I agreed to meet Alex Anderson, aka ManCub, at the Fancy Tiger clothing store during his CD sewing party where the store and some volunteers donated time to help finish 500 denim CD covers. What a great idea, am I right? Combining DIY flair with support for local music is a great way to promote your new EP, ManCub; add some pizza and beer and it’s absolutely the best idea I have ever heard of.
Unfortunately, I am not what you would call “crafty,” and after sitting down to sew my first CD sleeve, I came to realize that I lack the feminine guile that might allow me to make something nice with a sewing machine. I got a quick tutorial from ManCub's manager and DIY project partner-in-crime, Kristin Hubbard, and of course it seemed really easy when she showed me how to make a perfect denim square that will soon hold the brand new Business Dogs EP. I looked over my shoulder and saw hundreds of these squares neatly stacked, and saw the handful of people around me making sewing dreams come true. The volunteers were mostly fans and friends, and it was being managed with no assistance from the store’s staff which was pretty impressive. After making a couple of semi-sewn squares, rethreading my bobbin more times than I was actually sewing anything and un-sticking and un-knotting various threads, I was convinced of two things: 1) Only those who practice magic or have a guardian angel over their shoulder can use sewing machines, and 2) I am not going to be helping much if I continue to fail at sewing.
My attempt to make denim CD covers was not so good, but it was fun and it was really great to see the process. In fact, most of what Anderson tells me about the new CD is all about the process and the various parts that are needed to get your new EP out to the masses. For instance, the materials needed for today’s sewing came from jeans donated to them from friends and Buffalo Exchange next door, and the rest was bought from the nearby Goodwill at a thrifty $1 per pound. ManCub received donated space from Fancy Tiger and donated beer from Great Divide, meaning his manufacturing costs were mostly represented by pizza. Getting these materials together and trying to make a larger quantity at once should help this hard-working crew save some time; whereas today’s output was assembled in about 8 hours, each pre-show assembling session could take up to two hours. “I would like all of these to be gone by September, but the thing is we don’t necessarily sell them. I usually ask anyone who wants one to give us what they can and we make it work out. That’s what I’d like to see, and it’s my place to come in and say, ‘Hey if you are going to listen to this music, take it and just give us what you can’,” says ManCub’s Anderson when asked how much time it would take to sell out of these new denim-cased EPs.
The packaging is one part of the recipe, the other part has to be the music-making. Anderson described what inspired him to start recording again after the 8 Bit Crush EP:
"I guess I wasn’t finished after we did the first record. I did that with my friend Danny, and we started ManCub together. When it was just me I just felt like I wasn’t finished recording ManCub, and I still don’t and we’re going to record some more, but I definitely feel more accomplished this time because I took more time. The first record we just wanted to come out of the gates and see what happened. For this record, I wanted to take my time. . . I decided to go crazy with it, and this [album] is more contained sounding but it came out of way more of an experimental process. The whole point of ManCub is to explore different styles of making music and recording music, and that’s how this record came to be."
Exploring is right. Anderson admits that experimentation with atypical recording techniques helped him and his former partner to produce the previous album. “I went to school and took recording classes, and I totally neglected everything I learned on the first record. We did some crazy stuff on songs where we wrote parts on loop pedals, and whatever those parts sounded like on loop pedals got recorded back into the computer. Basically if anyone reads this who is an engineer, they’ll think ‘Oh, that kid’s a dumbass’. It was a really dumb thing to do, but we just wanted to do it. It was sort of this punk rock way of doing it.” Even though some solid recording software was used for Business Dogs it’s still utilizing a deconstructive effect. “So now I’m using the Ableton software, which is the industry standard for dance music, and the functionality of it for writing is seamless. When I was done with this EP, it was exactly how I wanted it to sound before sending it to a mastering guy . . . [with] this record there is a lot more time, more care and more thought.”
Listening to Anderson describe his recording equipment and the techniques he has learned is akin to an audible blueprint being recounted. He has his hands in marketing, engineering, the creative process: Anderson’s work ethic is inspiring and might make any other musician a little more confident that they could do some of the same. With some help from his brother, Anderson also is directly involved in the filming and brainstorming behind the “Science” video promo. This short recording is minimalist but excellently executed, and the giant, silver globe featured therein is perplexing, and also engaging. The background scenery is like a typical neighborhood, and so when you are watching this video you wonder how they did it. “That is in Mescoda, Kansas. Behind the silver thing is my grandma’s house and a town of 200 when I was growing up, and now it’s probably 125. It used to be a steel town, and . . . the silver thing was what used to be the water tower which was on stilts above where I would play basketball, and they needed to build a new one so they knocked that water tower over, and it actually rolled and almost demolished some houses. Now they are saying they want to paint it like a baseball and make it a Joe Tinker museum . . .” The creativity and innovation is oozing out of ManCub’s paws, who knows what will happen during the CD release show at Larimer Lounge on May 25.