Track By Track: Mansell – Mantra
Mansell look and sound like an up-and-coming act from the U.K. Their catchy hooks and broody looks suggest so, at least. But instead, the three-piece indie rock unit is from the deep South–Atlanta, Georgia, to be more specific.
With their debut album, Mantra, Mansell are on their way to creating quite a name for themselves in the indie world. Since we’ve been totally digging their new songs, we caught up with lead singer Holden Fincher to get the story behind each song on the album. Check it out below!
“Ghost” is a song pertaining to the observation of people, particularly in their youth, who lash out in the artificial substance of crowd approval, trend relevance, sexual gratification, etc. to create a facade of confidence in order to hide secrets about themselves or their lives to themselves and others around. I watched a lot people I grew up with constantly using these things to build up walls to hide within themselves. It appears almost like a natural thing to commit to at an age of uncertainty and insecurity about ourselves and this world. We build fake versions of both, but it is only an occupier of time & energy, and in the quiet moments, you still only have you and the weight of issues and secrecy. And I know that that issue never truly dies within people. It only changes form, but at such an early stage, it proves to be rather curious on how people at the start of their lives react to it.
The term “Ghost in Our House” came first as a bit of joke while were demoing in the basement of Trent’s dad’s house. We were discussing how the house was possibly haunted and having a bit of a laugh about it. Later on, we had the music finished, and I had the melody of the main chorus and background vocals already in my head, so I took a scratch recording and wrote that term down quickly. That evolved into being a substitute term for other sayings like “secrets in the dark” and “skeletons in the closet.” This caused me to think back to a very personal conversation between a friend and I over how her actions were simply reactions of how she was truly feeling and some darkness within herself and her family that plagued them. There were many exemplifications of this within my own life and others around me as well, leaving it as the basis for the rest of the lyrics.
Recording was mostly tracked live in the studio, and we actually ended up using all the synths and sounds from the original demo.
“Age” is a difficult one to discuss meaning. The words took months to properly place to the emotion felt within the music. Finally, some sort of catalyst occurred, and it was started and finished in a span of 15-20 minutes one afternoon.
It is the most personal song, lyrically, on the record. It pertains to a few particular things within my life and mind but never really addresses them specifically. It is more about the journey of the internal while having these things in your life and self. It’s not a song about issues or dealing with them but more so of you viewing them and yourself out of body and describing that atmosphere.
Sounds while recording were greatly inspired by the vibe of How I Got Over by the Roots. That’s one of my favorite albums of all time, and they’re an inspiration to the band immensely. Gray was using hi-hats from a toy kit. We wanted to make the track feel like you were walking in Piedmont on an idle day, or spending the afternoon in Tom Buchanan’s Manhattan apartment during a downpour.
This interlude is based off an unfinished song we had been working on at the time. It was initially more a straight up and groove based thing and might turn into that again if it’s ever finished someday, but we thought that making the hook ambient and sort of making it a transition piece or a preview was better suited for now. We went in to re-record it during the sessions and ended up just using the demo we had made a few weeks before in a cabin in Cloudland, GA.
A Love Immodest
“A Love Immodest” is about the journey of choices people make within a relationship and out of one in both the physical and cerebral sense.
The monotonous day to day of being devoted to one person making you lose interest in the chase and allowing the flame to die. Then the choices one goes through to regain that love or at least the comfort one has within a relationship of dependability, as a single person. Whether it’s through casual sex with friends and strangers, or rash lifestyle/personality changes, or jumping back into your brain to retrospectively view what was right and wrong about it all. When really none of it has any substance and you will not get what you had with that one person with anyone else because that was special to you two alone and it will never be recreated.
It can be looked at as a post breakup story. It can also be looked at as romanticizing both sides of single life and true love between two people. As well as simply the thrill we all seek of the adolescent parts of a relationship.
Recording was simple. It’s the oldest song on the EP by far, and we wanted to track most everything on it live. A lot of the sounds tonally and drum wise were inspired by early ’70s recordings, but it’s also our most pop based song so it ended up sounded relatively polished regardless I think.
Lyrically, the “Character Portrait” interlude briefly focuses on creating different lives and personalities for yourself to an extent ’til you eventually have to come to terms with what is actually you and to live with meaning instead of trying to find meaning with how you are living.
We wrote the entirety of it in the studio. We had been crashing on the couches upstairs during the sessions and [Jason] Hoard [prodcuer]had left for the night. Everything was always left setup to record, and we were just hanging. Grayson had been playing something on guitar a couple weeks prior that we had really enjoyed so we decided to randomly build on it. We quickly got down the vibe and the vocal melody for where we wanted the idea to evolve into and recorded the acoustic part as a base. Ryan [Wilson], who was co-producing and engineering, chilled with us throughout the process of the song, and we spent about an hour with him the following weekend with me writing and tracking piano and guitars to encompass the acoustic and Trent improvising swells and ambience. It is one of the fastest songs we’ve written as well as one of the ones I’m most proud of musically.
A Note 2 Myself
This is just a song for daydreaming. It’s sort of a running joke about how vague or in my head I can be, and this is sort of musically and lyrically narrating the act of that. The ending lyrics came from a separate piece of poetry about something else specific, but I felt they could also represent the disconnect within yourself or your world that often leads to the desire to escape or drift. But that drift becomes isolation as time passes, leaving you wishing to attach more with your heart and other people more than with your mind over analyzing every part of itself.
Musically, I think this our love letter to the late ’80s and ’90s alternative that we grew up listening to from our big brother generation and has influenced us. We tried to capture that through specific sounds and the tonality of it all. The drum mix was inspired from albums by the Cranberries and Oasis. We actually ended up using mostly room mic for a natural and crude feel in the best sort of way. Guitars and bass tones harbored more from the vibe of bands like Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine and the Smiths. We wanted a rawness that was still beautiful and came with a bit of shimmer naturally.
Along with “Age,” “Pleasure” took the longest to complete lyrically. Musically, it’s a very special song to all three of us and conveyed a very particular set of emotions that I wished to properly elaborate on, or contrast lyrically. Most of our songs contain multiple, specific meanings and ideas that are intertwined and are written in an abstract form so any other observer may find their own with it. Creating something so specific almost like an inside joke with yourself so that any other person can sort of take it and make it their own in some manner.
“Pleasure” was the same and different as well. The song itself is an actual narrative of scenes from a night out. A story describing different occurrences and thoughts of a set of people during a party and by their lonesome. It took major influence from the film Palo Alto, which my friend Lawson and I were watching a lot back then. It is also why I chose the name April, Emma Roberts’ character, as it also acts as a double entendre for the actual month along with a girl’s name. The narrative is jumbled with a bunch of actual personal events and thoughts, as well as the belief, and I suppose the thesis of it all, which is that much of my generation feels so enclosed within themselves and are yet so informed that it leads to outbursts of complete deflation of identity with no tangibility of morality or solidity as people. This creates the majority of the social and cultural issues we have as youths and leaves us frozen. Like when you have a project due in a day and don’t know where to start. All of this is wrapped in this sort of instrumental tunnel that ends the song that for me symbolizes a moment of clarity, or at least the journey of trying to grasp it.
Musically, this was written a long while ago from a demo Grayson had done on his own with a drum loop and synth. We fell in love with it and wrote the rest of the song on almost improvisation musically by focusing on the feeling it came with. I also feel like this has the most audible hip-hop influence on the record with the use of the drum machine and the rhythmic relationship between bass and beat on the front half. I think alternative and electronic influences like Buckley and Tycho proved prevalent in influencing the mixing process and sounds as well.