Life Distractions

event Mantles 2Santa Cruz gets whisked away by The Mantles

An amusing thing happens when an artist releases a new record. Suddenly, there’s a mad dash to define the album and the artist themself. The xx has become synonymous with make-out music, Adele is the go-to heartbreak healer, Daft Punk brings the dance party, Robin Thicke brings the sexism—you get the idea.

So when the Oakland/San Francisco-based quintet The Mantles released its sophomore LP in June—Long Enough to Leave—the Internet was quick to label the lo-fi album (albeit the most polished and poppy Mantles release to date) as the ultimate summer soundtrack, due to jangly, glimmering guitars and forlorn, searching lyrics.

“It’s funny because this album was actually delayed, and we were supposed to have it out before summertime,” begins Virginia Weatherby, the band’s drummer. “I’m curious as to how that would have played out when it was actually supposed to [be released].”

“Obstacles happened, so things got shuffled around,” Weatherby’s husband and band cofounder, Michael Olivares (vocals/guitar), chimes in. Those obstacles ranged from frustrating events, like injuring his hand and being unable to play guitar for almost a year, to joyous, life-changing occasions, like marrying Weatherby and going on their honeymoon.

“‘Life distractions,’ we call them,” Weatherby says, unintentionally coming up with the most apt description so far of the 10 engaging tracks collectively called Long Enough to Leave: the follow-up to 2010’s Pink Information EP and their self-titled LP (2009).

No, Long Enough to Leave isn’t just another score for a summer drive to the beach. Each song truly is a compelling “life distraction,” transporting the listener to inviting, psychedelic- and pop-infused realms (which are relentlessly referred to by fans and critics alike as Byrdsian or Paisley Underground-esque).

Olivares surmises that the band’s musical maturity is what allows for this aforementioned transcendence to be felt more acutely on Long Enough to Leave than on previous releases.

“[Our] music originally was a lot more atmospheric and droney, so [there] was a lot more jamming,” he explains. Olivares also recalls a greater presence of minor chords and less audible lyrics. “Now the craftsmanship of our songs is a lot better,” he admits. “It’s more focused and pop-ier. We have a better way of getting out lyrics. As a whole, I feel it’s just a lot better.”

This improved, calculated delivery of vocals is noticeable on each new track, drawing the listener in completely—whether it’s during the catchy chorus of the title track (“always coming back to see / how far off you’ve gone”), or the tender inquiry of “Raspberry Thighs” (“hey there, unassuming eyes / what on earth can engage you?”), or the bummer event that is “Brown Balloon,” the band’s favorite track to perform live (“my girl gave me a brown balloon / she gave it to me while the night was shining / you should have seen her cross that room / just to bring my spirits down”).

Though The Mantles have inarguably created their most riveting record yet, they still don’t plan on quitting their day jobs to tour full-time, which makes each show that much more special.

“It’s just kind of fun because work is the baseline for daydreaming or something,” Olivares reveals. “You’ll be able to fantasize about songs and stuff in a mundane aspect. It keeps you hungry.”

On Sept. 7, Weatherby, Olivares, Matt Roberts (bass), Justin Loney (lead guitar) and Carly Putnam (keyboard) return to town for what Weatherby fondly refers to as “a reunion of sorts”: playing The Crepe Place alongside friends And Hod and Once and Future Band, who attended UC Santa Cruz at the same time Weatherby studied modern literature.

As for the setlist, expect a few throwback hits, plenty of Long Enough to Leave, and a couple newer, unrecorded songs.

“[Mantles performances are] so different each time; that’s why you should come to every show,” says Olivares, followed by a big laugh from Weatherby. In true Mantles fashion, his statement is more self-deprecating than boastful. “Usually there’s bad jokes or bad stories in between songs.” 

The Mantles perform at 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7 at The Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $8. For more information, call 429-6994.

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