Man Man, the experimental rock band from Philadelphia, have created a reputation for crazy stage antics—bashing their bodies in the name of rock ’n’ roll with painted faces and strange attire—but they’ve also released five quality records since 2004.
Their latest effort On Oni Pond is no exception, as Man Man has evolved without any anxieties about writing insatiable hooks. Lead singer and co-creator Ryan “Honus Honus” Kattner hasn’t sacrificed his imaginative prolixity, evolving and perfecting his witty and playful juxtaposed lyricism.
We caught up with Kattner to talk about writing pop songs, hypothetically breaking up, and what would happen if he met Danzig.
Man Man performs at the Chapel on August 18th.
How’s it going? Any notable injuries on the tour so far?
Oh, you know, another day in the life of a world traveling rock star—I just vomited in my mouth a little bit after saying that.
I just had dinner and leaned back on a railing that wasn’t attached to the ground and went down with the railing. We’re in Fargo right now. There’s a lot of heavy shit in Fargo.
Just stay away from the wood chipper. Whenever I hear anyone mention Fargo I immediately think of the movie. Have you seen any familiar landmarks?
I think the movie was actually shot in Canada, but anyway we’re downtown. I walked to the pharmacy to get some vitamins and they were closed at five o’ clock.
So I’m assuming you’re excited to get to the West Coast?
It can’t come soon enough. This tour has been interesting because we’re playing places we haven’t played in years or never played, like Billings, Mont. I don’t know how intact we’re gonna be in Billings but it’s cool to play towns that we’ve never played before even if only 10 kids come out.
Would you rather play a show in Billings to 10 of your most loyal fans or Outside Lands Festival to thousands of people that hardly know you?
The latter, no offense to Billings. We love playing festivals. It’s just fun to rock out to people who don’t know you, you can really convert people or ruin their forty-five minutes.
Your last record, On Oni Pond, seems to have a lot more pop elements to it. How was making this record for you compared to past records?
The main difference was that I worked more with Chris making the music on a good portion of the record, and that was different and fun. As far as it being poppy, I feel like I’m still, as a songwriter, learning how to write pop songs. Hopefully it’s just part of the evolution of writing songs, but I think all our records are pop records.
I don’t know why pop has such a negative connotation sometimes.
I have no aversions to writing a hook. Isn’t that ultimately what you want to do? Obviously, there are some you hear that seem disingenuous to what the band is about, but then there are hooks that come from a real place.
This record is more of a shower than a grower, but it grows on you the more you listen to it. I feel like with this one, if you just put it on, we can get you on board, unless you’re someone that wants us to make the same record we did 10 years ago.
I read in an interview a few years ago that you were thinking of quitting music. What were you thinking?
It’s getting harder and harder. I saw a funny comic the other day, there’s someone on the ground and they’re cradling a person who’s horrible injured yelling for a doctor, all of a sudden all these people pipe in, and they’re all DJs.
Not to play a tiny violin but it’s getting difficult. I appreciate if you’re saying I shouldn’t quit. We’re kind of stuck in this place where people think they know what we sound like and they haven’t checked us out. Especially with this last record, I don’t understand why we can’t seem to get out of that niche.
It’s just a matter of persisting. We are a band that’s been around for five records. This round of touring is the first time I have a feeling from playing. Not to sound presumptuous, but it was a feeling I’ve never had before. I was like, fuck, are we gonna be that band in 20 years that people say, ‘I wish I had seen them’?
I think people like the idea of discovering something that no longer exists.
Even with my other band, Mister Heavenly, all of a sudden people are like, will there be another record? And I’m like, “Where were you when we were around?” We should probably just break up and change our name and do what we do. The next band will be called Dark Buckets.
At least you guys make awesome music. I’d say you’re already successful in that regard.
We’ve had experiences opening for bands where the audience hated us, and the band didn’t even like the audience too much aside from them paying their mortgages. At least I can say wholeheartedly that our fans are rad, and that’s why we’re playing Billings.
What sort of inspiration and influence throughout your life helped you create your unique brand of music that you’ve dubbed “Doom Whop”?
I think I can trace everything back to the La Bamba film with Lou Diamond Phillipss. It was my first CD and my mom took me to that movie. It was like 1950s rock, but even doo wop, I think I just fell in love with the format, granted a lot of it can be super derivative and can rip your heart out in two and half minutes. Oh, and Danzig was another huge influence.
If you had one shining moment with Danzig what would you do or say?
I’d probably let him lay me out. Danzig rules, I hope I meet him before I die.