Exclusive

EXCLUSIVE: MANALIVE interview

We are proud to introduce to you MANALIVE, a new band by Chris Ross from TORCHBEARER and the man behind One Hour from Anywhere project. Furthermore, the band features members of BLACK KITES, NORA and TROUBLEMAKER. Do I have your attention now? I hope so. Play their debut 6-song EP and check out our interview conducted on October 1st, 2012 below.

So… Hello, “rookies” [smiles]. Please introduce MANALIVE to our readers.

Amit: Manalive is Amit Sharma (vocals), Tom Schlatter (guitar), Chris Ross (drums), and Kwame Korkor (TROUBLEMAKER).

Of course you’re not new to the NJ scene. Please tell us about your other projects. How do you reconcile MANALIVE with other active bands you’re still in?

Amit:

I currently also sing for TORCHBEARER, the band I started with MANALIVE’s drummer Chris Ross when my first band MOTHER NIGHT broke up in 2008. The lyrical focus of TORCHBEARER is a very personal, almost abstract stream of consciousness delivery at times. With MANALIVE, I decided from the outset that I wanted to focus the lyrical content on social, political, and perhaps even spiritual issues that are important to me, but I didn’t find an outlet for in TORCHBEARER. Creatively they they’re both fulfilling to me in two very different ways.

Chris:

One of the things that has made MANALIVE a lot of fun is that there hasn’t been a real need to reconcile or compromise much. We all have other projects, and we’re all aware that we have other responsibilities ranging from work to bands to families, but we’ve all made room in our lives willingly to do this, and because of it the band has a very “can-do” vibe. Honestly, at this point, I am of the opinion that the desire to be in a room making music and make the band a priority is half of the battle, because you can change schedules and work around other commitments, but you can’t feign enthusiasm and get the same level of involvement with what you’re creating.

Alright, so what was the goal to create this new pack? How did you all team up for MANALIVE?

Amit:

This band started with what was a half joking comment I made about wanting to do my dream band with Tom Schlatter (guitar) and Kwame Korkor (bass) after their bands (BLACK KITES and TROUBLEMAKER, respectively) had just played their last shows. I was a little frustrated with my other band TORCHBEARER’s lack of regular activity due to the regular grown folk responsibilities that get in the way of bands playing shows and wanted to resume writing and playing music on a more regular basis with friends. We got to talking, and they were interested in jamming, so we brought Chris Ross (Drummer TORCHBEARER) in to round things out and something clicked pretty instantly. We had the first EP’s worth of songs written and recorded in no time, and I haven’t had this much fun making music in years.

Chris:

I think that once we started playing together, the goal evolved into keeping things a bit more straightforward and make our point loudly and quickly. The songs are less overtly technical, and most clock in at 2 minutes or less, so we’re not wasting any time getting to the point.

You played your first 3 shows. How was the kids’ feedback? How did you like those gigs?

Amit:

I’m having a blast. The scene in NJ has been pretty receptive to what we’re doing so far, and I’m stoked to keep playing both here and anywhere else we can make it out to. I sort of feel like Garth from Wayne’s World. Big shows, small shows, I don’t care. I’ll play to 5 people or 500, I just like to play.

Chris:

Thus far, no one has informed us that we suck, and we haven’t cleared a room yet, so I feel like we’re doing ok. I was very happy with the shows as a starting point, we got some pretty good feedback, and hopefully things will only continue to get better as we get more comfortable bringing this music to the outside world. I’m very happy with the “feel” of the band, we all have a similar mindset about why we’re here, and that makes for a more fun time all around. I look forward to getting out and playing as far away from my house and as often as possible, so hopefully we can make that happen.

Would it be wise to count on a proper massive trek of MANALIVE?

Amit:

I don’t know about massive, but if time permits and the opportunity presents itself I’d love to travel to some places I haven’t been to and play some music. My bands have never made it to the West Coast of the United States, or to Europe, and that’s always going to be a goal of mine. Between my job and my recent return to being a full time student I’m a little pressed for time, but I’m sure we’ll make it happen when the time is right.

Chris:

Agreed. I don’t know about massive, as we all have big-boy pants to wear, but the overall attitude is that we’d like to do as much as we can with the time we have. Time is always a factor, but as I mentioned earlier, I think half the battle is wanting to do it and being willing to make the adjustments and compromises necessary to make traveling as much as possible a reality. That being said, I think that this band is still in it’s infancy, and we have yet to really start reaching out to make marks on an essentially clean slate.

I wish you the best in making it happen.

Moving to the next question, you have your debut “Pistol to the Head of the Modern Man” EP streaming online. What are your plans to bring it for the people in physical format?

Amit:

I would like to note that the EP is available as a free download on bandcamp, as well as streaming. No concrete plans for a physical release, yet, but we’ve talked amongst ourselves about pressing a run of cassettes. I’d love for there to be a vinyl pressing, but for now I’m more concerned with playing as often as I can.

Chris:

You can get the EP right now at http://manalivenj.bandcamp.com, and for the moment that’s it’s only format. I’d love to see this properly released as a 7” or on cassette, but regardless of format I think the most important thing is simply to get people to take the time to listen and hopefully enjoy it. No matter the format, if no one is listening, it’s a bit of a wasted effort.

What’s the story behind the lyrics? Why would you hold a pistol to the head of the modern man? What’s the characteristics of a modern man?

Amit:

We named the band MANALIVE after the G.K. Chesterton novella of the same name. The title of the EP is an abbreviated quote from the text, which in full reads, “I am going to put a pistol to the head of the modern man. Not to kill him, but to bring him back to life.” Modern man is too caught up in the day to day process of survival to give too much thought to the bigger picture. I’ve become acutely aware of this tendency in myself over the past few years, and MANALIVE’s lyrical content reflects my desire to stay informed and always thinking about how my life and actions intersect with the world around me. I want this band to be about ideas, but not necessarily only my ideas. I want these songs to be the beginning of a discussion with the people in my community. Ultimately, the goal is to wake myself up, to spur myself into doing something more meaningful with my life than merely hanging on another day.

So what’s next for the band? Any plans to sign a deal with a label? What “company” would you like to team up for the next record? What would you need a label for?

Amit:

Next we write more songs, and play more shows. We’d like to work another guitarist into the mix, and I think we may have found the person we’re looking for. Stay tuned. I haven’t given too much thought to record labels. My interest is in making music and playing it. Chris has built a studio in the basement of his home and it’s pretty convenient for us to write music, record it, and make it directly available to anyone who wants to listen to it. That said, there’s a definite appeal to having a slab of vinyl in your hand and knowing that what you’ve made exists in physical form, and not only floating around in cyberspace. I’ve never had much talent for networking, socializing, or soliciting attention from record labels. I hope though that our music speaks for itself, and we’re certainly open to working with anyone who would like to press any of our music to vinyl both now and in the future.

Chris:

I’ve had the good fortune to be involved with and get to view the workings and effects that a hard-working label can have for a band, and I think that a good label/band partnership is an overwhelmingly positive thing. In it’s most efficient form, the two work as partners in a division of labor that both benefit from. Having someone working in our corner to help get people to notice what we’re doing would be a lovely thing.

Great attitude, I love it.

What local bands out of NJ do you support these days?

Amit:

New Jersey is crazy talented right now. Off the top of my head if you aren’t listening to OLD WOUNDS and BANQUETS you’re dropping the ball big time.

Chris:

Instead of picking just a few, I can suggest a listening alternative. Jeff Zorn and I recently released a free comp comprised of all Jersey bands recorded live in the studio called One Hour From Anywhere. It has a great sampling of some of the bands in various parts of NJ, although by no means is it anywhere close to being a complete list. There are a whole lot of great bands in Jersey, and it’s nice to see people like Paul Brown down in Atlantic City, Joe Alloco in Warren and a host of people in New Brunswick working hard to create opportunities for local bands to grow and out of state bands to get back into Jersey.

Who shouldn’t be allowed to enter hardcore punk shows?

Amit:

I firmly believe in an open door policy. Everyone should be welcome at a hardcore show, even if their beliefs are personally reprehensible to me. I’m not interested in having conversations with a room full of people who all agree with me about everything. It gets pretty boring. If you can come and carry yourself in a respectful, considerate manner, then the door should stay open.

Chris:

I agree with Amit. Once that finger starts pointing, it tends to cause a whole lot of division among people that don’t need. If someone is interested enough and relates enough to want to be there, and can conduct themselves in an honorable and respectful manner to the others in the room, they should be welcomed with open arms. NJ spent a long time with venues and environments that put different people together, and because of that we’ve seen an amazing variety of bands and ideas take root here. When people start feeling unwelcome outside of their small scenes, that kind of musical and intellectual cross-pollination slows down, and things get stagnant.

Nice. Agreed [smiles]

Thanks guys! Tell us something cool to sum up with.

Amit:

I’d like to leave you with a few words from my favorite author and personal hero. “A first grader should understand that his or her culture isn’t a rational invention; that there are thousands of other cultures and they all work pretty well; that all cultures function on faith rather than truth; that there are lots of alternatives to our own society. Cultural relativity is defensible and attractive. It’s also a source of hope. It means we don’t have to continue this way if we don’t like it.” –Kurt Vonnegut.

Chris:

I will leave you with the same thing I try to stress to the kids I get in class every day. Take the time to have an opinion and express it, even if it differs from those around you – but whether you stand in the majority or the minority, recognize that your opinions are not law. Have the grace to respect that others may disagree, be open and prepared to listen to dissenting opinions, and take the time to make sure that what you believe is well thought out and defendable.

Also, thanks for the support, it is very much appreciated!

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