A CONVERSATION WITH: HONUS HONUS of MAN MAN
Man Man is an indie rock band that negates the need to be understood, quite simply, they need to be experienced. Whether it’s listening to their records or seeing them live, their lyrics and their stylistic choices, albeit may seem erratic, are incredibly thought out and justified. Driven solely by honesty and raw power, Man Man is an experience that any seasoned listener would appreciate and any new fan would instantly crave more of.
To be honest guys, I look up to Honus Honus, front man of Man Man. So much so that for my birthday a band I work with, Convoys, allowed me to perform a song called ‘Bronx Sniper‘ which is a song that appears on the debut album Out of Love from a band called Mister Heavenly; a side project for Honus. Mister Heavenly is a super band made up of Honus, Nicholas Thorburn of Islands, and Joe Plummer of Modest Mouse and The Shins.
I was super lucky to have a conversation with Honus. When we talked, we discussed his experiences with their current tour, his thoughts on social media, and I even snuck in a question about the cover that Convoys and I did. Check out the interview below, and be sure to give the new album, On Oni Pond a listen. Man Man will be coming to Toronto on October 18th at The Horseshoe Tavern.
How’s the tour going?
It’s good, we’re at like the 3-week mark; and we have 3 more weeks. We’re kind of reaching the point where we don’t give a fuck anymore, and the shows get better as you reach that state.
What have been some of the highlights, or what has been your favourite city so far?
The shows down in Arizona were pretty crazy. In San Diego I got a black eye.
I saw a picture of that on Instagram!
Yeah, unfortunately it’s almost healed now. So it just looks like I’m wearing eye shadow. On one eye.
I’m glad to hear that it’s healed though.
Yeah, but it looked kind of cool. But now I just look kind of rough and messy. It’s not a defined black eye anymore; I just look a little tweaked. It’s great when you are going shopping somewhere that has things that can be easily shoplifted. This really came into a better perspective when we were in Portland and we hit a bunch of boutiques because I was looking for a pair of shoes. I would go into a store, and people would just stare, and I forgot that I had this full, purple eye, then I caught my reflection in a mirror and realized, ‘oh, that’s why people are being weird when I ask for help.’
Do you guys do anything in particular to keep sane during a tour? Any rituals or anything like that?
I have an Instagram series called ‘Dead Again’ where I’m just showing how I handle the rigors of touring. Where I just pretend to be dead all over the country. It serves a dual purpose; obviously it’s dark. But it also has a level of levity to it because it’s like I’m re-born again every time I get up. Like the Phoenix rising. But it’s a dual purpose because, for one, it’s an interesting instagram series (@honushonus), but also if it can bring a smile to someone’s face, to just think that somebody stumbled across my body someplace, dead, in a field or a gas station, that I feel like I did something good. This tour is especially punishing because it’s 6 weeks with only 4 days off. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen our live show but that’s really demanding. We also have a trailer, which adds about 2 hours to any drive to even the most reasonable drive. We have 7am band calls everyday. But you know, whatever, I’m not complaining; I get to be in a rock band.
That’s everyone’s dream isn’t it?
Yeah, but if I can, say, it’s not a very good dream kids. Go to something else, go do accounting. Be a banker. Be a venture capitalist. Be a hedge fund manager. I’m kidding. Kind of.
Hey now, some of us are still holding on to the rock star dream! Anyhow, do you have a favourite song to perform live?
Lately, there’s two, and this isn’t just me trying to champion the new album because I think it’s great, but ‘Head On’ and ‘King Shiv’. Actually with King Shiv, we get pretty crazy with it.
Nice. And where do both of those songs fall on your set?
I’m not going to share that on the Internet, I don’t want to spoil it! You’re just going to have to come to a show!
Fair enough! I feel that your albums have gotten progressively tamer since Six Demon Bag. Was that a conscience discussion?
That’s just my opinion.
Well, that’s your opinion. You sonofabitch. (laughs). It definitely wasn’t a conscience decision, I think that’s just what came out. I’m still learning how to write songs. It’s just a natural evolution. So, if that means things get tamer, then….I mean, I still have the same brain, it’s still me writing these songs, maybe I wasn’t as hard as I was when I was younger and writing those records. I think as you get older and learn a bit more, you learn to keep the crazy under wraps. It’s not like it really goes away, you just learn that it could be more effective if instead of destroying a room, you make a more pin point decision to only smash a couple bottles. I’ve forever been trying to write the perfect pop song.
Yeah, since day one, that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Obviously my perception of pop is a little skewed, because I think all of our records are pop records.
What do you feel is the biggest influence on your writing right now?
I know it’s a bit of a corny answer but, life. Life is what influences what I write about. Life is full of all doubts, and the tragedies, and the falling in and out of loves. To me that’s more important than trying to come up with a style of music. I could look back on all of our albums and I could track my life. The same can’t be said necessarily for anyone else who has played with me in this band, unfortunately, so that sucks for them, but for me, I can go line by line, song by song, and track down where that line came from. Even if it’s out there and seemingly abstract or goofy or funny or just confessional, it’s all rooted from something very real.
Do you think about your listeners when you’re writing? Do you ever imagine the type of people who would be laying ears on your music?
I don’t really care about listeners. I mean, honestly, I’m just trying to write. When I’m putting together a song it just takes a really long time, and I just want to be happy with it and proud of it before I send it into the world. So, I don’t really worry too much about whether or not someone’s going to dig it or not – I feel like as soon as I start writing for other people I’m just going to be lost.
What are your thoughts on the influence that Social Media has on the music industry today?
It’s funny, at shows people will come up to me and ask, ‘Is that really you tweeting?’ or ‘Is that you posting on Instagram?’ and I’m like, ‘Of course! Who else would it be? It’s not like I have an intern or anything doing that for me.” But I mean, it’s all relative; perception is strange, we live in an ADD universe, but if we could have any connection with people, even if it’s only in 140 characters, that’s fine. We had this really rad, surreal, abstract CNN thing, but what did that get us? Like 10 new twitter followers? It’s funny how that stuff works. But yeah, I like Social Media, It’s a way to connect with the kids. We’ve been fortunate enough, and I may be biting my tongue here, but we don’t get trolls, we don’t get really shitty kids. And if there is anyone that is really hurtful or evil, there usually is someone else that just jumps down their throat immediately. Our fans are pretty rad.
Can we talk about Mister Heavenly for a second?
Is there anything on the horizon for Mister Heavenly? I know a lot of people who are clambering to see that happen.
Oh really? Where the hell were you guys when we released the first album?
We were all at The Great Hall when you were here 2 years ago!
Great Hall was a wash for us, there weren’t a lot of people there. I don’t know. Nick, Joe and I have been jamming a little bit in L.A. Nick lives in L.A. and I just moved there. We’re going to do another record, but I don’t know what the time frame is. Because we feel like there isn’t really a demand for one. Which is funny, because both Nick and I are on tour right now, and we both have kids coming up to us and asking about Mister Heavenly and we’re always like, “Where the hell were you when the album came out? There wasn’t anyone! The album flopped!” But you know, whatever, that’s life. We’re going to make another record. Sometime. By 2020 we’ll have a new record out.
I imagine it’s got to be tough with conflicting schedules and what have you.
Well, yeah, we’re both on tour now, but what’s good about that is that we’ll both be finished our tours at the same time.
I work with a band and over the summer we did a cover of ‘Bronx Sniper’…
Wait. Was it on YouTube?
Hold on, are you small and Asian?
You sang my part, right?
Yes I did!
I saw that video! It was awesome! I sent that video to Joe and Nick! I was like, ‘You guys will never know who’s going to sing my part.’ It was great, I was honored, thank you. It was totally unexpected. I was watching the video thinking, ‘Who’s going to sing my part, man, I hope she sings it. Please please, tell me she sings it.’ And then I was like, ‘She’s singing it!’ It was totally rad. Good work.
I was going to ask, how does it feel seeing covers like that of people doing your songs?
It’s weird (laughs). I mean, it’s cool. It’s very flattering obviously but it’s interesting. For example, I sent your video to Nick and Joe, so there you go.
Well, I apologize if I didn’t do it any justice.
No, no, you were great!
Well thank you! That means a lot to me! Just one last question for you: what advice can you offer to anyone out there trying to do what you’re doing right now?
Just do it because you feel like you have to. Like it’s in your blood. Don’t do it because you think that’s how you can make a living, because it’s hardly a living. Just sing it how you feel it. That sounds really corny, but it’s true. It’s different when you start out because you have a lot of influences swirling around your head. It’s hard to shut them out, it’s hard to kind of find your own voice. But if you feel like you don’t know enough, you probably know just the right amount. I feel like not knowing enough is better than knowing too much. But, Man Man is my first band and I don’t know shit about writing music but look at me! Look at me! (laughs)
Well, I think you know what you’re doing so I guess you fooled me.
I did fool you, sucker! (laughs)
Well thank you for your time! Have a great show tonight, and we’ll see you in Toronto on the 18th!
Thanks, it was a pleasure talking to you.