The surf-rock quartet strip back the 50s on “Baby’s New Man”, which was recorded in a radioactive navy base.
Surf-rock quartet Spooky Mansion throw it back the 50s with their latest, Americana-infused offering. Lifted off their sophomore LP The Curse, due out in early 2021, “Baby’s New Man” is about losing your lover, and understanding the repercussions of that. Perhaps they’ve moved on with someone new, and you’re still stuck where you were 6 months ago.
The foursome hunkered down to record the tune at a Navy base in San Francisco where the US stored hydrogen bombs in the 50s. “You can almost hear the nuclear radiation saturating the music,” frontman Grayson Converse jokes, or half-jokes, “we definitely felt it saturating our lungs. But art is all about sacrifice so we’re not too worried about it because we got a rippin’ song out of the deal.”
That much is certainly true, and thankfully the band’s sun-drenched indie oeuvre is still well intact. Here the devil is in the details, like marimbas doubling the song’s groove-filled bassline, eclectic tambourine patterns, or the fact they resurrected a cheap 80s keyboard from the garbage to complete the whole affair. In short, we couldn’t be more obsessed.
We decided to catch up with the LA-based rockers below, delving into the roots of their dreamy sound, their first impressions of each other, and how they plan to get back on the road…
Hi guys, how has this uncertain time been for you? How has it impacted your music and creativity?
This pandemic has been great. No longer need excuses why we can’t make it to someone’s show, or party. No longer need excuses why we didn’t get invited to play a certain festival or why our tour sucks – ‘not our fault the world is shut down! If only it was open I’m certain we’d be headlining and considered an extremely unique and poignant voice in indie rock. But nothing we can do now’. On the other hand it’s been great for writing. We have a lot of new recorded music waiting in the wings.
How did you all meet? Who were your musical heroes and biggest sonic influences?
We met in San Francisco as friends of friends etc. Sonic influences ranged from Phineas Newborn Jr., Ahmad Jamal Trio, Miles Davis Quintet, to Modest Mouse, Beach Boys, Pavement, Big Star. We liked composition, expressive vocals and lyrics, interesting harmony.
How did you come up with your name Spooky Mansion?
It was an accident. I was talking with some musician friends about the band ‘Spooky Mansion’ and how I thought they were pretty good, but weren’t that tight since their last record and needed to go in a new direction. We discussed this for a bit before Realizing there is no band called ‘Spooky Mansion’ and that the cigarettes we’d been smoking were laced with a 120x Salvia and that the body of the Uber driver at our feet was a problem we needed to start dealing with immediately. So after a night of digging in the woods we sobered up and I remember saying ‘heck if no one else is Spooky Mansion, I’ll take the name!’
Congratulations on your latest single “Baby’s New Man” – what is it about and inspired by?
Thanks, I think it’s not too bad. I’ve decided to stop sharing what the songs are about. I get calls from upset people or I get in trouble with friends or people close to me. You’d think ‘this is a band of nobody’s, nobody listens to or cares about the lyrics!’ And you’d be mostly right. But every once in a while you get a call or offend someone you’d rather not offend.
And you’ve got your sophomore LP The Curse out next – why that name? And what pulls it together as a body of work?
The Curse is, I think, referring to the Existential Curse – living. That might sound dark except when you consider that I could have called the record The Cure – and we all know what the cure to living is…
Sonically we did our best to connect the music, but it was recorded in so many places and across so much time that I think it represents a very wide sonic/vibe range. I don’t mind that, I think it’s interesting, if only just a bit unprofessional. I’m interested to try the opposite on the next record and keep everything sounding very cohesive. The lyrics and subjects all deal with different aspects of the Curse ranging from depression to celebration. As an artist I’ve unfortunately been granted an even-keeled positive disposition and so I can’t as readily access feelings of misery or hopelessness. Though I try.
And your visuals are quite striking and tongue-in-cheek – what are you trying to convey?
20% bad taste, 35% good taste, 15% laziness, 30% experimenting with what actually sells/gets people’s attention/ is relevant/ is truthful/ is interesting in any way.
Sugar Ray, nuclear radiation, keyboards rescued from garbage cans – your influences and sounds are so wide-spread – a real melting pot – is that what people should always expect/a signature for you guys?
Yes I think so. A ‘signature’ is a nice way of putting it. More like a by-product of disorganized stream of consciousness experimentation. But I don’t mind it so much, and I don’t feel like writing music in a different way.
How do you think you guys have progressed sonically since your debut EP in 2016?
Slowly learning how to simplify. Cutting parts down, cutting songs down, cutting out sections, making chords and melodies and arrangements more simple. Finally consistently writing 2:30 minute songs with no key changes. Thank god for that – it’s getting easier to listen to.
Ultimately how do you want your music to make people feel?
I like happiness, smiling, feeling kewl and confident. An early sunny morning headed to the diner with the $5.99 weekday special with bacon eggs and hash browns. And you smoke a cigarette while you walk there because you haven’t quit yet because everything still doesn’t matter and after breakfast you’ll just go back to sleep, but in a good way not a self-loathing way. – I like that feeling.
What’s next and what are you looking forward to?
Just want to play shows on the road again. Would love to be part of the first wave of bands back on the road. As long as our government takes part in child sex trafficking rings and people like Hillary Clinton aren’t going to jail for silencing sexual assault victims and murdering reporters, I think we should be able to figure out how to play some shows without getting Covid. I think heading to Florida might be the move.