In September 2012, ManaLion was just an idea in the minds of drummer ‘Mondo‘’, bassist ‘’Slam Duncan’’ and frontman ‘’Duan & Only’’. All that brought the three Kiwis together was that they lived in the same Sydney suburb and loved live music. Two months later, they were playing to thousands at the Natural Music Fest in Perth after winning a competition, brushing shoulders with Shapeshifter, Kora and Trinity Roots. Less than three years after the Manly neighbours decided to take their musical chemistry on the road, the trio still remain cautiously independent, but now with a battle-tested debut under their belts. Their introductory album, ‘’Back In The Day‘’, is a sleek and confident first release, and carries on a long Kiwi tradition of making damn good dub music. Mohamed Hassan managed to catch them, via Skype, on a rare morning off from their busy touring schedule – finding them battling hangovers and gleefully recovering from a Tiki Taane gig the night before.
Mondo: We dig it. I love it. But it’’s still early days for us really. We’’ve been pushing it independently and it’’s been going well, but I think there’’s still a lot more that it can cover as an album. It needs a lot more exposure. We’’ve got some good support networks but I think it’’s got potential to reach a wider audience.
Duan: We had no budget, so we pretty much did it ghetto-style just in my bedroom. We’’re happy with it. I listen to a lot of shit on the radio, and I’’m like, ‘’This is shit’.’ I listen to our stuff and I’’m like, ‘‘It still sort of stands up’’.
Mondo: We’’ve done Australia a few times. We did a major tour with Rebel Souljahz just before we released the album, and that really helped. Big crowds, that was really good. From there, we were offered other shows back in NZ from doing that tour, and it’’s sort of taken off from there.
Slam: It’’s been one little lifeline really.
Duan: We’’re bleeding it for everything it has.
Mondo: Which helps, you gotta be on tour to meet the right kinds of people.
Duan: I think it sounds cool. I think generally it transcends live.
Mondo: Because the three of us are kind of multi-instrumentalists, there’’s a lot going on between a three-piece. We’’ll turn up to a gig, and sound engineers will freak out on the equipment we turn out with. Because they think, a three-piece, you know… guitar, bass and drums.
Duan: And we’’ve all got massive nuts.
Mondo: We use a lot of different instruments live. Slam’’s a great drummer himself, and percussionist, bass. He’’s got a synth. He pretty much plays all these things at the same time. Duan’’s playing guitar, keys, melodica.
Duan: Sometimes none.
Mondo: Yeah, sometimes he just stops playing randomly and jumps into the crowd.
Slam: We all cut our teeth playing live, really. This is how the band started. We got a residency gig in a local pub, and we just got together and had to learn how to play together live.
Mondo: We had a really good gig, then we had a massive hotel party and nearly got kicked out.
Duan: We also got part of that prize which was recording a song as well. The song was only supposed to be an acoustic song, but they kind’’a let us do what we wanted to do, and that was 21 Days from the album.
Duan: It’’s taken on really well here. Last night with Tiki, there were more white people than Kiwis, and everyone was into it. So there is a big market for it here as well.
Mondo: There’’s not a great deal of bands doing it. We’’re sort of seen as a bit different, in a good way. It might make it easier for us to get attention because there’’s not as much competition. And we’’ve got a bit of a local following in Manly. When people hear that we’’re playing it puts on a bit of a party atmosphere. I think there’’s good opportunity in Australia, but it still needs to be marketed or pushed a bit harder than what we can do at the moment, but we’’re just gonna keep playing until we can get to that point.
Mondo: We’’ll be looking to get signed. Umm…… one of our mates is in the background snoring, and it’’s really distracting. He came to the gig last night and had lots of beers. [Duan disappears into the house.]
Slam: We’’ve got a couple of new tunes already that we’’ve been doing demos for, and they sound sick man. I’’ve got them in the car and can’’t stop listening to them.
Mondo: We’’re thinking about the next album. You know, something to push the band, but we’’re very weary of record deals as well, we’’ve had other people try to offer us different contracts that we weren’’t happy with. We’’ve got an American management company interested. So we a’re talking to people, but we’’re also very weary of what’’s out there, and what would help the band. If we could keep it independent that would be great. It’’s hard to say, but I think if we keep touring, and keep pushing the album, and release some new stuff… we’’ll take it from there.
Slam: We’’re kind’a learning as we’re going. Seeing other sides of how a business is run, and learning everything the hard way.