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Head of the Herd’s Neuman Mannas- Interview

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Neuman Mannas (Left) and Clay Frank

Neuman Mannas (Left) and Clay Frank

“Clay would slap me in the face if I didn’t say The Rolling Stones.”

When asked about their influences, in just one sentence, frontman Neuman Mannas tells you pretty much everything you need to know about his band, Head of the Herd: his comradery with partner-in-crime Clay Frank, slapping things in the face, and The Rolling Stones.

If that doesn’t bottle up the spirit of rock and roll with blues track-marks up and down its’ arm, then goddammit, I don’t know what does.

The Vancouver, BC-based duo has been puttering around the underground circuit for years, but these past few months, they’ve shot like a bat out of hell into the Canadian music spotlight. Their single “By This Time Tomorrow,” which was produced by Garth Richardson, has started toppling rock radio charts across the country. Mannas is the first to sing praise for Richardson, whose resumé includes Rage Against the Machine’s classic debut album.

“Working with Garth, you just realize why he has the reputation he has, because he’s a machine,” said Mannas. “He gets sounds out of you that you did not think you could make.”

Fellow Vancouver indie group Mother Mother also leant a helping hand, in the form of lush songbird Jasmin Parkin. Parkin’s vocals can be heard on “By This Time Tomorrow”, opposite Mannas’ crass howl.

“Jasmin, she’s just a doll, man,” gushed Mannas. “She’s not just a wonderful singer, but she’s an amazing person to be around and to work with, so we were lucky as hell there.”

For all their help, the star-studded collaborations also bring the danger of detracting from what’s really at the base of Head of the Herd: two men dedicated to writing kick-ass blues-rock songs. They stuck to their guns, and it’s finally paying off.

“It’s a feeling we’ve been chasing for years and years, and the fact that it’s happening now… We’re just over the moon, man. We’re in love with it.”

The first go-round for the two was a slightly different affair, to say the least.

“The first record, we made the entire thing before we’d ever played a gig,” explained Mannas. “We constructed it in a way that was very strange, and I think it doesn’t sound like anything else, which is wonderful.”

“But then when we started playing live for a couple years, we were like “Oh, we need to make a record that sounds like us live,” cause that’s the energy we want to put on a tape.”

Their climb has been sudden and severe, but not without its’ hitches. The inevitable crust of doubters and “haters” at the edge of their warm success has crept up. But Neu and Clay have no problem responding.

“We wrote these songs, we funded this record ourselves, so the fact that it’s being well-received, how is that anything but wonderful?” posed Mannas. “We get to share this with the country and they actually care? We’re happy as can be about it.”

Speaking of another instance of being accused of selling out, Mannas said, “We made a $500 video off a record we paid for, and we want to go play some gigs and share this music… So ya, [those people], I would say I don’t see eye to eye with.”

The band is the latest heartbeat for the blues-rock revival movement. Bands like The White Stripes and The Black Keys (interestingly, all two-piece bands) introduced a new generation to mainstream blues music, and Head of the Herd certainly hopes to channel that influence.

“I’ve got a grandmother from Chicago, and I remember she showed me her Muddy Waters records, and it just blew my mind, and it stuck with me,” reminisced Mannas. “So when we built this band, we really wanted to build it around sort of bluesy, storytelling kind-of music, but then slap it in the face with some rock and roll and make it our own.”

“Bands like The White Stripes and The Black Keys kind of open the rock market to bringing that stuff back in.”

At the moment, the Mannas and Frank are still riding the euphoric high from their over-night success, and while nothing is ever a sure bet, odds are good that they’ll be around for a while.

“We’re music lovers through and through,” said Mannas. “We want to make this music for a long time.”

Head of the Herd brings their home-brew of rockin’ blues to Café Deckuf on July 17.

-Luke Ottenhof

The Scene