No matter where someone ends up on their journey through life, there always seems to be something about them from where their roots are that stays with them. This holds true with bands, as well.
Manager are the living embodiment of this sentiment. The Brooklyn-based band is comprised of Jon Chinn (guitar, vocals), Ron Hester (guitar, vocals), Lori Cantu (bass) and John Dorcas (drums). They released their eponymous album on April 21, 2017.
Ed. – Read our review of their eponymous debut HERE
Ahead of their show in Columbus (May 5), we had a wide-ranging conversation about the band, their sound and the new album. Dorcas had a previous commitment and was unable to join us.
“Two of us are from Ohio,” said Chinn. “Ron grew up in Ohio, as did I. Lori and John came to Ohio for work. Serendipitously, we all ended up in New York. We all spent lots of time in Ohio and two of us are natives.”
Cantu continues, “I can honestly say that I’d never given a thought to the state of Ohio until I got a job offer there. I was there for eight years, but always wanted to come back to New York City.”
At this point, Hester chimed in with, “An interesting point about us is that we have three graphic designers in the band. So, we seem to have to debate every aspect of design, whether its t-shirts, the record, and even songwriting. We all have our points of view.”
This elicited laughter from Cantu and Chinn, with Hester joining in the frivolity.
Having formed in 2015, their Ohio roots are still in play, although they call the borough of Brooklyn their home.
“We’re all bringing our experiences from previous bands together,” said Hester, “and I think it’s changed our playing for all of us. You know, new directions for all of us.”
Chinn was the front-man for the Columbus-based Pretty Mighty Mighty, and co-owner of Workbook Studio. Cantu and Dorcas (of the band Lori), and singer-songwriter Hester, each met Chinn in the recording studio. They have produced a number of albums together.
About their new record, Chinn says, “I had some demos recorded, and I think it took a little while to get our own collective vibe and sound. It wasn’t immediate, but once we got into making the record, it came together pretty quickly.”
“I’ve known Jon as a songwriter for almost 17 years,” Hester said. “So, it’s about serving the song.”
Just like most bands, their sound has evolved from when they first started playing together as a new band. Cantu explains, “We started off playing ‘Jon Chinn’ songs and trying to make a band sound out of that. Now, as a four-piece, we have a point of view that is different than when we started. And, every day that evolves.”
Their debut album is full of an aural elixir that makes life just a little bit better each time you listen to it.
“I think the record is a very honest record,” said Hester. “It represents each one of us. There aren’t points on it where we’re going ‘let’s try this, because it’s flashy or cool.’ We’re all about what’s going to make the song better. It just feels like an expression of each of us, and I’m very proud of that.
“When I hear it, I don’t think ‘Oh, those posers…’ It’s honest and what we really play like.”
“Aesthetically,” Cantu added, “we all have a very similar point of view.”
They all admit they’ve grown, both as people and musically.
“If I look back on some of the records I’ve made in the past,” Hester opined, “I’m embarrassed about some of the things. But with this record, I feel it’s a very honest expression of what we’re doing right now.”
Playing the part of court jester, Chinn jumped in with, “See me in 10 years and we’ll talk about it…” The self-deprecating laughter was palpable, despite the physical distance between us.
Recorded in Brooklyn, the album came together rather quickly. They recorded in a “live” setting, with minimal overdubs. This created an immediacy that comes through very well on each of the tracks.
“Through a recommendation,” Chinn said, “we found a nice place to do basic tracks. We also have our own little studio room here, where we did all of the overdubs and vocals.”
“It took about six months, start to finish,” said Hester. “I think the record has an Ohio and Brooklyn ‘feel.’ There’s definitely a Brooklyn presence, I think, lyrically. But then, there’s that good Ohio ‘rock’ background to it, as well.”
Produced by Jon Chinn and Manager, it has a sound that is reminiscent of the band’s influences, such as Bob Mould, Matthew Sweet, Flaming Lips, Beck and Deathcab For Cutie.
“Today,” Hester said, “we were talking about Television, Echo and The Bunnymen during practice.”
“They don’t come through Columbus much,” Chinn added, “but here in New York, there’s so many great shows all the time. I mean, we’ve probably seen Bob Mould four times in the last two years. It’s not hard to be over forty and still want to rock.”
Although the influence of these artists can be heard in their music, the band has developed their own sound, keeping it fresh and new.
The Columbus show is only the second time that Manager have played in Ohio. Their show on Friday at Spacebar is sure to bring a plethora of family and friends to see the band perform.
“We’ll be playing on Cinco de Mayo,” said Chinn, “so we’ll be serving up Manager margaritas at Spacebar.”
With an infectious sound that will surely have your toes tapping, the question had to asked about what they think of the Columbus “scene” and its place within the musical landscape of America.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a time that there weren’t a ton of awesome bands,” Chinn said. “I had a recording studio for over 10 years in Columbus, and I never had a shortage of crazy, awesome talent that came in every day…”
Cantu jumped right in with, “You’re talking about my band, right?” Once again, laughter ensued.
“There’s more recognition outside of Columbus of there being a ‘scene’ there,” Hester said. “When I talk to strangers, they’ve heard of Columbus now. It’s nice that it’s a slow boil.”
“Columbus is, for a band, a great place to be,” Chinn concluded, “because you can afford a decent apartment working a not-so-great job that affords you the time to get out and do some shows. Within five or six hours in any direction, there are numerous cities to play.
“It’s a good place to be from as a band.”
You can catch the magic of Manager at Spacebar in Columbus on May 5.
Manager – Off To the Races