THE MANALISHI (from l-r): Matt Hewitt (drums), Josh Alcock (vocals/rhythm guitar), Jovi Duvnjak (lead guitar), Ross Fallows (bass)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Stoke-on-Trent rock/indie outfit The Manalishi are a band with big plans.
With a successful album already under their belts, the quartet want to do to the Potteries music scene what the Arctic Monkeys did to Sheffield’s.
With an abundance of musical talent within its ranks, and a diverse sound, with influences ranging from early Fleetwood Mac to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, there can’t be any reason why they won’t be able to achieve this in the near future.
I sat down and chatted with them about all of this.
How did the band get together initially?
JOSH ALCOCK (vocals/rhythm guitar): Ross and Jovi were in a band before they split. When that happened, Ross contacted Jovi, asking him if he fancied starting another band up together.
I found them through a website, findaband.com. I was always into music, I did mainly acoustic stuff, but I wanted to be in a band. I sent them a message, Jovi got back to me, and asked if I wanted to come down and do some stuff with them. I went down, and I think we wrote a song on that first day.
ROSS FALLOWS (bass): Once we had Josh on board, we began to look for a drummer. We got one, but they left after only a couple of gigs, and that’s when Matt came in.
How did the name The Manalishi come about?
MATT HEWITT (drums): It was from a Fleetwood Mac song, ‘The Green Manalishi’, from the late Sixties, early Seventies, I think.
JOSH: We’re very much influenced by the music of the Sixties, that’s what I would say, so the name probably did come from there. That was it, we all agreed on the name, happy days.
How would you describe your sound?
JOSH: I would say it was like heavy indie, but it’s not quite indie, not quite rock, it’s kind of between, isn’t it?
MATT: Alternative, but a bit heavy.
JOSH: Yeah, again, there is a Sixties influence as well, but with maximum volume, I would say.
ROSS: A wall of sound!
JOSH: Yeah, a wall of sound, that’s what everyone tells us.
Apart from the music of the Sixties, what else influences the band musically?
JOSH: If you’re talking more recent stuff, I would say Milburn, Arctic Monkeys, who else?
JOSH: (laughs) No, not Jay-Z. I would also say we were influenced by a lot of the indie bands that were around in the early 2000’s, because for me, it was around that time that indie music was at its most ripest, and that’s pretty much where our sound has evolved from.
ROSS: It seems to me that the best music was around when we were all at high school.
JOSH: The best bands for me around that time were The Cribs…
ROSS: Little Man Tate.
JOSH: Little Man Tate, yeah. There were just loads of mint bands and they were just all a massive influence on us, I would say. Anything they did, I wanted to do, which I suppose was the same for everyone else who’s in a band nowadays.
What is your approach to songwriting?
JOSH: Me and Jovi tend to write the majority of the songs, it’s a short process, nothing too long.
Something that annoys me or something I see that makes me laugh, I’ll suggest we write a song about that. I’ll jot down some lyrics, as a story at first, and then I’ll read through it a couple of times and try and turn it into rhymes.
Then, we’ll put music to it after, try and find something that fits. A lot of people do it the other way around, but I’m not like that, I don’t know why.
It does take time to find the right melody, it’s just a massive thought process. I’ll just jam on my guitar and then all of a sudden, it’ll come to me.
Would you say that your music has a political spin to it?
JOSH: I’d say ‘No, No, No’ is quite political, isn’t it?
MATT: Yeah, yeah.
ROSS: A lot of our fans seem to associate it with Brexit.
JOSH: Actually, we wrote that song well before Brexit.
ROSS: It’s about a frustrated generation, isn’t it?
JOSH: I can’t say that every generation before ours has had it easier, there’s been troubles throughout the decades.
ROSS: Every other generation blames the one before.
JOSH: That was basically what I was going at. It seems that a lot of people nowadays give up too easily and don’t listen to what’s going on. They don’t care, do they?
The song is also on about rich people, them taking from the poor and stuff like that.
ROSS: That’s the moral of the story.
JOSH: It’s really the only song of ours that has a political theme to it.
The band brought out an album ‘Memory Lane’ last summer. How has the reaction been since its release?
JOSH: I’ve never had anything that has had a better reaction in my life. Everyone I’ve shown the album to, even people I don’t know and have never spoken to before, have been like: “Woah! Was that you?“, and I say: “Yeah, it was“. There’s now random people buying the album via Twitter and stuff.
The album has also been nominated for a local music award. How did you feel when it was announced?
JOSH: All I can say is that it felt good.
ROSS: We didn’t expect to be nominated to be honest.
JOSH: Yeah, I never expected to be nominated for anything ever. When I saw it, I swear I could have run around my workplace with my pants off. (all laugh) Only joking.
The band are part of the Stoke-on-Trent music scene. What is your opinion of it currently?
ROSS: It did go stale for a while, but it seems to have picked up recently. However, a lot of the current bands in Stoke tend to sound pretty similar. You’ve got the bands who want to sound like Tame Impala, bands that are still doing the Arctic Monkeys thing, and now you have bands who are trying to be like Slaves and Royal Blood.
JOSH: Definitely a lot of bands around here have been massively influenced by the Arctic Monkeys, but then again, they come from only up the road, don’t they?
ROSS: The problem is that Stoke lacks an identity music-wise. We’re slap bang in the middle, between places like Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield.
I believe that if some of the bands from around here were from there or another big city, then they would be more likely to get signed up.
JOSH: Yeah, definitely. For example, there have always been loads of bands signed from Liverpool, probably because of its long association with music, The Beatles and all that.
ROSS: You don’t normally associate Stoke with music, do you? And I think that makes it a problem for aspiring bands locally.
JOSH: There are quite a few bands from around here who are top lads, we enjoy their music, and I hope they think the same about us.
How is it for the band playing live and touring?
ROSS: It’s like being on a rollercoaster, isn’t it? You get the nerves beforehand, the buzz during and shortly after, and then the next day, you think: “That was wicked!“.
When the crowd are up for it as well, there’s nothing better, is there?
JOSH: The first gig we ever did was at The Sugarmill in Hanley, and talk about jumping in at the deep end!
ROSS: Yeah, you never stopped talking!
JOSH: I was so nervous, I was literally shaking, but when I got off the stage after our set, I felt like I was a totally different person. Every time I get on stage now, I’m totally in the zone, I suppose. I find it fun and really enjoyable.
ROSS: It’s better to be in a band with your mates, because you can feel more relaxed and have a laugh, there’s no better feeling.
Anything lined up for the near future at all?
JOSH: They’ll be a few singles throughout the year, hopefully another album towards the end as well.
At the moment, we’re just concentrating on building up our reputation from ‘Memory Lane’, try and get some more recognition for it.
ROSS: We never stop, do we lads? Even when we’re rehearsing, we’re writing songs.
JOSH: We’ve got enough songs to release another three albums with. We’re aiming for big things this year.
Is that the long-term aim then?
JOSH: The long-term aim is to be first band to break out of Stoke.
ROSS: We want to put the city on the music map.
JOSH: We’re not aiming for that because we want to be big-headed, we actually want to take everyone with us, or somebody to take us with them. I’ve always said this, if one band, just one, breaks from Stoke, then the rest will follow.
ROSS: It can be done. Nobody would have said Sheffield was a music city until the Arctic Monkeys came along, but now, everyone says it is.
THE MANALISHI’S ALBUM ‘MEMORY LANE’ IS AVAILABLE TO STREAM AND DOWNLOAD NOW.
FOR MORE INFO ON THE BAND, CHECK OUT THESE SITES:
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://themanalishi5.wix.com/themanalishiuk