“Throwback” isn’t quite the right term for what Midnight Mantics is doing. They have hopped into the DeLorean and set the flux capacitor for 1985. Their music doesn’t just “sound like” Say Anything meets The Breakfast Club, it completely and unapologetically immerses itself in that world. They believe that that sound isn’t part of some golden age that has been lost, but that it is still relevant and still carries a message today.
Their upcoming album, Mixtape Vol. 1, reminds us of that moment when you climb out on a limb and tell someone how you feel; that moment when you get noticed by someone who thinks you’re invisible; and that moment at the dance when it all comes together. Under the neon glow of city lights, they have created a world of open possibility, celebrating the pain and joy that comes with fully embracing life.
NYMM: How did this project get started?
Stacy: Adam and I write together for other projects, and when we get together we spend a ton of time talking about our mutual love for all things ’80’s.
Adam: We would geek out over all this old ’80’s stuff, like movies and video games, and it eventually turned into this song.
Stacy: Each song was actually inspired by a different movie from the ’80’s. The overall idea of the album is to feel like the soundtrack for a long-lost John Hughes movie.
NYMM: When you’re writing within the confines of a sound that has already been established, how do you do something that is original, or do you even care if it sounds completely original?
Stacy: Mostly the answer is that we don’t care. The main thing is to write original songs and give it more of a modern mix. We had no idea if anyone would like it except us, but it was a gamble we were prepared to take.
NYMM: What did you have to do to capture that ’80’s sound so well?
Stacy: I spent the longest time just trying to find sounds for these songs. When you sit in front of the board, on day one, you have to decide what sound you’re going for. That shapes everything. So I spent a lot of time experimenting with different sounds. The idea was to have it sound true to the era. I didn’t want it to sound like some polished, alternative bootleg. I wanted us to go dangerously overboard.
Adam: We had a palette of stuff that we knew we liked: Psychedelic Furs or Tears For Fears. We used that as a starting point, not to mimic, but to resemble. The overall sound and the honesty of that music is what we were going for.
NYMM: Songs from that time also had distinct lyrical content. How did you capture that?
Stacy: It’s mostly about universal themes: summer romance, for example. The song “Mixtape” is about a kid who makes a tape for a girl.
Adam: “City of Dreamers” is meant to feel like the opening credits of a film. It captures that feeling that anything is possible because the movie hasn’t really started yet. We wanted to create that vibe because we’re both dreamers as well.
Stacy: It relates the idea of the city to the idea of love. They’re both big and dangerous, and you just have to jump right in to experience it. It was only when we were trying to pick the order of the songs for the album that we realized it told a whole congruent story. We were originally thinking about each song as a different story, but when you combine them, it seems to work as one overall story.
NYMM: What was the experience of writing the album like?
Stacy: We wrote the entire record in the same amount of time that we would have probably spent writing two songs for another project. It just flowed forward. It feels less like a job when you’re writing for the fun of it.
Adam: Stacy is an amazing friend and an amazing talent, so it’s a privilege to get together and write like this. In a way, this project has already been a success because of that. All the feedback we’ve had so far, even though the album isn’t formally released yet, has been great and that’s just icing.
Stacy: Co-writing can be like pulling teeth with the wrong person. It’s so refreshing to work with someone and have it be such a perfect fit.
Adam: We were on the same page about everything from the sounds, the mix, the instrumentation, and even song selection for the album.
Stacy: We’re both very opinionated, so it’s not like we were just going along with whatever. We really were that in tune.
Adam: Stacy has a great career as a producer and writer, and I have my own things I’m doing, so this wasn’t something we had to do. It was a gift and something that we got to do because we wanted to. As cheesy as it may sound, you can still dream and magic still happens. I feel like this project proves that. Every song we wrote gravitates towards hope. I think that’s who we are as human beings and we try to communicate that through our music.
Stacy: Time is short and it is precious. So it felt good to actually make this project work. It has been really rewarding and feels right.
Images by Jon Karr
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