Four, the new EP from Mannequins, is simply one of the best pop-rock releases in 2018. Check out my review here.
I caught up with the lads – Darren John Aw, Gabriel Christopher Lim, Timothy Lloyd Bracken and Russell Andrew Clunies-Ross – for the stories behind the songs on Four.
“ Wrong Side of the Sun” ushers in the EP with an explosive combination of gritty vocals and old-school punk stylings, climaxing with a classic rock guitar solo. The song conveys (frontman) Darren’s frustration with the lack of pop elements in their music. The lead singer was always skeptical that the band would be able to attain international recognition due to the genre of music they played. This song was written for Baybeats and it holds a special meaning for us. Being the opening song, we wanted to write an explosive hit, a head banging song. Keeping the BPM (beats per minute) in mind, we wanted the listeners to get in the groove the moment we all come in together. The introduction of the song was initially supposed to be backed by a palm muted guitar on distortion. But Darren drew inspiration from Nirvana’s “Drain You”, in the Nevermind album. Darren is a huge fan of Kurt Cobain and loved the combination of Cobain’s gritty vocals and the clean Fender tone in that song. The original chorus was also a little more monotone, containing just the melody – Timothy’s chiming in of the backup vocals during our jamming sessions made a huge difference to the song, giving you what you now hear on the record.
“Sunbird” an anthemic rock song that is named after the street adjacent to (bassist) Gabriel’s estate. The lyrics capture the essence of the friendship shared by the band and is intended to evoke feelings of nostalgia in the listener.
We started working on the song sometime during our late poly/junior college days. The band was at Gabriel’s house for pizza and drinks (and video games) and decided to stay over for the night. The idea was seeded the next morning when I looked out the window and saw the street sign “Sunbird Circle”. Darren thought that Sunbird sounded like a great song title. So we decided to write a song about that fateful night (we slept in separate mattresses in case you’re wondering). It’s really bittersweet knowing that those days are more or less in the past. Now that we’re older, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever get to spend the time doing things like staying over and hanging out all night. We performed the song only after Baybeats and we’ve worked on it further through the course of the previous year to give you the version you hear now on the EP. We felt it was a little too “poppy”, but we’re now very content with the rockiness of the song.
“Misery” enchants the listener with a catchy, relatable heartfelt singalong tune. It is a song about Darren’s close friend, who was going through a bad time in his life. Despite the amount of support received from those around him, Darren’s friend seemed most comforted by his own sadness, his own misery. This song was done right after Baybeats. We were going for a more mature, complex arrangement, without losing the essence of the Mannequins sound. However, we were pretty stuck on how to best end the song and it was only sometime prior to recording our EP when a revelation hit us. We thought of drawing from classical music elements, where variations on a theme are used throughout a piece. So the lick that you hear on the low A string in the bridge, right after “oh, could I overdose on my condition” – we decided to lead back into that, but extend the scale further to make the song complete, and to end it with “A” bang (pun intended).
“I’ll Stick with You” is a punchy four-chord blitz. It is a love song which was inspired by a comic strip that Darren saw that chronicled the reproductive cycle of the anglerfish, and talks about sticking with someone for life. This song was the corner stone of the band’s repertoire. It was the second song we ever wrote together. This song was conceived while we were still playing as a “church” band. We signed up to play as a church band because we were broke back then, and the church had a really neat studio for us to practice. During one of the church camps that took place in St Stephen’s Primary, we spent the nights working on our songs. Those days were really memorable too – after writing songs late into the night, we wound up falling asleep next to each other in our sleeping bags while listening to Weezer’s “In The Garage”. Also, the bass that Gabriel frequently uses is really a gift from “God” (Gabriel borrowed it for an extended period of time from the church). The verses now have a different melody from when we last performed it in an attempt to incorporate grunge elements into the song.
… still there’s more …