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Gratitude - Interview with Jonah Mantranga

  by Adrian Huggins

published: 16 / 9 / 2005

Gratitude - Interview with Jonah Mantranga


Gratitude is the new band of Jonah Mantranga, the former frontman with emo pioneers Far. At a gig in Newcastle he chats to Adrian Huggins about his new band and their eponymous debut album

One day at work I sat idly at my desk, as I do, feeling very bored, as I do, so I checked my emails, as I do! There was as usual the regular bombardment of nothing new that all too often looks back at me. As that day happened, however, to be Tuesday I thought I’d be adventurous and check my junk email box as well. Good thinking. There were several emails that had some how slipped in the wrong place. They happened to be from my editor. Oh great, I thought, something maybe of interest here. I looked through only to find it was just reminding me that things needed to be finished, as there was a deadline soon. But alas, there was one more, enquiring if anybody wanted to go see a band called Gratitude. I didn’t really think much of this at first, then realised that this was Gratitude as in Jonah Mantranga, former frontman of Far emo pioneers. Hell, yeah I wanted to go. And one overly excited email back and the date was set. Finally Sunday came around and I set off to Trillions in Newcastle, a venue I’d last stumbled in to a while ago where I ended up seeing an old, slightly over weight, long haired guy shred the shit out of a guitar. He was the ex-guitarist for some girl called Alice in the 70’s or something, and very good he was. Tonight’s entertainment was a little more modern but never the less featured someone else who used to be in a legendary band, Jonah Mantranga, and I had the pleasure of interviewing him prior to the gig. It is important to mention Mantranga’s ex band Far. To those familiar with Far you will have heard this all before sit tight, but to the uninitiated, Far are one of the most influential Emo bands ever. During their short career they produced two classic albums, 1996’s 'Tin Cans With Strings To You' and 1998’s 'Water and Solutions'. Although this was Mantranga’s new band Gratitude it would be frankly insulting not to mention his roots as they have influenced some of the biggest names in Emo and rock today including Blink 182, Jimmy Eat World, Funeral For A Friend and My Chemical Romance to name a few. For a man who has been such a force in the scene Jonah is an incredibly warm and humble person. During the course of the night countless people came up to him and let him know how much they loved Far and also his solo project One Line Drawing, with which he released one album 'Visitor', a few years ago. He happily chatted away to each person as if he’d known them for years in a totally unassuming way. This really summed up the way he was. Just happy to be part of it all. PB : You released Gratitude’s self-titled first album in June. How is that and the tour going? JM: Its been really amazing. We don’t really feel that it really fits into one particular scene which is great, and we’re finding that in the UK the people that come out don’t care and that’s something we really like. It’s been so much fun just enjoying it all, and that’s the best thing about doing a rock show, just going out there and enjoying it. PB : Are you finding that a lot of people are coming out to see you because of Far and One Line Drawing? JM: The way I’ve always looked at it is that new bands get one chance, and I feel we’re really lucky, and if people come out to see us because they liked our old band then that’s great, but if they come out and they don’t like it they’re not going to stick around. The record is out there and if people get into it because of what we did in an old band then yeah I'm happy for them to do that. I think that people will like the record whether or not they liked Far though. PB : Is it a good or bad thing being on tour with a new band and new album when people are already familiar with what you have done in the past? JM : I’m very proud of everything, so the fact that people cared in the first place is a victory. To me though, the way I like to listen to bands and the way I ‘d like to be listened to is that things can be compared to other things, but if a piece of art is worth anything it has its own little universe. PB : Is this just another band or are you hoping and planning to make a long career out of it? JM: I’ve never really had a plan. There are some people who say you should stick with one thing. I can see that, but for me as an artist its my job to do these ideas with those people, but when it stops being exciting or artistic then you're pretty much just selling shoes. And if that’s what you want to do then that’s fine, but I’m not interested in that. If Gratitude lasts forever that’d be wonderful and if I keep on doing music forever that’d be wonderful, but if the songs stop coming then I’ll stop. I do love playing with Gratitude and I definitely love playing solo. PB : I read a quote on your press release saying “… I want to see mullets, horn rimmed glasses and mohawks at our shows.” That gives the impression this is a band for everyone. Was this the intention or is it just what came out? JM: I feel like the songs I’ve written, I don’t really know where they fit and therefore they’re for everyone. Its not what I try to do. Itis just what comes out of me, and I honour what come out of me. If dance music is what came out of me, then that’s what I’d make. PB : The last music you made was with One Line Drawing, which had quite a folky feel to it. Was that just a phase or something you wanted to do but didn’t want to do with FAR? In addition, is that style of music something you want to keep separate from Gratitude? JM : The biggest different was that One Line Drawing was a kind of solo thing, where it was pretty much just me. Gratitude is much more collaborative. We all write and come up with ideas. And as I said before we just write what comes out. There's no real conscious effort to do it in a certain way or style. PB : Gratitude are signed to a major label, Atlantic, rather than a smaller independent label as you’ve worked with in the past. How was this different. Was it your intention to seek out a major label deal and has it been much different? JM: Well we got a lot of money to make the record with which made things easier as we could just get on with it, but it was all very natural. It was very old school. We went to the offices and performed some of our songs in a showcase to people from the label. It was quite relaxed and they liked it. Apart from that, we did a lot of strategising and a lot of promotion. I have a feeling it’ll be independent labels in the future though. Selling t-shirts and stuff after the show and talking to the fans is all part of what's so great about being in a band. PB : Far in particular were a massively influencial band. How does it feel having so many big bands like Funeral for a Friend, Jimmy Eat World, Blink182, citing you as such a big influence? JM: Great, I‘m really happy that people see our music as something that individual enough to be influential. I’m really proud of that. PB : Who influenced you? JM: I can’t think of any bands that influenced Gratitude as such. It just comes from different places, experience, emotions, that kind of thing, but bands like the Clash, U2, Tom Petty, the Pretenders, Sinead O’Connor, that kind of tuneful music influenced me in that it made me fall in love with music and want to make it myself. But punk rock has had such an influence on me because of the energy and the attitude. I fell in love with songs with people like U2, but I fell in love with performing through hardcore bands, because they’re just so intense. PB : You recently appeared at the Reading/Leeds festival. How was that? JM: That was awesome. It’s nice to be a part of a big musical community like that, and its great being around artists like that. PB : The fact that your band features members of other successful underground bands, yourself having been in Far and guitarist Mark Weinberg being in Crumb, some people would describe Gratitude as a kind of “Emo Supergroup.” With bands like Velvet Revolver and Audioslave among other bands who’ve formed out of other successful bands, who would be in your fantasy “supergroup”? JM : That’s a really cool idea. There’s a drummer Scott Macpherson. I’d love him to be part of it. Actually I’ve had a similar kind of idea, to do an album with a bunch of different bands with myself singing. PB : Kind of like an “anti-Santana” thing? JM: Yeah you know, I’d sing and get a bunch of different bands doing the rest, people like Hot Water Music, On Another, Coheed and Cambria, those kinds of bands. There are just so many out there that I really admire that it would be hard to narrow it down to just a few people, but that’s a cool idea. Wonderful. As mentioned earlier, this is a person who is just so happy and grateful to be doing what he loves, and anything else is a bonus and this must be a great situation to be in and it is great to see a musician who seems to know this. The following live show carried on in a similar fashion with everything feeling, well just right. The band came on and played most of their debut self-titled album,Songs like 'Drive Away', 'The Greatest Wonder', 'Sadie' and 'If Ever'all sound fantastic. No songs from previous bands crept in at any point either, and while admittedly I was hoping they’d slip in a Far classic in there somewhere you have to admire them for sticking to what they doing now, rather than relying on their past glories to help this new project along.The truth is that it is clear from hearing Gratitude, emo supergroup or not, there are some classic songs regardless that stand on their own, and live the band pull them off superbly. They sounded great but all the while none of the set felt rehearsed. It just had the feeling of a band who had some strong songs and were stoked to be sharing them with a room full of people. Trillians makes this especially easy as it is an intimate venue, but not to the point where the crowd can't move, and where you can see the band clearly without worrying about people with afros and big hats as is so often the case! The stage is also pretty much on the same level as the floor where the crowd are, and it felt like at any minute a member of the band could walk through the crowd to the bar to grab a quick pint. It had that sort of feel, with the band sharing their stage rather than being above the crowd or on some sort of pedestal. This suits Gratitude's music so well. One of the band's strongest points is Mantranga's voice. His voice is just perfect for the songs he sings, clearly heard but yet there’s a slight rawness and vunerability to his vocals. It is this that sets Gratitude above so many other emo bands. Great they are, but they’re not doing anything especially new, but they do what they do so well it doesn’t matter. They finished with their single 'This is the Part' which was met with a large cheer and for a relatively new song, received a rather impressive sing along from the crowd, who enjoyed every minute of the gig along with the band. When you think this band couldn’t win anymore fans over (like they’d need to?) they come back on for an encore, including a few covers, notably 'You’ve Got to Get Through What You’ve Got to Get Through, to Get What You Want…' by local North East heroes The Wildhearts. Perfect. This really was a perfect end to a great night. The beauty of this band and experiencing them live was that they seemed just as happy to be playing as the crowd were to be watching, and that’s surely what music great music is about, not just performing great songs, but sharing them.

Picture Gallery:-
Gratitude - Interview with Jonah Mantranga

Gratitude - Interview with Jonah Mantranga

Gratitude - Interview with Jonah Mantranga

Gratitude - Interview with Jonah Mantranga

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Gratitude (2005)
Slick, but slightly disappointing radio-friendly rock from Gratitude, the new band of Onelinedrawingand New end Original frontman Jonah Matranga

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