Although local up-and-coming electro-noise pop outfit, ManCub, is currently focusing on recording, rather than playing live, the buzz surrounding the duo has never been greater. The wait will be worth it, as new and loyal fans alike will have the opportunity to catch ManCub debut some of their new tracks this March at SnowBall Music Festival.
After catching the pair's self-described "ghetto tech" at Bluebird Theater a few months ago, we've kept an eye (and our ears) on these two Denver-based gents. We chose them as one of our favorite songs of November 2011, and they recently released a killer remix of local indie rockers and Swaager faves, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake. If you haven't heard ManCub's stellar remix of "NOPD," check it out here.
Swaager sat down with Alex Anderson of ManCub to chat about the band's beginnings, their unique promo strategies, and their future projects.
SWAAGER: You guys had a really busy and successful fall, opening for names like Cherub and Mickey Avalon. You were also recently confirmed to play SnowBall – congrats. Can you tell us about how you got your start?
MANCUB: Sure! I've been playing music my whole life. My brother played bass and my other brother played guitar, so I naturally picked up the drums. My dad played harmonica – he played jazz harmonica. It was a very musical family. I started playing the drums in like, 4th grade. Then I started playing the guitar in middle school, and then after learning all the other instruments, I started learning how to multi-track record and making my own songs became one of my biggest hobbies. So that's how ManCub got started – with Danny and I. Danny wanted to do the electronic thing and we both had the knowledge of multi-track recording. And that's kinda where I got my start. Learning when I was a kid, and later experimenting with the whole production part.
SWAAGER: What was it like making the transition from drumming and more acoustic instruments to playing almost exclusively electronica?
MANCUB: I'm obsessed with synthesizers. I don't know when that necessarily happened. I think it was like, my first day of college…I just got really obsessed with knobs and figuring out what everything did and paying attention to those kind of details. It was really nice because I was able to take all the things I had learned to do in school and use them as I experimented. It was really, really interesting to me, so much so that I would read up for days about what exactly I wanted to buy and what to do and that was really nice. I still use, like all instruments rather than computer MIDI instruments. It's all still real keyboards and everything.
SWAAGER: What kind of equipment do you use any given time when you're playing live?
MANCUB: Live is all guitar pedals and we each have Casiotone keyboards from the 80s, they're the mini ones, one is an SK-1, and they both have sampling capabilities which is really cool. But they're just old toy keyboards and guitar setups, so we just have all that routed through mixers and are able to do what we do.
SWAAGER: Talk to me a little bit about your visuals.
MANCUB: Visuals have been really fun, and I'm really glad that you got to see that show at Bluebird Theater a few weeks ago, because that was the first time we had ever used that style of visuals. Basically, the whole plan with that was that my friend Jeremy is a film student at CU, and he does a lot of projection and stuff. He wanted to do something for his final project, so we decided that we're gonna start experimenting at random shows. So, he made that in a couple days, and then he brought the projector and all that. All of the lights and stuff were all ours. Every time we get paid from a show we put it back into lights, buying new shit, buying instruments, pedals, whatever. All of our income goes toward the band, so we've been able to grow very well. Yeah, that visual thing is going to be really cool because we're planning on implementing a lot more of it. He’s also going to use 15mm film, so the projections next year and the end of next semester for school are going to be really cool. I'm really excited for that.
SWAAGER: What do you have coming up before the end of the year and then over the beginning of next year?
MANCUB: Well, we just released a remix that we did of Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, and I'm really, really proud of it.
SWAAGER: How did that come about? Did Hayley or one of the other band members contact you?
MANCUB: Yeah, I mean, we talked a few times and they said they were doing a remix contest. We played their show at Larimer Lounge, and I bought one of their records there. I told them I had already chosen the song I wanted to do, so I called my song while I was there and they gave me it and then instead of them giving me all their tracks, I did it all off the record. So that was really cool to sample all of her vocals straight off the vinyl with background noise.
SWAAGER: That's awesome. Yeah, they're one our favorite bands. If I were a frontwoman, I would want to be like Hayley!
MANCUB: Yeah, she kills it. I mean, that whole band kills it. "NOPD,” the song I remixed, is really, really mellow, so I turned it around. I'm really excited about it. It should be cool. After the remix, we aren't planning anything and we aren't playing anything till March. When March comes we're gonna put out a new demo, and with that will come new music and an even more engaging live show. We're planning on expanding our live show and adding more instruments. It is still just gonna be the two of us, but there's gonna be a lot more shit to do onstage. It's gonna be a lot more fun to watch.
SWAAGER: So who are you listening to currently, locally? I know you said Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, and you are friends with Ethan and Sam of FLASHLIGHTS, another Swaager favorite.
MANCUB: I listen to FLASHLIGHTS a lot. I really like them. They actually gave me their new record and I'm really excited about it. I got that and I'm gonna be doing a remix of theirs, I don't know when, though.
SWAAGER: Have you chosen a song yet?
MANCUB: I think I'm gonna do the title one, "So Close to Midnight," but I'm not quite sure. That's gonna be cool. I listen to them a lot. I like Gauntlet Hair a lot. And Holophrase, have you heard Holophrase? They're like a math rock band, they're excellent. It's a female singer, and she plays theremin. It's a crazy instrument that's one of the first ever created, and it's controlled by a radio frequency. So instead of, like, pressing keys on a keyboard, you get close to it and far away and the closer you get to it on one side is the volume on the other side. So, she does that, and she plays violin – and it's just crazy. Almost tears your head apart, very mechanical.
SWAAGER: You definitely listen to a lot of local music…what else do you listen to outside of local bands and artists?
MANCUB: I listen to a lot of local music. But then there's also bands that I like that I discover daily. I've been really into turntable.fm lately, so I'm on there pretty much every day and I learn about new bands constantly. Even bands like Cherub... now that we're playing with them, I'm really excited that they've been on my feed all the time. I've been listening to them a lot. I love Ratatat, and I just got a remix record of theirs that's really, really cool. So I really like bands like that, and I always try and stay into indie bands and stuff. There's a really good band I like called Mi Ami, and they're very Blood Brothers-esque, just like, in-your-face, full band dance music.
SWAAGER: I really miss that about dance music. I went to school in Omaha, so I got to see Saddle Creek bands like Tilly and the Wall and the Faint...
MANCUB: Tilly and the Wall, I've seen them a couple times. I've seen The Faint twice and I still don't even know what the hell they look like. They were a huge influence on our first record. There were a lot of times that we'd just be like, "This bass tone that we're using sounds like The Faint…and that's awesome!" We weren't trying for it, we'd just hear it and be like "Cool, that sounds like The Faint, I'm down with that." I really like them.
SWAAGER: Where do you guys find your inspiration from when you're producing a track or remixing?
MANCUB: A lot of just stream-of-consciousness. I think I listen to so much music, it's always just kind of there. I'm always writing. A lot of times I'll just set the BPM of the track and figure out how fast I want it to go, and then go from there. I’ll make the drums first, make a really simple drum part, and see what comes out of it. I'm much more musical than I am lyrical, so that's kind of where I start, all with the music. Sometimes I'll get a vocal hook in my head and then I'll write that out, but a lot of time I start with the music and go from there.
SWAAGER: What's your collaboration style like? Are you collaborating more with Danny?
MANCUB: Yeah. We go back and forth with each other and see what we want. Danny is more of a lyrical person, so he will definitely help me out with vocals. It's just a lot of sending stuff back and forth to each other and we'll always get together around 3 o'clock in the afternoon and just hang out until like, two or three in the morning. When we're playing together, when there's collaboration going on, there's a lot of research that happens, which is really cool. A lot of our collaboration is just saying, "I want to do this, do you think we can do it?" And then we get on the music forums real quick, and just talk it out like, "Okay, it says to do this, and this, and this."
SWAAGER: How do you have patience for something like that? I would get so frustrated!
MANCUB: That's one thing that I really appreciate about the subject. I've told so many people the way that we do it, and I'll talk later about our promotions and stuff, and other things that we do outside of playing music. Everyone asks me, like, "It seems like so much work, why wouldn't you just do this, it could even sound better if you do it an easier way," but it's just because I like that challenge and I like figuring out where what I'm doing came from. It's really nice making electronic music the way that they made it in the 80s and the 70s, like the Kraftwerk style of making music.
SWAAGER: You mentioned promotions. Does that mean you guys are handling all of your promo for shows?
MANCUB: Yeah, we do everything ourselves. We make all of our own CDs, we burn them, we spraypaint them with our logo. We have a stamp of our logo that we stamp everything with. We make all of our own CD jackets out of denim. We do all of that, and we give that all away at all of our shows. We've done denim posters, we did a denim poster for our first release. We just hung up denim posters everywhere. We cut them out of old jeans we get at a thrift store and if people bring us their jeans, we're more than happy to use those. We'll use your jeans, and you can pick up a new record later. Then we hand-paint them with stencils and hang those up. We did that at Westword Festival last year, and we put up a bunch of wraps. My friend had made these wraps out of wood, they have like a paper wrap around them and we spraypainted our logo on the back of them. We put them around the city and people were freaking out. They thought they were bombs and shit. One ended up on a 16th Street Mall bus and they like, shut it down. We didn't mean for that to happen. We didn't mean to be responsible for that happening, we didn't put it on the bus, but we're all about that kind of stuff. We just really like to work hard at what we do. We want to be different, and we want to make art. We just handmade all of our own posters, we just did a big run, and we're planning on doing that for our show in March as well.
SWAAGER: That’s a really cool idea! Did you go to school for marketing?
MANCUB: I went to CU Denver for Music Business and Music. I learned a lot from that program, but Mancub has been an education. I have a manager and her name is Kristin and I definitely look to her, because she fucking kills it. We just had a meeting today, and she keeps me on track more than anybody ever. I met her through school and we had talked about working with each other with other bands, but we decided to start working together with Mancub. It’s been really great.
SWAAGER: What would you ideally like to accomplish within the next year? Where are you guys headed? Do you want to be signed to a label?
MANCUB: We're still indifferent. The festival circuit is my ultimate goal when it comes to playing live. I don't want to be a 300-show-a-year band. I don't do that. I want to be able to make music. Within the next year, I do want to get on the festival circuit and play less shows, but make those shows more dynamic. I'm really focused on making our live show even more interesting. We have a couple plans for releasing our newest album. One of the things that we're planning on doing is instead of releasing our new record on a CD or a vinyl or anything, because we can't afford it, is that we're going to release our record as a link to download on a fortune inside a fortune cookie. It'll be edible, no waste at all, like "Here's your record, and you can download it for free after you eat this."