Published Mar 01, 2006Man Man are moustachioed men in white who hail from Philadelphia, but the image conjured up on their second full-length is that of a lycanthropic madman leading a band of gypsies from Bulgaria to hijack Berlins Kit Kat cabaret. Carnival-esque melodies sung by rowdy group vocals compete with instrumental twists that sound like Deerhoof reinvented as a Klezmer dance band. What should be an impossible formula works miraculously well, even more so here than on their brilliant yet occasionally bludgeoning debut album, 2004s The Man in a Blue Turban with a Face. The intensity is taken down a notch, allowing more subtleties to shine through and making it an ultimately more rewarding listen. With an overhauled line-up of "men men behind him, including drummer Christopher "Pow Pow Powell on loan from Need New Body (a band now on permanent hiatus), the vision of neophyte bandleader Honus Honus has resulted in one of the most delectable and wildly unpredictable American bands in recent memory.
This was the first band for most of you, which I find hard to believe considering the complexity of the arrangements and all the multi-instrumental stuff going on with trumpets, marimbas, accordions, etc. Honus Honus: Pow Pow is a drum wizard, the rest of us are self-taught. I started playing music for this band as a way of dealing with my "undealable life. I had a lot of bullshit going on, and thought it would be funny if I started a pop band. I never saw it going beyond playing some local shows. I thought it would be great to do a record, and then people responded to it in a way that one can only wish they would.
One of the principal elements that sets Man Man apart is that there are hardly any guitars. Were trying not to have a straight-up rock band set-up. Thats boring. Im so tired of going to see guitar rock bands. Also, I dont look that good playing guitar. [Unlike piano], its hard to play guitar very well with your face and your elbows. Basically, I knew what I didnt want to do. I feel like the more I learn, the worse its going to become. Right now its organic in a granola bar and razor blades kind of way.
The first record was made guerilla style, by sneaking into high schools and borrowing their equipment. Did you have better resources this time? We actually had less money to work with this time, because when some people depart a band they take the marimbas with them. We had an extra month and a half to make this record, but at least with the first situation we had air conditioning. You can only imagine what Philadelphias Chinatown smells like in the summer.
Are there any direct influences from Eastern European music or Klezmer? I love that music. I find the gypsy stuff in Eastern European music a lot more honest. In some ways its kind of ingrained in my head from a lot of movies, like [the 1995 Serbian film] Underground. You can really taste the music, if you know what I mean. I also like playing waltzes, which are easy for a primitive piano caveman like me. Its easier to disassociate my hands from my throat on those songs. (Ace Fu)