Monday, November 22, 2010

Interview: Manwomanchild

Posted by Frank

Download MP3: Manwomanchild - "Day of Reckoning"

Manwomanchild had me at first listen. I've had the band's songs on repeat ever since I decided to try out their debut EP, which is packed with Bowie-like glam-rock cool, intriguing lyrics and ear-catching hooks. At the helm is David Child, who started the project in Rhode Island in 2008, but now resides right here in the Windy City. Since becoming a part of the Chicago music scene, he's been steadily working on new material and assembling new collaborators for the band. I can't wait to hear what he comes up with next. In the meantime, David answered a few questions for WCR to get us all better acquainted with Manwomanchild. Read on to find out more about his background, what he's got in mind for the future and how he managed to go viral in Chile.

WCR: Manwomanchild recently became part of the Chicago music scene after forming in Providence, RI. How did you decide on Chicago? How has your time been here so far?

DC: I actually moved for personal reasons (my wife got a job in Chicago), and I’m thrilled to be here; it’s truly one of the great music cities. Between the range of bands and the huge selection of venues, radio stations and labels, there’s a real love and support for rock music that never ceases to amaze me. I’m even struck by the quality of commercial radio in this town. At any given time you can find three or four stations playing great classic rock, which I can definitely appreciate.

Are you still playing with the same musicians from back in RI, or is Manwomanchild more of a solo project with varying collaborators?

Yeah, it’s more of a solo project with collaborators. The two other musicians who play on the debut album, Mason Neely (drums) and Craig Gifford (bass), were awesome to work with and contributed so much to the sound of that record. Now that I’m in Chicago, the next record will feature some people from around here.

You recorded the debut late last year at Machines With Magnets studio in RI, releasing three of the songs as a great EP earlier this year. What was the recording process like?

Each of the songs on the album began its life as a demo recorded in my home studio. All the tracks originally had fake drums and tons of synth and keyboards. I’ve been recording that way since I was a teenager. I brought something like thirty or forty songs to Machines With Magnets, and together with engineers Keith Souza and Seth Manchester we whittled it down to twelve.

I tracked the album in fits and starts over the course of several months, overlapping with dozens of other bands who were recording there -- Fang Island, Chinese Stars, Ty Braxton, Elvis Perkins. Anyway, being at MWM was sort of a magical experience for me. I feel lucky to have worked with such a great studio, and I’m really happy with the way the record turned out.

How would you describe the sound or vibe of the album? What were some of the inspirations behind the material?

Part of what comes through in this album is my love for the music of the '70s -- especially glam rock from the first half of the decade. For me, that period is one of the golden ages of rock music, and artists like Bowie, T. Rex, Roxy Music and Sparks are a major influence. But there’s a lot of dynamic range on the debut, with songs varying from '60s pop-influenced to glam to Cars-influenced new wave; there’s even a piano ballad. The lyrics are somewhat surreal and Robyn Hitchcock-esque.

One of the first things I noticed while researching Manwomanchild is how many Chilean fans you seem to have. It made more sense once I found out about 'Chile La Roja,' your song supporting Chile’s World Cup team from this summer. How did that track come about and come to get noticed over there?

Yes! It’s been quite a year. I was approached by an Irish label called Indiecater Records, who had heard my EP and wanted me to contribute a track to this World Cup-themed compilation they were producing. It was a fun project to work on; I did tons of research on the various Chilean players while I was writing the song. Of course, I had no idea it was going to take off the way it did. I owe a lot of my Chilean success to Marcelo Mena, a writer for the great Chilean blog Super 45, who discovered the song and did a few posts about it. Based on that, somebody made a fan video for it (subsequently taken down for FIFA video copyright violations), and the track immediately went viral in Chile.

The month leading up to the World Cup was crazy. I was interviewed in four major newspapers there, and they played the song on national TV. I even did radio interviews with Chilean stations (I also endured the gentle ribbing of fans over my unintentionally hilarious Spanish pronunciation). It seemed like kind of an unorthodox path to success, and it was funny to become a household name in South America without anyone in the U.S. even knowing about it. But Chilean fans are seriously the best. If I ever get a chance to tour internationally, Santiago will be my first stop.

Of all the songs you’ve recorded so far, is there one you’re most excited for people to hear?

I personally like “Day of Reckoning,” with its crunchy guitars coupled with a sort of "Bonnie and Clyde" lyrical vision.

Who are some other musicians or bands you’re most into, local or beyond?

I like a lot of the garage-y Midwestern bands like Smith Westerns, Tyler Jon Tyler and the 1900s. Other than that, anyone who’s doing anything new. I’m really interested in a lot of the hip-hop/R&B artists who are also tackling aspects of rock music (Janelle Monae, my god, Janelle Monae!). I feel like we’re just now beginning to see a continuation of Parliament/Funkadelic’s original vision from the '70s. I listen to a pretty wide range of stuff, though. In fact, I just got back from the record store (K Starke Records on Western Ave.) and here’s what I got: Serge Gainsbourg’s Cannabis OST; Pere Ubu’s Cloudland; Parliament’s Chocolate City; Matias Aguayo’s Ay ay ay; Lennon/Ono’s Double Fantasy; and a compilation called The Sexual Life of the Savages: Underground Post-Punk from São Paulo, Brasil. I have my work cut out for me this evening.

Has Manwomanchild played live gigs, or is it so far just a recorded project? Can we expect any shows in the future?

I’m currently putting together a new live band for playing out in Chicago, so with any luck, we’ll be doing shows soon. In the meantime, I have a bunch of new tracks that I’m really excited to release.

Anything else people should know about Manwomanchild?

Sure! Here’s some gratuitous biographical info: I grew up partly in Boston and partly in Switzerland (where I had my first and worst job working in a frozen potato croquette factory). One my current hobbies is making web-based musical instruments and relatively simple sound-generating applications. I’m also an amateur photographer who obsessively takes photos of buildings.


  1. Nice interview! That's pretty awesome about his song going viral in Chile. I spent a week in Chile earlier in the year soon before Placebo was to perform there, and I agree that Santiago definitely has passionate music fans. I remember just being in a room with a group of friends/relatives playing Rock Band, and it was insane!


  2. Thanks for the comment, Paul. I never knew before that Chile had such passionate music fans! No wonder Lolla decided to expand there next year.

  3. Lover's Anthem, man, the best. Love this band

  4. Lover's Anthem is also one of my favorites!