Chances are, if you share the same kind of music tastes as us here at Rip It Up, you’ll dig bands like Screeching Weasel, The Hard Ons, The Queers and of course, Italy’s seminal Manges. Formed in La Spezia in 1993, The Manges have released some solid studio LPs, culminating so far in 2010’s ‘Bad JuJu‘, whilst also being involved in countless split eps with the likes of The Hard Ons and many others. The band unashamedly purveys a Ramones-influenced pop-punk sound, with the influences of bands such as Weasel and The Riverdales showing through. Indeed, collaborations have included Ben Weasel writing songs on their last album, ex-Weasel John ‘Jughead’ Pierson entering the band’s membership on a temporary basis, and Joe King of The Queers picking up production credits on ‘Bad JuJu‘ as well as appearing on the Hard-Ons/Manges split ep.
I was lucky enough to chew over some questions and answers with Andrea Caredda, the band’s lead vocalist, which cover the band’s history and their current and future plans.
1. Tell me a little about why the Manges started back in 1993.
In a small town like the one we grew up in, it was very easy to spot the other kids with similar taste in music. Mass and Manuel (bassist and drummer) asked me to join them starting a band just ’cause they saw me wearing a Ramones tshirt, plus I had long hairs, and one tattoo. They didn’t know I owned an electric guitar (I started a band two years before with some buddies from school, but got kicked out cause I was terrible). Mass and Manuel too could barely play but we were very well focused on doing Ramones influenced punk rock music, which is something that nobody did at the time, as it was all grunge and metal bands. So going on stage and playing in-your-face pop punk rock with no skills has been something totally fresh and appealing for both old guys and kids of our town, so our first gigs has been a lot of fun. 1994 and MTV pop punk were right around the corner and a big, rough wave of 90s Italian pop punk suddenly exploded everywhere. We surely were not the best band around but we were definitely there. The DIY scene was still huge since the 80s hcpunk, so pop punk bands just put their efforts in and contribution to it. Those were very exciting times for us.
2. You clearly draw a lot of inspiration from the Ramones, both in terms of look and music style. You mention on your website that you met all the members of the Ramones – is this true? There is a saying in England – never meet your heroes! What were your impressions? Did they live up to your expectations?
They sure did! They all have always been very nice and grateful to their fans. We’ve been stalking the Ramones since we had permission to leave the house alone. The Manges opened shows for Marky and Cj several times, and since 1991 we have been around the Ramones any time they came to Italy. We spent a good bunch of time with Dee Dee (treasuring memories like smoking marijuana backstage and listening to his super-fun rants), we are also friends with Arturo Vega (he really like my drummer’s art), we spoke to Joey and Johnny a bunch of times… met Tommy too, at Joey’s birthday bash in 2001, right after Joey’s death when me went to NYC and recorded our first album there.
3. You’re thought of as being up there with the great ‘Pop Punk’ bands such as Weasel, Riverdales, The Queers and the Hard Ons. Tell me a bit about how you met those guys, and what it was like working with them.
We are huge fans of those bands. We still totally feel more like music fans than musicians!
Mass sent our 7″ records to Ben Weasel in the late 90s and Ben told us he liked them. Years later, Screeching Weasel covered one of our songs so we understood he really meant it! Apart from Ben Weasel, that we mostly heard by mail or phone beside the one time we opened for the Riverdales in Philadelphia, we had the chance to meet the Queers, the Methadones, the Hard-ons, Head and many other of our favourite bands just by sharing the stage or touring toghether. With Joe King we are very good friends, we toured a lot with the Queers, and he produced our latest album “Bad Juju”, recorded in Atlanta, GA. He is our number one hero and mentor in the music scene.
The Hard-Ons own a special place in our hearts, we listened to them like crazy when we started the Manges and we tried to imitate their pop sound for a long time. So when we had the chance to open their show in our hometown we were really excited and all our friends and fans were sincerely happy for us. It’s been a great special night. The Italian label Surfin Ki asked them to release a 7″ split with us and they agreed. We are very lucky cause we had the chance to party, tour, split records and do creative work with the most of the bands whose music was on heavy rotation in our bedrooms 10 years before.
4. You are known as Italy’s top band playing in your style – what is your impression of the Italian punk scene today? Which bands do you rate, and how popular is the punk sound in Italy?
Punk sound in Italy is more or less as popular as in the rest of old Europe, of course the Ramones/LookoutRec pop punk style, like anywhere else, is not really at the top of the charts, but there are some dedicated weirdos. We have been slowly but constantly building our fanbase so our shows are usually good fun. Until now, we tried to avoid big festival, open air concerts, etc… we like to keep it simple and we don’t play too many live shows. We are not pro musicians anyway. There are good bands in Italy playing the same kind of music, I can think of our friends the Ponches, Teenage Bubblegums, Leeches, Killtime, Tough… we distribute some of their records and other European punk rock bands from our mail order, check out http://striped.bigcartel.com/
5. You have had a lot of changes in band membership, with such luminaries as Johnny Jughead of Weasel contributing at times….how stable is the current line up?
I wouldn’t say that we changed a lot. Three of us (guitar-bass-drums) started the band in 1993, the same three guys have always been in every line up 20 years later; yes, we changed a good number of extra guitar players, but it’s always been friends and people from our entourage instead of random good looking kids. Nobody’s a leader between us, there’s a very good balance in working toghether, and after 20 years, the band is like family. In the current line up we have Mayo, he joined the Manges at the end of 2011 when Richie left after 6 years of service.
6. What side projects are the band members involved in at the moment? We saw the Hanson Brothers on their recent European tour, and John Wright was saying that the Hansons are like a way of letting off the pressure of being in a ‘serious’ band, NoMeansNo. Do you have a similar view?
Unfortunately we didn’t start a more serious and more successful band than the Manges! But we always have different things going on during the time off our daytime jobs. Manuel (drums) and our former guitarist Max are a rock’n’roll duo named Dangerous Chickens. Me, Mass and Manuel sometimes have another former Manges member, Hervè (actual leader of the Peawees) joining us to cover the Ramones It’s Alive set. When this happens, we play some funny crazy show. Our guitar player Mayo is the lead singer of La Crisi, one of the most important Italian old school hardcore bands, from Milan, and he was in Sottopressione in the 90s. I have a studio project named the Veterans, which is more pop than the Manges, we released one album; I also produced records for Teenage Bubblegums and Kill That Girl last year.
Manuel also spend time painting canvas of his “naif” rock art and those always sell out pretty fast on our Facebook page. Mass is a very good photographer and grapich designer. He just shot Ray Gelato for his next Lp. We keep ourselves busy with creativity. And with the good old combo sofa+tv.
7. Tell us about the Manges’ plans for the future.
Our first tour of Japan ever, with our Dutch buddies the Apers, is being confirmed in these days, so we’re basically keeping our finger crossed, it should happen in october 2012. A split 7″ with the Apers will be released in Japan as well. Mass and Manuel will leave next week for the Camino De Santiago pilgrimage walk in Spain… Catholicism? Not really, but they talked about doing this for a long time. I’m just working on some music for a new album so we’ll have something to jam with when they’ll be back.