Q&A with band Manchester Orchestra

Chris Rutledge

Manchester Orchestra and Cage the Elephant will play a free concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday at on South Lawn in an event sponsored by Campus Activities Board, the Student Government Association and Starry Nights Music Festival.

Manchester Orchestra keyboardist/percussionist Chris Freeman sat down to discuss road stories, Starry Nights and Cage the Elephant’s lead singer Matt Shultz’s webbed toes.

Q: How did Manchester Orchestra end up playing on campus?

A: We’re playing because of Cage. We’re just good friends with those dudes and that’s how we got hooked up.

Q: Talk to us about your friendship with Cage the Elephant.

A: Our manager is married to their manager. We ended up doing the Silversun Pickups tour with those guys, and we just ended up falling in love with hanging out with those dudes. On tour when you find some good old Southern boys, us being from Atlanta, it’s kind of hard not to just really want to hang out. We don’t really like a lot of people in general. We’re the kind of band that keeps our close-knit circle pretty close. But when we started hanging out with those dudes, they were so down to earth and awesome that we had to keep doing everything we could with them. They’re some of my favorite people in the world.

Q: Your managers are married?

A: They’re a power couple. It makes for a pretty easy communication map. They live together, so it’s easy to get stuff working together between the two bands.

Q: Had any interesting nights on tour?

A: We’re all really chill dudes, so we don’t really do much. But there was one night in Saskatoon on the Silversun Pickups tour… Jared (Champion) was upstairs with a beer bottle. He fell and didn’t let go of the beer and cut his hand wide open. He asked me to play his next show and just learn all of the songs. Instead of me having to play, he ended up just taping a drumstick to his hand and just bleeding through it the whole time. It was one of the funniest shows to watch. We asked, “Why didn’t you just let go of the beer?” and he was like “I don’t know. I didn’t want to spill it.”

Q: What can we expect from the show?

A: Loudness. Being with those dudes makes us really comfortable, so I think it should be a lot of fun. Hopefully we’ll have our skateboards with us, and we can try to skate across stage during each other’s sets. I used to skate every set with them on the co-headline tour. It’ll be a blast.

Q: You guys have become familiar with Cage and Sleeper Agent, are there any other local bands you are a fan of?

A: That’s it really. Cage showed up Sleeper Agent. Bowling Green is not exactly, no offense, a booming city. I didn’t even know there were bands coming out of that area. But I think Sleeper Agent is awesome. We played a radio festival with them in Rochester on my 24th birthday. They’re good people.

Q: Matt mentioned a planned peanut butter and jelly fight on stage. Do you know anything about this?

A: Peanut butter and jelly fight? I think you just spoiled the surprise. I do remember a time we did a radio show together, a little acoustic performance, I think in Florida. We had a marker fight. We had a signing afterwards and it was for like 15 fans in this radio office. We decided rather than signing anything for anybody, we would just write on each other. During the show we were covered in marker.

Q: The band’s popularity has really taken off lately. How has that changed things for your guys?

A: It’s always been gradual, so it’s just always something new. We’re very excited and very blessed to be able to play in front of a lot more people as time goes on. I think the only thing that keeps affecting us is Outback Steakhouse. It’s about a mile from our houses – we all live very close. We can’t go anymore without the waiters coming out to the table and freaking out about us being there, and wondering why we’re in the suburbs of Atlanta. We’re like, “We live here.” I think that’s the only thing that’s really changed over the years.

Q: The show is to promote Starry Nights Music Festival. Is Manchester Orchestra interested in coming back to Bowling Green to play Starry Nights?

A: Anytime Cage wants us to play with them and come hang out in Bowling Green, I’m always down for it. I’m sure we’ll line it up a couple more times. I think if we can arrange a festival like that, it would be really awesome. There could be some special performances down the road. If we could do a cover set or something like that with Cage, that would be really awesome. We’d love to. Unless they smear peanut butter all over my face and then I’m never talking to them again.

Q: You just released a new album, can you tell us about that?

A: “Simple Math” is a record we wrote about Andy (Hull) and his life and the past couple of years. Stuff like getting married, touring while being married, especially at such a young age, and being 20 something. Sonically speaking, we took a lot more time being meticulous with the sound. I think it’s definitely a step above the record before. It’s very dynamic. It’s a very personal record, to all of us.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: I don’t know if he wants me to tell you this, but Matt (Shultz) showed me on the last tour, he’s got this condition on his feet. He’s got webbed toes. He’s really embarrassed about it, but I think the world should know that he has webbed feet. It’s something that not a lot of people know about him. He’s a very interesting dude. But I guess that’s why he doesn’t wear flip flops. It’s weird. Next time he crowd surfs barefoot, you’ll see it. Get a good glimpse at his feet. They are very webbed, like a duck.