Alter The Press!


Interview: Mansions

Christopher Browder, the brainchild of the lo-fi indie-rock band Mansions, was kind enough to answer some of our questions a couple of weeks after his much anticipated, critically acclaimed sophomore album 'Dig Up the Dead', a record that sees a refined version of Mansions coming into play, and sees Browder combining fuzzy guitars with his trademark vocals and relatable lyrics. The album is the follow up to 'New Best Friends', a record that saw Browder play shows alongside The Get Up Kids and John Nolan.

Christopher was kind enough to speak to ATP! about the progression he made from his debut album, how 'Dig Up The Dead' developed, upcoming tour plans including his forthcoming tour with Ace Enders, his Manbox collaboration with Weatherbox's Brian Warren and more.

Alter The Press: 'New Best Friends' tackled a lot of themes to do with friendships and relationships. How would you say your songwriting has developed since you were 22?
Mansions: I'm probably the worst person to answer this, it's hard for me to tell since it's always just small, incremental changes. But I think my writing now is a little more mature and subtle. A little more introspective and less finger-pointy. This new record is less about relationships and more about issues I was thinking about. It's more in my head, like conversations with myself or different parts of myself. I like to think that my writing isn't so melodramatic now. Like instead of yelling at someone or crying loudly, it's a little quieter, more of a sigh and a shrug. People keep saying this record is really dark, which is funny to me because I thought it was the most optimistic thing I had ever written. But I guess my writing has always had a sad vibe to it, and probably will for a while at least.

ATP: 'Dig Up The Dead' features a lot more full band arrangements. Did you feel that the band dynamic emphasized the emotion in some songs?
Mansions: It wasn't really my intention to necessarily have more full-band songs, it sort of just happened that way. I try to just figure out what works best for each individual song, and sometimes that's the big rock thing, and sometimes its just me and a guitar. In between NBF and this one we had done a lot of full-band touring, so I'm sure that had an effect on my taste and how I hear the songs in my head. I think I had a better understanding of how electric guitars can affect the mood and emotion of a song, and I tried to use that to my advantage. So yeah I hope that the band dynamic helped convey the emotion, rather than hold it back.

ATP: The acoustic version of 'Dig Up The Dead' is vastly different from the actual album itself and sounds like a completely different band altogether, are any of the songs on that CD performed the way you had originally written them?
Mansions: That's real cool, I'm glad it sounds different. My goal for the acoustic CD was to have it sound kinda like a different band, I didn't want it to sound lazy like I just sat down and played all the songs the exact same way but on an acoustic guitar. Most of the songs start with me on acoustic, so these versions were probably closer to that experience, but they were recorded well after the real record, so I was also kind of reinterpreting the songs. Like the version of "Call Me When It's Over" on the record is basically the first time I ever played the song. That's how it was written. So then for the acoustic disc I wanted something different, so I learned it on piano. Basically I came at the songs from the angle of being a mellow quiet band, rather than rock n roll.

ATP: You worked with Brian from Weatherbox for Manbox, first off, how did you write those songs without meeting?
Mansions: Haha good question! One week in early 2009 I took a bunch of songs I had lying around and made an "album" called Death To Slater. They were mostly acoustic/mellow songs, no live drums (some of them became the Thyme Travel cassette). I took two songs from that, cut out a verse and chorus in each, and emailed them to Brian for him to finish the songs. He did that and recorded vocals, as well as another song, and then sent them back to me. I added some more stuff, mixed them, and we put it out.

ATP: Would you consider doing something along the same lines with someone else? If so, who?
Mansions: I would love to, it was a fun and weird experience. We've talked about doing another Manbox, which would be real cool. I'm about to record a split 7" with Fences, and we're recording it together so we might end up singing on eachother's songs, who knows. And I'd love to do one with Ryan Adams, someone make that happen.

ATP: Are there any plans for Mansions to tour outside of the US, perhaps a European tour?
Mansions: Man that would rule. There have been whispers about it, but it would have to make sense financially. We don't have European distribution right now or anything, so we might need that first, or a killer headliner to go out with. But we'll see, that'd be a dream come true.

ATP: Did you play all of the instruments yourself on this album?
Mansions: Pretty much. My friend and sometimes live-drummer Sal played drums on a couple songs, and my friend Bryan played Bass on two. My live bassist Robin sang background vocals on a few songs too. The rest was me.

ATP: You're touring with Ace Enders, someone who has been in a similar situation as you. Has he given you much advice regarding the industry?
Mansions: Well we haven't actually met yet haha, but hopefully he will! We seem to have gone down a similar path, and I'm always interested in hearing how other bands do things. That tour should be a lot of fun.

ATP: Are you going to be taking a band with you on the road?
Mansions: For Ace Enders it looks like we're gonna be playing as a trio, but it really depends on the tour. We try to make it fit musically, as well as make sense money-wise. Sometimes me solo, or lately we've done a bunch with just guitar and bass, which has been cool.

ATP: Who designed the album artwork and how do you feel it fits the album?
Mansions: This guy in North Carolina named Patrick Leger did it. Robin found his stuff online and I was pretty blown away. His work has a certain nostalgia and weird sadness that I found really compelling, and I think that ties in with a lot of the themes of the record. It seemed like his style nailed the mood we were going for, and he was kind enough to do an illustration just for us.

ATP: You wrote an entire album before 'Dig Up the Dead', will any of the songs from this scrapped album be released in future?
Mansions: Well some of them ended up on 'Dig Up The Dead'. 'Blackest Sky', 'Not My Blood', 'Call Me When It's Over', 'Wormhole', 'Yer Voice', and 'You Got Cool' were all on the first version in some form or another. Some of the other songs might come out at some point, but honestly they're not very good. There's a reason they were dropped from the record. But it would be fun for people to hear the first version of the record so they can go "yeah he was right, this sucks." Maybe sometime down the road when I'm further removed from it.

ATP: Is there anything else you'd like to say to close the interview
Mansions: Hey man, I don't have too much to close the interview, except that we are going on tour with I Can Make a Mess and Into It Over It in May/June

'Dig Up The Dead' by Mansions is available now on Burning House/King Bones.

Official Website
Mansions on MySpace, Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.

Tour dates with Ace Enders and Into It. Over It.
Tuesday 5/17/10 Brighton Music Hall Boston, MA
Wednesday 5/18/10 The Studio @ Webster Hall New York, NY
Thursday 5/19/10 Club Hell Providence, RI
Friday 5/20/10 The Chance Poughkeepsie, NY
Saturday 5/21/10 Rocko's Manchester, NH
Sunday 5/22/10 Webster Underground Hartford, CT
Tuesday 5/24/10 Grog Shop Cleveland, OH
Wednesday 5/25/10 Mac's Bar Lansing, MI
Thursday 5/26/10 Beat Kitchen Chicago, IL
Friday 5/27/10 The New Loft Madison, WI
Saturday 5/28/10 The House Café Dekalb, IL
Sunday 5/29/10 House of Bricks Des Moines, IA
Tuesday 5/31/10 Off Broadway St. Louis, MO
Wednesday 6/1/10 Mad Hatter Club Cincinnati, OH
Thursday 6/2/10 The Smiling Moose Pittsburgh, PA
Friday 6/3/10 Jammin Java Vienna, VA
Saturday 6/4/10 North Star Bar Philadelphia, PA

Words by George Gadd

Alter The Press!