Little is known about Mansionair in the UK, three early-20s electronic multi-instrumentalists from Sydney who make sultry groove-pop. But back in their homeland they’ve been making waves to a level uncanny with their anonymity over here. Their Facebook page sports over 28,000 likes, one youtube track has over 28 million views, they’ve toured Europe and the US with CHVRCHES and they were nominated for a Grammy. This came for their collaborative work on track ‘Line Of Sight’ with Seattle electronic duo ODESZA off their hit record ‘A Moment Apart’. Mansionair’s last shows were festival slots sharing a bill with the likes of Sting and so it comes as a shock to learn that last year the band played Birthdays in London; a two hundred cap venue in Dalston. Clash asks them what this transition is like. Does it feel like they are starting all over again?
Singer Jack Froggatt responds: "It’s almost better than coming somewhere already established. I never want to be in position where we are a big band in Australia playing big shows and we come overseas and for it to be there on a plate. We are always realistic about where we’re at."
Lachlan Bostock, bassist and producer, adds: "I think there is a lot of pressure on artists to come out of the gates fully formed. That’s a lot of pressure to put on anyone. Maggie Rogers has managed to do that. But that’s because she’s spent the bulk of her life preparing to be a solo artist. And the way we formed, we didn’t really have that. We met, the first thing we did put us in a position that we were unprepared for."
They formed in 2014 when producer Bostock asked jazz drummer, Alex Nicholls, and folk singer/songwriter Froggatt to collaborate on a track which became the basis for what would become Mansionair. Soon they released their first single ‘Hold Me Down’ a moody, building number reminiscent of London Grammar and the internet turned around to listen.
Since then, they have avoided the pressures of industry and fans returning to their studio, a garage in Bostock’s house, to focus on making the best music they could. The next track was a far more developed accomplishment with a drum groove that is reminiscent of Four Tet and 'In Rainbows' era Radiohead. And most recently came ‘Astronaut (Something About Your Love)’ on Glassnote. The songwriting is in direct heritage of Froggatt’s folk past, looking inside for answers and the state of uncertainty and hope and searching for a way to respond to a difficult world. The astronaut’s perspective of looking down on an earth they once thought they knew.
The band are also big fans of keeping healthy and are keen to discuss their love of chai tea, almond milk and being able to find rest on tour.
The record has finally been finished after a long struggle with trying to ‘crack the code’ and learning how to ‘finish songs’ in their studio without outside aid. In this laboratory they learnt how to write as three different musicians and how to use those skills to make an album a full body of work. They have made it to the finish line and they seem genuinely proud of what they’ve made considering it is entirely self-produced. Having been to LA to write with others they found that it wasn’t for them. And through discovering "what we didn’t want... we found out what we did," adds Froggatt.
Soon it will be time to show the world what they created in, essentially, Bostock’s garage. And in regards to the pressures from outside and the response they’ve had online Froggatt is aware of the precariousness of the job they have found themselves in. "I think there is a difference between having a fan and having a listener. For us we just wanted to own our convictions and make a career from telling people ‘we are human as well’. We want to make music that you can build your memories out of just the same way as the music we love that has narrated our lives."
It is an honest sentiment. And a protective one. These men are still finding a style that they could call their own but know this comes from putting out material and just striving forwards. But Bostock is keen to remember this important message. "There’s also an element of not thinking about it too hard because I think you could go down a rabbit hole. You should be aiming to please fans and make the best music you can but also you have to write music that you like. Otherwise what’s the point?"
Mansionair are three young musicians working hard and obsessed with advancing their craft. They tell me that their management were keen that they understood that "This is a tough game to be involved in and if you’re going to make it you’re going to have to be like professional athletes."
Touring with CHVRCHES was an opportunity to learn from an act further down the career path and become aware of the dangers faced by musicians in regard to protecting their mental health and creativity. They received a lot of helpful advice and example from the Scottish dance trio and also observed how to survive as a group.
The recent nomination has secured their reputation as an able and creative force. And, though they have acquired all the accolades a new band could dream of, they’re aware that outsiders don’t see the struggle they have been through to getting to where they are. But it has been richly deserved. "The hardest thing for us was just finishing this body of work was, everything is perfect, we signed to Glassnote, we have had an amazing support from fans and yet, we haven’t got what we want yet. The only thing stopping us from having a message and being a band is ourselves and finishing the music. And that’s what became what the songs were actually about."
Bostock finishes: "For us, it all came in the wrong order. We have had this response and every band should spend three years playing in a garage writing songs and then get their break. We’re humbled by it but also it’s a marathon that we want to keep running. How do we make music which is equal in its three parts, and under all this pressure, and the infrastructure that we have around us. It means that now we have the fruit to bear, it finally feels like it’s all been worth it." It seems that what is important to this band are not the accolades and the successes but for them to be proud of what they are making.
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Words: James Carroll
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