From Long Beach, Southern California, Manuel the Band bring their own unique mashup of Americana meets jam-band meets pop-smarts.
Well, this is something different. Ahead of their debut album, ‘Things That Can’t Be Seen‘, Manuel the Band release a smart video for a new single, ‘Without You‘. Based around the deft songwriting skills of their charismatic frontman, Manuel Grajeda, the band brings together such a disparate mix of instruments and styles that it’s impossible to pigeonhole them.
Already with an enthusiastic following for the live shows in Southern California, Manuel the Band have managed to create an impressive melding of great pop tunes, soulful dance grooves, roots-rock and a classic jam-band sensibility. It’s an intoxicating live mix and it’s winning them plaudits whenever they take the stage. With Grajeda on guitar, Kevin Nowacki on bass and drummer Brandon Charlesworth all keeping it super tight, so far so conventional. But add in a two-piece brass section with saxophonist Matt Kalin and trombonist Richard Fernandez, and then add George Madrid on pedal steel guitar and now you’ve something out of the ordinary. But it wouldn’t amount to much unless they have some killer tunes. They have some killer tunes.
“I’m a fan of Young the Giant, John Mayer, Kings of Leon, Dave Matthews Band, and Dispatch,” says Grajeda. “George plays pedal steel, which is a country instrument, but also works with a lot of jazz artists. Our drummer, Brandon, is a big fan of bands that blend lo-fi hip-hop with rock, like Gorillaz. We listen to it all.”
‘Without Me,’ starts with a solid, pretty-pop-rock sound and Grajeda has a great pop voice. But the moment the horns and pedal steel appear, the whole track picks up another gear. The song builds to a very radio-ready chorus, with the entire band neatly stacking their instruments into thick, lush layers that steers the song through to the close. It’s clever stuff that doesn’t come across as being too slick or throw away. The same can be said of the lyrics: they’re a bit more self-aware and insightful than your usual pop fare. And, really, the same can be said of the video.
Sharply edited together to look like it was shot in a single take, the video sees the band ensconced in somebody else’s shared apartment, playing their instruments unnoticed, as the twenty-something occupants go about their lives. It’s nicely choreographed and, a bit like the song, it builds to a great climax that really shows off the jam-band chops of the complete line-up. Like so much about the whole Manual the Band package… it’s clever stuff.