I happened to come across the Mansions because guitarist Johnny Burke emailed me and sent me a kit. That lead to a phone conversation and a couple of drinks at a bar which then lead to Tom and myself at Johnny’s place, complete with a blue light in the stairwell. So here’s the interview and discussion on what it’s like to be an indy band here in Los Angeles, their history and a ton of stuff that’s unfit to put into print without offending someone. The night ended up with us talking a bunch of smack on the state of the industry, the lack of quality popular music, devoted sound guys, stalkers and what it was like to play in New York in the American Music Awards competition. So here in a nutshell is the basis of an hour-long conversation that turned into an interview, since we were waiting for the bands lead singer who never showed.
BT: How did you guys come together as a band?
Johnny: I’ll take responsibility for that. I met Chris about six years ago.. Well do you want to tell the story or do you want to tell it?
Chris C: I was with a band, and met Johnny through an ad and we were looking for a singer. Johnny and I stayed together, we kicked our singer out
Johnny: we had an imaginary bass player at the time…(laughs)
Chris C: So we placed an ad, and we met Jeff and Eddie, which was perfect because we needed a bass player and singer, and Chris is a friend of mine but he wasn’t in the band because we were playing with a click track. That’s how the band started. It clicked for us when we wrote a lot of songs, I write a lot of music, Johnny writes a lot of music, and Eddie writes the vocals; he comes up with the stuff on the fly. So we ended up with all this material.
BT: So have you been working for a couple of years?
Chris C: Yeah a couple of years I mean we’ve been trying to get our sound. Although we all come from the same background, we all have our own influences. Now we just try to fit them all together, I think our sound now is closer to what we want.
BT: So what are you trying to do now?
Chris C: What we’re trying to do now is combine the vibe of an energetic rock band with the early analog synth pop, drawing from Kraftwerk and early Depeche Mode. We’ve got varying degrees of success. I think our live shows have progressed now that we’re not using the click track. I don’t think people get us the way they should because live we’re so much different than before.
BT: Is the sound harder live?
Johnny: A bit more dramatic
Chris C: I don’t think people get us the way they should because live we’re so much different than before. So now we’re going to go back and try to do a decent recording and get that live feel.
BT: With being together for a couple of years, with some college radio play, how broad is your audience?
Chris R: We’ve gotten really good response from England. How that translates into actual people I don’t know. When it comes from reviews, people buying cd’s on cd baby there’s been a lot from England.
BT: Have you had the fanatical fan yet?
Chris R: There was this girl in West Virginia who sent Johnny a phone card, but he didn’t get the message that she wanted him to call him. We’ve gotten cookies, but none of the fanatical fans are from L.A….
Johnny: There are fanatical fans everywhere….
Chris R: What we need now is the fanatical manager or label….
BT: When’s the next show?
Chris C: Our next show is on July 25th at Club Space, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. It used to be Club Lingerie. We tend to play once a month.
BT: Is that by design?
Chris C: The thing is around town, if we play too much, then we’re not sure we’ll get forty to fifty people. Less than that it’s too risky, we need to keep the bookers happy; they have a job to do as well. Ideally we would like to play more outside of Los Angeles, but that’s on the way. We have enough songs for our next album, which is in the works right now.
BT: Johnny…how did you get the sponsorship with Parker?
Johnny: I sent them a press kit, and letter. I saw Warren with Duran Duran play Ordinary World with one, and it blew me away. I got an email back, and I called them and they said they wanted to work with me. The guitar weighs like four pounds it’s really cool.
BT: What was it like playing for the AMA’s?
Chris: it was good; it was the first time we ever played outside of Los Angeles….
Johnny: It was very hard to leave home at that time, (post 9-11) but it’s something you dream about. Getting picked by Dick Clark to go play in New York, it’s like watching an episode of Happy Days or Leave it to Beaver.