While Mikey Manville is rightfully well-known for his role in power rock trio The Manvils, he has also fostered a successful career as a solo artist. Melding a unique song writing ability with deeply personal experiences, Mikey Manville released Nocturne Only in late 2017 and will be releasing Reaction Arrow with the Manvils in March 2018. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with him about writing songs that develop a life of their own and letting go.
Many people have reflected on the beautifully dark and haunting nature of Nocturne Only, but it listens as quite a balanced mix between lighthearted tracks such as “Renée,” and emotionally heavier tracks like “Alice,” and “Statue On A Stone.” Was the contrast intentional or just a product of the way the album turned out?
Well first off, thank you for the compliment! Much of Nocturne Only is more reflective of how life took turns around me over the years. There is a little bit of a therapy session wrapped around each of the songs. Each tune represented a connection made or lost; a continuing love story, friendships made and broken, the discovery and beauty of cat-love, to the emotional heart of the album – acknowledging the devastating end to an individual tied to me. The songs really took on a life of their own, quite literally.
Given that Nocturne Only was inspired by deeply personal experiences such as loss, love, and yearning, the lyrics, naturally, are quite personal. How does it feel to turn them loose and make them public?
It was actually an album that I had difficulty with releasing, and just letting it go to be quite honest. That letting go was simply a process of getting the production side of the release ramped up. The detailed process of having vinyl printed, securing distribution, building a band for the live show, and gathering some amazingly talented crews to work on the videos. This DIY effect has been quite an emotional boost, in addition to all the pats on back that have been coming in. Yeah, it feels good!
Although lyrical quality seems to be a bit of a dying art, it appears to be an integral to your composition. When writing the lyrics for a song, do you construct them around a vision you have for the instrumentation? Or is the rest of the song built around your lyrics?
The root of a song happens in a quick moment. It’s right there in front me, but it needs to be unwrapped. That first spark is typically around two to three bars long, and it’s done – the rhythm, and the first signs of accompanying vocal melody. Sometimes this moment ends up more suitable as a chorus. But when it hits, I cancel plans for the night. Then it can take as little as a full day, or several months to fully play out.
Much has been written about the orchestral character of Nocturne Only. How does the depth provided by the orchestra reflect the emotional depth of your songs?
Thanks to my partner in crime, John Akred and the amazing players on the record, it takes both the original solo effort recorded and the accompanying orchestral character of a song to fully enhance the experience for the listener. If a songwriter is lucky to have such tasteful helping hands, it can only add to the depth of the original melody and story being told.
While you are now located in Toronto, The Manvils came about in Vancouver. How do your experiences in the two cities compare?
Vancouver is a special place. Amazing talent lives out West. At one point, it felt like a growing community that was effective in cultivating their talent. Very supportive and connected people keep that city feeling like a tightly-knit community. I can’t image all the venue closures have been anything but a huge blow to the upcoming talent slowed down by a city that has it’s fair share of real-estate concerns. Toronto is home for me, so it’s special being back on many levels. People here love the rock n’ roll.
What has it been like developing as a musician in the Canadian music scene?
I don’t often reflect on that kinda thing. Over the years, I’ve been pretty insulated between John’s Chicago and Redwood City studios, the late Richard Eusebio’s supportive boutique label, Sandbag Records, and making decisions that effect The Manvils, I often think we’ve done well as a group around the Canadian music scene.
Nocturne Only is refreshingly dynamic, especially for a singer songwriter. How has writing over an extended period of time influenced the shape of your album?
Details. Living with a mix for a long time and coming out the other side with the song still feeling fresh, allowed the album to gain it’s own sense of identity before it was available for public consumption. Like a vintage guitar that reaches the point that it is defined as a guitar and not a piece of manhandled wood, the album had a defining moment when all the details had been addressed, spit and polished. It gained its own personality with the care taken by John’s mixes and Graemme Brown’s amazing mastering work added the final dynamics to sharpen and soften the edges. Time made it breathe.
Wow, thank you for that. I’ve become a big Ty fan (Manipulator being in my top 20 albums of all time), but interestingly I wrote Nocturne Only years before I had ever heard of him. I certainly get my rocks off with the Manvils bros. I love powerful fuzz-laden rock ‘n’ roll. The introspective side just fits better with an acoustic blueprint, and on this record I was deliberate with adding the psych and vintage voiced elements that are more constant with the Manvils sound. The two projects are forever linked in my tempo of output as a songwriter.
At Bucketlist, we like to ask what is on others’ Bucketlist. What is on yours?
Pretty simple and achievable things. The Manvils would love to play Japan with our great friends, the Zoobombs. Get the new upcoming albums to hit ears, and hopefully, keep those pats on back comin’ in.
Written and compiled by Jordan Hodgins
*edited by Kate Erickson