It’s a pretty sweet package. Pressed on 180-gram vinyl (that’s the good stuff) and with a full-colour gatefold sleeve, the 33-rpm version of the new, self-titled album by the Manvils is a beautiful thing to behold. When he’s asked about the LP, which has been produced in a limited edition of 500, the Vancouver band’s frontman, Mikey Manville, admits that he’s never been a record collector. Born in 1980, Manville grew up in the era of cassettes and CDs, but says he understands the mystique of the older format.
“Right from the beginning we had talked about doing vinyl,” he says, sipping an iced chai latte at a Main Street coffee shop. “There’s a romanticism with it, you know. I’m an audio freak—I love great gear and stuff—but my first record was the Manvils’ record. And that was kind of cool. When that came in the mail I had just bought a record player for that occasion.”
When Manville’s virgin needle met the groove of the long-player’s opening cut, “Good Luck Club”, the singer-guitarist knew he had made the right decision. “The first time I got the test pressing from Europe and I laid it down, I knew right then and there why it was important to have that limited-edition vinyl,” he says. “It’s because it just sounds better. Anyone who has a great system and is a vinyl collector or just spins vinyl for fun, they know why they’re doing it, and it’s because there’s nothing that beats that kind of tone.”
And tone, Manville stresses, is a crucial consideration. When he and his fellow Manvils—bassist Greg Buhr, drummer Jay Koenderman, and guitarist Mark Parry—entered Vancouver’s own Factory Studios with producer Ryan Dahle, the goal was to make as perfect a listening experience as possible. Manville has no qualms about admitting that he aimed to create a classic album that would hold up 10, 15, or 20 years from now.
“One of my main stipulations was that every second of the record has to matter,” he explains. “Every part of the record, every piece of the record has to almost mathematically make sense, so that when a song climaxes, the release makes sense. There’s a purpose to every part of the record; there’s no useless jam-outs or space-outs that would extend the song over a four- or five-minute period.”
Indeed, there is nary a wasted note on The Manvils. The arrangements are concise, the musicianship tight and impassioned. “Substation”, for instance, crackles with edgy yet melodic guitar lines and forceful drumming. Despite its spaghetti-western title, “For a Few Dollars More” is a flat-out rocker with a punkish fire behind its choruses and some searing six-string leads. “Riverside” brings things down to a ballad tempo, but is played with no less conviction.
As the band’s lyricist, Manville treads into some dark territory. Songs such as “Madame Guillotine” and “True Believers” find him exploring themes of tyranny and war, but you won’t catch him belting out slogans or offering easy-to-swallow platitudes. “One thing I’ve never been as a songwriter is a preacher of what people should think,” Manville says. “There’s a lot of bands that do that. And then there’s a lot of bands that avoid the whole issue and just write pop music. I just wanted to record a mature record that does make you think. But it definitely leaves it up to the listener. It’s maybe a little more esoteric than your typical record, but I think there’s probably more substance to it than a lot of rock records.”
That substance, alloyed with the group’s timeless rock ’n’ roll sound, has won the Manvils a growing fan base. Among the band’s followers is Hollywood actor John Savage, best known for dramatic turns in gritty late ’70s fare such as The Deer Hunter and The Onion Field. Savage is enamoured enough of the Manvils that he agreed to appear in a video the band is making for its song “Turpentine”. Manville doesn’t want to offer too many spoilers, but he will reveal that the video involves a little taxidermy and a lot of blood.
The Manvils are also booking a tour, and not a small one, which will take them across Canada and through Europe. “Ideally, the band would love to be gone for two-thirds of the year,” Manville says. “We really want to try to put the pedal to the metal and be on tour as much as possible, if and when we get the opportunity.”
So if you want one of those 500 vinyl beauties, you’d be well-advised to act now, before everyone else in the country is scrambling to get their hands on them. Head down to the Manvils’ “Turpentine” video wrap party on Saturday and score yourself a copy. In 20 years, you’ll still be glad you did.
The Manvils play Funky Winkerbeans on Saturday (August 29).