No longer under construction, Man/Miracle’s debut takes shape
At first glance, Oakland-based rock quartet Man/Miracle may seem the complete opposite of North Korea’s Ryugyong Hotel, better known as the “Hotel of Doom” because it’s remained unfinished since 1987; it’s a 105-story pyramid admonished as an eyesore and modern architectural disaster. Drummer Tyler Corelitz, however, disagrees. Corelitz, who founded Man/Miracle in Santa Cruz with childhood friend Dylan Travis fronting, says the ominous building now gracing the cover of the band’s debut album, The Shape of Things, “matches visually what we had in our heads.”
Why is that confusing? Because Man/Miracle gets in your head via a rapid firing of bright pop melodies and dance-heavy energy crashing together in hand clapping, crowd chorusing and garage rock madness. Travis often convulses at the mic with his pipes wailing like Erasure’s Andy Bell (or the way Morrissey would if he were ever uncontrollably happy), and the band’s songs tend to be of the kind you want to avoid listening to on Highway 17 when it’s raining; their high-octane momentum follows a stop-and-start zeal that compels you to do the same. Bouncy, uptempo, uplifting. No oppressive communist regime or drab building in sight.
Still, Corelitz maintains that finding the current Man/Miracle formula has been, like the aforementioned hotel, quite a process to complete.
“We connected with the story behind this hotel that was supposed to be the largest hotel in the world but it ran out of money and has just been sitting there,” he says. “We’d been wanting to record an album and it just hadn’t gotten done until now. Also, on our previous recordings we were all over the map stylistically, and now we’ve found our focus and the overarching template is to make pop songs.”
Springing out of UC Santa Cruz as Bear on Bear before a name change a few years back, the band’s constructed its long-awaited follow-up to a sold out 2007 EP. Racing above 120 BPMs, The Shape of Things was mainly recorded in the studio live without a click track, and songs like the standout, gets-stuck-on-repeat “Hot Sprawl,” the adrenaline juggernaut “Multitudes,” and the re-mastered staple “Pushing and Shoving” demonstrate the band’s frenetic live show. But beyond the pop surface, the album relates to that strangely jagged hotel in that it showcases what Corelitz calls “a lot of peaks and valleys as opposed to one nice, happy plateau.” The surfy, Bee Gees-esque opener “Above the Salon” is lyrically melancholic, with Travis lamenting about the rain and the uncertainty of a relationship, while “Other People” segues back and forth between melodic harmonies and a noisy release of dark screams.
“There are a lot of undercurrents to the album and things to connect to,” Corelitz explains. “The songs aren’t similar in their emotions, which the album title reflects: From any given day the shape of things change.”
A major mission accomplished, the debut’s being self-released on a label imprint called Sinaloa—“it’s the name of the taco truck by Dylan’s house that we eat at, sometimes before practice, after practice, in the middle of practice”—and Man/Miracle’s CD release on Thursday, Nov. 12 at The Crepe Place will be a welcome return to Santa Cruz, where it all began.
“This is definitely a new band from when we first started in college,” the drummer says, looking back. “We were really young and we’ve been through a lot together since then, and now we’re trying to do things differently. But I’m still living the Santa Cruz dream in my head.”
Corelitz then answers a final, inevitable question to end our chat: Man or miracle?
“Me, I’m all man,” he says with a laugh. “That’s just the way my mama raised me.”
Man/Miracle performs with Grand Archives at 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, at The Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $10. For more information, call 429-6694.