The music of Atlanta’s Manchester Orchestra alternates between calm, melodic near-ballads to visceral distorted indie rock anthems with lyrics just as biting. Lead singer Andy Hull chronicles his worldview through a variety of personal experience and metaphors. The band’s three full-length records (I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child, Mean Everything to Nothing and Simple Math) continue to gain critical acclaim and commercial appeal. They even conducted a band “side project” with songwriter Kevin Devine called Bad Books, which released albums in 2010 and 2012.
I spoke with Chris Freeman about the upcoming Manchester Orchestra release, Bad Books, the benefits of managing one’s own label and the Atlanta music scene.
Chris K. Davidson for You Hear This?: I know that band members of pretty successful groups will do side projects on their own, but I think Bad Books was the first time I heard a band collectively doing a side project from their own band.
Chris Freeman: Our band just really likes to hang out together. That’s just a way for our band to have a good time. The band was around while Andy was writing the songs, so we just fell into being the band. I’m so happy that we can have two projects together without a bunch of people moving in and out.
YHT?: The second Bad Books record came out recently. Besides that, what have you guys been doing since Simple Math?
CF: We’re working on a new Manchester record; we’re trying to get that done to come out early next year. We’ve been planning tours and just been getting ready for the next round of going out there. We’ve all got little projects coming out here and there, but the main thing is just waiting for the new Manchester album to come out.
YHT?: Do you have a title yet?
CF: We don’t have that set in stone on what we’re calling it.
YHT?: I know that some of the records came out on Canvasback and you’ve done distribution through Sony, but you’ve always been associated with Favorite Gentlemen. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of your own label?
CF: You can help out your friends sometimes, which is really nice. They need a nice segue into a different part of their career. By them being a part of the label, it’s a community. That’s what I really like about it. When we put out albums like that, we all have the same ideals and it’s something that we can believe in. Making our records and saying what we want on our records, that’s the part I really like.
YHT?: The whole venture has seemed to grow over the last eight or nine years. I think I saw in 2011 or 2012 that you did some big event at Center Stage in Atlanta.
CF: We do a festival each year called the Stuffing and it’s right before Thanksgiving. We have a bunch of bands on Favorite Gentlemen that are friends of ours that come out and play. A lot of people come out and we have a big celebration. We have a lot of the college students come out. We have all three rooms available for bands to come and play all night. It’s really fun.
YHT?: I feel like the music scene in Atlanta can be pretty diverse. What was it like growing up in that environment and learning to define your own sound?
CF: There was a divide in the Atlanta scene. There was a hardcore house show with screamo bands that were happening in the suburbs. Then there was also an element that was more laid back when I was in high school with Hot Hot Heat. It was interesting in that respect. Growing up in the suburbs, I think we all tried to separate ourselves from the heart of the Atlanta music scene because it is in the city, so we don’t go to as many shows unless we know someone or some of the bands. I think it’s definitely a growing rock scene. It’s nice that the city has that right now. It was weird growing up in Atlanta when hip hop was the main thing and rock was the underdog in the major city.
YHT?: I read a few articles about Simple Math where Andy basically had to ask his wife’s permission to put some of the lyrics on the album. Will this record be as personal?
CF: This record is not anything like that. I think on that last record, there were several intentionally personal situations and tangible themes. This record paints with broader strokes. There’s definitely stories in it and there are songs that are about certain things, but it’s a more general view of things that Andy was writing.
YHT?: About how many songs have you written for the new album?
CF: Well, we wrote a ton, somewhere between 40 and 45. We’ve recorded the whole thing already. We just have to mix and master it. We spent all summer building the studio and then we spent the rest of the time writing in that studio. We just kept writing until we had a batch that we thought were right for the album. Then we recorded it.