Monday, April 11, 2011

Interview With Christopher Browder (Mansions)

Christopher Browder is the voice and mind behind Mansions. The band just released their newest album titled Dig Up The Dead on April 5th, and it has gotten plenty of acclaim around these parts. Christopher took some time out of his day to chat with us, as we discussed the progression from New Best Friends to Dig Up The Dead, future plans, the personal feelings behind some of the lyrics, the acoustic version of the record, and many more things that can be seen after the jump.

You just released Dig Up The Dead. How has the reception been to its release?

So far the reception has been kind of overwhelming. Last time the record sort of just came out and no one really knew about it, so that's probably what I expected this time.  But reviews have been really positive and it seems like people are getting into it and responding to the songs, which is kind of incredible and a huge relief. I've been living with the record for so long that I had no clue if anyone was going to like it, so it’s been great to finally hear some reactions.

What do you believe is your greatest growth from New Best Friends to Dig Up The Dead?

A lot has changed since then, but I think the biggest difference is that now I have a much stronger idea of what I want the band to be, and I believe in myself and the music a little more. When we made New Best Friends, I didn't really think I was capable of doing some things that I really liked in music. I didn’t think I could pull it off.  But Mike Sapone (producer of New Best Friends) really helped teach me a lot and showed me that I was just as capable as anyone else.  So I was able to take that into Dig Up The Dead and apply it in the sounds, the songs, the vocal performances, and everything else. I think overall it is just a lot more confident.

The album seems much darker than New Best Friends. It shows up in the album and song titles, the lyrics, the arrangements, and even the vocals. Was Dig Up The Dead planned to be a “dark” album?

I don't think that was ever consciously planned, but you are right for sure. I had always been drawn to darker sorts of records and issues, but I think until the last year or two I didn't think I could really dive into that stuff without sounding dumb, if that makes sense.  I guess I didn't think I could pull it off, although there is a lot of dark stuff on New Best Friends too (I guess it’s more relationship-based dark stuff, rather than existential). But I started experimenting with that more on some EPs in between the record like this one called Mr. Boddy. And then the other reason for it being dark is just that I was in a fairly dark place while writing the record.  The band was falling apart, we were splitting with the label, everything just seemed to be going backwards and I didn't know if I should be trying to play music anymore. So I was in a weird place for sure,

Did you feel that any of the songs on the album were on the verge of being “too personal” to be put out in the public?

For sure, and there were certain lyrics that I actually planned on changing, but whenever I mentioned changing those lyrics to people who had heard the songs, they were the lyrics that those people had responded to the most. I guess I’ve always kind of put out stuff that was too personal. A lot on New Best Friends was way too personal, so I've probably gotten used to it. There is always that fear of oversharing, but I’d rather overshare than hide in a bunch of lukewarm songs. At least for now.

You put together an acoustic version of the album that was released with the original version. How did this idea come to you?

Personally I've always had a soft spot for acoustic versions of songs that I like, so I thought maybe other people would like that too.  And also, probably half of the shows we play are just me playing acoustic, so that has always been a big part of Mansions. And sometimes people like the acoustic set and then don’t like the full-band CDs, so I thought this would give something to those people. And most of the songs are written on acoustic in the first place, so it kind of made sense to take them back to that version.

Did you rerecord the entire album acoustic, or did you reuse some parts of the original version?

It’s totally re-recorded, nothing from the original. I tried to do every song a little bit differently than the full band version to mix it up a little.

A few years ago, you released the Manbox EP with Brian of Weatherbox. Are there any more plans for more Manbox songs in the future?

I would love to.  We talk about it occasionally, but the trouble is actually sitting down and committing to it.  We've talked about doing something less acoustic, so that’d be fun to actually get together in the same room with Brian and the rest of Weatherbox and work it out. Last time it was all over the internet, so it'd be cool to actually work on it together.

Are there any fairly new artists that you respect for the way they are working in the industry?

It’s tough because I feel like it is hard to really tell how a band works, or what their goals and ethics are until you tour with them. Like some bands seem really great and honorable, and then you tour with them and they are total assholes just trying to get girls. And then other bands seem like they are totally meaningless, but then you tour with them and they have a total DIY approach and are all about the music. I feel like I can never tell, so I'm not sure if I have an answer for that one.  There are artists whose music I like, but I have no real clue as to how they work in the industry.

You’re going to be touring with Ace Enders and Into It. Over It. How did you get involved with Ace and the tour?

Basically we saw that he was going to be doing this special tour and was looking for openers, and we submitted for it.  We were lucky enough to get it, and it should be a lot of fun.  We did a week with Into It. Over It last month, and he rode in our van and we became friends, so it should be a really good time.

Are there any plans for some sort of headlining tour in the future?

I would love to something like that, but right now we really just don’t have the draw. We need those bigger bands to bring people out.  But hopefully after doing more and more supporting tours we might be able to headline someday. Fingers crossed.

What is your plan for the rest of the year, and into the future?

The rest of the year is basically tour tour tour. We’re trying to stay on the road as much as possible, lining up some other cool stuff for the summer.  We're also going to put out probably a couple split 7"s with other bands we like, so people will hear some more new music from us this year. Now that this album has been released, I have the itch to make a new one, but I have to write some songs and play some shows first. Since people seem to be responding to this record, the likelihood of there being a record #3 from us is much higher than it was a few months ago.

Any final words?

Thanks for your nice review, and for doing this interview, and thanks to everyone else who has said nice things about the record or bought it or whatever.  It means a lot, and makes me feel like I haven’t been totally crazy for making this album.

I'd like to thank Chris again for answering our questions. Dig Up The Dead is a superb album that deserves all the credit it has been receiving. As Chris said, the positive reception to the album is what is keeping him going. Everyone needs to purchase Dig Up The Dead, so this extremely creative individual can keep on doing what he loves. You can preview and buy the album on Amazon here.

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