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MANATREE is a four-piece band, currently residing in Richmond, Va. Their current lineup includes vocalist/guitarist Jack Mayock, guitarist/vocalist Tristan Fisher, bassist/vocalist Noma Illmensee, and percussionist Alex Elder. The band is on their third tour, as well as not only finishing recording a new album, but also writing another album. MANATREE is set to be back in Virginia after this tour, and once back in Richmond, they will be performing three shows in one night on January 31, 2015. The band was interviewed while they were driving on their southeast tour.

Are you guys tired?

We slept okay last night, but we’re a bit tired. That’s usual on tour.

Why did you change your from HERRO SUGAR to MANATREE?

HERRO SUGAR was just kind of a nonsensical name we came up with in middle school, and we just got kind of tired of explaining to people that it didn’t mean what they thought it meant. MANATREE is just a better name, we think, so we changed it.

Are all the members the same as in HERRO SUGAR?

We have a new drummer. [Alex] started playing with MANATREE about three months ago. Our old drummer was our old friend Jack Oliver. The four of us just sort of formed the band when we were in middle school, and Jack’s been playing with us the whole time. This past semester, he started art school at [Virginia Commonwealth University], and the workload [was] really heavy. [So] we just decided that we were gonna kinda branch off. But, he [also] just wasn’t feeling it as much anymore. He just really needed more time to focus on his art. [However], Jack will be doing our art on the album, which we’re really happy about.

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Does the name have anything to do with manatees? Does the name have a meaning?

Well, it’s sort of like that; our drummer was on shrooms. We spent months and months just going through terrible band names, and at some point, someone posted to our Facebook [page] “MANATREE.” No one really paid attention to it, but at some point, we discovered it, and we thought it was the best option. More specifically, we were in our practice space, and just talking about how ridiculous it was that we hadn’t come up with a new band name in like over a year of trying. Jack said that he was going to drop his keys on the floor, and if we didn’t come up with another name before his keys hit the floor, then we were gonna be called MANATREE. Then he dropped his keys on the floor. Now we’re called MANATREE.

Are you guys all living in Richmond now?

Yeah, we all live in Richmond. We all live separately in different places, but we have a central practice space, [so] we can all meet up and play frequently.

Who do you do your recording with?

We recorded at Montrose [Recording]. … It’s out in Bon Air. We recorded with Adrian Olsen from HYPERCOLOR. He did a really good job. It’s a really cool studio. It’s like all sorts of vintage equipment.

How is your tour going? How are the responses from the crowds? manatree 2

It’s been a weird but very fun tour. I think the weirdest experiences of my life happened [on this tour]. Very weird. The South is a really weird place. Everyone’s super nice, and really weird. We played back to back nights at a hookah bar. That show was “off the hookah.” It’s always weird not having places to stay and stuff. The house show in Savannah, Ga. was pretty cool. There’s a place called The Stoop. The whole room was sound proof, so you couldn’t hear it outside at all. The cops showed up because somebody left a window in the showroom open. Regardless of how weird the shows have been, the response afterwards has been great; everyone’s definitely enjoyed it. … Somebody told us they wanted to fuck one of our songs. They wanted to have sex with one of our songs. That was one of the weirdest things somebody has said about our music, [but] it was flattering. … Either way, it was funny.

Are you working primarily now on putting out a new album? What are your future plans?

We have some songs in the works definitely. While we’re releasing some of the stuff, we’re going to be working on a new album. [We will] be shipping the record out to different labels, so hopefully [we will be] getting it pressed and getting it out there.

What label is it the new album under?

We don’t know yet. We’ve been talking to a few different labels to find the right group to work with. We were thinking of tapping into different labels in different cities so we could get some distribution throughout the states, but we’re definitely shooting for some more indie stuff. We kinda wanna get the record out there too. In January, we’re gonna play three shows in one night, as a sort of “Mana-day,” “Universal Mana-day,” or “Mana-fest,” or whatever. On January 31, we’re gonna be playing Hardywood [Park Craft Brewery] in the evening, then were gonna be playing THE TRILLIONS‘ album release at Strange Matter, and then we’re playing a house show with the band PAINTED ZEROS from Brooklyn later that night. They’re indie rock; they’re like kind of spacey. They’re friends with OVLOV and that whole Brooklyn group.

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Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

Generally, we like a lot of bands that have strong pop songwriting, like WILCO [and] DAVID BOWIE, but then combining it with more tight tempo arrangement. We like the energy of punk with the approachability of pop and the tight guitar work of math rock. So, largely, I don’t think any one band [in particular] strongly influenced our style, but we just like different aspects from different bands.

Do your parents go to your shows?

Early on, when we were teenagers, our parents were definitely very supportive. Both Tristan’s [dad] and my dad are in bands, and having musical parents definitely influenced and inspired us a little bit.

What would you say has gotten you into music, or got you to start playing?

Jack, my little brother, and I started playing in a band when we were in seventh grade. Jack used to busk a lot. We would just do that for hours in the summer; it was fun. My little brother is naturally very good at the drums, and that kind of inspired some of us to pick up instruments and do the band thing. We all started doing it and learned [how to play]. We just put a ton of time and effort into learning all these different covers, [learning] how to play music together, and [learning] how to be in a band and all. And Noma is a wizard, so somehow [he] was able to start getting us shows in the Richmond scene as soon as we were in the ninth grade. We played with REAL ESTATE one time.




You can meet a lot of cool people while touring, right?

Definitely a lot of people — interesting people, great people, and weird people. Everyone’s just super nice. Nobody has thrown any tomatoes at us or anything; everyone’s just been supportive and comes out to shows. It’s really cool how every city has a community. It’s cool to see how all the small DIY scenes work. I haven’t been to any places on this tour before, and it’s really cool to just see the different parts of America. It’s a beautiful country. Hotels are a waste of money. There will always be people wherever you go that are willing to host you, even if it’s a little sketchy and you just go there for six hours and then get up and leave as early as you can. It’s like, why waste money on a hotel room when you can talk to people and you can give them a cd, and they’ll let you stay at their house. Grandparents are pretty much the best thing you can have if you’re touring as a band. They give us their guest bedrooms, and they make us really good food, and fill up our gas tanks. It’s nice to have a day to not sleep on the floor.

Any closing comments?

Just remember to “Save the MANATREES.”

For more updates on MANATREE, please “like” their Facebook page, or visit their Bandcamp.

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