The Mantles, one of the Bay Areas tenured 60s psychedelic garage bands, and showing no signs of slowing down with a new album, Long Enough to Leave, and an upcoming East Coast tour.
The band celebrates the new release (awarded with a 7.5 in a Pitchfork review this week) with a headlining show at the White Horse Bar in Oakland on June 22.
We caught up with bassist Matt Roberts to talk about the new album, their upcoming tour, and his record label, Dulc-i-Tone records.
You just released a new album, Long Enough to Leave. How was recording this time around different from your 2009 self-titled album and other past efforts?
In some ways it was different, but in some ways it wasn’t. We never recorded in a studio before. We always recorded in our friends’ basements. We could have [recorded in a studio] but we never really had much money and didn’t want to be pressed for time. When we recorded the first album, we were in a giant room, and that was great. With this one it was in a smaller space with Kelly Stoltz in a garage behind his house that he converted into a studio.
We didn’t really know Kelly before, but I liked the sound of the records he did on his own. We were trying to get something in between lo-fi and the studio sound. We wanted to record on tape and have the options of doing overdubs on the computer, and have the ability to do more. We still did most of it live. It was a challenge to get a good drum sound in a small space, but I enjoy trying to get the most out of what you can do with not a lot.
The main difference was recording with Kelly was fun because he was such a jokester. Sometimes we would have to reel each other in, but we experimented more. There were things we tried and ended up scratching, but we were more comfortable with doing so. He is pretty accomplished … and loves experimenting with 60s sounds and messing around with reverb. There’s some weird stuff he was doing on the record if you really listen to it.
You just played at the Rickshaw shop and you’re getting ready for your East Bay release party at the White Horse Bar in Oakland. How was the show in SF and do you anticipate any surprises for your show on Saturday?
We really aren’t very organized and the Bats are one of our favorite bands so when they asked us to play their release party we said yes. But since we weren’t going to headline the SF show we decided to book one in Oakland. A couple of the other bandmates went to a show at the White Horse and loved it and insisted on doing our record release their. That show is going to be more of a party with all our friends. And Kelly Stolz is opening and is going to mix up his set. That will be a surprise. All the bands are great. Scraper is like this 70s Australian punk band, and Pink Films is a really good, mod kind of band with good guitar leads. I think it’s going to be a party in the literal sense of the word.
There seems to be this brotherhood of bands that are part of an up and coming local scene in the Bay Area, such as The Mantles, The Birds, The Hot Toddies, Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, to name a few. How do you see yourself fitting in?
It’s funny because I’ve been in this band since 2007, and the Mantles started playing together in 2005, so we’d been playing before a lot of those bands were around. We didn’t really ever feel a connection to it, and I’d been living in San Francisco since 2000 and knew a lot of these people. Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall were pretty tightly knit before we were around and it wasn’t until Ty asked us to go on tour that we were connected to it at all.
When the scene took off a few years ago we sort of got lumped into it. Now we’ve slowed down a lot and don’t play as much, and half the band moved to the East Bay, so I feel like we’re sort of outside of that and just trudging along. Scenes get big and die down and we’ll probably still be around. I don’t feel like it has that big of effect on us. I think we’re fairly independent of that.
You also have your own label, Dulc-i-Tone Records. What’s the label’s current state? Any new signings or releases in store?
I’m gonna retire after releasing this next record. I’m too unorganized and I’m bad at doing mail order. It used to be different, but now it’s like you make the most money doing it individually, and I put it off and people get angry with me and I feel totally guilty. I saw this band New Fault Line, and they were really great. I decided I’m going to do this record and retire. I might even have a retirement party. But after fifteen years I’ve done fifteen records, I think that’s pretty good.
The Mantles are heading out on East Coast tour, have you ever toured there before? Which cities are you especially excited about playing?
The only time we did the east coast was with Ty Segall, with all of us in a van together about four years ago when his second record came out. That was the only extended tour we’ve done. We’ve played LA about four times, and the northwest a bunch. This is going to be the first bigger tour in a longtime. It used to be me that had a real job, but now Virginia does and we can only tour a couple weeks. Obviously New York is gonna be great. We’ve seen a lot of friends come and go in San Francisco, and we’ll get to see them there. I’m mainly excited to eat weird regional food.
You’re also touring with New York’s Juan Wauters, front man of the Beets. How did that come about?
We don’t have a booking agent and we aren’t very good at booking our own stuff. We knew we wanted to do an east coast tour, and the most recent tour we did was with Crystal Stilts. We called them and asked for any suggestions about touring; we always open and tour with bigger bands, so we needed to man up and do a headlining tour. We were looking for someone who would be cool opening for us- we aren’t’ that big and don’t have big heads on our shoulders. Crystal Stilts suggested Juan Wauters from the Beets. If you’ve ever seen them it’s quite a spectacle. He’s quite a character; it will be an adventure for sure. Apparently his set is one long song with a light show. I don’t know how we’re going to follow that.