They might sound all dark and mysterious at first by their name but with each passing day, it seems they sure are one of the acts you can’t miss in town. They belong to Houston’s Press quality musicians list located in the area. Progressive, overly dramatic rock with narrative threads plus progressive poppers, as they describe it, is what we listen to whenever you catch The Manichean.
Cory Sinclair (left) and Justice Tirapelli-Jamail (right) by Matt Adams
They are known for their energetic live shows, Kinetic’s band crush of June at the Free Press Summer Fest, Houston Press Awards Best New Act nominee as well as Best Progressive Rock Band in 2010.
The Kinetic Crew bumped into Cory and Justice at the Empire, their office had a nice, interesting, talk and graciously asked them a few questions. These are their answers.
Kinetic Crew: First of all, Why The Manichean?
Cory Sinclair: Obscurity, reverence, intellectual-arousal.
Justice Tirapelli: It’s history, a very dark and interesting one. I also appreciate the fact that it’s both singular and plural... Like me.
CS: Like Justice the person *or* ‘Justice’ the concept?
KC: Did you guys all start as The Manichean?
CS: No. Justice and I began as ‘A Kerosene Saga’, but changed that when it was decided to expand and shift thematic elements. Still, the material written while under this former moniker has been adapted to ‘The Manichean’.
KC: Who plays what? Names and instruments?
Justice Tirapelli-Jamail – Guitar, composition
Ash Big Cash – Bass
Gustavo Roman Navarro Campos Conrado Bazurto Bonilla Butron – Violin / fiddle
Dylan Tirapelli-Jamail – Drums
Sean Spiller – Guitar, keys
Cory Wilson – Saxophone / horns
But we love working with multiple musicians while in the studio.
The Manichean at Mango's by Matt Adams
KC: Do you rather play a certain style/model/brand/color?
JT: I’m not exactly sure if you are referring to the music or a guitar perhaps, (ha ha yes we meant guitar!) but in either case it doesn’t really matter to me what style/model/brand/color it is. If what I’m playing feels right then I’ll keep going with it until it takes me to wherever it chooses.
KC: How did The Manichean come together? How long have you known each other?
JT: Following a bond between Cory and I that started when I was in high school and blossomed into ‘A Kerosene Saga’ (initially just the two of us covering ‘Neutral Milk Hotel’ songs with Cory’s poetry stringing a narrative between them), different people sort of just started falling into the places that they were always meant to fill, making what is now ‘The Manichean’. Upon meeting Gustavo (violin) after a play in which he and Cory had acted, the fiddle was the first addition to the music besides acoustic guitar and voice. Everyone else began working with us within the past two years. Between meeting Ash BigCash (bass) and Cory Wilson (sax) in bars, working with Sean Spiller (guitar, keys) initially as an engineer on our ‘Whispers’ EP, and having an amazing drummer, Dylan Tirapelli-Jamail as my brother and friend, we’ve all just sort of come together in a spectacular way. I speak for both Cory and myself when I say that we couldn’t have better people, or better musicians with us than we do now.
CS: True. And the extended family of musicians we record with are equally as important in their talents.
KC: Do you have a record label?
JT: We are currently unsigned; however we released the‘Whispers’ EP under our own label, ‘Lacerus’. It’s not a working label by any means, simply a visage that made sense to us until perhaps something comes along.
CS: Yes, Lacerus is something of a specter of ourselves.
KC: Any favorite venues?
JT: We have had the pleasure of playing all over the place in Houston and Austin, TX. After a long beginner’s period of taking any shows that came our way we’ve covered a large number of the primary venues in Houston. Helios (now AvantGarden) is amongst our favorite, purely for the intimate feel that comes with such a small room jam-packed full of sweaty people. The space allows for a lot of energy to be thrown back and forth, and we feed off of that.
CS: Definitely AvantGarden, it’s so wonderfully aristocratic-bohemian. I would also be excited to play the new Free Press / Pegstar owned FITZGERALD’S once that’s all up and running. Do read – (http://blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks/2010/07/free_press_summer_fest_team_ta.php)
KC: Crowd's favorite song?
CS: I think that most people’s favorite live song at this point is ‘Lacerus’. It’s powerful and rapid, yet graceful.
JT: I’d have to agree. It feels as though people have really grasped onto that song in a great way. I like that such a large group of our listeners seem to feel so connected to ‘Lacerus’ in particular, seeing as it’s about the darker side of human nature and how awful people can be.
CS: I think we made it so pretty so that people might reflect upon the darker side of human nature. Mmm.
KC: Do you play your own material or any covers?
JT: All original music, all original words.
CS: All original words, all original music.
KC: Who does the writing? What do your songs talk about?
JT: Our writing process is equally collaborative and separated. Generally I'll be playing either alone or around Cory and if something that I end up playing stands out to me then I'll expound upon it. I may record an initial idea on Cory's MacBook as soon as it hits me or I'll work on it for a significant period of time before going to him and saying, "Here are all these parts to an idea I showed you a while back". Once I hand whatever I've got off to Cory, he spends time culminating the vocal melody and the story begins to come to fruition. Each time we get together to create we either start something new or pick up something we’ve been working out on our own and arrange, rearrange and over-think it until we hit a wall or decide we shouldn’t drink anymore. Eventually we feel comfortable enough handing it off to the musicians for them to put their individual stank on it and it becomes what it is. The music tends to occasionally change bit by bit over time. As far as what the songs talk about…
CS: This is the ‘Whispers Saga’, yet to be described across the next three albums. The explanation is in the words… Just read the words.
KC: Producer/band or anyone you'd love to work with?
CS: Clint Mansell (from “Pop will eat itself”), Cedric & Omar of ‘The Mars Volta’, ‘Two Star Symphony’ of Houston.
JT: I would also love to work with the above mentioned and would only add the desire for a visual collaboration with Darren Aronofsky (Director of “Requiem for a Dream”) or upon seeing the cinematography in “Mister Lonely” Harmony Korine.
CS: Harmony Korine?! That would be quite the spectacle. Did you hear about Terry Gilliam directing “Arcade Fire” live at Madison Square Garden? Devine.
KC: Favorite band experience of all times?
JT: Nothing immediately comes to mind, but our performing at Free Press Summerfest in 2009 is definitely up there. It was, and continues to be the largest crowd we’ve played to. I’ve yet to experience anything during any other performance quite akin to it. The ‘Whispers’ EP release show at Mango’s is way up there as well. I felt a lot of love for us at that show.
CS: My favorite times with ‘The Manichean’ come forth with every performance, so I believe every time you see me after a show, or in the studio, that is the best day of my life.
The Manichean at Free Press Summer 2009 by Matt Adams
JT: Cinco De Mayo of 2009. We were scheduled to play a free show at this warehouse and we were last on the bill AND we were running sound with our PA. I’d watch the bands and between sets I’d walk to the bar just down the street and get a shot and a drink. I did this too many times. Following these mistakes, the band that was supposed to play before us was about to go on and the police showed up to the warehouse following a noise complaint. Naturally, I took this as a reason for me to go back to the bar, besides, the show was cancelled, right? WRONG. They moved ‘Muhammad Ali’ and us to Mango’s to finish the show. To make the rest of a long story short, I was babysat until I effectively trashed our performance and illegally smoked half a pack of cigarettes inside of the bar. Even after arguing with different members of my band about my extremely poor form, I thought the show went great. That is, until the following day when I saw the video footage that had been taken of the show, and me, all night. That was my last show fail.
CS: Yea, dummy… Mine was the time we killed a drifter to get an erection.
KC: What is to you the ‘Music-making process’?
CS: Getting drunk with Justice.
JT: Getting Cory with drunk… wait… whuh?
KC: Ha ha ha
KC: How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
JT: Our music has evolved a very great deal since the two of us began ‘A Kerosene Saga’. What began as nothing more than guitar and vocals has transformed into an organism that presents at times up to nine musicians playing live. ‘The Manichean’ has taken every day that it has been alive to grow into what it is now. What Cory and I are striving for is creating something limitless, something without boundaries. At this point we can do whatever we want with the songs and the poems to create whichever form of performance we desire. We try to make it as unexpected and awe-inspiring as we can. If ‘A Kerosene Saga’ was the basic, simplistic seed, then ‘The Manichean’ is the plant that is constantly evolving from that seed and is never the same in any stage it takes on.
CS: Botany reference like ‘Whoa!’
KC: What has been your biggest challenge as a band?
JT: Keeping Cory clothed around children.
KC: What's the ultimate direction for your band?
CS: Cross-art form collaboration, widespread panic.
JT: Napoleonistic domination with taller people in charge and a bigger tolerance to arsenic.
SC: …That sentence is rife with incongruity.
JT: Shut up.
KC: What advice do you have for young musicians who want to form their own bands?
JT: Take every opportunity that comes your way if it gives you the chance to further your music, don’t shy away from something because it’s different or unconventional, and when approaching anything constantly be asking yourself, “What is the overall gain?” If there is no gain there is no point, unless you’re just out to have fun. And that’s cool, too.
CS: Keep writing. Write with as many other people as you can. Write alone. Just keep writing.
KC: When's your next show?
CS: We just performed at the 2010 Houston Press Music Awards
Showcase. The Showcase had over 60 local acts and a few national acts spread across eleven stages along the Washington Avenue corridor. This also was our last performance for a significant amount of time as we will be recording the second part of the ‘Whispers Saga’, our first LP.
KC: Where do we get your music?
CS: iTunes, Bandcamp, CDBaby.com… It’s pretty easy to find.
KC: Anything you'd like to add?
CS: I’d like to say the words ‘At The Drive-In’…
JT: As far as new releases from ‘The Manichean’, we will be releasing ‘Lacerus’ as a single with a number of remixes of the song crafted by several extremely talented Texan musicians sometime this fall – more information is soon to come. In addition to that, we will be returning to the studio toward the end of September to record our next addition to the ‘Whispers Saga’. This LP entitled ‘Your Kerosene Eyes’ will be a prologue of sorts, our Chapter Zero. It will be deeply rooted in our origin and more stripped down than our previous recording. To record this particular album we will be traveling a short distance to Pozo Hondo Studios, a residential recording studio in Round Top, TX. We’ll be staying there for a week to materialize the new full-length. You can expect for the album to be released before the spring of 2018…
For more info check out the following links: