Posts categorized "Music"

New Abscondo album

The new Abscondo solo album Forbidden Curiosities is available on Apple Music, streaming for free on Jamendo, and coming to all other digital music sources shortly. The response to the album has been quite positive so far.  I'm glad.

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Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

Last June, at around the same time as my band Abscondo finally released our album (which all of us in the band absolutely love and I would recommend that anybody listen to), I quietly made the decision to put the band on hold. It is difficult to explain why I came to that decision because I absolutely loved what Filip, Martin, Tibor and I created.

If I were to try to explain why I made the decision to put the band on hold, it really came down to a couple of things: 1) We were playing English-language, alternative music in a small country where you really have to be a lot more commercial and mainstream to find an audience, 2) the financial burden of touring, recording, and keeping the whole thing running started to not make much sense to me, and 3) my creativity was suffering because I was spending most of my energy booking shows, dealing with logistics, and thinking about PR. Basically, it stopped being fun, it stopped being about art and music and more about image and ambition. I had a lot of fun with that band and we created something pretty great, but after 3 years it didn't feel good to me anymore and I had to follow my intuition.

In the months that followed, something beautiful happened. I started writing songs again. I started feeling that creative inspiration again. I re-discovered what it feels like to make music without ego, without ambition, without trying to be cool.

In December of last year, I put together whatever equipment I had and created a makeshift home studio in my flat. I wasn't confident that I had the skills to record, mix, and master an album entirely by myself...but I was having fun and wanted to try. Back when I was recording as band, I found the process too technical. It was all about perfection, editing everything until it was all in-time, tuning the vocals, making it sound radio-friendly...and my gut feeling is that this kind of process kills music. Most of the alternative and indie music these days is starting to sound the same as commercial music because everyone is striving to make something technically flawless. But I don't think music should be flawless. The music I love sort of just flows...it is natural...it captures the reality of a human being being human. So that's what I wanted to make -- something that sounds like how it really sounds when I play in a room by myself.

One of the things I did differently is that I recorded the vocal and acoustic guitar during the same take through two mics. Every day, as I would practice, I would record each song. I used a click-track for some songs, other songs are not even in perfect tempo. I did this for a month or two because I wanted to get really good at performing these songs. When I felt that I was playing these songs as well as I was ever going to play them, I then went back and selected the best take from all of the rehearsals. This live performance became the starting point for each song.

After that, I used a little midi keyboard and added some piano, some synth, and some string sounds. On two tracks, I used a professionally-recorded piano part that was done many years ago. For one song, I hired a drummer. Aside from this, you don't hear drums anywhere else in the album and you don't hear anybody playing anything except for me. The sounds you hear were created by me without any looping. All of the mixing, all of the effects, and even the mastering was done by me...so what you hear in the end is exactly what I, the songwriter, heard in my head when I first wrote the songs.

I love this album. It is finished and will be released very soon (as soon as I figure out the cover art). I will probably release it via Creative Commons because it didn't really cost me anything to make it and I want to share it freely.

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

Falling in Love with New Music in 5 Steps

Do you know anybody who is completely stuck on one particular musical genre? Getting tired of listening to their same stale music from that other era? Have sympathy, because it can be a chore to embrace new music and most people don't even know how to do it. I'll try to offer a little help.

If you care about good music, you've probably had some help along the way. Maybe you had that cool, "indie" friend in high school. Or maybe it was a cousin, a sibling, or a crush.

My first musical influencer was my best friend at age 16. My friend Tucker led me away from the likes of MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice. It was a long, hot Wisconsin summer and I spent so many days at his lake house. Tucker's enthusiasm for U2's Achtung Baby infected me and changed me. We'd turn his stereo up so loud that we could swim to the floating dock on the lake, lay in the sun, and still hear every guitar riff and brilliant lyric through the open, rattling windows of his upstairs bedroom. I hope his neighbors shared the same enthusiasm for his music as I did.

Tuck and I would then would move on to Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend album, R.E.M., Jane's Addiction, and so many others. It isn't that any of his stuff was all that obscure (it wasn't), but what is important is that he pulled me into a genre I would have never otherwise ventured into. His enthusiasm was contagious and I guess it changed my life.

Unfortunately, friends can lose contact and (worse yet) they can change. Without the internal desire or willingness to seek out and embrace new music, even the best of us can find ourselves wandering in a musical wasteland. But a life without a healthy amount of great music, (including new music that sounds fresh) is the life of someone who is slipping toward old age and death. New music keeps us young inside.

I'm a massive music fan and I'm proud to say that I kept myself moving forward on a continually satisfying and stimulating musical journey. I'm not gonna tell you what to listen to (although you seriously should check out this super-obscure band called Abscondo), but I will tell you about 5 steps that will help anyone move past a stale music collection.

1) Find at least one source you trust to stay updated on a wide variety of new music. It could be a magazine like NME, Q Magazine, Rolling Stone, Spin, or Pitchfork. Go to the bookstore and check out a few mags. See which ones seem to fit your preferred genre. Ideally, there will be at least a few references to bands you actually do know. Otherwise, check out KEXP, NPR All Songs Considered Podcast, or a local indie publication or website (like Seattle's The Stranger, for example) for reviews of bands that are coming to your area.

2) Make plans to get out and seeing shows! Find out who's touring near you, read reviews, commit to going to a show as often as you can (even a few times per year helps). If there is a band touring in your area, don't buy the tickets just yet, but first go to step 3. Better yet, just buy tickets to to a summer music festival then go to step 3.

3) Before you go to said concert or festival, check out the band online and listen to a few songs. If you like the songs at all, or can imagine the possibility of liking them, just buy the album. But don't expect to fall in love with their music right away!

4) Before you see the show, listen to the album at least 5 times (regardless of what you think after the first spin). You don't even need to listen to the whole album...at least listen to the first 5 songs at least 5 times (even as background music while you're working). This is the natural process of allowing the sounds to penetrate your consciousness. It takes a bit of time! After 5, 6, 7 spins, you will know whether this is something you are falling in love with or not. If not, you will naturally gravitate toward some of the other bands you're considering. But if you kind of dig it, commit to going to the show.

5) Convince a friend to come along with you to the show. Shared musical experiences add to the magic! Oh, and then when the day comes...you should actually go to the show! Maybe it's been a long day at work or perhaps you have to get up early tomorrow morning. Who cares? The energy and inspiration you will get from the music over the long-term is more important than any minor short-term discomfort.

Don't expect to be blown away every time. At the concert, you will be left standing too long waiting for the band to come out, maybe even yawning. Even during the performance, you may end up checking your watch a few times and wondering how many songs are left in the set! But, in the end, (at least some of the time) you will have fallen in love with a new band...in so doing you will have found one of the secrets to eternal youth and lasting coolness.

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Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

You made a list of all your heroes

And you thought about what they went through...

Yeah, you thought about what they went through...

It's much darker, much harder than anything that happened to you

- Belle & Sebastian from the new song "Allie"

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Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

This is Tibor Dragon on bass

Today is Tibor's name day and it feels like a great time to send some positive thoughts and appreciation his way. Since Tibi doesn't drink, I guess there's no opportunity to toast and the best I can do is write something here! :-)

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I've been in this band for more than 2 years with the same group of guys. Over this period of time, we've gotten to know each other not just as musicians but also on a very personal level. Probably the determining factor of whether or not a band stays together is whether the members end up growing either closer in time or further apart. Lately it seems like we are coming together and moving forward as one unit...not just as 4 guys who want different things for different reasons.

It is clear to anybody who has ever heard the classically-trained Tibor on guitar or bass, that he is distinguished in his style and technical abilities. Tibor was the last member who joined our band, but as early as our first rehearsal he was already able to play all of the songs. I have to work hard to memorize songs, but Tibor simply turns, looks you in the eyes, and performs the song perfectly on his first take. I guess his training allows him to not only anticipate what's coming, but to quickly adjust if (for a split second) he goes only slightly off course.

But it's not just that Tibor quickly plays the song "correctly". He adds something smooth and almost "jazzy"...something that really works well I might add...even to songs that fall far outside that genre. His bass interprets my songs perfectly. It is, truly, a wonderful experience for me to stand next to Tibor in rehearsal and on stage.

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In his other life, Tibor is a Chemical Engineer who specializes in Quality Control. One of the ways he helps the band is that he brings his gentle, but firm approach to quality control to our project. Each time one of us gets too far off into our own fantasy world, or if we bring something less than great to our performance, Tibor gently asks a question or shares an opinion that gets us back on track. He holds us accountable to a higher standard. 

What defines Tibor most is his disciplined and principaled approach to everything he does. He knows exactly who he is, what he wants in life, and then methodically goes out to get it. I've never met anyone more loyal to the people around him and to the causes in which he believes. If you have Tibor's word, you have something you can trust without any doubt. 

I'd like to congratulate Tibor on his name day but also on the purchase of his new flat. It will be a lot of fun now all 4 members of Abscondo live in the same neighborhood.

Tibor, you're the greatest guy, a kind person, an amazing musician, and a really good friend. I look forward to creating music with you hopefully for years to come.

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Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

This is Martin Lechman on drums

One of the things I enjoy most about being in the band Abscondo is that I get to hang out with some really great musicians who also happen to be good friends and great people.  

One particular guy who I'm a huge fan of is Martin Lechman. Martin is our drummer, but he's also the very talented frontman of a great Slovak band called KVETY V PODPAŽÍ.

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When describing Martin's strengths, it is a bit difficult to know where to begin. On a personal level, his positive attitude and good charm never fail. The challenges we face as a band can sometimes feel overwhelming, but I can't remember a single time when Martin failed to greet each of us with a big smile and a warm handshake. Remarkably, the smile and optimistic approach never seems to fade as long as the evening lasts or the practice goes on.  

One of the things I find most admirable about Martin is his loyalty and dedication not just to Abscondo but to good music, itself. He only makes music he believes in and loves. With his talent, it would perhaps be easy to "sell-out" and play any gig that comes along, but Martin remains true to his excellent taste and unique artistic vision.   

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It requires an enormous amount of hard work and sacrifice not only to maintain technical skills on drums and guitar, but also to move forward on the creative side of things even as you face the constant pressure of trying to earn a living. Martin makes it look easy, but I know that what he does is far from easy.

All of this said, it isn't his willingness to work hard and sacrifice that impresses me most. I admire Martin because of his musical and personal greatness (not even to mention the original ideas he so effortlessly seems to express on drums). I can't imagine what Abscondo would sound like without him, but that isn't my point. I quite simply look forward to the possibility of playing with, watching, listening to, and hanging out with this remarkable guy for years to come.  He's top-notch and it makes me very proud each time I share a stage with him.

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Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

Interview that will appear in Vents Magazine

I just finished an interview that will be published in Vents Magazine soon.  I had a lot of fun with it and wanted to put it up on the blog right away.

So why don't you introduce yourself to our readers?

I’m an American who, once upon a time, dreamed of escaping the conventions of life in the Empire of Fake.  In 2005, I left my comfortable yet numbing life in Seattle and moved to Eastern Europe.  After this drastic change, far less of my time was taken up on work.  I was freed up to chase everything excites me.

When I finally found the space and time to figure out who I really am…what happened is I found my own voice.  It started to make sense to write, to record, and ultimately to perform.  I’ve been tracking this journey on the Abscondo blog since 2004. 

I’ve been a huge indie / alternative music fan for a long time and that sort of led to songwriting.  Eventually songwriting led to recording.  Recording led to a band.      

How did you guys come all together and created this band?

The Abscondo band was sort of a New Year’s Resolution.  On February 2nd, 2012, I just felt the urge to put together a killer band.  I had recently recorded my second solo album, but it was clear to me that these were a collection of songs that were actually written for a band. 

I live in Kosice, Slovakia.  I had tried to work with Slovak musicians in the past and had a few false starts.  The talent here is pretty good, but to be honest what is lacking is taste…especially when it comes to indie music.  But I got lucky this time.  I tracked down a very young guitarist called Filip Kluknavsky.  We sat down and talked about the vision for this band.  He agreed to give it a couple years.  Filip called up some very impressive young musicians, particularly Tibor Dragon (bass) and Martin Lechman (drums).  He had worked with them in the past.  After a few months experimenting with different line-ups and making some difficult decisions, we had a really solid band.

What's the story behind the band's name?

To “abscond” means to run away, taking something or someone with you.  I remember, back in 2005, I felt that I had escaped.  I was living in a beautiful, old flat in the center of Kosice (the 2013 European City of Culture, by the way).  I would play guitar, take a nap in the afternoon.  I would listen to Roma playing music down on the street.  I would watch people walk by below my window eating ice cream.  It was such a magical time in my life…meeting new friends, exploring new music, writing.

So this idea of “absconding” really fit my life.  I did run away, but I also took my treasures with me: my beautiful wife and my software sales job from Seattle.  So I adopted the name “Abscondo” as the moniker for my music, my writing, and my lifestyle.  Up until 2012, “Abscondo” was something solo, something personal.  It was actually a big step for me to use the name for the band…because then it became something more collective!  Also, when we started performing, when we appeared on the radio and on a popular TV show in Slovakia…I started becoming more of a public figure (well, in this microcosm of a country!).  I started to feel less like I was “absconding” from anything and that kind of bothered me.  But I guess the name still fits well nonetheless.    

What are your music influences?

Before I picked-up a guitar, I listened to a lot of U2, REM, Matthew Sweet, and a lot of the “college rock” hits of the early 1990’s.  By the mid-1990’s, two bands changed my world.  The first was Radiohead.  I had “The Bends” and “OK Computer” on repeat when I was at University in Colorado.  As a business student, unfortunately I was a bit too connected to mainstream culture.  Radiohead felt like something more real, more human, and more filled with emotion than anything around me.

The second band that saved me, around that same time, was Belle & Sebastian.  Everything they put out, in those early days, felt so pure, honest, and inspired.  Their gentle sound was something that connected with me at a really deep level.  They made it feel ok to be sensitive.  Belle & Sebastian helped me realize that the best music was not well-known. 

I was also listening to a lot of Brit-pop.  Then, when I moved to Seattle in 1999, I discovered KEXP and began going to all of the local concerts I possibly could.  Up until I left the US in 2005, I was obsessed with indie music from bands like Arcade Fire, The Killers, Muse, Coldplay, Sondre Lerche, Sigor Ros, Rufus Wainwright, too many others to mention really.  Since then, I should mention Damian Rice, Glen Hansard, Camera Obscura, Snow Patrol, and I also got into a lot of Lounge Music…which I guess was a result of my more European influences over the past 8 years.  Of course I’m leaving out maybe 200 – 300 artists who have had a huge impact on me.

I’ll also tell you what I despise, musically.  Everything on MTV.  Everything on commercial radio.  Everything commercial.  I despise it because it is meaningless.  It says nothing about how I feel or about the human condition.  It offers no ideas, no inspiration that means anything…nothing of value.

What's your songwriting method?

I write mostly when I am traveling. Travel is integral to every bit of inspiration and every new idea that I have because it removes me from routine.  I’m a big believer in routine, in optimizing each day to get everything done that is important, to put a lot of hard work into everything I need to do and into everything that inspires me.  But sometimes I work too hard, I get too stuck in a routine, and my creative side starts to suffer.

The songs on our Travelpics EP were written mostly on a beach in Croatia.  But I also write in planes, trains, or sitting in the middle of a field.  This is how I get the raw idea.  Then I work out all of the details at home later and just continue to refine it until I’ve taken a song as far as it will go.  And then the guys in the band take it even further....much further than I ever could.

So you went to Europe looking to put together a band or it just sorta happened?

It just happened.  I went to Europe to live in the spirit of carpe diem.  That doesn’t mean I lived recklessly or foolishly (though at times I did).  What it really means is that I listened to my inner voice each day and then did exactly what I felt was the right thing to do that day.

I remember, during those first years in Europe, my American friends would ask me when “I plan” to come back, when “I plan” to do this or that.  I realized the extent to which most of us are controlled by plans…so much so that we become blind to today.  Then today becomes just an obstacle, an unimportant detail.

But there’s a line in my song “Victory in a Landlocked Sea”.  It goes, “and yet, each moment is the only thing that ever means anything to me.” 

So in other words, I wasn’t “looking to” do anything specific.  Just to chase what excites me.  This is how I’ve lived for the past 8 or 9 years and it has taken me in very interesting directions and has led to a lot of growth and change.

Travelpics. How was the recording and writing process?

All of the songs were written after I had left the US except for “The System”.  “The System” was one of the first songs I wrote in Seattle and it is a heartfelt political rant.  I was very political in Seattle.  I later realized that the US is not a democracy and that there’s no point to being “active” in “US politics”.  The system is a sham controlled entirely by a ruling elite.  We’re better off focusing on real life, on real things, on things we can influence and control!

The other songs are actually about this clear distinction.  My lyrics are about the external vs. the internal.  Yes, the other three tracks are very inward focused and they are built around themes like life meaning, belonging, love, religion, and authenticity. 

Why the title?

We’re starting to incorporate travel pictures and inspirational quotes into our live show.  Right now I’m going through travel photos that were submitted by fans.  I’m also going through some of my favorite books (and my own writing) for quotes, and I’m putting together a video to be projected as we perform.  I’m really excited about engaging and audience in this way and actually involving them, projecting their dreams into our show.  So we called it the EP Travelpics to fit with this theme.  Also, our fans in Europe are mostly travelers and we really want to consciously connect with this group.

Tell us more about the artwork cover?

I have a hard time with anything visual.  I guess I achieve a degree of visual competence with the website, perhaps with the CD artwork, but when you start talking about music videos and things like that…that’s where I struggle. So Abscondo probably needs help in area!

Any hilarious moment while hitting the road or playing a gig?

Every gig we play is hilarious to some degree.  Look, the fact that our songs sit really well next to bands like The Killers, Muse, etc….the fact that they are in English…and yet we’ve still not performed outside of the tiny country of Slovakia! 

Perhaps most hilarious are my attempts to speak Slovak.  This project actually landed me on a week-long cooking show on prime time TV in Slovakia.  I became known by half the country as “that American who speaks funny in Slovak.”  Now we perform at city festivals for people who’ve never heard music like this.  What’s funny is watching how they respond.  The audience tends to stick around…but the whole idea of performing these intimate indie songs in such a venue is kind of funny to me. 

The other guys in the band act like true rock stars on the road.  Our van is full of laughter and usually enough alcohol that I worry just a bit.  My fantasy is to create a reality TV show of a US tour.  Perhaps a show on the Travel Channel!  It would be something like a rock band version of Borat!  I’m pretty sure we’d be the most controversial thing on TV.  Maybe I’ll pitch the idea to somebody.  I’m really starting to like this idea!

What's next in Abscondo's world?

I’d like to announce a travel show on the Travel Channel! Kidding. But actually, I wouldn’t be surprised about anything that could happen.  Personally, right now I’m focused on a Sales Agency business that I’m starting. That is going to free up my time even more and I’ll make a lot more money.  The point is that I’ll be able to invest more in the band and I’ll be more free to chase bigger projects and tours even as I take care of my wife and young daughter.  So that’s where I’m at over the next few months.

In the immediate future, we plan to finish the full-length album.  We’re currently close to closing a few licensing deals, so I wouldn’t be surprised hear our music in a film or in an advertisement of some kind.  That would be a really big deal for us.

We have big plans for this project, but we have to find our own path.  We have to keep things authentic and do something different from everybody else out there.  Alternative music has become so cliché.  Music videos are boring.  So maybe we’ll do more cooking shows!  It’s all about staying connected to big dreams!  So I’m going to keep pitching really big, ridiculously huge ideas to people I have no right to call!  I’ll keep doing it until something really great happens.  I want these songs to be heard.  I want to connect with people on an emotional and intellectual level.  I want to inspire people to live radically differently than they do today.  That’s the whole point of this project and it cannot happen unless it becomes big.     

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

Tomorrow Abscondo plays a Metal festival :-)

The band is strangely looking forward to playing our...uh...not-so-heavy indie music to an audience of Heavy Metal fans tomorrow afternoon at Rock Pod Kamenom in Snina, Slovakia.

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We'll be filming the performance, as it should certainly be interesting. :-)

Mark Manney is the founder of “I am” by Infobeing (www.infobeing.com) (mark.manney@infobeing.com).