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Manchester Orchestra Ė 04.14.08 
by Jonathan Bautts on 2008-06-13

This is an interview conducted with Manchester Orchestra keyboardist Chris Freeman, guitarist Robert McDowell and bassist Jonathan Corley at The Glass House in Pomona, CA.

So this is the last night of the tour. How did it go?

Robert: The tourís been easy and fun, but weíre definitely ready to go home.

I was reading online about how youíve been receiving some interesting responses from a few Say Anything fans. Has that been true?

Chris: Iíve heard all good things.

Robert: You know thereís definitely like some different types of Say Anything fans. Thereís definitely ones that are there to see a show and jump around, who have a lot energy and just mosh. We donít go over as well with that because weíll call them out sometimes.

Chris: Moshingís dangerous, man. Itís not even a sport. Itís just dangerous.

Robert: Somebodyís going to get hurt. You donít see people at a golf match just punching each other.

Chris: Exactly. Iím pumped at golf but I donít punch people at golf. Or basketball.

Robert: You have to make decisions and I donít feel like punching things at a concert is the way to do it. I feel like spending money at the merch table is.

Chris: Now thatís a good sport.

In addition to Say Anything, youíve toured with a ton of other amazing bands, such as Brand New and Kevin Devine. What have you been able to learn from those experiences?

Chris: A lot of the bands have really taught us how to live on the road, how to keep yourself sane and realize you need your own personal space sometimes. Just how to be respectable human beings on the road, you know?

Robert: Itís very easy to just get fed up with people. You just have to learn to disconnect yourself at times.

Are there any plans to collaborate with anyone in the future?

Chris: Not that I know of.

Robert: Not for like a project. Not for like a Manchester thing. Thereís always like friends whoíre musicians. Like I have friends back home who Iíll just mess around with and record weird demos, but nothing official.

Coming up youíre going to be playing both Coachella and Lollapalooza. Are you excited for that?

Chris: Of course, yeah.

Robert: Weíre super stoked about the Lollapalooza lineup. Itís pretty insane.

Chris: You didnít even go last year, or the last time we went there. So itíll be Robertís first Lollapalooza and all of our first Coachellas. Weíve never even been before. Iím very excited.

Robert: Iím not a huge festival go-er but if I have a pass and I can get free water and food and watch bands for free, I love it.

After the tour, you guys are going to be working on a new album. Whatís the latest on that?

Chris: Just working on it.

Robert: Weíre playing a few songs on this tour that will probably be on it. Itís just we havenít had any time to actually work out the songs as a full band, so we just got to get in the practice space.

Are you going to be recording that in Atlanta?

Chris: Yeah. We kind of had dreams of doing it in like some far off land, making a record in this beautiful place, and then weíre like screw it.

Robert: Iím eating dinner at my parentís house.

Chris: I want to go home after I sit in the dark studio for eight hours a day.

Do you have any ideas for a producer?

Chris: Andyís been talking to a lot of people.

Robert: Itís a very open book right now. Thereís no one who we donít want to do it with, so we just have to decide.

Stylistically, where will you be heading?

Robert: No idea.

Chris: Probably louder.

Robert: Yeah, weíve been jamming a lot on this tour. Maybe straight up like Widespread Panic.

Chris: Itís going to be like the next O.A.R. record. (Laughter.) Thatís really what weíre going for.

You have a very passionate live show and youíve been on the road now for like two years. Do you think thatís going to show up on this new record?

Robert: Hopefully.

Chris: The passion or the fact that weíre tired? (Laughter.)

Like both the passion and how Iím sure over the last two years youíve been able to grow tighter and get a better feel for things.

Chris: I think the passion, especially. We have new things that have happened in our lives and changes that werenít there when we were making the first record. The things weíve learned on the road in the last two years I think will definitely show up.

(Jonathan and Alex Kent, Say Anythingís bassist, enter.)

Do you have any idea when you want the new album to come out?

Robert: Probably in the winter.

Jonathan: Early next year.

Chris: Iím thinking...Whatís the year the Aztecs take the world?

Robert: 2012.

Jonathan: But we have to wait until we know that the earth is going to explode. The second it explodes weíre going to put it out.

Chris: No, yeah, probably next winter.

Iím Like A Virgin seemed to be one of those rare records where it was both critically acclaimed and fans really seemed to love it. Did you anticipate that at all?

Chris: We didnít anticipate anything. We didnít have anything, so we didnít expect anything.

Jonathan: Itís the same record that was out when we were playing in front of five people at W.C. Donís in Jackson, MS. Things just kind of happened in an exciting way.

Through this whole process you guys have played on late night TV a couple times. I know thatís always kind of an interesting thing for bands to do. What was it like for you?

Chris: Itís great.

Alex: Itís nerve-wracking at first, but with enough chemical drugs and enough hours in advance, youíll be fine.

Chris: This is not from us. I donít know what heís talking about. With enough Nyquil you can do anything. No, yeah, it was really nerve-wracking and scary and cold.

Robert: It was cool, though, because we did Letterman first so everything else didnít seem as intimidating. At Conan, everybody there was nice.

Jonathan: Both of them were also very surreal because it almost seemed like it didnít happen. Itís only three minutes, so itís not a full show. You play one song and then youíre done. Thatís it forever.

Alex: And then you have nothing to be excited about.

Jonathan: Itís such a buildup and then it just happens and then itís done.

Alex: Itís just like thereís so many rules and you buildup and waiting and then itís live TV, blah blah, actresses or whoever. Then you play and itís like, ďOK, that went by pretty quickly.Ē

Jonathan: Conanís crew was hysterical.

Chris: Yeah, very funny people.

Jonathan: All of them are just sharp and witty. What you donít see is the crew actually wears clown wigs to loosen Conan up. Itís crazy.

You guys have that documentary Whatís Going On, which I understand has been done for a while now and will be in some festivals. When is that going to be released?

Jonathan: 2012. (Laughter.)

Chris: No, we donít know yet.

Jonathan: Itís going to be a three-dimensional flipbook that weíre going to project on the world.

Alex: Itís up to Sam, really. He owns the rights to it. He owns the band. (Laughter.)

Robert: Itís going to come out toward the end of this year. Itís something thatís going to bridge between now and the new album.

Whatís the length like on that?

Robert: I think itís like 47 or 48 minutes.

In addition to Manchester, I know Andy has his side project. Do you know if his next record is going to be coming out before the next Manchester one?

Chris: I have no idea. I think heís written most of it already, so probably.

Jonathan: Heís planning on recording another one soon, probably in another log cabin.

So on your first record, there seemed to be a lot of spiritual turmoil throughout it. Whatís the story on that?

Chris: Well, we all grew up very religious Ė background, one of our dadís a pastor, missions work, all that kind of stuff Ė so itís just a part of our lives. People always ask us if weíre a Christian band. I mean weíre Christians and itís a part of our lives, so itís going to seep into the music like anything else.

It seems like you guys have a lot of darkness and doubting that isnít too common in most ďChristian musicĒ type stuff. Whatís your response to that?

Jonathan: Andy is the lyricist in the band, and as he said things in your life just seep into the music. Listening to the record thereís definitely a lot of searching, and you did pick up on some of the spiritual elements.

Do you think thatís going to continue to play a part in the next record?

Chris: As long as Godís a part of our lives, Iím sure it will be in our records.

Switching to more of the business side of things, would you ever consider signing to a major label?

Chris: We just want the control. If we could sign to a major record label and have all the control in the world and they wouldnít put their symbol on our records, then weíd totally do it. But thatís not up to me, either, so I canít really answer that.

As the industry is struggling with sales and everything, do you have any plans on how to avoid falling into that?

Chris: Just keep touring. Itís like record sales havenít been the focus of the industry for a long time. As long as people are still playing live music, I think thatís where bands are making their money anyways.

Jonathan: If you win over an audience in a way where your music matters to that audience, youíre going to be a band whose music matters, regardless of whether CDs are selling.

Chris: Itís the industry thatís freaking out, not the bands, I donít think. Weíre all seeing the effects of everything, with like what Radiohead did this last year and the digital stuff, but I feel itís more like the industry freaking out than us. I feel like weíre doing just fine.

Jonathan: Itíd be awesome, though, if we could just sit at home and sell records.

Alex: Yeah, itíd be good to be The Beatles and not tour. Just make a record and then be like, ďHere you go.Ē

The band started back when you guys were in high school, right?

Chris: Yeah, Andy started the band and then Jay joined. We were in a band together growing up and then we all split. I moved to Ohio and Andy started the band by himself, and then Jay and this guy named Andrew joined. That was a long time ago.

Jonathan: Then a few months later everyone came together and formed what actually is the band now. The lineup solidified.

Since you started out really young, have you found out that youíve grown up kind of fast over these last couple years?

Alex: Weíre all pretty grown up already. Weíre all pretty mature.

Chris: Except for when it comes to like talking to each other.

Jonathan: Except for interviews.

Chris: And being adults in any way, shape or form.

Jonathan: Itís all in the air today. I wonder whoís going to screw with our set tonight, you know?

At the end of tours, do you guys pull a lot of pranks?

Alex: On the last full-length tour we did.

Jonathan: We got some plans tonight. Have I told you yet?

Chris: Donít tell him.

Jonathan: No, Iím not, but we have something awesome planned.

Whatís the craziest thing thatís happened on tour to you guys?

Robert: UmmÖWe threw a birthday party onstage during Say Anythingís set. We brought out a table and had cake and threw cake in the crowd. I nailed some girl in the face on accident.

Alex: I shot fireworks one time.

Jonathan: Thatís not really a prank. Thatís just mean-spirited.

In the venue?

Alex: No, it was outside. I did throw a firecracker one time in a venue and got in a lot of trouble.

Jonathan: Where were we? We were in Portland and we printed out a fake parking ticket for the city that we were in for like $600 and put it on The Snake The Cross The Crownís van. We left like the actual cityís number for the towing company and for who to pay and then went onstage. They freaked out and called the city, and it kind of went wrong.

Did they find out it was you guys?

Jonathan: Eventually.

Chris: They spent like 45 minutes on the phone trying to figure it out.

Jonathan: But the day before they had written like ďGo home you rednecksĒ as a joke on our van, which is why we did that.

Looking ahead to this next record, what kind of career do you see yourselves having or want to have?

Chris: Weíd obviously like to have a long-lasting career, being able to do this as our jobs. We just want to make good music and hang out with our friends and be with our families. If we can do that forever, than thatíd be awesome. I donít know. I donít want to be the biggest band in the world. I donít know if we ever will be, but as long as we can make records, weíll be happy.


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