Mini Mansions have been making an impression since 2009 and most recently did so when they were in Perth supporting the Arctic Monkeys in February. Long since having shed their tag as a Queens of the Stone Age side project, they have a new album Guy Walks Into A Bar coming out in July and KAREN LOWE sat down with original members Michael Shuman (aka Mikey Shoes), Zach Dawes and Tyler Parkford while they were in town to chat about the album, special guests and birthday books.
You guys are releasing a new album in July, Guy Walks Into A Bar. How’s it all going? Have you finished the recording process and are you happy with how it’s sounding?
MS: It’s done. It’s been done for like, two years.
Two years? Wow!
MS: I mean, there’s little bits that keep going on forever because we’re perfectionists and mastering and mixing and all that kind of stuff but yeah, it sounds fucking awesome.
Guy Walks Into A Bar sounds like the beginning of a joke. How did you guys come up with the title?
TP: How did we actually come up with the title?
ZD: Yeah, how did we come up with it?
MS: When I brought it up, it was a joke. We were thinking when we were making the record, there was this theme that runs throughout the record and when we were making it, we were talking about sequencing and I thought that, well, there’s a song Should Be Dancing that starts the record and we had to think about what would tie in with that. At first I thought that it might be silly but then it made a lot of sense. I’m glad that we didn’t choose something too serious. I think it suits what we do and our personalities.
TP: It keeps people smiling. It’s what we do best.
Your EP Works Every Time was the most intimate work that you have created. Did it feel cathartic writing it?
ZD: It felt cathartic recording it because it was the first time that we were all back in the room together. It was a streamline session and the record was piecemealed a bit more.
Also, your new track GummyBear felt like you were finally able to close the door on the past and start looking forward to the future. Did it feel good recording that song?
MS: Well, the working title, as you can guess, was called Love No More as it’s a lyric of the song so it was that for a long time which is the real meaning behind it. It’s towards the end of the record and is a break up song but all the songs on the record are pretty… I guess it’s a change for us because they’re all pretty upbeat for the most part. That one is no different.
I thought it was a good way lyrically to keep it light while talking about something that’s a little heavy and having fun with it. We were inspired by some of the 90s hip hop stuff. We were talking about this the other night which you don’t hear a lot of sounds effects that have to do with the lyrics so we had fun with that. Tyler did a couple of passes of whispering and saying weird shit and some of the noises.
You are on tour with Arctic Monkeys. Have you been looking forward to the shows here? And what are some of your favourite memories of Australia?
MS: There are a lot of memories here. This is our third time?
ZD: Third time as a band.
TP: I don’t even remember the first time really. It was a blur. It all goes really fast.
MS: It’s always so fun here and I always tell people that it’s very similar to Los Angeles with the weather so that doesn’t matter but everyone always seems so up for the shows and parties and maybe because it’s having American bands or English bands or whatever come down here – it takes a lot to get down here. It’s not easy so maybe that’s why everyone’s so excited.
Well we hardly ever get – especially in Perth – so many bands actually skip us so when they do come, we get excited…
MS: It’s tough to get here but yeah, that’s the best feeling for us where people are actually excited and appreciate it because when you tour, you can go day in/ day out and just be on auto pilot but when you feel that reciprocation…
You mentioned that you will be bringing Jon Theodore on tour in the UK. Will Jon end up being a permanent member of the band? Or was it just for this album that he’s appearing? After all – that is a bromance for the ages…
MS: I didn’t even think about that.
ZD: What? Permanent member? Yeah we haven’t thought about that.
TS: We definitely have thought about who would play, if anyone’s down. You know how drummers are…
ZD: He could be A permanent member but don’t know if he’s THE permanent drummer member. Maybe he’ll be one of several. Maybe it’ll be a rotating list.
MS: We didn’t think he was going to tour with us. He was just supposed to be on the record and no one really wanted to play with us.
ZD: We asked a couple of other people and then we asked the best one and he was up for it. Why suffer for mediocrity when you can have Mr Theodore in the house.
Last time I saw you two, you were skipping off onto the dance floor, arm in arm…
MS: Yeah that sounds about right. Yeah it’s gonna be a fun one.
ZD: And he’s great at extreme sports which isn’t good for any drummer.
MS: It’ll be nice to have a third member in shorts too.
When you first started playing music, did you ever think that your music would affect so many people that you would end up being handed a birthday book filled with love and wishes from all around the globe?
MS: No way.
TP: Was that here? The birthday book?
MS: Well it was delivered in New Zealand from this girl, Lisa who flew from San Francisco. You don’t really think about… well, I’m 33 now and I’m still dreaming even though I’ve hit a lot of my goals there’s so much more that I want to do; especially with this band, but no. That’s the kind of stuff that brings you back to reality and we all get pretty jaded just naturally and that kind of thing really wakes you up and reminds you why you are doing it. You do it for yourself first but then the next is for all the fans and people that really appreciate it. That was the best gift I’ve ever got. It was great.
You are all in other bands as well as Mini Mansions. How do you find the dynamics of each of your own bands differs from the dynamics that the three of you share together?
TP: Yeah that’s a good question. I’m going to have to think about that. What do you think Zach?
ZD: Well this is the only band we are in that we all started together so I think that inherently makes it a special place. It wouldn’t exist if we didn’t all start it together so that’s a big thing for me. I think we’ve all learned a lot in respect to experiences and Michael’s been in Queens of the Stone Age for a long time and that’s brought a lot to the table. That’s how I feel. I mean, I think we all want this to be as big as it can be and as big as all the other things we’re a part of and that’s the dream.
TP: Dream big.
And how do you decide who will be singing what song/part?
MS: Usually it’s just whoever wrote the lyrics, usually seems like the right person to sing it because it’s coming from the right place and you find when you are singing someone else’s lyrics – we’ve gotten very good at it and it doesn’t seem difficult any more but sometimes when you sing someone else’s lyrics… it’s hard for me to just actually perform with pitch etc because it just isn’t coming from you so that’s why we usually do that. At the same time, sometimes, even if I wrote something, it’s just not right for me to sing it. Tyler can just blow me out of the water and sing way higher and prettier.
TP: We used to be a lot more playful with “oh maybe you could sing that part” but I think now it’s like… I can’t even remember if GummyBear with that middle eight that I sing if that was an after thought or if that was part – you know what I’m talking about?
MS: It wasn’t because when we wrote it and figured out the bridge, you were like “let’s do this”.
TP: We collaborate on occasion so sometimes possibly, the other person’s singing it. For the most part, if Hemmingway writes a novel, Hemmingway’s going to sing it or whatever.