Black Manila are a three-piece London band about to release their fourth single Shake That Thing / Hoverfly on 7” through RIP Records. David Brown from Louder Than War met Conrad (bass and vocals), Liam (drums and vocals) and Gareth (guitar and vocals) before their single launch gig at the Betsey Trotwood in London to find out a little more about them.
Formed five years ago, Conrad and Liam had been friends since schooldays and they formed a band at art school where they met Gareth, although Conrad explains “we’re not an art school band, we just met there as we did the free foundation year”. The line-ups varied, even expanding to a seven-piece at one point, as they found their sound and identity as a band.
Settling on a three-piece set-up, they released debut single Reno Rush / Happiness as a double A-side 10” single in April 2011, described by Conrad as “birth of Black Manila”. They followed this up in 2012 with two download-only singles Fiasco / England and June 95 / Tap Dance The Hangman. The current single has been recorded with Liam Watson, who worked on The White Stripes’ Elephant album.
Live, Black Manila are an intriguing proposition. There’s a series of three minute guitar and noise heavy almost punk songs, but with a slight pop edge to them that makes them difficult to categorise easily. They end the set with three longer numbers, which almost enter into prog territory in parts. They’re also fun to watch, and look like they’re having fun – not something you see in every new band trying to get themselves noticed. It’s not difficult to see why they have a dedicated and growing fanbase in Europe, but have a sound that the British media and music scene struggle to find a box for.
Asking the band to describe themselves brings a round of laughter, before Conrad tells us “it’s rock n roll music” and goes on to talk about garage music and their place in it. “A lot of people in England don’t get garage music. There’s a UK garage scene, but we’re not part of that, it’s not what we do.” Gareth adds “There’s a lot of scenes around London now, but we just get on and do our own thing. We also get branded a lot as psyche, as a psychedelic band, and it seems like all new up and coming bands that are loud get that label. We have one song that goes on for nine minutes that you could possibly call psyche. We’ve also been called punk.”
Looking to the future after the single release, the band are focusing on writing and recording an album. Conrad explains “That’s what we’re working on right now, we’re writing the tunes for it. There’s a lot of talking and planning what we do and how we want to do it.” Gareth adds “We want our debut album to be something special. We haven’t done one yet obviously because we want to do it right and not rush it. We’ve got about five written, so we’re not ready to take it to anyone yet.”
Conrad continues “We don’t just want it to be our back catalogue or the first ten songs we’ve written. With the way people listen to music now, it’s different. People have playlists, but we’re old school and we listen to vinyl. You put it on and you have to listen to it.”
The band all write and bring ideas to the band where they then work together on them. “I’ll write a song, or Conrad will bring something in or Liam sometimes, but quite often it ends up sounding different to what was brought in. The excitement you get sitting on your bed is nothing like the excitement you get with your guitar in a studio with your band-mates and what will come out is going to be different, a lick that comes out of nowhere, something changing vocally. It’s a much more interesting place to come from.”
Shake That Thing is out now on RIP Records and can be purchased on 7″ and download via their bandcamp site
They are currently on a European tour with the following dates :
Apr 03 Brussels (BE) – Madame Moustache
Apr 04 Caen (F) – Ecuyes
Apr 05 Bourges (F) – Pub Murrayfield
Apr 06 Bordeaux (F) – Cafè Pompier
Apr 07 Vitoria (E) – Ibu Hots
Apr 09 Nantes (F) – Le Stakhanov (w/ Kid Congo)
Apr 10 Le Mans (F) – Au Singe En Hiver
Apr 11 Paris (F) – La Mecanique Ondulatoire
Apr 12 Rouen (F) – Emporium Galorium
Apr 13 Namur (B) – Belvedere
Apr 15 Berlin (D) – White Trash
Apr 16 Kiel (D) – Prinz Willy
Apr 17 Stockholm (SWE) – Lilla Hotellbaren
Apr 18 Copenhagen (DK) – Drone
Apr 19 Aarhus (DK) – Radar
Apr 20 Cologne (D) – TBC
Apr 21 Lille (FR) – La Rouge
Apr 25 Milton Keynes (UK) – Sno! Bar
Apr 26 Leeds (UK) – Packhorse
All words by David Brown. You can see more of David’s work on Louder Than War here