When I think of rock and roll, I think about crazy parties, drugs and money, lots of money. However, the reality, especially for small time bands is something completely different. They often live day to day, and show to show. Using what they make from playing one show to just get them to next. While living this type of life, they are just hoping for that one break that will lead them to a record deal, and financial security. Most all great rock and roll bands had to start at the beginning. They all struggled before making it big. No one was born a rock star. They all had to start somewhere. This is the story of the Maness Brothers, a gritty, bluesy, stoner rock and roll band.
Last Saturday, I interviewed David Maness, from the Maness Brothers to talk about his upcoming show at Cowboy Monkey. In the interview, we talk about everything from how the band formed, to touring to the songwriting process, the end result of which is a mix of blues, stoner rock, and metal. The sound will knock you off your feet and have you jumping back up screaming for more.
Smile Politely: If you had to sum up the history of you band, how would you do it? Where are you guys from, how long have you been together.
David Maness: We live about 40 minutes outside St. Louis and we started the actual band in 2012. We are actually brothers so we have always kinda played together. Jake is a little younger than me, so we were always in separate bands. We started this band as a side project and then all the other bands disintegrated. So, we just kept going with what we were doing and we liked it better anyway, since we both had the same goals. Before we started our band, Jake was always in metal bands, and I was always in blues and southern rock bands. So when we made our band we melded that together to get the sound that we have now.
SP: That is cool. I was listening to some of your stuff online and I really liked the sound you guys were putting out.
Maness: Right on. It is some bolder stuff. We have a new album that is ready to go. It’s just not out yet.
SP: Cool. So, what inspired you to start making music? I have always been a huge music fan, but I have never really had the urge to make a band. So, what was it that inspired you to get going?
Maness: Well, I guess I have always been fascinated by music. In high school, I had some friends that were a little older and in bands, and then my friends started some bands up. So, I ended up starting a band up as well. We had our first show when I was 15. It was a local place 40 minutes outside of St. Louis. And I just kept on writing more and more stuff from there.
SP: Who are your musical influences? If you have always admired musicians, then who are the guys that you looked up to?
Maness: Jimi Hendrix has always been the guy I looked up to. He was basically all I learned when I started playing the guitar. And I was super into, especially in high school, classic rock. I have always been into the blues. Now, it is more like country blues men are probably both of our biggest influences. As far as our music is going on. But with that our music is like stoner rock and metal stuff mixed with our influences.
SP: So how did you end up learning how to play the guitar? Did you have a teacher, or were you more self-taught?
Maness: I was self-taught for about two years. I got a bunch of the stuff I wanted to learn down, then I had lessons for around two more years. And then I dropped out of the lessons for a little bit and was just learning stuff on my own. Then I went back to lessons when I was twenty, but I only did that for about six more months. I only ended up taking lessons for about two and half years.
SP: Cool. Can you tell me a little bit about your current tour? Are you guys still performing Grief Factory?
Maness: Yeah, we do play songs off of Grief Factory. Not all of them — we cut out a few and added some new stuff. But three of the songs from Grief Factory will be on our set list for our next tour.
SP: What is the best and the worst part about performing shows live?
Maness: For me, playing live is the reason I make music. Obviously, we like to record, but for me there isn’t anything bad about playing live. We generally like all of the aspects. Yeah, we get nervous for bigger shows. But I wouldn’t say there is a best and a worst. The best is playing music and having people rock out to it and being able to get into the zone on the stage. For that 45 minutes, you are in just a whole different world. It’s like time stops, like real life stops, and you just get in this zone. That actually takes a long time to reach that. For me, it did. It takes a lot to not really care about who is watching.
SP: I bet a lot of that comes from having played live so much, you get accustomed to the atmosphere. And so you create your own space, where you can just rock out.
Maness: Exactly. You just create your own little feeling that you get when you take the stage. You can’t care too much or you will mess up.
SP: That makes sense. So, what are your goals for your band in the future?
Maness: The goal of the band is to get our album put out on a record label. That is our main goal right now. And I think it is definitely plausible. Our other goal is to get on a booking agent. Because booking literal takes so much time. Especially considering how much you are doing, writing wise, creating wise, and practicing. You end up just getting bogged down. You can literally send thirty emails to a town you have never been to, and you won’t get a single response. It is just how it goes. I mean musicians aren’t necessarily the most productive. But that is definitely the goal. The other goal is to write a new album this year, after this one is put out. The main goal is to get on a record label. Because once you get on a label, you get more press, and whatnot. We have a record label in mind that we are trying to get on. They are semi-small, but they will bump the record and help us out on the road.
SP: You mentioned a bit about some new songs that you have ready to go. So, what is your process for creating new music? I mean, do you and your brother sit down and just jam it out, or do have an idea when you go in there.
Maness: A lot of the time we just go in there and play. We don’t have an idea going in of what we want the song to sound like. I have ideas of different rifts that I am working on. Which is how it usually starts. I will have one rift and we will jam that out for a little while. And then we will organically place other parts into that while we are playing together. And Jake will have inputs as well. He will write the chorus sometimes. Then we will piece together the song from that.
SP: So what is the biggest obstacle you guys have faced?
Maness: Well, the biggest obstacle that we are facing right now is that we both quit our jobs to go on tour in January and it has definitely been a struggle with money. The money is ok on the road because we are a two-piece. But we don’t really bring a lot back with us, if anything. We are basically just living day to day and nd that gets pretty tricky. That is the biggest obstacle we are facing right now is finances, which is a shame to even say, but that is just the reality of it.
SP: Yeah, I bet that is pretty difficult because you guys are still pretty small time.
Maness: Definitely, putting out this new album will be a feat because we have to pay for it all out of our own pockets. That is definitely the crossroad we are at now because the new album is done, and ready to go.
SP: Can you tell me a little bit about the show you are going to be playing in Champaign?
Maness: Champaign has always been a really good town to play in. We have a lot of buds up there and we always have a receptive crowd. We played Cowboy Monkey two months ago — it’s a cool venue. We have also played at Mike N Molly’s which was great. Cowboy Monkey is a way different vibe, but it is still really cool.
The Maness Brothers play Cowboy Monkey on Friday night with Penny Horses, Bad Catman, and Hot Hand Luke & The Sound. Photo by Nate Burrell.