Week in Pop: Ha Ha Mart, Mane, The Tablets

Sjimon Gompers

The Tablets' own icon Liz Godoy filmed in front of artwork from sister Melissa Godoy Nieto; photographed by Habib Khan Awan.

Mane

Bay Area’s main event crashers—Mane; photographed by Marissa Leitman.

Through the perpetual states of flux & cycles of change; the Bay Area continues to be one of the world’s greatest hot beds of new arts & exhibitions of resistance against whatever the current regressive trend may be. Out of the clashes between the new money & the old aesthetic guards that fight to keep their communities progressive & inclusive no matter how much startup money gets thrown around. Through these unavoidable conflicts, the underground art worlds & collective creative systems thrive in the face of adversity when the onslaught of inequity inspires new clever & inclusive approaches to pursuing art for art’s sake & happiness in abundance.

Introducing the Bay Area’s Mane who present the world premiere of their self-directed & edited music video for “The Cage”. Made with with a little help from their friends Marissa Patrice Leitman & Eddie Kijowski; Mane’s Chelsea Woodard, Lauren Hall & Madeline Allard present a first listen & look from their upcoming debut album, Alpha Female available in August courtesy of Digital Regress. Like local heroes Grass Widow to summoning the styles of DIY punk icons of the past & future; Mane let’s their hair down with a chord-cutter psychic sound that breaks out of all cages, confines & molds of conformity that caters to a cataclysmic & caustic cotton-candy aesthetic that is all their own.

Mane invites you know to enter the debut visual experience of “The Cage”. With cinematography from Marissa Leitman, Eddie Kijowski & the band with lighting by Mark Treise & edited by Madeline Allard; Mane lets their audience become privy to strange rituals that recall the specters & spirits of matriarchs & banshees from the past, the days yet to come & from the alternate dimensions. Utilizing mirrors, spinning disco balls, inflamed fruit bowl sacrifices, cigarettes, wild scores of red & white lights & a wild & erratic dance party of free-frolicking-fun; Mane celebrates the liberation of what happens when the perceived cage door is flung open wide where an exhilarating style, sound, presence, attitude, aesthetic & ethic is allowed to be unchained & unhinged in the world. Breaking down all repressive & oppressive gates of restraint, Mane thrives on a haunted hunger for magic, mayhem, mystic encounters, mischief & more that illustrates themselves as self-styled Alpha Females. Chelsea, Lauren, & Madeline unleash an unrelenting aggressive anthem for the universe to heed that panders to no one but Mane’s own shared visions & vicious resolve to steal back the scepter of the male governed status quo. Join us after the video debut for “The Cage” for an insightful interview with the band.

Describe how Mane began, and the equestrian or not-so-equestrian origins of the name.

Mane started playing in the summer of 2013 and landed on Mane as a band name a few months after. In typical fashion, choosing a name was an annoyingly tedious process, and we got into the simplicity of the name visually, a quick, four-letter straight-lined word. We’re emphatically non-equestrian—not as people, nothing wrong with horses—but we wanted to stray away from the horse’s hair vibe as much as possible. But we did also all have really long hair at the time, and one of our friends suggested it as a name. At first we laughed at the idea of being a hair band, at just highlighting a superficial trait, but then we realized there was something to it. The irony was appealing—a spin off of the hair band legacy and tuning in to some Atwood-esque woman-as-wild-nature themes. We’ve always tried to do this as a band—to take something that’s been used against us as women—femininity, looks, for example—and turn it around and just settle down in it. It feels powerful to us, insubordinate. It’s attempting an iconoclastic nod: yes, we’re a band of women, no, that’s not news-worthy, but while we’re on the subject, check out our hair. The name of the upcoming record—Alpha Female—leads down this path as well.

Tell us everything we should know about the upcoming debut album.

The process of creating the album was a meandering, quixotic venture that took us years and a ridiculous amount of mis-spent cash. We were all new to making and recording music and it was challenging to know who to turn to, who to trust and when to let go. We recorded some of the album in a warehouse in LA with our friend Dave Fox, some at Hyde Street Studios with JR White, and then (third time’s a charm) wrapped it up with Paul Korte at Santo Recording in Oakland. The record is a blend of those places and people and analog/digital and the influences of each distinct space, and each little era of our lives (the process took three years). By the time we made it to Santo, I think we all had our fears that somehow it would never see the light of day because we had encountered a ton of obstacles along the way. I remember before we began the third session, we three sat on the floor on the studio’s insanely pretty rugs and just lingered for a minute in the gravity of this particular recording process and how hard it had been thus far. I think someone lit a candle.

We’re always stoked on the way that the three of us as bandmates share decision-making and move through disagreement. We aim to be YES people to each other, because we hold this value of supporting each person’s artistic vision, and so the resulting album holds equal parts blood, sweat, and tears from each of us. We masterfully negotiated our strong personalities through some harmonious/democratic feats of decision-making. This is how we landed on the name Alpha Female for the record. We are all strong, passionate and opinionated ladies working melodically together. Again, take the domineering stigma out of the equation—and you have resolute women interacting to create something that feels powerful for us.

In terms of themes, I think the listener will detect some not-too-thinly veiled anger—some fiery attitudes regarding the traumas of being a woman in a male/sexually-aggressive world. To get to our practice space, for example, we pass through a street-harassment gauntlet, so a lot of our songs were written while coming down from the stress of being cat-called, etc. You will also find themes of darkness and hands searching through the darkness for light. Too much of life is glossed over and unrealistic. Sometimes uncovering the uncomfortable is needed.

Catching up with Mane; photographed by Marissa Leitman.

After all the blood, sweat and tears poured out, we were picked up by wonderful Digital Regress Records and plan to tour Alpha Female once the record drops in late August 2017.

What sorts of imprisoning notions & jailbreaking instincts informed “The Cage”?

The song is about paranoia, insomnia, and being haunting by an idea that calls to be unleashed. We all meld with identities that are impressed upon us externally, what if none of those forces could impact us? The song tries to explore breaking out of what imprisons us, and the scary feelings of uncertainty regarding what it might mean to live outside of the confines. We sing about being freed of anxieties and being able to see the bloom of the unknown.

Screenshot from Mane’s music video for “The Cage”; press photo courtesy of the band.

Tell us about the making of the video, complete with the pyrotechnics involving the Mane monicker.

A four-letter straight-lined band name lends itself well to being represented in beams of wood nailed together and then set on fire. We wanted to watch the name be fully consumed by flames and disappear. We filmed this scene on a beach at the Russian River in the middle of the night in the dead of winter. It was 26 degrees outside. We propped the wooden letters up in the sand brought some lighter fluid, anticipating bon-fire levels of carnage. But the result was silly at most, like a one-year-old’s-birthday-cake level of flames, little flickers that would peter out almost immediately after being lit. So we just kept dousing and filming, and running up and dousing and filming, and laughing at how ridiculously benign it all was—and how totally ineffective at warming us up. Next time we’ll bring some gasoline.

Still shot from Mane’s video for “The Cage”; press photo.

Other behind the scenes anecdotes of interest?

The rest of the video was shot in Lauren’s cabin up the hill from the river. In the weeks before she had taken out the ceiling and a wall, so the place had the look and feel of a construction site. We had planned on trying out some projections while shooting, and our friend Marissa, who helped us shoot, brought a projector that we started to play with, and it immediately broke. The bulb was fine, but the connection was messed up. Shooting came to a sad halt for a moment, until Maddy’s partner Mark started playing with the bright light beaming from the dead projector. He was using a magnifying glass to beam the light into different places and making weird light shapes—and we were all like, Wait, keep doing that! So, all of the strobe lighting through the video ended up being hand-strobed. He probably strobed us for 8 hours straight.

Again, it was freezing, and the cabin is 100 years old, so we had some space heaters blasting but we were cold as f-ck. We loaded up three car-fulls of mirrors, candles, flowers, chains, lights, you-name-it and tried to create the feeling of a bad dream. I think we succeeded in that the experience itself was surreal, sleepless, uncomfortable, and dream-like.

The Bay Area’s rising stars—Mane; photographed by Marissa Leitman.

Best of the Bay right now?

There’s so much good music in the Bay. CCR Headcleaner, Rays, Preening, Violence Creeps, Blank Square, Jealousy, Flesh World, 404 Not Found, The World, Butanna, Humid…and too many more.

Worst of the Bay right now?

Some of the worst of the Bay is the mass-exodus and displacement caused by the housing crisis/tech invasion/engorged wealthy class. Where is the moral conscience of the wealthy folks that come to live here? If you are moving into a home or neighborhood in San Francisco or Oakland, you need to ask yourself some obvious questions, like, who am I displacing and what can I do to actively combat this? On the flip side, this siege-like feeling that the lower-income classes are experiencing makes for a strong sense of community for those of us sticking it out. Our community is literally fighting, hustling, to be here, to live as artists and musicians and nonprofit workers in the midst of this rapid change.

Other artists & activists & causes we need to know about?

Nuisance Sounds, Hellbent Booking, High Fantasy at Aunt Charlie’s, Stop Men clothing, B4bel4b, black hole cinematheque, Slurp gallery/collective, The Stud Collective.

Further reflections?

We edited this video ourselves, Maddy took the lead on this, and it was our first time editing a music video. The project was incredibly overwhelming at first, combing through hours and hours of beautiful footage, trying to lay out a cohesive skeleton using fragments of those hours. After a while though, the layered nature of the song and the theme of latent ideas bubbling to the surface almost eerily complimented the editing process. At some point, we were able to let go and essentially sing the song with the imagery we’d captured in the world we created from nothing, in that old, frigid cabin. To be completely in control of a vision, from song to production to video, feels like a great accomplishment for Mane.

Catch Mane on the following local San Francisco dates:

June
09 SF @ El Rio w/ Screature

July
08 SF @ Brick & Mortar Music Hall w/ Froth, Moaning

Mane’s upcoming album debut Alpha Female will be available later this August from Digital Regress.

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