Interview with Phil Manansala from OF MICE AND MEN – Playing Reading Festival 2014

The album streamed on Rock Sound today. Did you wake up with a nervous tummy wondering what the fans were going to say on the hashtags on social media etc?

Yeah, even though I’ve been driving all morning, I’ve had time to check my phone and look at the responses of everybody, and it’s awesome to see people actually enjoying our music. And it is a different album than what people were expecting, but at the same they are still relating to the music, which is really nice. 

A lot of the feedback comments on how diverse an album it is. Was it a conscious decision that you wanted to cover many different sounds and styles?

We wanted to make this album so that if you are a fan of ‘this band or you’re a fan and ‘that’ band… so if you like Linkin Park, or Korn, and obviously our band, you can find a song that you can relate to on this album. The songs are definitely really relatable. So If you want a heavy song we got those, if you want a slow love song we got that, if you want rock and roll song to jump around to we got that too. We tried to make sure we got all corners hit for everybody. 

There is definitely that Nu-Metal sound included (like you just touched upon). Over here at least for many Nu-Metal was deemed uncool  for a while. You guys have always been very happy to admit your love for the bands that fit within the bracket. What do you personally like about it? 

Oh man, it’s the heaviness, the emotion in the music. Like when you listen to like a Korn album, or a Linkin Park one, it has its heavy parts and also its emotional parts throughout. With us growing up in the 90s and early 2000’s, Korn and Linkin Park were like our favourite bands, so that’s the kind of music we like to write because thats the music we enjoyed when we were younger. 

Why do you think some people look down on the genre?

Because people are scared. They just wanna hear what they wanna hear. Thats what todays media is – ‘We want this, so If they don’t do this we’ll be upset.’ So we took a step back and did just what we wanted to do. So it was a risk putting in that so called nu-metal sound. It was a risk we were willing to take, but we really weren’t sure if the fans were going to like our music. 

Would you say you are risk-takers in general?

Oh yeah, definitely big risk takers. There is no reason why not to take a risk, whether the outcome is good or bad. It was something we wanted to do. Either it would come out good or it would come out bad…but we wanted it. Luckily now, I feel like Nu-metal is still something the fans are into. So it was a good risk we had to take – it was worth it for sure. It is definitely new music and different to our old stuff, but it is also something that people our age can relate to with the guitar riffs, the vocals like that, and just the raw sound that it has. 

Now you work with David Bendeth who has an unbelievable discography…was there a record in particular that made you  think he was the right guy for you? 

Oh yeah…..(signal cuts out) 

Did you say Bring Me The Horizon?

Bring Me? Oh man, when he produced that my mind was blown seriously….I feel like a Bring Me Horizon advert. 

I hear he is quite a unique guy….

He is one of the kind. He makes sure all your emotions are in the music. Whether you are a vocalist, or a guitarist….He makes sure it an experience to record…you know. He knows how to pick you apart and put you on record. Its crazy because, especially with Austin on this record, his vocals were recorded how they should be for the first time, like raw and with pure emotion. 

For the first time you were allocated time to work in the studio, rather than grabbing time here and there….

Man, we got to be a band for a bit. It was a wonderful experience. Usually we just have to write songs on the road, in the back of the tour bus, and go ‘Does this sounds cool everybody?” We write as much as we can on the road but you can only do so much that way. So being able to go into the studio as a full band and write songs that we wanted to write, or write songs that we all came up with together, was the best experience we could have had as a band. 

What it hard to adjust to having so much time to write? Was it difficult to put pressure on yourselves to get things done?

Yeah, it was really stressful, especially working with a producer like that with so many hits. It was kinda like man we gotta step it up to the next level. And also having so much time, you know, and the album has been done for months. We have been out of the studio for like 2/3 months, with the album finished, so we have been just been sitting around waiting for it to unfortunately leak…it hasn’t (only a really bad version). But thinking about it and speaking about it for so long we kept thinking ‘ maybe we should have done that there or we should have changed that’. It’s a weird feeling. I‘ve said it like this. You can’t have five chefs in the kitchen you know, it’s hard. Everyone has their own input on each song, so sometimes it can get kind of crazy. Someone would have that one idea that would bring a song together then the rest would be like ‘shut up’. It was kinda crazy having that, like I said, that mentality of five chefs in the kitchen. Who’s right in the situation to do this? Being in the studio for that long had to happen. We needed to be in the studio that long to create THIS. 

Did you find someone in the band came forward as the mediator or peacemaker when you got in to debates? 

That’s the funny thing about this band, we kept battling,battling and battling until we got tired of battling. If Austin really dug something and someone else didn’t, we’d think well if Austin likes that part we’ll keep it as his vocals are the main line that goes over the music. So he had a lot of call. Him and Aaron actually because their vocals were determining what the music was. So if it wasn’t something they liked we’d keep going and make it something they could use to make things better.  

How do you all ensure you get your moment to shine when it comes to performing the tracks live? Have you accomplished this in Restoring Force? 

Yeah, there are songs that we all shine in. There’s a cool guitar piece I do, and Alan has a sweet guitar solo. The thing with Tino is, I actually feel like he really had to cut back on the drums, he is a phenomenal drummer, but with this album he had to cut back a lot. So when we were performing live a couple of days ago on the tour he went in and all the crazy parts he wanted to do on the album. It is pretty awesome to hear, because you know he was a little upset he had to dumb it down on the album, but at the same time playing live now he puts all his nice little drum fills and tricks and it just sounds INSANE! Seriously!

Did you find because you recorded a lot of it raw and live that you have all improved your skills as musicians?  

Yeah, definitely. Going into that studio I really felt like a guitar player, when I went in, but then left as a musician. I learned so much about my instrument, you know. Going in and having Bendeth, who is a guitar player, a better guitar player than me. So he would say stuff like, ‘Come on Phil I could do that blindfolded.’ or ‘left handed’ or ‘first take’. He would get in to my head sometimes and it would push me to want to do more and drive me to do more. It definitely was an experience to go in there, especially because he is older obviously, he just taught us so much as musicians. We learnt so much about everything. 

Were you surprised at how much the addition of Aaron opened up the amount of melodic possibilities? 

Yeah, I’ve know Aaron for a couple of years, and knew he was a great singer, but I didn’t know how great a musician and a writer he was as well. He really opened up the books to us to really accept this OMAM album to change… not change out style, but go for a little better, a bit more easy listening. I didn’t know he has these ideas in his head, and in the studio he put them all done and I was like ‘Wow’. It is unbelievable the talent that he has. He really stepped it up a couple notches and one he did that everyone realised they had to that step up as well. 

The album goes in hard with Public Service Announcement and ends in an ethereal, melodic, positive track. How did you decide on the right order for the record? 

We wanted to keep itt spaced around, you know. Opens up with a heavy song, then a singy song after that, then another heavy song, and then another sing-y song after that. We kind of wanted to space it around the heavy songs and to showcase to our fans that we still have the heaviness, but then at the same time showcase our new style to the potential new fans. We just kinda listened to all the new songs and figured out a good flow, a good easy listening flow song after song, that you wanna keep banging you head and just going with the flow of the music. It took a while actually, a couple weeks to get that in – we wanted it to be perfect. 

You are coming to the UK in April for a headline tour. Will you use that to gauge which songs have connected with the UK, ahead of your Reading and Leeds performance? 

Yeah. I am so so excited to get back to the UK. It’s been so long since we’ve been there. Like, not last year, but the year before that, I felt like I was in the UK more than I was at home, so it’s exciting to go back, and we will definitely see what songs are obviously more popular out in the UK, because everyone has their own handful of songs they like.It is the first headliner of Restoring Force we are doing, so I think we might try to play a lot more of the new songs compared to old ones. It doesn’t really matter which ones they like we are gonna give it to em!!

Now, when you come to the UK are there places, restaurants, clubs etc that you make sure you hit? 

Yeah, Um. First things first when I come to the UK, is I go to Stanford Bridge because I’m a Chelsea fan. I usually do my little walk through, and I’ll go to a game, and I try and buy a Jersey every time I’m there. I do that, and right off I’ll either go to Nandos or Wagamama, usually Nandos though. Then I usually like to go and get some drinks in Camden, personally I like Camden town… and sometimes Soho – it’s pretty cool. But Camden is definitely more my vibe. 

Oh you won’t like me, I’m a Man U fan…

Aw, last season was not good for you at all. I was actually really happy, especially because Chelsea usually gets their ass kicked by United, but finally we have resolved that! I was pretty happy about that.

The tables have turned for sure. You are one of the first bands to be announced for Reading and Leeds Festival 2014. For many bands it is an iconic festival and one they really want to play. Is that the case for you guys?

Yeah, man, it is actually unbelievable. I remember watching Nirvana videos from that festival. It kinda blows my mind that we were offered to play and I think we are headlining a stage so it’s like ‘JESUS! What’s going on!!?’ We were a homegrown band just playing hometown shows, it feels like we’ve grown overnight. It is an unbelievable feeling to be on a line up with so many great acts and just to go back and play Reading and Leeds, I’m pumped. BLINK 182 is going to be there, I don’t even care about the set, I’m just happy to see them. 

Are you going to come up with any cool production features, covers, or guest appearances for your set?

Man, I don’ t even know. That is a good question because I think now maybe we could do some production, or maybe we can have a guest and do something. So we don’ t have anything up our sleeves yet but usually we do…just not ready yet. I hope we will! 

When an albums just been put out to give yourselves a break from writing?

Writing happens almost everyday. There is not one time where our band is like, ‘We’ve got a new album, out lets just relax now’. The more music we have prepared ahead of the next album the better. Everyone has their 10-15 songs a piece, that is like 60 songs we can go through and pick out the best parts and put them together and that can potentially be a song we put on an album. 

When do you find you personally get your inspiration. When lying in bed, when driving for example? 

I like to just… I call it ‘freestyle guitar’ for a little bit. I put it to a click and start playing guitar .Sometimes if I want to write a song that is like a song, I’ll listen to say System of a Down and aim to write the next Toxicity. So I’ll listen to that song and work out how they put it together, then try to do something just as driving, or just as fast, and catchy as their style. 

I find whenever I’ve tried to write I song it ends up sounding exactly like another song? How often does that happen for you?

Yeah, sometimes you don’t even realise when you are writing and jamming, and then the next thing you know you work out you’ve just wasted hours writing a drum programme to it, or something like that, and you’re like ‘Man I wished I’d worked this out sooner!’ There are so many songs out in the world you never know. It’s crazy how many songs have the same riffs but with different drums or different vocals. Some people have no idea…

Yeah, I guess you can’t possibly know every song out there…

At the same time though if you have an idea just write it out and if you suddenly realise it is someone else’s riff or something, just try and change it up and make it your own! That is kinda like what we do. It has happened before. 

A silly question to end out chat. Do you have a secret, weird or unusual hobby or skill that might surprise your fans? 

Hmmm, a weird hobby? I dunno?! I don’t think it is that weird…I play video games and smoke weed!!

Haha that is pretty standard isn’t it? 

Um yeah it is pretty common to me. I do clean a lot?! I have a thing about cleaning.

A bit OCD perhaps?

Yeah, I clean until it is CLEAN. Until it is to my liking, until it is insanely clean. So.. like dusting, sweeping, vacuuming. That is like every other day. But, I dunno…Oh yeah, I road bike, that’s a hobby.

Nothing too weird though (disappointed)

I’m a Chelsea fan?

Yeah that will work for me….

A lot of the UK fans get at me because I’m a Chelsea fan saying, ‘So why do you support Chelsea?” I’m like, ‘I have been watching them my whole life. Why do you like orange juice?’ Cos its good…

I could be weird…I don’t think I do anything too random?! 

Maybe a question for your bandmates….

Haha yeah I don’t think I’m too weird. 

Ok, I’ll let you go now . Thanks for chatting.

No problem, thanks for the interview.  Hope you have a good day.

See you in April!!

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