Michael Shuman Opens Up Mini Mansions
Thu, 30 Sep 2010 08:05:28
If all pop music sounded like Mini Mansions, the world would be a better place.
Their self-titled debut album, due out November 2nd via Rekords Rekords is an engaging, entrancing and enchanting collection of psychedelic pop tunes. The Los Angeles trio evokes The Beatles during their most adventurous era, but there's a strangely enticing darkness at the heart of Mini Mansions. That darkness bubbles up during lush keyboard passages and layered harmonies from the band's three co-conspirators Michael Shuman [Queens of the Stone Age], Tyler Parkford and Zach Dawes. Songs like "Crime of The Season" and "Girls" oscillate from lilting melodies into deep verses, creating a sonic wonderland that you won't want to leave.
Michael Shuman of Mini Mansions sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about the band's debut, his favorite TV shows and so much more…
Video of this interview is coming soon!
When you went into the studio, did you already have a complete vision in mind for the album?
When we went in to actually record, we did have a vision. We'd been writing all of those songs over the period of a year so it all grew together. Right before we went in, we wrote those three "Vignettes" that are on the record. We realized there was going to be some kind of flow to it, and those "Vignettes" would help—and they did. Once we got in the studio, we basically knew what we were going to do. We even almost knew the track order!
That cohesion makes listeners want to experience it from the first song all the way through to the last.
I would love for everyone to do that! Most people don't…I think we wanted to make a record like that though. When we're in the car on the road, we listen to whole records. We don't really shuffle around or anything like that. It's also not a concept record though. Lyrically, it's not conceptual, but I think the feeling is. It just came together like that, but it feels a little together.
There's a bit of danger to the record as well. Was that something you wanted to channel?
Sure! Up until this band, I've always been in bands that had some kind of danger element, especially live. When we started this band, we just wanted to make really good pop songs because that's what we're all into. That was the first thing! The next was to incorporate some kind of darkness that the pop music we listen to could be intermingled with. I think it's a good balance. That bit of danger is what's missing from modern pop songs that I'm hearing nowadays. I'd love to bring it back. We're still a pop band, but I hope we did bring that danger back a little bit. It seems like we did.
Were the "Vignettes" one whole song? Or, were they separate pieces?
With the way we write, there's usually a riff or a part at the beginning. It's rare that one person will write a full song and deliver it. There's usually a little bit from each of us to build a song. The "Vignettes" were three different pieces, and each of us wrote one of them. That wasn't on purpose though; they just happened to be like that. When we went to try the parts out, they all had the same tempo and feel. It just worked out. We recorded the three pieces as one, but we split it up along the record. It was recorded as one song , but we knew we were going to split it up.
What's the story behind "Girls"?
There really is no story [Laughs]. Tyler and I split the writing share. Lyrically, I wouldn't even say it's about anything in particular. It sounds like it's about girls because we named it "Girls." I think lyrically it might have some feelings about certain situations and experiences that we've had—but not really. It's not really a love song; it's almost the opposite. There's really no love in there. I think it's very dark, and it steps away from love. It seems to be many people's favorite song. The song has more of a verse-chorus feel, which I like, and I think the recorded needed that.
It doesn't feel like a love song. There's an intriguing juxtaposition between what one might think it means versus what it is…
I guess we do that a lot [Laughs].
What are you watching at the moment?
I'm a big TV guy right now, and I get super excited about hour-long dramas and comedies. I'm really into that at the moment. I'm really into Dexter and Breaking Bad. I just started watching Six Feet Under from Season 1 onward. I love it, and I could go through all of that. I'm a huge fan of Lost and darker weird stuff. I don't know how the networks are doing it, but they're allowing these weird shows on. Breaking Bad is one of the heaviest and weirdest shows, but it's mainstream and it's winning Emmy Awards!
Which albums shaped you?
I always go back to the same records. I could go listen to Eliot Smith all day every day, and I'll always go back to Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles. I think that was a really dark record for them, yet it was really happy. The opening track is very whimsical, but it's a very dark album. Then there are records that I started listening to when I was 14 or 15, getting into more punk rock. The Stooges' Fun House and The Jesus Lizard's Goat as well as Hot Snakes and Drive Like Jehu, bands that really got me into punk rock. It wasn't the simple punk rock though. It's easy to go back to the classics.
What's up with Queens of the Stone Age?
We're going to South America. Talk about danger! [Laughs] I'm a little scared and really excited to go for my first time. It's nice to get the band back together. It's been about two years.
This new Queens album is going to be amazing…
We've never written together either. We toured together for two years straight and got really close and tight, but being in a band that's never written together is really strange [Laughs]. I'd never done it before. It's going to be really refreshing. Coming off Mini Mansions to play bass in a rock band and do a rock record is real exciting.
Have you heard Mini Mansions yet?
Video of this interview is coming soon!