Local favorites The Manor and Friends talked with me about how they prepare themselves for a live performance.
By: Sarah Marino
Deep in the recesses of the neighborhood of South Park lies a house- but not just any house. Upon entering you might question if you’re in someone’s living room, but for seven musicians it’s not just where they live, it’s where they practice.
The Manor and Friends have been a household name in Morgantown for quite some time. Ask any local show goer they would at least tell you they’ve heard of them, if not seen them perform, and if they haven’t you’ve more than likely seen their stickers stuck to street signs and building walls all over downtown Morgantown.
A recent line up change has happened in the last couple months, but it’s nothing negative and to guitarist James Darragh it wasn’t starting over, it was starting fresh. Something all the guys are excited about.
Joining Darragh, a full house including Ivan Gonzalez (bass), JC White (percussion), Andy Flanagan (Drums), and Nate Morgan (vocals), and that’s not even the entire lineup. Missing was Nick Adams, another guitarist (who showed up a bit later), leaving only Jason Leech, who plays keys, out of conversation.
If you ask anyone of the guys what genre they would considering themselves, they would give you three words: Jam, funk, and rock– and it can go in any particular order. However, they do pride themselves on being able to play just about anything.
Over the summer the guys played at a couple music festivals, and they are just now coming off of a four gig stretch- which calls for rehearsing, playing a show- then back to rehearse some more.
The band is also playing November 18th at the Metropolitan Theater in efforts to support the flood victims in southern West Virginia.
With such a busy schedule, practice is essential. Tuesdays and Thursdays are their go to days for practicing, though between class and work it can be hard for them to meet before the sun goes down.
Luckily for them, they have understanding neighbors who also enjoy music- and also are neighbors with local band Worst Kept Secret, so nobody on the block is a stranger to rehearsal.
With the recent addiction of JC and Andy, the band is coming into their own with their new lineup, learning the material is one of the keys to success for any music act. “We’re learning their catalog and at the same time getting to know them and the music,” said Flanagan.
Every show has it’s own set of songs, and the guys try to tailor to who they’re opening for, or who they’re playing with. “We’re pretty laid back as to what order we play in. we want to add more so we can keep it fresh each show,” said Darragh.
Being in a jam band, what people might not understand is though songs have a structure, they might not always come out the same at every performance. Each time performed, it can be a variation, but this is what they’re good at.
“We’re pretty laid back as to what order we play in. we want to add more so we can keep it fresh each show,” said Darragh.
Sure, there are songs with a structure- but not every song does, and there are times where they wing it, “We have a starting and ending point but I don’t know how we’re going to get there in the end,” said Gonzalez.
The guys agree if they were to do that same structure 100 times they would get sick of their own songs. It’s always changing. It’s never a solid product. One person can change in the moment, and the rest follow suit- and sometimes the product is nothing short of amazing.
They said they can play the same song two weekends in a row, but they can go two completely different ways. Gonzalez calls it, “Being comfortable enough with the foundation and building on top of it.”
Coming off of a busy weekend, the guys played one gig, then played one the next Night at Mainstage Morgantown.
Since the new line up the guys haven’t had a chance to stop, building momentum and playing gig after gig. After Friday, they’re excited to have some time to not have to practice for a show.
The day of a show is really about the brotherhood these guys share. Something they’ve done recently is have a meal as a band, something they want to start doing before every show. They will practice and make sure everyone is feeling good about the songs.
Building confidence (but not too much confidence) is another part in preparing to take the stage.
“As soon as it starts you’re kind of in the zone,” says Morgan.
There are those nerves and high energy, and they all feel that energy from each other, and from the people in the crowd already getting hyped. They agree it’s nerves, and adrenaline- weather or not your ready it’s going to happen.
After a show, they guys love to hear how they did- weather it was good or bad, ” I Would hope for more criticism than praise. It always feels good when someone has something specific to say- weather it’s criticism or praise,” Darragh said.
However, the uncertainty of what’s next is part of what a jam band thrives off of- and somehow it ends up working. “Somehow it all comes together right when it needs to. Weather it be the day of the gig or 15 minutes before the gig” said Flanagan.
“Most of the fun is exploring that area where not knowing is going to happen next. The unknown is the most fun part of this,” Adams said.
Though some would argue certainty is key to a good set- anyone in The Manor and Friends would probably disagree, “If you’re certain about anything you’re probably not going to get anywhere,” said Darragh. So far, this philosophy has worked out for them, and love it or hate it this is who The Manor and Friends are.
Coming off their busy month, in the future they hope to play some festivals in the summer time and getting physical material on YouTube. Recently, they even shot a 360 video. Next year is shaping up to be a busy one, hopefully with shows out of state, and getting some studio time to record.