!!! (Chk Chk Chk)
Combining punk abandon and tightly-coiled dance music has always been bonded into the band's DNA. It's this core plus their growth and mastery of songwriting that has seen them outlive the mid-2000s 'indie/dance punk' tag and has allowed them to consistently grow lyrically and sonically from album to album. As If is their most transcendent collection of songs yet.
"Each album we've made has gotten closer and closer to our live set and this, we're proud to say, is the closest we've come yet. We were heavily influenced by current dance music -- Nina Kraviz, Moodymann, Paranoid London, Rrose and Delroy Edwards were frequently referenced -- and philosophically by the early '90s house records we love on labels like Trax and Dancemania and by artists like Romanthony and Green Velvet. Those records sound great because they're fairly raw attempts to use the technology of the time to ape the New York and Philly disco records that those producers loved. We figured, if those old house records sound like they do because the artists manipulated disco samples with MPCs, why couldn't we just sample ourselves and manipulate the tracks with Ableton Live? The more raw it came out the better it felt, not only because that's what excited us about those old records, but because it felt more punk, which always feels good."
When Man Man cut their seemingly endless record/tour/write/repeat cycle short to take a well-overdue break, Ryan Kattner AKA Honus Honus AKA Man Man's main man decided to make something he'd avoided for the past 13 years—a solo album under the apropos name 'Use Your Delusion.'
Now that a few songs are out, it's safe to say a lot has changed since Man Man's last LP, 'On Oni Pond.' For one thing, Kattner has lived in Los Angeles since 2013, splitting his time between songwriting and side projects like screenplays, a long-outlined graphic novel, music supervision gigs (Fox's 'Exorcist' reboot, Super Deluxe), a new Mister Heavenly album, a bizarro children's record called 'Booger Bubble,' original scores for plays and TV pilots, a monthly Talkhouse column, even a little acting and directing (his own "Heavy Jesus" and "Will You" videos for the JASH channel Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Reggie Watts, and Tim & Eric founded on YouTube). Why not right?
Let's just say there's more than a whiff of the city's fallen angels at play here. Think of 'Use Your Delusion' as a love letter to LA's lost souls, sealed with a pop-savvy sucker punch instead of a kiss. Fuck it. The kiss is there too.
"I wanted the vibe of the album to be upbeat and carefree even if the storytelling ran against the grain," explains Kattner. "Like most creative people, I'm forever influenced by where I'm at in my life. There's an unbalanced energy in the air I wanted to feed off here. I love how you can walk a block off Sunset Avenue at night, in the middle of a teeming city, and run right into a couple of coyotes trolling the neighborhood for tiny cats to eat. Sure, LA is known for attractive, traffic obsessed people and unattainable lifestyles but there's also a lotta weirdos, a lotta darkness, and a real rich, disturbing history in the mix. Dreams being made and unmade every day. And all of it under a canopy of perfect weather and towering palm trees that are about to topple from either the drought or the next big earthquake.
He continues, "It's not a concept album. You don't need to drink from the LA River to appreciate the content. I mean, you'd probably die if you drank from the LA River. Or become invisible."
OR maybe you'll start to see things through Honus Honus eyes, enough to make sense of the dizzying 'Use Your Delusion' universe, from the down-and-out summery dub of "Oh No!" and barbaric death-metal breakdowns of "Red Velvet" to the poison-tipped synthpop of "Santa Monica" and mood-setting melancholy of "Vampires in the Valley." There's even some gymnastic guitar solos courtesy of producer/right hand man King Cyrus King (see also: several Adult Swim shows, Super Deluxe, and the power trio Hot Karate). He's but one crucial piece of a complex puzzle that includes contributions from comedian Jon Daly (slaying the sax), drummer Joe Plummer (Mister Heavenly, Cold War Kids, Modest Mouse), polymath Mary Elizabeth Winstead (last heard alongside Dan the Automator in the avant-pop duo Got a Girl and seen in '10 Cloverfield Lane' and 'Swiss Army Man'), and singer Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams.
"The parameters were simple," explains Kattner. "Don't overcook the cake. Short 'n sweet, lean hard into the hooks. I also wanted to explore sounds I'd never messed around with before, diving headlong into the cheesiest sounding synths—the type of keyboards and pads most people skip over—and mixing that with outdated drum machines and real drums and then stirring in my songwriting style. Dystopian Pop."
'Use Your Delusion' is more than just a mere one-off record, too. It'll be supported by a full-on tour, one that lives up to Kattner's wild-eyed reputation.
"This ain't some 'Honus strums a sad ukulele' thing," he says. "Sorry if that's what you want but I'm just too restless a spirit to do that right now. I'll implode if I don't get the energy out and with all the great players I have onboard, the ceiling for the wildness factor to bloom is immense. That's the most exciting part of all of this for me. Discovering our live footing as a new band. It reminds me of what it was like when I first started Man Man back in the day. There will always going to be serious side to the lyrical narrative but ultimately I just want to have the most engaging and fun live show possible. That's not much to ask, right?"
Sego's Spencer Petersen and Thomas Carroll were both birthed in the burgeoning Provo, Utah music scene. However, finding inspiration in the dissonance that the towering structures and bustling city offers over the mountains and relative quiet of Provo, both relocated to an old pasta factory in downtown LA. Through various projects together, both founding members uncovered their distinct sound: lazy, grungy guitars with digital overlays and (refreshingly) honest lyrics. The band’s debut album surprises with angular guitars, complex arrangements and musings from an 80’s kid contemplating the void left from the misguided hope of our youth.