Mancub quickly became a electro pop favorite in Denver, setting the stage with a ‘dancing in the streets’ set at the Underground Music Showcase in 2011 and the group’s release of 8-Bit Crush, a bevy of summer grooves and vivacious dance tracks. In 2012, members Alex Anderson and Danny Stillman are down to just one, and Alex preservers in an unbridled fashion, as is evidenced in his latest release, Business Dogs, which debuts to the live audience on Friday, May 25 at Larimer Lounge with DJ Babyshoe and Swim Club.
“I’ve ended up doing shows by myself,” Alex stated of the on again, off again, on again, off again situation with Stillman. “That was kind of rough.”
While rough initially, Alex found the solo situation to provide him with a great sense of freedom and an opportunity to experiment with ideas that had been kicking around for some time.
“I started with the normal thing of creating the drumbeat and putting the synthesizer lines in there. Production wise, I did things I’ve always wanted to try, like I ran my synthesizers out of the computer and into a guitar amp, and then mic’d that with a crappy mic. I did that in my room full of stuff, wondering what it would sound like. And it ended up sounding awesome.”
Then he found that doing the vocals in this way versus the typical vocal affects complemented the way the sounds were coming out. During this configuration strategy he also made sure that these songs would not only be heard digitally, but live, something that’s typically addressed after the fact.
Alex went step by step through this configuration, citing pedals and cable constructs. As one who is definitely on the listening side of the fence versus the engineering side, some of it went a bit over my head. But one thing was clear: Mancub, despite the schematic tactics and tricks, is all about the human element of imperfection.
“There’s a lot of recording, and then playing out and then recording again, and re-recording, re-sampling and re-dubbing. Basically make it sound shittier on purpose. I couldn’t stand how posh some of it was sounding.”
The posh came about after Alex had collected up some nice microphones, soundproofed the room, and tapped into a new audio software program. “Everything was sounding really good and really crisp and I loved it,” but as with many artists before him, he decided to deconstruct it all and start over.
For months afterwards Alex reworked the album until the day came where every note and chord was destroyed perfectly.
The theme for the album, “Business Dogs,” came about through Alex’s day job of working at a doggie daycare, so “dogs are my business and they’re in my business all the time.” It was also influenced by a friendly argument with his manager and girlfriend over his dog ownership and how feasible it was for one who tours to be responsible for a four-legged friend. Alex won the argument in the end and is now the proud papa of Roland, aptly named after the infamous keyboard.
“He’s a badass and is on the album cover of the record.”
Lyrically, the album reflects and mirrors the happenings in Alex’s life. One surprise came about through the writing of the album as the emergence of a love song, which he thought he would never do. The song is “Don’t Go Dying on Me.”
Alex breaks it down, “The chorus goes, ‘I like you better than words.’ When the speaker stops playing, ‘You gotta give it everything you can.’ I have a girlfriend now and we live together, [the song] went really fast and just popped in my head and I just went for it. I just threw the words out. We always talk about what happens if the world ends tomorrow. Not necessarily like, it blows up, but life as we know it completely changes and have to get the fuck out.
“Intelligent Eyes“: “This is actually the first song I wrote for Mancub, but I retooled it. I was listening to Justice a lot at the time, so it’s got this huge, cinematic breakdown in the middle that’s gigantic and very progressive; Yes-style rock even. The whole theme of that song is Big Brother. With the whole Occupy thing going on and people just now finding out there’s 1% that controls the world.
“Quite Possible“: “[It’s] dealing with what you have. The chorus is, ‘Down here you can be anything you want to be.’ It’s basically about being in this underground club that we’re all in. Everybody has an ideal what they are and what they want to be. Some people get there. Some people don’t. If you actually want it, you’ll get there. Everyone I know that has passion is doing exactly what they want to do. Everybody else that I know that doesn’t have the passion is hanging out with those people watching it happen.
“Science” (the first single from the album): “I was writing it when I was still going through the trauma of breakup that started Mancub (prior to the current relationship). I still love this song because it has such an impact of what I was going through at the time. Everyone has whatever makes sense in their life. Some people have God, some people have their significant other. For me, that’s kind of what it is. I want someone to be there for me and help me out. Religion was a big part of my life growing up. Now I feel more enlightened and more educated and have stepped a little bit past that. I believe a lot in modern science and believe it’s all you can believe in. Basically, what I wanted to portray in this song was, ‘I am the science that you want to believe / Suck me in with your gold cross from the dead seas / And leave me with a rosary / I am the violence that goes on overseas / Hidden away like the tattoo that’s under your sleeve / Just leave me with my misery.”
While he breaks these songs down himself, music in the end is in the ear of the beholder. Alex wants, as many other musicians do, to have the listener interpret their own meaning, feeling and impression from each one. For this listener, the lyrics from Business Dogs bubble to the surface, leading the songs whereas on 8-Bit Crush, they played along side the deep, chunky beats, albeit with lyrics that are a bit more lofty and a lot less heartfelt, “I want you to pull my trigger / I’m not fucking around when you go down on me in the car.”
Yes, “Don’t Go Dying On Me” has a foreboding title and is in itself a love song, but it is still ultimately a track for dancing and celebration, as are the other four songs (and hopefully the other five tracks in tucked away in his arsenal will see the light of day soon), making for a stellar follow up to the debut.
As a highly personal and experiential album for Mancub, Business Dogs is really about “being the underdog at the time that we live in right now.” For him to make it while making music, the guy’s working three jobs and in his “spare time,” he does sound design for television and advertising, which is his true career choice next to Mancub. “But those jobs are few and far between, so I still have to pay the bills.”
Part of paying the bills also includes performing and selling music, and as mentioned, Mancub performs Friday, May 25 at Larimer Lounge with the assistance of Ethan Converse of Flashlights, a partnership that formed soon after Stillman departed for the last time. It’s a reciprocating partnership, as Alex steps in with Ethan for Flashlights shows after the departure of Sam Martin. Mancub is also on a new Denver label, Holy Underground, where Ethan is a co-partner.
A download of Business Dogs is available FOR FREE and you can pick up a handcrafted copy of the E.P., including the Mancub signature usage of jean material for the CD cover, also for FREE at the show.