Hot New Band: Manchester Orchestra
Earnest Atlanta indie rockers combine Pinkerton heft with ruminations on faith.
Tucked into a booth behind a plate of snow crab legs and a cold beer at a cavernous fish house across from Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery, Manchester Orchestra frontman Andy Hull is talking about one of his favorite subjects: God.
“There’s a difference between people who use God as a way to sleep at night and people who are so convicted by their beliefs that they can’t,” says Hull, 22. “I’m in category two.” Hull’s father and grandfather were pastors, and in Manchester Orchestra, he’s teamed with four guys who also grew up in Christian homes. “But we’re not a Christian band. I try to write through a lens rather than on top of a soapbox.”
After nearly being suspended from his Christian high school for playing at a local club that featured a themed room called Hell, Hull homeschooled himself for his senior year and focused on his band. He cycled through almost 15 members before enlisting drummer Jeremiah Edmond, who’d engineered records for Big Boi and Bubba Sparxxx, and two friends, bassist Jonathan Corley and keyboardist Chris Freeman, for their selfreleased 2006 debut, I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child. The album filtered Hull’s musings on faith, doubt, and Woody Allen movies through a precise racket reminiscent of Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie; it garnered them another guitar player, Robert McDowell, and a record deal.
For their new album, Mean Everything to Nothing (Favorite Gentlemen/ Canvasback), Hull demoed 70 “slow, ominous” songs, then scrapped them all. “We were just like, ‘Fuck it!’ ” he says, laughing. “We wanted it to be heavy like Pinkerton or In Utero.” While stomping riffs and wagging rhythms dominate,there are still quiet moments, including “I Can Feel a Hot One,” Hull’s surrealistic vision of his wife dying in a car wreck (“The Lord showed me dreams of my daughter / She was crying inside your stomach”). He maintains Mean Everything is “less spiritual” than their debut, but makes no apologies for the occasional ecclesiastical reference.
“It’s just like anything that’s been in your life,” he says. “If I grew up on a farm, I’d be writing about chickens.”