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By Andy Argyrakis
Jack's Mannequin set to preview freewheeling piano rock project during Ravinia debut
"One on One"
August 26, 2011
The three years in between Jack's Mannequin's comeback collection The Glass Passenger and the forthcoming People and Things (slated for October 4 release) were spent with loads of touring, songwriting, moving and even a Something Corporate reunion for front man Andrew McMahon. Yet the endless bustle between places and projects was a piece of cake compared to the pure hell the singer-pianist experienced while battling leukemia.
"Recovering from illness was hard enough, but I also had a whole host of problems, and instead of resolving them, I threw myself into making a record, touring and doing everything I could to bury them," he admits. "With this record, I've tried to find balance in my life, which comes from not living in turmoil. The first record [2005's Everything In Transit] came after a break-up and the second was tied to cancer, so they've both had all this drama. A lot of this record is about conflict, tension and release, but it's coming more from the place of having found that release. My goal was to find the happy balance and really enjoy the creative process all the way through."
Third time's definitely the charm for McMahon and his Mannequins. McMahon sought to give the record a raw feel reminiscent of the band's aggression-fueled concerts, coupled with an open lyrical canvas that leaves listeners with an invitation to offer their own interpretations. "This record is about relationships, specifically the depth of relationships, but People and Things can also mean anything, and it's the broadness that I love about it," he continues. "For me, the record sounds really natural like a band playing live. There's always a discrepancy between the way a record sounds and then hearing the songs live, but I think you'll find this record has much more of a live energy to it. You can't throw mistakes all over a record, but I'd call it freewheeling rock 'n' roll music where I'm just trying to write really good songs."
Though the general public has yet to hear the project at large, it's already connecting with concert promoters, starting when the band appeared at the revered Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The group plans to follow that performance with a summer headlining tour, a few Vans Warped Tour dates and a back-to-school run alongside jam band favorites Guster.
"The first round is focusing on the lost cities, or the great smaller cities that we either haven't done before or in a really long time," explains McMahon. "Those dates are in smaller rooms, will be a little more stripped down and a time to introduce the new music. Then we'll be going out with Guster, who we met at the Mile High Music Festival awhile back and have been talking about playing dates together ever since. We both have new records, so we figured ‘bring out your fans and we'll bring ours.' Sometimes [double bills] work great and sometimes they don't and there are certainly dissimilarities between what we both do, but the thread that lines us up is we both play melodic rock 'n' roll music with a pop influence."
In looking at Jack's Mannequin's progression in both the studio and the stage, it's impossible not to notice another pop influence, even if that act happens to share the same singer. Indeed a conversation with McMahon can't be complete without the mention of his old band Something Corporate, who may not be an active band at the moment, but could possibly reunite on the road if the occasion is right.
"Our reunion tour happened last summer because it was our tenth anniversary and we wanted to show people this is still a group of tightly knit friends that still respect and love what we accomplished," he adds. "I think that's how we looked at that, but it's blown into something bigger. For me, Something Corporate is something based off the energy from a live show, and since people still ask us about it all the time, we cleared our schedules for a month to go do it. We have no plans to make new records and it was more of a [one off] for that summer, but I could totally see us doing it again."
Jack's Mannequin appears alongside Guster at Ravinia in Highland Park, IL on Saturday, September 3. For additional details, visit www.ravinia.org.