When Those Manic Seas is setting up on stage, the first thing that a spectator will notice is sure to be the mannequin with a television for a head. At first glance, it seems like no more than a unique prop, maybe some sort of inside joke between the band members.
When Those Manic Seas is setting up on stage, the first thing that a spectator will notice is sure to be the mannequin with a television for a head. At first glance, it seems like no more than a unique prop, maybe some sort of inside joke between the band members. Then drummer Daniel Medley gets onstage, followed by guitarist Chris Westfall and bassist Todd Baker. The lights dim, and they are nearly ready to play, yet still no singer has appeared. Suddenly, the glow of the mannequin’s TV head turns into a face surrounded by blackness, and the band begins to play, with vocals provided by the singing face on the TV. This is a typical show for Those Manic Seas, but it is certainly not a typical show for the audience.
Those Manic Seas had a tumultuous past, spending a long time putting together a lineup consisting of the right people playing the right instruments. Before this three-man band had arrived at its current name and current musicians, it was called Nude Photos of Celebrities. When that group’s lead singer quit and the project was scrapped, the band became Those Manic Seas. “We wanted to take the band in a new direction,” said Baker. “What better way to do that than to change the name?” After a few more lineup changes through the years, they have finally settled on a consistent three musicians, and their mostly inanimate singer, Ben Wilson. “What makes our band stand out from every other band is that our lead singer is definitely eye catching,” said Baker.
Medley and his bandmates found it difficult to find a singer that suited the band, who also had time to play shows and tour. “Our last guitarist and I brainstormed in my bedroom one night, and came up with the idea of the mannequin with a TV for a head, and we would prerecord everything,” said Medley, describing how the idea was first sparked. The end result was a case of “necessity breeding invention,” said Westfall. “We had to be creative to come up with something to make it work, and then it took off as being a really neat element to the show. That is something that we are very much about–creating a whole experience.” When Those Manic Seas is about to begin a song, “Daniel presses play on the DVD, and you better be ready, because it’s going,” Baker explained. “It just goes and goes, and you better keep up with it.” The musicians know they have to keep up with the prerecorded singing head, and do so with absolute precision.
The writing process is a fairly unconventional one for this group. The musicians don’t have any part in the lyric writing process. “None of us actually write the parts,” Medley explained. “We’ll write a whole song front to back, record it and then ship it off to [Wilson]. Then he does everything. We bring him in and he plays [his part] on top.” Wilson is from Richmond, just like the other members of Those Manic Seas, but his limited participation in the band’s live performance is something that works well for both parties. “He enjoys recording much more than live performance, but at the same time he’s in five other bands around town, so his time is very limited,” said Baker. “It’s just what we need for what we’re trying to do with the mannequin.”
This past spring, Those Manic Seas decided to participate in South by Southwest in Austin Texas, and planned a tour around the SXSW dates. “We’re going to go to South by Southwest–let’s put a whole tour around that,” said Westfall. The band and their mannequin visited Chapel Hill, Charlotte, and Alabama before they reached Texas. Westfall explained that, in order to try and whip up a crowd for their performance in South by Southwest, they “put the mannequin on a hand truck and wheeled him out through downtown Austin, just so people would gawk at it and ask questions.”
The members of Those Manic Seas have very ambitious goals for their band. Baker’s dream is to “play in front of a Manic Sea of people. Just big and crazy. An ocean of people who just really love our stuff. That’s all I want.” Medley’s goal was to play at Madison Square Garden, but after giving this answer, he quickly interjected, “Wait, can I change mine? Red Rocks!” Westfall’s dream is that “when people come to our show, we want them to be able to say that they got laid that night because they saw a Those Manic Seas show.”
Those Manic Seas have a show on August 9 at Balliceaux, and this is a show you should not miss. Their indie-rock sound is a refreshing addition to the Richmond music scene, and their live show is unforgettable–and for more reasons than just their unusual choice of lead singer. Their set at the record release show for their latest single, “Headache/Heartache,” ended with Medley taking apart his drum kit and urging the audience to join in on playing them, which was certainly an experience. If you can’t wait until the Balliceaux show to get your Those Manic Seas fix, you can get their new single in digital form from Amazon by clicking HERE. There’s a vinyl version as well, though it doesn’t appear to be available for purchase online at this point–but check for it at Those Manic Seas shows. Earlier EPs by the band are available from their bandcamp page, and you can keep up with what Those Manic Seas are up to by visiting their website, at thosemanicseas.com.