parts are like a different part to go on top, but I think that took actual piano playing talent. So it took me a while to get it, so once I actually got it, and it sounded good, I was very happy.
So how did most of the writing pan out? Did most of the songs derive from a riff, or idea Andy brought in?
Freeman: Yeah. It varies from song to song, but he is definitely the core to every song we write. He either brings in a riff, or a full idea, or a full-fledged song and we just sort of go from there. After playing together for as long as we have, we can kind of read each other really well and know where the other person really wants to go with the song. So it’s very natural for us to write together. It fits really nice.
You mentioned that you guys have been together so long, what would you attribute that to? There doesn't seem to be a lot of drama within the band.
Freeman: We have just been friends for a really long time. There definitely is drama, but we have a policy of not going to bed with any "bad blood." We usually fix whatever the problem is, that night. So that's what I would attribute that to. We all like hanging out together too; we know what gets on other people's nerves. Once you know someone for eight or ten years, you start to realize that. If I am annoyed, or someone else is annoyed, we will just go off by ourselves for a little while or take a walk. We just treat it like a family.
What kind of advice would you have for bands that are now starting up?
Freeman: My only advice is to go and tour. That is a lot of bands' downfall. They don't get out of their own city and they keep playing the same bar. Yeah, just try and book some shows out of state, and try to get some momentum going and that's pretty much all you can do, except for making smart choices(laughs).
Who all, in the band, is involved with Favorite Gentelmen Records?
Freeman: Well, we are all part of it. Andy and our old drummer Jerimiah are the spearheads of that whole project and the company.
Any new releases from Favorite Gentelmen coming out soon?
Freeman: O'Brother has a new record coming out soon. Andy and Rob have just finished recording with those guys, and they are getting mixes everyday. We are kind of hearing them as we get them, and it sounds awesome. It will be a great release for sure.
Will Bad Books(Manchester Orchestra plus Kevin Devine) come out with another release?
Freeman: Oh yeah, we definitely have talked about doing another Bad Books album. It was such a fun process, and playing those shows together was so fun. Being able to go to L.A. and New York and play a couple of shows with Kevin is so different. It is really fun to put on a different hat for the day, you know? Being around him(Kevin), I will do anything Kevin wants to do because hanging out with him is one of my favorite things in the world. That’s kind of how that whole thing came together, because we all like hanging out with each other.
Any updates on side-projects within the band?
Freeman: Yeah, Robert has Gobotron. I have one, but I haven’t really done anything with it yet. It’s called Alaska Him Nicely, but it’s kind of a baby project that I’m trying to do. We are just kind of focusing on Manchester, and seeing what we can do with that. Also, it’s kind of difficult for us to write on tour, so once we get some time off we are all going to try to do some solo stuff for sure.
Alot of bands looked up to you guys now, listing Manchester as one of their biggest influences. Is that kind of a surreal thing to hear?
Freeman: It’s a funny thing. Its not like they look up to us, but it is cool running into people and them knowing who you are. Like bands that I know, that would know us. It’s weird shaking hands and saying “Oh, I play in Manchester,” and them being like “Oh yeah! Love the new record!” It’s sort of a cool, random run-in.
Do you ever turn on the radio, or hear a band that you feel has a “Manchester” sound?
Freeman: The only time I ever think that is with friends of ours that we have toured with for a long time and you can kind of hear them turn up their guitars a little bit, or do a certain riff that sounds like something we have don before. But, it is always flattering. It’s rare, but it is always cool. We have had a few times with friends where we are making a record at the same time, or they just finished a record and they’ll hear our new song and be like “Oh crap! We have a song that sounds just like that. We just wanted to let you know now,(laughs) before anybody says anything. We didn’t rip you off, we just did it. Sorry.” And that is always really funny when that happens.”
Perfect day windows down, driving in your car, what are you listening to?
Freeman: Talking Heads.

No comments:

Post a Comment