Friday nights in the Lower East Side along Essex, Rivington, Ludlow, and Orchard streets can get pretty packed, ESPECIALLY during CMJ week. Rockwood Music Hall is always jammed packed like a sardine can during the weeklong marathon. The venue can be a pain to get into, especially on this night when the bouncer out front was displaying the intelligence of a seven year old while I was explaining to him that I was not only press covering the show, but on the artist’s private guest list as well. Thankfully I was able to sneak my way in just in time to see one of the acts I’ve been waiting a while to cover in Manicanparty.
Made up of Patrick & Jess, these Minnesota transplants have introduced New York to a one-of-a-kind sound with their tribal rock style music that really does have a trance-like effect when you see them live. The energy and power the band brings is the kind that not many bands can produce, especially in the over-populated indie rock scene in NYC. Their style of music truly is one of a kind and I was more than fortunate enough to sit down with them after their electric set on Friday.
P&W: Tribal rock/tribal pop is your guys’ niche sound. How did that come about?
Jess: With all of our songs we try to have this community aspect to them. The first song we did together was ‘Rebels in the Light’, and we had all our musician friends out for a party for that and we even made up some weird language for the bridge, but with everyone together is just formed a kind of tribal sound to it. It was very natural and became our signature thing.
Pat: It was certainly organic, like a subconscious thing. The big drums came from me experimenting with different sounds. I would sample live drums in the studio with floor toms.
P&W: How does the songwriting work between you two?
Jess: We do everything ourselves. Pat does most of the production and I write all the vocals. We’re there together throughout the entire process. He’s playing all the instruments. Occasionally we’ll bring in someone to play an instrument he’s not as comfortable with, but the majority of the time it’s just the two of us.
Pat: A lot of it is experimenting with trial and error. It’s really about the idea- whether it be a chord progression or concept on the piano or a drum sound that’ll inspire her to write something.
Jess: I’m a very visual writer. Usually when I write on of our songs, I visualize maybe a music video or strong visions… I dunno. People have called our music ‘cinematic’, which totally fits the way that I write. I like to create imagery throughout my lyrical writing, and it just comes out naturally that way. It’s just like when you’re watching a movie where the music and the visual line up, it creates an emotion.
P&W: Pat when you’re writing the music, does it give you really strong confidence in a pallet that you have to work with when you have a singer who has such a strong vocal range in Jess?
Pat: To be honest I never thing about that. Like I said before, the songwriting process is almost completely subconscious. I had a moment in the studio maybe two years into us writing songs, and I had a moment where I don’t feel like it’s me. I’m not very spiritual, but I do think music is magical. You have a genius moment and it’s a happy accident. It’s all emotion.
P&W: I always compare it to a photographer trying to capture lightening, it so hard to do. Or like a great artists just doodling, and creating the foundation to what could be a fantastic masterpiece.
Pat: Exactly. It’s a lot like an artist in that you have this blank slate. The most fun part of making music is the emptiness you have when you start. We tend to write in a studio with our toys like ProTools, it’s very different than sitting in a bedroom with an acoustic guitar.
Jess: If you go into a studio expecting something or planning, it just doesn’t work, you can’t shove yourself into a box. It’s too much pressure. We write for other artists and it’s the same thing, it’s so hard when you try to do something that’s commercially appealing. So going in there with no specific thought is the best way we make music. We never have any discussion before we write a song, and that’s how we’ve always done it. We balance each other out really well though too.
P&W: There a lot of garage rock bands in New York City. Manicanparty really stands out like a diamond in the rough because of how unique your sound is and it really contrasts the overpopulated rock sound here. There aren’t a lot of bands that are doing what you guys do on stage with your sound and energy, or in the studio. Do you feel you stand out like that in New York?
Pat: It’s interesting because I don’t think it’s hard to cut through in New York.
Jess: it’s definitely oversaturated but that that is an opinion we here once people have heard what we do. We don’t want to be like another hipster band period. We’re still branding ourselves and getting to that point where we know exactly who we are.
Pat: I will say this- this first time we put out any music it reached a broad audience. For example we were getting emails from sixteen year olds in India and from this twelve year old in Italy who’s obsessed with ‘Rebels in the Light’. Then there are other people in college in the U.S. like a girl from the West Coast who told us she listens to one of our songs on a jog every morning because it inspires her and motivates her. That’s the kind of shit that I pay attention to. There’s definitely a scene in Brooklyn and I’m not sure where we fit in, but we like that our music isn’t limited to just people here.
Jess: I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing. We’ve never had a moment where we’ve got a negative response at shows. It’s okay if we don’t fit into that hipster, indie-rock shit that’s going on.
P&W: I’ve always compared music to the fire that people like to dance around, and with your music, you almost have that Native American vibe of people getting together to dance to your rhythms around the fire that you guys have made.
Pat: It’s so authentic and comes from the heart. There’s nothing hip or popular about that. We’re not trying to create a scene. It’s about community, it’s about family, and it’s about getting together and experiencing real shit together. I feel like the drums in our music make the song ‘tribal’, and they bring energy to it that for me is exciting when we play. The floor tom and drum set make it so super heavy that goes along with a female perspective. There are duos like us out there but they tend to be more dream pop and synth-heavy, and for me I love rock and roll, so for me it’s important for me to have our music more heavy than just that synth-pop sound you here a lot.
Jess: We hate the idea of a genre. It’s tough when someone asks ourselves to name one for us. Like when we’re creating we don’t have any intention behind it, we don’t want to stay in one specific zone. I like how I can’t predict what he’s going to do live or in the studio.
P&W: I hope I’m not keeping you guys here too long…
Pat: No man we love talking music, we’re HUGE music nerds
P&W: Who were your music idols growing up?
Jess: I used to sing Celine Dion all the time as a kid. I used to sing ‘My Heart Will Go On’ just like she did.
Pat: I was a piano dude growing up so Billy Joel for sure. I also like Michael Jackson though because I love pop music.
P&W: What’s next for Manicanparty?
Pat: We’re working on new material at the moment, so we’ve been in the studio a lot trying to get a few new singles. The tribal thing is still very much a part of who we are but we’re starting to play around with something more raw and edgy. In addition to Manicanparty we’ve also been doing a lot of songwriting for other artists. We’ve been collaborating with producers in L.A. so there are some placements that are close to going through.
P&W: How often do you have to go out there?
Pat: We haven’t been there for a while but we’ll be out there in January to do some sessions and play some shows. Right now we’ve been doing stuff via email, phone, or Skype sessions, which I’m not a huge fan of. We’ve made it work though.
Jess: The songwriting aspect of things is such a different world.
Pat: It all started out with people reaching out to us re our songwriting. There’s something right now with pop/top 40 wanting to be indie and more authentic than it is right now. So when we were approached we were like okay this is cool, because we could definitely make an impact with these songs. If we could have an impact on mainstream pop that’d be something that I’ve always wanted to do. I want to affect people and change their lives! I know that sounds lame but it goes back to the girl from Europe who emailed us saying our music gets her through the day and makes me feel special. That’s what makes me want to get into the studio and making music.
Article by: Tom Shackleford