DozenQ – Abscondo

This entry is part 17 of 20 in the series DozenQ 3

Abscondo is a European indie alternative band fronted by an American singer-songwriter who left Seattle in 2005 and has been based in Slovakia ever since. What started as a blog in 2003 turned into a solo music project and eventually a full band in 2012. Despite their international appeal with a sound like The Killers, Muse, or Coldplay, Abscondo has never performed outside of Slovakia. But this is all starting to change with the limited release of their Travelpics EP. Mark Manney, Abscondo’s frontman, has no short of interesting and sometimes controversial opinions. We asked him a few questions about his music.

01 How did you get started in music?

My only music training comes from being a music fan. I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was 21 years old. I didn’t write songs until I was approaching age 30. I never approached music with any goals or expectations. It was my escape from real life… the opposite of real life.

The other 3 members of Abscondo have a very different story. Filip Kluknavsky, Martin Lechman, and Tibor Dragon have all been musicians from a young age. This contrast is what allows us to put together a sound that is inspired and pure, but also professional.

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02 Where did your direction come from?

I’m a self-taught guitarist, songwriter and singer. Even my early recordings, including the “Midnight Snow” album, were something I did by myself on my laptop. Before I put together the Abscondo band in 2012, everything I did was solo. I played all of the instruments, did my best to record and mix music an Ableton, and released music for free on Jamendo. My music was intended as both a pure form of self-expression and a reaction to the music I was listening to.

03 Who were your major influences and inspirations and who do you despise?

Before I picked-up a guitar, I listened to a lot of U2, REM, Matthew Sweet, and a lot of the “college rock” hits of the early 1990’s. By the mid-1990’s, two bands changed my world. The first was Radiohead. I had “The Bends” and “OK Computer” on repeat when I was at University in Colorado. As a business student, unfortunately I was a bit too connected to mainstream culture. Radiohead felt like something more real, more human, and more filled with emotion than anything around me.

The second band that saved me, around that same time, was Belle & Sebastian. Everything they put out, in those early days, felt so pure, honest, and inspired. Their gentle sound was something that connected with me at a really deep level. They made it feel ok to be sensitive. Belle & Sebastian helped me realize that the best music was not well-known.

I was also listening to a lot of Brit-pop. Then, when I moved to Seattle in 1999, I discovered KEXP and began going to all of the local concerts I possibly could. Up until I left the US in 2005, I was obsessed with indie music from bands like Arcade Fire, The Killers, Muse, Coldplay, Sondre Lerche, Sigor Ros, Rufus Wainwright, too many others to mention really. Since then, I should mention Damian Rice, Glen Hansard, Camera Obscura, Snow Patrol, and I also got into a lot of Lounge Music… which I guess was a result of my more European influences over the past 8 years. Of course I’m leaving out maybe 200 – 300 artists who have had a huge impact on me.

What do I despise? Everything on MTV. Everything on commercial radio. Everything commercial. That’s easy. I despise it because it is meaningless. It says nothing about how I feel or about the human condition. It offers no ideas, no inspiration that means anything, nothing of value.

04 What inspires you to make your current type of songs and sound?

The guys in my band inspired the current Abscondo sound. I wrote the songs on my acoustic guitar. The other members of Abscondo stretched them in every direction. They brought fresh, modern, relevant sounds and influences. We came up with something that feels exactly right to me.

05 What can someone who has never seen you live before expect from your live shows then & possibly even now?

I’ve only performed in Slovakia, which is strange because all of our songs are in English. We’ve performed in bars, at large festivals, on TV, and on the radio. People have said that our live sound is a lot like our recordings. We put on a pretty good show and now we’re starting to include video elements. Our biggest fans are travelers, expats, basically “misfits”. I want an Abscondo concert to be a place where internationally-minded people can belong and where we can share our experiences. So we’re incorporating travel pictures submitted by fans and combining them into a slideshow with interesting quotes. This concept really works anywhere.

06 How do you begin your songs? What types of themes and subjects do you deal with?

A song has to be an expression of an idea. I think that some ideas are best expressed in song, as opposed to books, speeches, or essays. An Abscondo song has to say something honest about how we really feel. It expresses something that drives people mad, but in a way that makes them feel a bit more sane… a bit more “not alone” after listening to it.

I hope that Abscondo music encourages people to listen to their own, authentic voices… that it encourages fans to chase their dreams, to let go of fear, to stop planning and start living. That’s the whole point of my life and that’s the reason why I make music.

07 How did your music evolved since you first began playing?

It no longer sucks! I started by just learning songs that I loved. Eventually I started to notice patterns, chord progressions, etc. After many years I found myself becoming more interesting in songwriting than just playing other people’s songs. I feel like I found my own voice, that I finally had something of my own to say, after age 30 when I moved to Slovakia. Since then, my music has been steadily improving. I’ve failed a lot with my early projects, but that’s what growth and learning is all about.

08 What has been your biggest challenge? Were you been able to overcome this? If so, how?

My biggest challenge, musically, is figuring out the place that money has in my music. I know that everything I create that has any value is completely detached from money. But I have also learned that it is impossible for me to record something that sounds professional without investing… and without doing it the right way.

When it comes to reaching an audience, I’ve had great experiences with Jamendo. I put up my first album, “Midnight Snow”, as a free download. To-date, it has more than 5,000 downloads and hundreds of thousands of plays. I considered that a huge success.

But since I put together the Abscondo band, we’ve taken a more traditional approach to music. I’ve invested a fair amount in recording, touring, etc. When it comes to promotion and reaching a large, international audience… I know it will take a significant investment to have a shot. But investments in music promotion don’t necessarily lead to a financial return these days. So any rational person can see the dilemma.

My approach, at the moment, is to put a lot of effort into my business. My goal is to earn so much income in the coming years that I can invest in Abscondo without care and expectation of a financial return. But I don’t like mixing music with money and the whole thing bothers me a lot.

09 Do you play covers? If you could pick any song, which would you like to cover most and why?

I don’t like playing covers. It is about something different than what I do. I’m primarily a songwriter.

10 Where did you envisage being in five years time?

Abscondo will always be in my life in some form, but it will never be my whole life. My music works best when it flows from a life of experiences. I will continue to live abroad with my wife, raise my young daughter, I will travel, I will continue to build my company, and all the whole Abscondo will be my place of pure escape… the place where I can be me and connect with people of all ages who feel like I do.

I sincerely hope that the band is together as it is today, with the same line-up. I think we have the ideal line-up and I really like each member of the band. I hope I can find a way to get these guys on an international tour, get a song featured in a Hollywood film (we’re making progress there), perform at many international festivals, and find a large enough fan-base that we can continue recording and selling some music

11 Who would you most like to record with?

I’m very happy with the studio we record with in Kosice, Slovakia. But I think, as long as I’m in the studio with Filip Kluknavsky, Tibor Dragon, and Martin Lechman (the other members of Abscondo), the outcome will be something we will always be satisfied with. We have very high standards and don’t leave the studio until we are completely satisfied.

12 What should we be expecting from you in the near future?

Our Travelpics EP will eventually lead to a full-length album. We will continue recording as soon as possible. We are working with a number of music publishers in the US, so I’m sure you’ll start to hear our music in films, TV, and advertising spots. Our tracks are also starting to be picked up by non-commercial radio in the US. I’m going to keep creating music and keep chasing some sort of big-break. I just want this music to be heard. That’s what drives me.

Web Links:

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Originally posted 2013-09-10 12:33:50. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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