According to a recent press release: “At a time when there seems to be a large amount of political discontent in the world, Chicago’s progressive indie group Molehill has debuted a new single that embraces a revolutionary spirit. “Hearts on Fire” inspired by the “Euromaidan” protests in the Ukraine (the birthplace of vocalist Peter Manhart’s mother), is the title track from the band’s forthcoming EP and is rock anthem for the oppressed. With a razor-sharp synth lead, the lush melody carries Manhart’s baritone vocals like a bomber aircraft before it drops the infectious hook.” We get vocalist Peter and bassist Trevor to answer our 10 Quick Ones about the bands new disc and and more…
1. Tell us a little about your latest release. What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through? Are there any hidden nuggets the band put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?
TJ: we like experimenting with lots of textures (kitchen sink production method). Put on a good pair of headphones and listen in a quiet environment. Peter also tends to write a lot of background vocal parts that create counterpoint to the parts that are most forward in the mix. It’s a small thing, but on the song “Reverie” the shaker on the back 1/2 of the verse is panned right to left to right. I got really into FKA Twigs’ use of panning on all her material.
2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?
PM: my parents started me playing music at a very early age, and it was an important part of my upbringing. It’s always been a very big part of my life. As far as the moment I realized I wanted to be a musician… there were 3 formative concerts that I went to between 1994-1995 that my brother took me to see. The first was Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, followed by R.E.M., followed by Pearl Jam at Soldier Field in Chicago. I think after that Pearl Jam show the idea was pretty much formed in my head that this is what I wanted to do with my life.
3. Who would be your main five musical influences?
PM: Tom Morello, Elliott Smith, Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Ben Gibbard
4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be?
PM: Max Martin, I just read this great interview with him and I’m fascinated by how he continues to be “The Guy” in pop music.
5. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before?
PM: “Rock music. Think Muse, Queens of the Stone Age, the Killers, Depeche Mode. Distorted guitars with synths and strings”
6. What’s the best thing about being a musician?
PM: Just having that creative outlet is amazing. It’s the only way I know to really explore my voice and ideas and put them out there. And then when people listen, it’s like you’re having a conversation with all these people around the world – friends, family, fans, total strangers… it just feels good to be in contact with a lot of people. And the idea that what we do could actually help someone and make them feel less alone is the icing on top.
7. When the band are all hanging out together, who cooks; who gets the drinks in; and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?
PM: Peter cooks, Trevor makes drinks, Greg plays a ridiculous guitar solo on an unplugged acoustic guitar, and Devin laughs at him.
8. If you weren’t a musician, what would be your dream job?
PM: Hard to decide. I’d love to write novels, would also love to be an actor… I wanted to be a paleontologist for a while as a kid, too. Actually does “inheriting massive wealth” count? If so, I’m picking that. Otherwise I don’t know… writer?
9. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”?
PM: Maybe it’s just because this is so recent in my memory (in that it is happening right now), but one area where our skill as a group has grown is in the process of releasing music. Writing and recording is challenging enough, but how and when to release music, whom to trust to help with the release, things like that are tough questions. This is going to be the 3rd group of songs that we’ve released as a band, and each time we learn from all the little mistakes we make along the way. I don’t want to name any names, but there are certain people whom we trusted to help us with a couple of these releases, and certain people to whom we paid a good chunk of money. If I could go back, I would not work with some of those people and try to put that money elsewhere. What can you do though, it’s just one of the risks that go with this kind of work.
10. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?
PM: It’s so tough to name just one record. My favorite album of all time is X/O by Elliott Smith, but if I could pick any record, I’d sit in during the recording of Abbey Road by the Beatles. That album still blows me away, and I can’t even imagine how groundbreaking it was at the time. And to be there with 3 of the all-time great songwriters would just be life changing.
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