Interview: Mini Mansions on 'Flashbacks' + 'Ticket For Two' premiere.
Ahead of the release of Mini Mansions’ upcoming new B-Sides release, 'Flashbacks' - i.e. unheard cuts from their 'The Great Pretenders' album sessions - we talked to the band’s Michael Shuman about their current Pledge Music campaign, the next Mini Mansions album, and what he’s kept himself busy with while his fellow bandmates have been touring worldwide with The Last Shadow Puppets.
And to soundtrack your experience of reading the below information, the band have kindly agreed to let us premiere a brand new song - track four from 'Flashbacks', the extremely percussive 'Ticket For Two'.
About 'Ticket For Two', Mini Mansions say: "'Ticket For Two' is the long awaited sequel to the unreleased track, 'Ticket For One'. We recorded the two songs as one piece, so that they dovetail into each other seamlessly. We even got the legend Fred Schneider from The B-52's to holler out some 'tickets' on the track."
"It was a weird year, and a great year, and now looking back at the people that are pledging and want stuff and want us to release new music, it’s really awesome and it just feels good that people want to hear our music still..."
COUP DE MAIN: Usually you’re the Mini Mansions member away on tour, but this year, it’s been role-reversal with Tyler and Zach away on tour. What’s it been like for you being the band-wife waiting for her husband to come back from war?
MINI MANSIONS - MICHAEL SHUMAN: I don’t know in relation to the other two Mansions, but it’s been a very surreal experience to-- I haven’t played a show since Australia, so November. I think that might be the longest time I’ve never not played a show, even if it was a local show. So that’s been weird, and also great, because I’ve been able to be in the studio and do that stuff. I was kind of on tour non-stop for a while. But it’s good, they’re having fun.
CDM: Why didn’t you go on tour with The Last Shadow Puppets as their tambourinist?
MICHAEL: Actually, we had discussed an option... <laughs> I don’t know if I’d play tambourine, but we’d discussed--
CDM: Actually, they already have a master tambourinist.
MICHAEL: Oh, Davey [Latter]?
CDM: He does tricks. It’s wild.
MICHAEL: Davey is awesome. He’s their drum-tech, but he’s a friend of ours too, he’s a good tambourinist. It’s a good question - we had discussed actually, before Loren was playing drums, we had discussed some stuff. But it wasn’t right. And I’m not like a real drummer, so it wouldn’t have worked. They don’t want me.
CDM: The real question, though, is, why didn’t Tyler open as Mister Goodnite?
MICHAEL: Yeah! That’s a great question. Why didn’t you bring that up?
CDM: We tried an online petition, i.e. we tweeted our disappointment.
MICHAEL: Well, that was the thing. We had discussed Mini Mansions opening all the shows, but it didn’t make sense for me to do that. It would have been too--
CDM: Tyler and Zach would have been tired?
MICHAEL: Yeah, I don’t know how they would have felt about it, but I’ve done it once. Mini Mansions played a show at SXSW that Queens played too, and I was like, 'I don’t ever want to do this ever again.' It’s too much. It would have been fun, but it didn’t make sense.
CDM: What have you been up to while the others have been away?
MICHAEL: I’ve been doing a lot of writing, and I’ve been working on a score - which is for a movie called 'Feed', we just finished, and it’s my first scoring-feature.
CDM: How did you land that?
MICHAEL: My friend directed it, and my girlfriend is doing the costumes, so it was all 'family'. He has the same aesthetics as I do, and the same taste, so when we talked about the music for the film it made a lot of sense. It’s really 80s and 90s-inspired, and was really fun to do something actually different and out of yourself, like out of 'Michael Shuman' doing something. Even though it’s going to be the first time it actually says 'Michael Shuman' doing something, but, you take yourself out of being so precious about lyrics and making sure that they mean something so deeply to you. You can just put on another face, and it was so easy to write in that way. You don’t have to think too much. I wrote two songs, and this girl sang 'em, and so it was really easy, because it’s not me - I don’t have to deal with it. So it was a good experience, I want to do more.
CDM: Why did you decide upon 'Fiona' as the first song to gift fans from 'Flashbacks'?
MICHAEL: We’ve had it for a long time, people had requested it because it had been out on the Internet somewhat, and we’d played it live for a long time and it was the only one that we actually had a video for. The video had been shot years ago now, really, I think almost three years ago--
CDM: You all look a bit different.
MICHAEL: Yeah, right? No suits at that time. So were just like, 'We have a promotional tool... so let’s do this one.'
CDM: A while ago, it was mentioned that you’d be "releasing a few more specialty items..." through your Pledge Music campaign for 'Flashbacks' - are there still more items on the way?
MICHAEL: Yeah! Someone requested a pair of my shoes...
CDM: Have you found a pair to donate?
MICHAEL: Yeah! And they’re good-looking. They’re not...
CDM: Like, old shoes?
MICHAEL: No, they’re in good shape and they’re silver. They’re weird, so it would have to be somebody very particular to want to get them. And there’s some other stuff coming.
CDM: What’s the actual release date of 'Flashbacks'?
MICHAEL: It’s when the campaign ends. Which is weird, because it’s like, '[It’s] here everybody! But you already bought it.' The vinyl is not pressed though, so we can’t do that, and it’s kind of unfair - the people that bought the digital only.
CDM: Are you fundraising to meet a certain goal? Or will the release happen no matter what?
MICHAEL: The release will happen no matter what. Anyone that’s bought anything will get a record. But we’re just doing it because, no more label, and this is the 'new world', and we want to make a record.
CDM: Is the money raised from your Pledge Music campaign going to go towards funding the next album? What do you plan on using it for exactly?
MICHAEL: The Pledge campaign and the money we raise is going directly towards the recording and mixing of the next Mini Mansions record, as well as the pressing and manufacturing of 'Flashbacks'.
CDM: With the band being independent of a label now, how is the next album going to shape up for you guys?
MICHAEL: We don’t know. I wouldn’t say we’re doing anything that’s super low budget, like we’re not cutting corners necessarily to do this. Yes, it was nice that we had money from our label to-- like on the last record, we got to go to Dallas for three weeks to mix our record, and spend more money. We were like, 'We have 25 songs, so we can mix 25 songs’ - we had the money to do it. So, we’re not cutting corners. We’ve recorded 11 songs and... we don’t know what to do. And for a band like us, it’s weird, because labels want to sign new bands - they want the next new thing, and if you’ve already kind of gone through the gauntlet and it didn’t come out okay for you, they don’t really care, and it’s on to the 'next'. So we kind of have to just find the right partner that would want to help, basically just distribute it. Because we’re not going to get any money - no-one’s going to throw any money at us, that’s over, that doesn’t exist. The record industry is an awful, awful business.
CDM: And you’re also back to being self-managed?
MICHAEL: Yeah. Our managers... we were trying to make this new record and we did not click. The process that they wanted us to go through was-- what was also very discouraging was that, everyone just wants a hit. Everyone wants a fucking hit. I’ve met with labels and talked to A&R guys, not even too seriously, and they’re just being honest. Even dudes who love great music, are just like, 'You need a hit.' And it’s really all anyone cares about. And our managers were like, 'That’s the next level, to get a hit.' And it’s so weird, because I’ll talk to my friends and they’ll be like, 'Remember when you thought you guys were writing hits? Well, you weren’t. Your songs are still insane and no way, that’s never going to be a universal thing.' Looking back, I’m like, 'Okay yeah, they’re weird songs.' That really didn’t work for us.
CDM: It’s baffling. Before I met you guys, I assumed that maybe you weren’t nice humans and that’s why media weren’t supporting 'The Great Pretenders' album more - that’s the only reason that made sense, because it’s such an amazing album. I just don’t understand.
MICHAEL: Yeah. We made that record and we were like, 'Man! We made a great fucking record.' And I still think so, and I’m very proud of it. But it doesn’t surprise me. That’s just how my career has gone, except for Queens [Of The Stone Age] records, but that’s just because the band was already established before I joined, and we had a great record - it was the right time and it worked out great for us. But otherwise, it doesn’t surprise me. I make weird music and it’s not for everybody. And even when I think it is, when I think, 'This is going to connect, because...' Nah. But that’s just the way it is. But thank you for thinking that it was going to go well.
CDM: On 'Flashbacks’, are 'Ticket For One' and 'Ticket For Two' related tracks?
MICHAEL: Yeah. When we recorded them, we did them together - like, they go together. They were originally kind of separate, but once we started working them out, we were like, 'Oh, they are the same thing kinda.'
CDM: Has Tyler already painted 40 collage paintings? Or is he going to paint them individually for each pledge?
MICHAEL: No way! There’s no way he’s done that. I guess he’s got some work to do when he’s back. I looked - I think there aren’t that many ordered, maybe like five, so it’s not too bad.
CDM: We’re going to order one for our office, so please make sure we get a good painting.
MICHAEL: The thing about Tyler is that he’ll put everything he’s got into it. He’s not going to half-arse it, even if it looks like it’s half-arsed - he’ll put everything into it.
CDM: Which suits exactly are you selling?
MICHAEL: Zach’s floral one... I have three white ones, I was going to sell, if anyone wanted my white ones, they could get one - I have one custom Mini Mansions one with the 'MM' emblem, and I would sell that too. And Tyler’s, it’s just Tyler’s black suit, he didn’t really have any special suits. But I guess the one that would be most recognisable, would be Zach’s floral one, and then the one with 'MM' on it.
CDM: Fans have been wondering, what the sizes of the suits are?
MICHAEL: The sizes are approximately:
Michael - 38 Regular
Tyler - 38 Regular
Zach - 40 Regular
CDM: What happened to the 'Feds' music video?
MICHAEL: 'Feds'? It’s Tyler. We had a budget from the label, they were like, 'We will give you this amount of money, you can do one video.' And we were like, 'No.' So we decided to make all these videos, and we spent some money on that 'Feds' video and Tyler took it and he was like, 'I’ve got it! I wanna do this thing'... blah blah blah. I’ve seen a cut of it, it’s just not very good. Just like, we made a 'Fantasy' video too, and it was bad.
CDM: Can you rank from bad to worst, the 'Sherlock Holmes', 'Fantasy' and 'Feds' music videos?
MICHAEL: Sure... <laughs>
CDM: I really wanna see the 'Sherlock Holmes' video! I’m so intrigued by Tyler-as-a-piñata.
MICHAEL: There were many versions made too, because at one point-- Zach’s little brother made it, and Tyler’s in this piñata suit and it’s really cool - he’s in a full piñata-suit walking around - it’s pretty good, but it was just not edited right. Not enough money spent with the people that were trying to make it right. But, I’d say, 'Sherlock Holmes', 'Feds', 'Fantasy'.
CDM: With 'Fantasy' being the worst?
MICHAEL: Oh yeah. 'Fantasy' is definitely the worst by far. It’s insane.
CDM: When do you think Mini Mansions will tour again?
MICHAEL: Tour again? <sighs> I don’t know... It’s been a strange year, so, I don’t know... But the one focus that we had, is to make a new record, because that cycle had gone about as far as it could go. We could have kept going, but they [Tyler and Zach] were doing The Last Shadow Puppets and things just... I don’t know when, is the short answer.
CDM: Any last words for your "Mansions Ambassadors"?
MICHAEL: To be honest, just 'thank you'. It was a weird year, and a great year, and now looking back at the people that are pledging and want stuff and want us to release new music, it’s really awesome and it just feels good that people want to hear our music still. And I appreciate, donating to help us make new music, and going to all the shows. We’re going to come out with new stuff, that’s no big surprise. Those are the only words I have. I’m just appreciative. And I wish it was easier - I wish it was easier to get music out to people, quickly and in the right way. I guess we could, but we also have to make a living.
Listen to Mini Mansions' new song 'Ticket For Two' below + click here to donate to Mini Mansions' Pledge Music campaign...