Mansions discuss the music that influenced their new album ‘Big Bad,’ which is out today
Seattle indie rock duo Mansions are back with their first new full-length album in seven years and first new music since 2017's Deserter EP, Big Bad, which is out today on Bad Timing Records (order yours). As early singles "Black and White" and "PPV" hinted, this is a more somber and atmospheric album than this band has ever made. And as good as their loud, driving songs are, this new style suits them well too. Ethereal synths and gently strummed acoustic guitars populate a good chunk of this record -- some definite Radiohead vibes in there -- and though Mansions' style has changed, the emotion at the core of Chris Browder's songwriting has not.
We spoke to Chris about the music that influenced this album, and he made a list that includes songs by Angel Olsen, Frank Ocean, Weezer, Cat Power, Paul Westerberg, and more, and he provided insightful commentary and personal anecdotes with each pick.
Read on for Chris' list, stream the album, and watch two of its videos below...
Angel Olsen - "Intern"
I wrote the bulk of our song "PPV" in 2015, but I had a really hard time finding the right arrangement for it. Over the next few years, I recorded demos in pretty much every style possible, but nothing felt quite right. We were just about ready to give up on it, but then I was listening to this song and was struck by the way it slowly builds and opens up without ever actually getting "big" in the traditional sense. That gave the idea to do a synth-driven, drumless, slow-build version of "PPV" as a last-ditch effort. Thankfully, it worked.
Patsy Cline - "Leavin' On Your Mind"
The last year or two, 90% of what we've been listening to has been classic country like Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton. One of the things we wanted to go for on Big Bad was that sort of dusty and romantic feeling; classic while having more futuristic elements layered on top. I think that shows up most directly in "Get Loose," which is basically our version of a Patsy Cline song.
Frank Ocean - "Nikes"
When demoing, I try not to spend too much time recording vocals, which means the vocals usually aren't very good. But, then I find it really distracting when I'm trying to figure out if the song sucks, or if it's just the vocals that suck. So, I started putting this high-pitched effect on my vocals, and it let me listen to demos more like someone else was singing and I could be a little more objective. But, then I got hooked on the way it sounded, and I didn't want to take it off. "Nikes" has a similar effect for most of the song, and it's awesome. That gave me permission to leave it on in a few key spots, like on the first half of "Do It Again."
Weezer- "The World Has Turned And Left Me Here"
My favorite Weezer song. A few years ago, I read about the way they voiced their power chords on the Blue Album to make it more like an extension of the bass, where they play the fifth below the root note instead of above it. I started working that into how I play guitar, and now I can't stop doing it. That definitely shows up in any of the loud guitar stuff on the album.
Porches - "Headsgiving"
I really like the way his voice keeps landing on the tonic in the verse melody, making each line sound like it has a period at the end in a kind of sing-songy way. I found myself doing the same thing a lot after hearing this song, and you can especially hear it on "Leader of the Pack."
Cat Power - "I Found a Reason"
This is probably the best cover of all time, and it absolutely wrecks me. A lot of the songs on Big Bad started as short experiments, and "I Found a Reason" told me that you don't need multiple verses and choruses and 5 minutes to get a feeling across. Sometimes, all you need is two minutes.
Spoon - "All The Pretty Girls Go To The City"
A friend took me to see Spoon in 2003 before I was really into them, and I vividly remember them playing this song. When Britt Daniel hit that single-note riff with that heavy vibrato, my mind couldn't really compute, and I was a little bit scared. I think that's what good music should do, and I totally ripped it off/paid homage in "Black and White."
Julia Jacklin - "Body"
The whole Crushing album is so good that it made me mad when I first heard it. I was angry I hadn't written those songs, cause they felt like something in my wheelhouse, but way better than anything I had ever done. It made me want to step my game up and try to be better. Plus, it has a really great snare sound and this late-night vibe that's really powerful.
Paul Westerberg - "It's A Wonderful Lie"
I like solo Paul Westerberg better than The Replacements. Don't @ me. I especially like how he can play solo/acoustic but still have this driving/propulsive quality that's somehow band-esque, and that's something we tried to get across with "Redeemed." Like yeah, it's acoustic, but you can almost hear the drums and guitars without them actually being there. He's also one of the all-time great lyricists, and can do self-deprecating better than anyone.
Koufax - "Saturday's Alone"
Totally underrated band from the early 2000s. Their album Social Life has a ton of Yamaha electric piano on it, and it taught me an early lesson about how you can use piano in a song without it being totally stupid. I got a Rhodes electric piano a few years ago, partially because of that influence, and it ended up being all over Big Bad. "To Be Free" is just one big experiment with Rhodes and delay.
Jay Som - "Lipstick Stains"
I got kinda obsessed with this song, and it led me to the chords for "Do It Again," which I then got obsessed with and would mess around with every night before going to bed for a few months. She self-produced this album, which is amazing and helped confirm to me that its possible to make a perfect-sounding record on your own.
Erika Costello - "Me Time"
YouTube dummy who somehow manages to have some legit bangers. I think she used to date Jake Paul? She definitely wasn't the first one to do the phone/radio vocal sound that shows up at the end of this song, but it's 100% what I was thinking of when we did the chorus of "Power Lines." Also, check out her other classics "Girls Night," "Karma," and "Thots Not Feelings."
Elvis Presley - "Can't Help Falling in Love"
There's this sad, longing feeling I get from old ballads that hits me in such a specific way, it makes me uncomfortable. Maybe it makes me think of middle school dances or something? Like, I can feel myself clamming up at the thought of asking someone to slow dance. I think I'm often chasing that feeling when writing songs, and I think this album is the closest we've ever gotten to it.