Q&A with Manchester Orchestra’s Chris Freeman; Playing The Stuffing at Center Stage Complex, November 24

By Micah McLain

We sure hope you’ve bought your tickets for the first (possible) annual Stuffing event, Manchester Orchestra’s Thanksgiving Eve musical extravaganza. Because the tickets are completely sold out! The band got together with their label Favorite Gentlemen to pick their favorite bands to play a big holiday show with them. We tracked down Manchester keyboardist and percussionist Chris Freeman via email as the band and their label prepared for the big show.

How did you guys decide who to include in The Stuffing concert?

All of the bands playing The Stuffing are bands that we respect and have worked hard with, either on the road or in the studio, over the years. Plus, these guys are the only friends we have. So we have to give them some incentive to come to our New Year’s party.

Do you have plans to make The Stuffing an annual event?

After much research and experience, I’ve decided that something will go terribly wrong during this whole process; That, in the midst of this whole “festival,” we will at some point look at each other and go, “We’ll never do this again. The scheduling is all off and nobody has their beer, there’s a fight in All Get Out’s room over Skittles and Mel’s dreadlocks are on fire” or some shit. But I think all of our heads are in a place to make this an annual thing. Most of the people working on this project have never really done this sort of thing before, so it should be fun. I think, fingers crossed, that this could be more than just a cool Favorite Gentlemen event and turn into a cool ATLANTA event. If this works, then I think it’ll definitely show that Atlanta’s rock bands are capable of having a community. Even if some of the bands playing aren’t from Atlanta, it still sends a message.

Do you have any interesting Thanksgiving day traditions, either as a band or with your families?

The guys did a “mini-thanksgiving” last year but I missed out because I was visiting family in Ohio. But let’s hope we can make The Stuffing our new tradition! Oh, and our friend Daniel usually re-enacts that scene from Mr. Bean when he puts his head in a turkey’s butt and waddles around the kitchen. It’s a real riot.

How’s the new album coming along?

Better than I think anybody in the world (other than those who have heard it so far) thinks it is. That sounds strange, I’m sure, but we’re very excited about this record. I probably shouldn’t toot our own horn (s?) before it gets released, but I honestly think this is the best record we’ve done to date. The songs Andy [Hull]’s written and the new drummers and all of the ideas smashed on top of all of it really has created something great so far. It’s being mixed right now, so I can’t wait to hear the final product, but the rough mixes still give me chills.

How does your recording process usually work?

This process was different than before, but rather than boring you with all the details, I present to you … bullet points:
-Andy writes a song
-Band says “Good Song”
-Band play song lots
-Band records song demo
-Andy says “Fuck that song, this one’s better”
-Andy and/or Band say “Well, what about that song? I really liked that one.”
-72 songs later band has 10 song album
-Scratch tracks

You guys made a video for each song from “Mean Everything To Nothing.” Do you have plans to do anything similar for the new album?

I think that the video project was a fun way of not only promoting the album, but to also see a visual interpretation of our record. We kind of just handed the thing over to Jason and Clay and they ran with it. We would see edits here and there and do whatever filming of us that they needed as they went along, but our involvement seemed much more on the sidelines than what is characteristic for our band. We (and especially Andy) are very hands-on when it comes to the presentation and decision making when it pertains to what we do. I feel like it was a good exercise in “letting-go” in a weird way. I mean, we still had a good bit of input for every video, but those concepts and the product was much more in their court. Would we do it again? The short answer: I don’t know.

How did the Bad Books project come about?

Friends wanting to make some music together. It definitely morphed into a band as the project was being recorded. Kevin [Devine] flew in to write some stuff with Andy and it just built itself up. Ben was in town, I don’t really do anything but hang out with the guys in Manchester, so I was there. Robert is a great engineer so he was there. I don’t know, I’d like to project the idea that it was some hugely thought out idea. I’m sure it was, I just didn’t know it was at the time (and clearly still don’t). We’re very proud of that record and we got to be “free” with it. Like, experiment with different things. Which I think is healthy.

What were some of the last jobs that you guys had before you were able to focus on the band full-time? Do any of you currently work when you’re not touring?

I worked at Hollister folding shirts up until Mean Everything To Nothing came out. I remember after doing a bunch of press before the record came out and looking down at the magazines we sold at the store and making a mental note being like, “I’m in that magazine, and that one, and that one. ” All the while holding a stack of girls extra small shirts with a unicorn on it that says “HORNY”. Dark. And J. used to sell comfortable walking shoes (yeah, I know). But I think he was really good at it actually. He seemed to do well for himself. Y’know, taking advantage of old people by selling them $300 hiking shoes they won’t ever wear.

Who are some of your band’s biggest influences?

Built to Spill, Weezer, Steve Miller band as of recently, and Neil Young. Of course, everybody in the band has different tastes in music, but we can usually find common ground in a good handful of records.

What are some of the artists/albums that you guys are listening to now?

I’m glad you didn’t ask what “new” records we’ve been listening to, because I’ve been getting that question and going completely blank. I’ve been listening to 97.1 the River because they play a lot of songs I like. Like Steve Miller Band and Eagles. Actually, that new Kings of Leon record is great, and the new Kid Cudi record has its moments, for sure. So completely forget the first sentence of this answer. I would delete it, but that seems dishonest. Everyone really should know what a contradicting idiot I truly am.

Manchester Orchestra play Center Stage Complex tonight. The Stuffing is completely SOLD OUT.


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