Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
When The Shins' got some phat McDonalds Corporation money for allowing the often-attacked fast food chain to use "New Slang" in one of its television spots, lead singer James Mercer said that the money is what allowed him to buy a house. Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello should be able to buy a house apiece and a fleet of yachts with all of the money they must be shagging from the many advertisement uses of that darned Postal Service record. While not the same kind of riches as the aforementioned examples, Chicago's Manishevitz got enough money from a 30-second snippet of their song "Beretta" playing on "The O.C." that it make's the follow-up to 2003's City Life already bought and paid for before it's even sold a copy. That's a good thing. A great thing. It's also a very strange thing because bands such as Manishevitz aren't usually on the tips of the tongues of those tender-assed teen soap operas, where all the high school-aged kids are promiscuous and all of life's lessons are triggered by the swells of Snow Patrol songs and cutting to a scene on the beach typically requires a shot of The Starting Line or any old Eve 6 quotient. The very idea that a band like Manishevitz is making a record on "O.C." greenbacks is paranormal.
About now, you're mentally begging for reasons that this is so - reasons why this band fronted by Adam Busch just shouldn't be a bedfellow with a show that still has a long way to go to match the lifespan of "Beverly Hills, 90210." Good bands played The Peach Pit for Brenda, Brandon, Steve and Dylan, but there's a common conception that - other than a few expectations, including Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - you have to be kind of wimpy to have your music laced up and into the show's stupid drama. It's not like the members of Manishevitz wear brass knuckles and compose music according to the teachings of Slayer hard asses Tom Araya and Kerry King, but they aren't wimpy. There's a wonderful way that Busch lets his songs fly off the handle, but still not get too carried away. That's a definite sign of knowing what it takes for a rock song to survive the choppy waters. This could have been the attraction for the producers of "The O.C." - "street" credibility to go along with being housebroken and the noble ability to fetch. There's an interesting diorama happening with Busch's words and their cadences and the slanting slopes that they ski on. They enjoy an especially intriguingly aloof application of modulation that turns them playfully loopy and at the same time gives them the body and blood of a resurrected set of Joey Ramone pipes.
In the drooping and falling out of verse and chorus, Busch delivers an almost hangdoggy feel that throws wacky punctuation onto the ends of most lines and makes them feel electrically charged, just as the protagonists at the end of the song "Bluebird You Were" are. Busch is unnecessarily quick to mention in the interview that follows that he thinks he's a terrible vocalist. (And Tom Waits and Bob Dylan aren't?) He doesn't like speaking about the way he sings. It's a self-conscious thing, but there's nothing to be ashamed of in the way he hopscotches around with his wind and lines about birds and bars and nights. There's classic rock and roll and oddly implacable groove that is parts Imperial Teen, part early 90s something or other and part squiggly Huey Lewis/U2 mash-up in the music that gets legs and a tail and goes for walks sometimes in a jammy kind of way, adding another dimension to this mutt of a combination. It's the right band for a stop-gap fix just prior to the release of new discs by Modest Mouse and The Ponys. Without trying to do such a thing, because who could think so randomly, Busch has made - in a lot of ways - what can be heard as a knock-out splice of Isaac Brock, Jered Gummere and Elvis Costello. There's nothing at all "O.C." there. Oops, except that Modest Mouse once appeared on the damned show back in the Aught Four. Forget almost everything I wrote in the above lines. You can choose on your own what not to forget from what's already been done after you hear the exasperated Busch one or two times over.
The Daytrotter Interview:
*Last year was kind of a year of not playing out all that much for you -- at least in the city because of Lollapalooza restraints. What did you do for all that time and are you planning on making up for it this year?*
Adam Busch: We recorded a new record mostly. We're currently figuring out our plan as far as the live show goes.
*When are you looking for the new record to be released? Is it finished? Can you tell me what you like most about it?*
AB: I'm not sure when it's coming out yet. It's done. It's being shopped at the moment. About half way through the record, Mike Krassner and I started to feel it was a little one-dimensional. Because we had a larger budget, we scheduled a few more sessions to write in the studio. We didn't have songs, we'd come up with a basic grid of an idea and just continue to overdub until something worked. Those pieces are my favorite songs on the record.
*How did you develop your vocal style? How would you describe it? I say it's a good-sounding exasperated.*
AB: I'm a terrible vocalist, I don't think I want to talk about this. Seems like staring in the mirror and trying to describe your face.
*How are you wintering?*
AB: Watching television and obsessively listening to (too much) music. Cooking a lot with Jasmine (my wife), Dog training. Playing non-Manishevitz music with a good friend.
*What scares you the most about the world in general and what encourages you?*
AB: People who drive big fucking gas guzzling cars.
People who walk to work.
*Will you take in any Cubs games this summer? Lou Piniella might be throwing bases!*
AB: I'd love to, but probably won't.
*Have you had the same band, for the most part, or are different pieces constantly coming into and out of the fold?*
AB: It switches up a lot. Ryan (Hembrey), Nate (Lepine), and Via (Nuon) have been fairly constant over the last seven years. But a lot of other great musicians have come and gone. Jason (Toth) has been playing drums with us for almost three years now. He's on the new record.
*Is there a lot of experimentation that goes on in the writing process?*
AB: As I mentioned above, yes, more and more.
*Who's the last famous person you met?*
AB: Barack Obama. He gave a speech where I was working several years back. It was a quick hand shake introduction-type of thing.
*Is there something that you feel you could set a Guinness world record for?*
AB: Most consecutive obsessive thoughts.
*What are you reading and listening to these days?*
Yukio Mishima, David Mitchell, The Economist
Syl Johnson, Harmonia, Arthur Russell, Tom Verlaine.