Interview: ManDancing Discuss ‘Hands on 3’

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Photo by Maegan Broccoli

New Jersey’s finest up-and-coming alternative band, ManDancing, is about to release their forthcoming EP, Hands on 3, through Take This To Heart Records. Vocalist and guitarist, Stephen G Kelly, took some time to discuss the EP, the band’s career, and the pivotal moment when they felt like they were finally “doing it”.

Fans can pre-order the album now. Read along while you take a listen to our AGL live session with the group.

What made you want to work with Take This To Heart?

We played a show with Tyler, of Save Face, at the Asbury Park Brewery. He enjoyed our set, reached out to Joe from Take This To Heart, and encouraged him to give us a listen. Joe then got in touch with us and presented the opportunity to work with him. After hearing nothing but positivity surrounding T3H (Take This To Heart), finding out more about the label, and getting to know Joe on a more personal level and his general mission, we grew keen of the idea and thought it was the best decision for us to make. From the beginning of the conversation to now working with T3H, it’s been very serendipitous. So, to sum the answer up in one seemingly cheesy word: Synergy.

Why did you decide to re-re-release your album with them?

I imagine you say re-re-release due to us having put out cassette tapes through Little Game records. At the time, we just saw that as getting our music onto a new physical format by the help of friends, not necessarily as a re-release. The idea to officially re-release Everyone Else with T3H wasn’t ours, however, we loved the idea. I love that record, so the thought of more people potentially listening to it by means of the extended hand that a label provides made plenty of sense to me, and ManDancing as a whole.

What about this EP is special to you?

Hands on 3 is special for many reasons to me specifically, but for MD, it’s the first collaborative effort put forth by everyone in the band, save for the basic songs themselves. Ben, Adrian, Mark, Tom and I had to figure out how to all write this together, whereas it was primarily just Ben and I beforehand. The approach to building these songs was very different to how we built E.E.

For myself, it’s special due to the content. Most of these songs I had written years ago, so to bring them back to life with the help of my best friends and make something new was a real treat. Challenging as well. The EP is essentially about remembrance, and using your past, both fortunate and unfortunate, to learn from and grow forward.

Which song is you favorite from the EP and why?

It’s hard to have a favorite, although “Not My Thoughts” sticks out for me. There’s a few reasons. Primarily, it’s because of how contradictory the song is.

To me, the video for “Passing Out” seemed to reflect the fact that everyone has unique experiences but yet we are never alone in facing them. What was the inspiration behind it/meaning for you?

I like your description of it. Adam Nawrot and I had discussed the thought of making a music video a handful of times before getting together on this. I love his work, and he likes our music, so that’s the initial inspiration for the video existing. Now, when we had decided to do “Passing Out” he immediately had a general vision of the type and style of video he wanted to make(intimate shots of friends, acquaintances, and strangers living their lives in hopes to get a snapshot of central NJ.) We met and talked briefly about specifics, such as contrasting feelings and moods throughout, but there never was an explicit goal or outcome in mind. Because of that, it’s made for a very human piece of artwork. The implied overarching theme is that lyric “we’re all alone together”, but I also find other acutely specific moments of meaning throughout the video when I watch it, none of which were planned. Adam had a simple idea and ran with it, and we were able to make something really cool together as a result.

What is something you’d like fans to take away from this work?

People can take anything away from it that makes sense to them. I just hope it aids in positive movement forward.

Emo seems to be a bit of a bad word. How do you feel when you are compared to other emo/ “emo revival” bands? What would you classify yourself as? Do you think it’s a buzzword?

I don’t mind being compared to emo bands or if anyone wants to use that label to help categorize us. There are so many great bands that are considered emo that had an immense impact on me, so I tend to relate positively to the term. I never describe ourselves as emo when asked what type of music my band plays. It’s also not up to me what other people say that we are. I’m not sure how I’d classify ManDancing. Perhaps folk tinged rock with hints of roll and experimental psych elements that incorporate jazz somehow whilst balancing on a thin line between being coming together and falling apart, while trying to make sense of the chaos with melody, rhythm, and words…Idk. Maybe emo is a buzzword, maybe not. I’ve no authority on the matter haha.

You’ve been a band for awhile now but are really starting to break out this year in a major way, how has the process been for you?

I’m constantly trying to figure out what it is I’m doing. For the band as a whole, that’s kind of the thing too. We maintain the same type of focus now that we had when we started. The process of being on a label and releasing/playing music to a larger audience, and the opportunities we’ve been getting by continuing to aim forward is fulfilling, at the same time challenging. Things become muddy, then clear, then muddy, then clear and so on. I figure that’s just the nature of pursuit. We try to remain grateful for all of it.

In what ways do you think the DIY scene has helped/hindered your growth?

ManDancing exists primarily because of DIY art culture. The relationships we’ve forged, shows we play, tours we’ve gone on, even us having this discussion have all been born out of the DIY mindset. To say that’s it’s been helpful is more than an understatement. As far as it hindering our growth, there hasn’t been much evidence to indicate that. So far, everything’s been both sick and tight.

If you could work with anyone/tour with anyone who would it be?

I’d love to work with so many people. Currently, Josh Scogin and Justin Vernon, preferably at the same time. I’d also love to tour with so many bands, but mewithoutYou tends to stand out in my mind when posed with the question.

Everyone loves a good tour story and you’ve done some smaller tours, do you have any you want to share?

There’s a bunch. To name a few: Our first experience driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, Ben nailing Eve 6’s “Inside Out” to a packed house at a karaoke bar in Nashville, simply having a wonderful Christmas time with Rodz and Malarky during the summer at Alex’s place in Lowell, Mass., Darth Vader’s hat, plus so much more!

The first show of our first tour we drove out to St. Louis and played for 2-3 people along with our friends in Sistine. That night we stayed at Mark’s friend’s father’s beautiful home. Tom and I were swimming in his salt water pool at 2am. The thought occurred to me as the night was coming to a close that we were “doing it”. Whatever that meant. That moment stays with me.

Other than your upcoming tour with Future Teens, what are your plans for the future?

We’re open to what plans the future holds for us. We’ll be meeting it with touring, writing, recording, doing 360’s, littering garbage all over the country, and meeting people.

Follow Mandancing on social media:
Twitter / Facebook / Bandcamp

Emily Kitchin | @deathnap4cutie

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