BNBTV Spotlight: Manimal House, “Comet”

Genre: Funk, Soul      

Mood: Party time, upbeat

Just like Minneapolis seemed to deliver a slew of talented acts to BNBTV (Hastings 3000, Phantom Tails, The Goondas), Portland area bands have been gracing our internet stage, starting with The Stagger and Sway.  So get your fedoras out, ’cause before us we have a group embracing a genre that doesn’t usually reach a younger demographic these days: soulful funk and jazz.  Manimal House makes these historic genres (that often express lifetimes of hardships) young and fun, thanks to an injection of hip-hop and positivity alongside upbeat grooves and danceable beats. It’s a deference from the alt-rock indie wave that has washed over the ears of the youth, and one that is welcomed and eye-opening.

CG: Alrighty, who’s who? What are your names, what instruments do you play, etc?

The devastating Reyna Mallare: lead vocals

The prodigy of New Orleans piano Mac Potts: keyboards

The funky and overwhelmingly handsome Dan Lee: guitar

Brody Lowe: lead vocals

Jeff Tummond: bass

Mark Blanding: drums

The powerhouse horn section: Jon Ramm-Gramenz on trombone, Brian Fitzsimmons on trumpet and Reid Neuman on saxophone.

MB: When we made our last album, Body Rock (which the song Comet is from), we had Travis Hanson rapping and playing percussion with us.  He has since moved to Arkansas to pursue a life of crime.  Since then, we’ve been focused more on funk and soul music and less on hip-hop—although we of course still love hip-hop music and still enjoy playing with MCs as much as possible.  In fact, we backed Serge Severe at his CD release for his amazing new album Back On My Rhymes just last week.

CG: Where are you guys from? How did the band come together?

MB: Manimalhouse has been around since 2006.  Brody, Travis and myself (along with original bassist Sesh Kanury and guitarist Mike Schaadt) started the band when we were all students at OSU [Oregon State University] in Corvallis.  We started by playing Travis’ singer-songwriter type songs, but after a trip to New Orleans for the Jazz and Heritage Festival, we decided that we wanted to focus on playing party music.  We wanted to become the Feel Good Band Of The Year.  Our goal was, and still is, to combine our musical influences to leave the listener feeling better than they did before the music began.

CG: Did growing up where you did influence your music at all?  Do you feel a kinship with your hometown?

MB: The one thing that we all have in common is that we’re all from somewhere different.  We have people from Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, California, and Oregon.  However, I think we all feel like Portland is our home.  While Portland may not be known for it’s funk and soul music, there is a quickly growing, super funky scene here.  Bands like Excellent Gentlemen, The Love Loungers and Tony Ozier & The Doo-Doo Funk Allstars (and many others) are keeping the Portland funk scene fresh and exciting.  It’s starting to feel like in a few minutes, Portland might start to become as known for it’s fun party music as it is for it’s more introspective side..

CG: Who are some of your biggest musical influences as a band?

MB: We draw inspiration from every flavor of funk and soul music.  We love Allen Toussaint, Sly & The Family Stone, George Clinton, The Meters, Aretha Franklin, Bill Withers as well as newer groups like Orgone, Galactic, and The Bamboos.

CG: What bands do you think you sound like, if any? What bands would you like to sound like?

MB: We want to sound like the perfect mix tape, thrown on at the party of the year, just when things are starting to get a little out of control.

CG: With such a unique sound, do you feel there’s a particular audience you reach?  How did you guys get into the soul/funk sound?

MB: We tend to reach the people who are interested in having a good time.  People who have too much on the their mind to get down don’t seem to respond as well to our music.  We got into the soul/funk sound by hearing it.  Once the vibrations entered our bodies, we had little choice.

CG: What do you think you would be doing right now if you weren’t a musician? What did you want to be when you were a kid?

MB: If I wasn’t playing music, I’d probably be a nuclear physicist.  When I was a kid, I smashed Tonka trucks together like they were sub-atomic particles.

CG: What have been a personal high and a personal low about your musical career so far? Any particular moments of awesomeness or embarrassing blunders?

MB: A career high for us was when Reggie Houston asked us to join him at the 2008 Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland.  Reggie has been a sort of musical father-figure for the band, and when he shared his Blues Fest slot with us, putting us in front of maybe 50,000 people, that was huge.  We had a blast, and we’ll always owe Reggie for that one.

In lieu of a personal low, maybe I can give one more high..  On our last album, Body Rock, we had the privilege of working with some of our musical heroes.  David Friedlander, who worked with Prince for over 10 years, engineered most of the album.  Tony Ozier, The Doo-Doo Funk King, produced the album and we had guest spots from Sir Reggie Houston on saxophone as well as the genius of the synthesizer, Steveland Swatkins (of Excellent Gentlemen and Juno What?!)  It was a dream-come-true to be able to have people of that caliber be a part of our record.


CG: So what’s the story behind the name Manimalhouse?  How did it come about?

We started as Travis Hanson and The Manimals. Mainly because it sounded ridiculous.  It didn’t take long before we were just The Manimals (I like to say that as Trav’s role diminished, we lost the ‘Travis Hanson and the’ part, which could hardly be further from the truth)  Eventually, we discovered that there were already a couple other Manimal bands out there in Internetworld, and so we knew we had to change our name.  Our website was already (shameless plug) and if you googled ‘Manimalhouse’ we were the only thing that came up, so the choice seemed clear.  It was either that, or change our name to Lady Gaga, and someone told us that was already taken, so…

CG: Bummer—Lady Gaga has a nice ring to it—almost like I’ve heard it before…  So, what is next for you guys?

MB: We’ll start recording our next album very soon.  We can’t wait to start recording again.  Our last album came out just a few months ago, but we have a new batch of songs that we’re very excited to share with everybody.  Since the beginning of this band, our sound has been constantly evolving, yet somehow remaining distinctly manimal in nature.  Our next record will sound very different from Body Rock, but it will still sound like Manimalhouse, and hopefully people will dig it even more.

Be sure to pick up a copy of Body Rock to rock at your next groovy house/apartment party, or check them out on Saturday, March 5th at Ash Street Saloon in Portland, Oregon.  You can get more details here.