- McAllister Rybak
Need more proof that the age of the rock star is officially over?
Consider three-piece rock band Those Manic Seas, which opts for a mannequin with a television for a head that plays images of a lead singer, rather than the real thing.
The Richmond group combines elements of post rock and shoe gaze to create unique, danceable fun songs — and lists bands such as Interpol, the Killers and Band of Horses as influences on its Facebook page.
The band consists of drummer Daniel Medley, guitarist Chris Westfall and bassist Todd Baker — as well as the mannequin singer, which makes for a visually arresting show. After a self-titled release in 2011, Those Manic Seas recently released a 7-inch single titled "Headache/Heartache," with a May 30 show at Balliceaux that packed the back room.
Style: Tell us about "Headache/Heartache."
Westfall: We wanted to challenge ourselves with our sound. We normally have a shoe-gaze, noisy, post-punk sound and we wanted to create something catchy that can draw people in. Something danceable ... something fun. ...We tried not to overthink it.
Medley: The song was very organic. It just kind of came out of us.
Baker: It was really well received. So we figured why not record and release it. The music video visually mirrors the intention of the song at its inception. We wanted it to be simple and show what we look and sound like live. There's no story, just straightforward people having a good time.
How did the band get started?
Baker: The band went through many phases. We had our friend Curtis [Park] on guitar, who brought a lot to the band, but he had to leave. Dan and I had been in another band so we got along pretty well. We got together and the inception of the mannequin started quickly after that.
Tell us about the mannequin.
Medley: Our band needed a singer. We found a guy, but we have issues working with him. We tried to find a new singer and couldn't find one. We brainstormed a lot and just thought, "Why don't we just have a mannequin and have it play prerecorded music?" It started off as a joke.
Baker: We were looking for a point of difference to make us stand out.
Westfall: It adds to the show without creating a distraction. It's a visual element. It doesn't take away from the experience.
Baker: If you close your eyes, you don't notice the difference. It just sounds like a band on stage. The mannequin with the TV accentuates as well as compliments our show.
Westfall: Before we started, we really wanted to create a show that was worth $5. You're seeing a show, not just a band playing. We really worked hard on songs getting them ready for people. We hope that everyone likes them. We're pretty proud of them.
How does the mannequin work with the band?
Baker: That's part of the magic. We write the songs and ship them away and they magically come back with vocals. Our most frequently asked question is, "How does that work?"
Westfall: People think it's some sort of live feed from the back or that we have some satellite connection.
Medley: When people ask, I don't immediately answer because half the time they start filling in the gaps and I like to see what they come up with. We've had two or three almost get it right. Other musicians will pick up on it.
Westfall: It adds to the mesmerizing factor. You can tell people are intrigued by it.
Baker: People say a lot of positive things about the mannequin. Some are weirded out by it or offset by it until they see us play. I feel like it's hard today for a band to do something that hasn't been done before. I've seen mannequins with TVs on their heads but I've never seen one as the lead singer of a band. People aren't used to seeing new things; that kind of intrigues people. When we take the stage, everyone's staring at the mannequin waiting for something to happen.
What projects do you have coming up?
Baker: We're going on tour at the beginning of June. We're hitting Philly ... Baltimore ... Boston ... Manhattan ... a few other places. After that, we'll be playing at Balliceaux in August. And in September, we're going back in the studio for another record and spend some time there in early fall. Then we'll need a break.
Medley: We'll take a band trip to Busch Gardens.
Westfall: And then we'll see my grandma. S
Those Manic Seas' next show in Richmond is Friday, Aug. 9, at Balliceaux. For information visit thosemanicseas.com.