It’s a miracle that Mini Mansions have managed to make a new album. Since the release of 2015’s ‘The Great Pretenders’, the band have all been occupied by other work. Michael Shuman is a full-time member of Queens Of The Stone Age, Zach Dawes has been playing bass with The Last Shadow Puppets and Tyler Parkford has set up shop behind the keys of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’. It’s enough to keep any three people busy. But there’s something more distracting that world tours.
Today, we’re backstage with the band ahead of their London headline show at Islington Assembly Hall. Zach is off picking up his dry cleaning (it’s hard work looking sharp) while the band’s touring drummer, and Mikey’s QotSA bandmate, Jon Theodore is trying to order food and not be too much of a distraction. Turns out Mikey and Tyler don’t need any help in that area. Left to their own devices, it’s a wonder they found the time to record twelve new slices of colourful, pulsating cocktail bar rock.
While the bands previous two albums have been very cool, slick and hidden behind dark sunglasses, ‘Guy Walks Into A Bar…’ is more open, energetic and more excitable. It’s fun, loud and at times, ridiculous. Mini Mansions are no different.
The addition of an actual drummer changed things for the band. Before, Mikey would have to perform from behind a kit, but now he’s free to roam the stage. “It frees up the power of our interactions. I’m able to interact more,” starts Mikey. “We wrote differently as well because we didn’t have to worry about keeping being simple. We can do anything we want to do. It opened up me being able to play more guitar, so there’s a lot more guitar on this record.
Unsurprisingly, the title for the record started off as a joke. When it was first suggested, Mikey’s initial reaction was “That’s silly,” then “That’d be funny,” and finally, “Ok, well maybe this is a good idea. It could be the first lyric to the record because everything after that is what comes next after all of us humans go into a bar, looking for romance, a partner, a friend or a beer.” That title is the first step of the rest of the record, which looks at “going out, enjoying yourself, letting loose then meeting someone. You fall in love, and you fall out of love. That’s the journey.”
‘Guy Walks Into A Bar…’ was written on the road out of bare necessity. “We made a record under circumstances where it’s really hard to make a record,” continues Tyler. “It’s not ideal, but we did it, and I’m glad we did.” If they’d waited until stars and schedules aligned, we’d probably still be waiting. “That distance created an intimacy we wouldn’t have normally been able to achieve.”
“It’s all inspired by this relationship I had,” starts Mikey. “If I was feeling romantic, or frustrated or the distance on tour was making me miss somebody, it was all just poured out. I didn’t want to think too hard about these songs; I don’t think I’ve ever written so freely. Everything else, I’ve over-thought and overproduced. It might not sound that way, but we’ve definitely over-thought every fucking little thing.”
“With ‘The Great Pretenders’, we went through twenty different versions of each song,” adds Tyler. “We lost touch with what the value was to begin with.” This time around though, the songs are instant and much more exciting for it.
There’s also a directness to the lyrics. Rather than making “the most obscure, beautiful arrangements, and then adding lyrics to them,” this time around, Mini Mansions went words first. “I had something to say with this thing,” offers Mikey. And he’s not afraid to say it. “The lyrics are right there in front of your face, you’re feeling what they’re saying.”
“There’s something about us being 33-year-old men. I’m more comfortable with being honest,” he explains. “Now I don’t give a fuck. This is me, this is exactly what’s happening and I don’t care what people think about it. But because we’re being so open and more confident in that, I think people will connect to that because that’s human nature.”
The record tracks the beginning, the giddy middle and the heartbreaking end of a relationship. “It’s not a break-up record, but it ends up being that. The first eight songs are about exploring relationships and romance, before it gets to the bitter end. We thought about how people write break up records all the time and that wasn’t our intention. It was to do something a little bit different. I won’t say it’s a journey, ‘cos Journey are lame but every song is a new chapter.”
“You wouldn’t call Terminator 2 a coming of age story about a young man trying to be closer to this father figure, would you,” asks Tyler. “It’s a fucking action film. That’s how I see our record. It has the makings of a break-up album but at the end of the day, it’s Terminator 2. It’s Judgment Day.”
Even though the record ends in heartbreak, Mini Mansions are never bitter. They celebrate the love they’ve shared, and they’re at peace with it ending. “It seems like people are really responding to the new songs, which is great. You make a new record and you hope people like it but there are times when it’s not as good as you thought it was. But I think this one is,” grins Mikey.
As sincere and heartfelt as the record gets though, the band never quite manage to wipe that smile off their faces. “As serious as some of the songs are, it’s us fucking around,” he continues. “The way we get through tour is laughing our way through it.”
“We’d laugh through Hell if we had to,” adds Tyler.
“That’s important, to not take yourself too seriously or else that becomes a joke.”
“Certain people can do it well, but that’s tough to do. We’re just not those people.”
The band currently have plans to tour for the whole of 2019, and beyond but only if it’s still a good time. “If we get tired or we’re not happy, if we’re not laughing anymore, then we’ll stop.”
“There’ll be days that aren’t fun,” promises Tyler, “but if that day lasts a month, then guys, it’s time to stop.”
“Otherwise this band can go on forever,” beams Mikey, before Tyler also cracks into a grin: “Fingers double-crossed.”
Taken from the August issue of Dork. Mini Mansions’ album ‘Guy Walks Into A Bar…’ is out 26th July.
Words: Ali Shutler