Man Man's Honus Honus Hopes He Lives Long Enough To See Their New Album Come Out
"I'm not a woe-is-me person, and this band isn't a pity party for me --it's a celebration of an accidental career," says Ryan Kattner, aka "Honus Honus," frontman of the long-running Philadelphia junkyard-carnival rock orchestra Man Man.
From a tour stop in Cleveland -- it's the band's first run of U.S. dates since last June, and a chance to road-test new songs from their as-yet-untitled fifth album, due later this year -- Kattner's thinking back to the reception Man Man's last album, 2011's sardonically titled Life Fantastic, earned from critics and fans. Specifically, the fact that it was universally seen as the band's darkest album, and it probably was. Lyrically more autobiographical than anything Kattner previously committed to tape, Life Fantastic was crafted slowly and painfully over a three-year period that included the disintegration of a troubled long-term relationship, the deaths of close friends, intra-band turmoil, and the grim depression that naturally accompanies such trauma.
Kattner talked about at least some of that in interviews surrounding the release of Life Fantastic, and, he says, "it is a dark record, I'm not gonna lie, but I think that being more forthcoming about it is probably why it got tagged the way that it did. All those elements that went into it are very important and that's the story of the record, but that same story, to some extent, exists in the margins of all the other albums."
"I wasn't as vocal about it then, and, you know, will I be vocal about it again? No," he continues. "But there's always so much going on behind the scenes, with this record, too. Every record is personal. But there's also no shame in hiding behind some abstraction. If every song was 100% about me, I wouldn't have lived past the first record, you know?"
At least part of the turbulence from the Life Fantastic period has been eased with the influx of new blood. Man Man's lineup has always fluctuated across its 10-year existence, with Kattner and Chris Powell (aka "Pow Pow") the only constants, and now they've got two new multi-instrumentalists in tow, who Kattner will only identify by their stage names: "Brown Sugar" and "Shono."
"These names are earned. It's a rite of passage," says Kattner. "Like, they're woken up in the middle of the night and kicked out of the hotel naked with just a knife, dropped in a field and they gotta get back." (Actually, Kattner allows, Shono's last name is Murphy, "so, Shono Murphy, you know? That works.")